Picking up on the heels of Hell Divers II: Ghosts finale, Michael Everheart and his small crew of Hell Divers set out to find the missing Xavier "X" Rodriguez after being abandoned by the traitorous Captain Jordan.
Nicholas Sansbury Smith stretches his narrative wings a bit in Deliverance, giving readers insight into X's decade-long stint on Earth's hellscape through prolonged flashbacks, in between tackling the story's present-day timeline from the perspectives of Everheart and Jordan, and a few other Hell Divers along the way. Readers who were disappointed at the lack of X in the prior novel, particularly after Smith's nasty cliff-hanger ending back in Book 1, will certainly get their fill of Rodriguez this time around as Smith brings X back to the narrative's center.
While I was certainly happy to get more of X, now accompanied by a thawed-from-cryo husky named Miles, the real delight for me was seeing Smith's post-apocalyptic world building. While X travels the hellish landscape of an irradiated America to reach the ocean, Smith gives us a delightful tour of this new nuclear-adapted ecosystem. In prior novels, the Sirens were the clearly the biggest threat facing the remnants of mankind, but life outside the airship Hive is more expansive and far-reaching in Deliverance than the Hell Divers had imagined. As Ian Malcolm famously reminded us in Jurassic Park, "Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously... Life, uh, finds a way." Smith takes Malcolm's words to heart, presenting a number of thrilling encounters that reminds humans they may no longer be at the top of the food chain in this wildly mutated environment.
Not that life aboard the airship Hive is much better. Without mincing too many words, let me just say that Captain Jordan is a piece of crap. I hated this guy in Book 2, and Book 3 didn't do much to swing me around to his iron-fist mentality of rule as the top dog. Every chapter he showed up in only solidified his narcissism and I kept waiting for him to get his comeuppance. Life aboard the airships, though, does make for a fun bit of compare and contrast to life on the ground. No matter what dangers lurk in the ruins of America, Jordan and his cronies serve to remind us that humans are, typically, the biggest threat to everything around.
If you've enjoyed the previous two Hell Divers books, you'll feel right at home with Deliverance. Smith delivers plenty of action and suspense, and even a few dashes of socio-political intrigue along the way. Its final moments even kick the door wide open for a fourth installment, taking this series in a direction that good and truly excites me. I can't wait to see what comes next!
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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