Hell Divers IV: Wolves by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
I will say this much about Nicholas Sansbury Smith: he knows how to consistently deliver. This latest installment in the Hell Divers series, Hell Divers IV: Wolves, is no exception in terms of grittiness, storyline, characters, and worldbuilding. That’s not to say that any of that is stellar, because it isn’t. But the author knows how to shake all of those ingredients up and pour out a well blended, delightful read nonetheless.
Wolves picks up pretty much where Deliverance left off. X and Mags are cruising the ocean in search of the Metal Islands while the Hive continues to survive in the air, albeit now with the help of a new airship in the form of Deliverance. It’s never business as usual in Smith’s post-apocalyptic world, though, especially when the Cazadores, sadistic cannibals that want to subjugate (or eat) anyone they come across, are in possession of the very islands the crews of Hive and Deliverance wish to possess for their own.
But Captain Katrina DaVita knows she can’t defeat the Cazadores without help. So when she receives a transmission from Mags telling her about a secret, pre-war facility called Red Sphere, she alters course in hopes of discovering the weapons she needs to wage her war. As often happens throughout the Hell Divers series, the exploration of new cities or facilities often results in new discoveries—new monsters, new adversaries, and new information about the events that led up to the war that almost ended everything. Red Sphere yields the weapons Katrina seeks, but it also reveals a horrible new enemy that’s been lying in wait for hundreds of years.
As events are unfolding at Red Sphere, X and Mags once more encounter the Cazadores. Unlike the last time they fought, however, this time X follows them all the way back to their home base. The resulting fight culminates in a spectacular, climatic battle that ultimately results in a cliffhanger ending that presumably is where the next book in the series, Hell Divers V: Captives, picks up.
When I started the Hell Divers series I was excited by the concept, the worldbuilding, and the characters. The writing has never been great, but that was more than offset by the sheer entertainment value. Think a big Hollywood blockbuster. It’s a fun ride, but not something that’s going to win any awards. The Hell Divers series is a lot like that, but four books in and my excitement is waning. It’s not extinguished, though, and I do intend to continue with the series. But my ratings for each book have gone the deeper I’ve gotten into the series. Wolves hangs in there with a three rocket rating, but I can’t say that nominal ranking is going to hold true for the remainder of the books if the author doesn’t do something to up the overall quality. For now, though, Hell Divers IV: Wolves has kept my interest enough that I’ll start reading the next book in the series soon.