Book Review: The Hole

The Hole by Aaron Ross Powell is wonderfully weaved genre blend that takes you on a few detours that most standard apocalypse books don’t even touch. Powell is a first-time published author, and I must admit I am always wary of reading books by literary rookies. While Grammar and spelling errors don’t phase me – I enjoy the loose style of fictional writing – I do worry about content. My concern with new authors is that, generally due to lack of writing experience, you are left with a disjointed story layout, with misused characters and poorly executed story lines, that can be a chore to sift through. Just like anything else in life, it takes practice to get things down. Fortunately, Powell is far ahead of his first-time peers, as The Hole has none of these issues and has quickly made his presence known in the apocalypse book realm.

The story begins with neighbors Elliot Bishop and Evajean Rhodes, who find themselves alone in a world that has just been decimated by a plague. The plague spreads so quickly that Earth’s population didn’t even stand a chance. With the families of both Elliot and Evajean dead and nothing left to stay for, they decide to leave their homes and seek refuge in Utah, where Evajean’s husband had once cryptically told her to head should anything happen to him.  During a stop to fill up on supplies they discover that they are not alone as some “survivors” are still wandering but in form that only resembles their previous life.

The Hole

Powell has further redefined the concept of zombies in The Hole. These aren’t your classic brainless shamblers, nor are they what some call “28 Days Later Zombies”, that is to say the new faster generation of undead. In the book they are referred to as “crazies”, and they are capable of some minor level of reasoning skills and their own basic language. Aside from “crazies,” Elliot and Evajean also come across a reclusive Mormon village who follow a twisted version of the Mormon faith. This becomes a rather significant part of the story, but don’t worry: there is no religious grandstanding to be had in The Hole. The twisted Mormon theme is simply a part of the story, much like corrupt politicians are to a thriller. Using such a sensitive subject as religion in a book without being preachy or disruptive is a very difficult task and was pulled off very well, despite some serious initial skepticism on my part.

Without giving too much away, the story continues to add many other elements such as fantasy, mystery , sci-fi, and thriller. About a quarter into the book I felt like I was reading a story that took place in the Resident Evil 4 world, thanks to its quest-style story filled with a murky mystery setting full of intrigue and heavily balanced in horror. For anyone who hasn’t played Resident Evil 4 (AKA “the greatest zombie game ever”) this is a compliment, as the setting that is thoroughly creepy and suitable to the stroy.

While I very much enjoyed The Hole, I did have a few issues with the book. The first handful of pages seemed oddly thrown together, as if Aaron was struggling to figure out how to get Elliot and Evajean into the car heading towards Utah where the story truly begins. I also found Elliot unlikable at first but seemed to really start to develop into an interesting character midway through the book. If I had to get specific, I would say his lack of grieving for his recently lost family really put off by his personality.

Those points aside, The Hole is a very well rounded book. As with any good multifaceted tale, it seems directionless at times but comes together and makes sense at the end. It might just leave you feeling a bit foolish for thinking you outsmarted the writer at times throughout the book.

Aaron took some interesting risks with his story, and they really paid off. I was surprised at how many times I felt genuine panic, something I haven’t experienced since I read Day by Day Armageddon by JL Bourne.

B

* Note this is a review of the 2011 Permuted Press revision and not the self published 2008 version.

12 Comments

Dave

Of course. I love guest posts. Same great content, only I don’t actually have to do anything. It’s the lazy man’s dream come true!

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zombiemutts

Just a little add-on to the review that I couldn’t fit in without going too far off topic. So I am always curious about an author’s background and process when writing a book so in this case I was curious why Aaron chose Mormon’s as his subject matter which thankfully he ended up addressing in the Afterword which I wish more authors would do. It seems Aaron and I share a favorite book Under the Banner of Heaven:A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (ISBN 1-4000-3280-6) is an investigative non-fiction book by best-selling author Jon Krakauer, first published in July 2003. It is a juxtaposition of two stories: the origin and evolution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and a modern double murder committed in the name of God by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism. The Laffertys were formerly members of a very small splinter group called the School of Prophets, led by a man named Robert C. Crossfield (also known by his prophet name Onias). The group accepts many beliefs of the original Church at the time when it ceased the practice of polygamy in the 1890s but do not identify with those who call themselves fundamentalist Mormons”

Very dark and depressing subject matter but a fascinating non-fiction book.

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Angelina

This sounds like a great read. I’ll be checking this one out. Have you read “Cell” by Stephen King? A cellular signal turns anyone that uses a phone into a “28 Days Later” style zombie-like creature. They are not into eating but definately killing.

He take a really interesting turn in plot which I thought was great.

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zombiemutts

Angelina…no I have not but I am going to add that to my kindle. Been ages since I read a Stephen King novel so this gives me a good reason to re-explore the master’s work. Many thanks.

Your description sounds like an excellent movie I saw recently called “The Signal” on Netflix. Terrible acting but good movie.

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Dave

I read Cell. It’s kind of a mixed bag. There’s some cool ideas, and some really great scenes, but there’s also quite a bit about it I didn’t like. I’m not a fan of technophobic plots, for instance.

The cell zombies aren’t traditional zombies either. They have this weird hive mind thing going on, and there’s a sort of leader (I guess he’s more the mouthpiece of the hive). It’s strange.

I guess I should flip back through it and do a proper review.

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Dave

I assume that’s Dreamcatcher? I’ve heard some awful stuff about that one.

Of his recent work, I’ve read Under the Dome and Cell, both of which I enjoyed. Cell had problems, but I really dug Under the Dome (I reviewed it on another site if anyone care about my opinion).

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