Hel’s Eight by Stark Holborn
(Titan Books, 2023)
Reviewed by Nick Hubble
Hel’s Eight is the sequel to Stark Holborn’s 2021 space western Ten Low and, while it could be read on its own, readers would probably benefit from reading the earlier novel first. There has been some debate as to whether describing these books as westerns is selling them short but that rather depends on people’s attitudes to westerns. If like me, you are a fan of the spaghetti and revisionist westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, and especially trippy counter-cultural westerns such as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo or Monte Hellman’s The Shooting, then you will relish the feverish intensity of these novels. As an upgrade, the traditional gender politics of the western have been long outrun here so that we have in Joanne Harris’s words ‘a wonderful fusion of Firefly and Joanna Russ, with an Ennio Morricone soundtrack’. This is the kind of future that I used to dream about in my wildest fantasies but somehow the twenty-first-century grind of capitalist realism has driven such visions away from us. Therefore, the first task of this review is simply to register gratitude for Holborn’s implicit invitation to readers to completely unfetter their imaginations again.
Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.