Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith delivers suspense and excitement like few books I've read recently. The plot and subplots work well together. I quickly became invested in the lives of the point of view characters. The book opens with Commander Xavier Rodriguez making his 96th jump to lead his team to the surface from an airship containing the last remnants of humanity. Few Hell Divers survive anywhere close to this many missions. This reminded me of a book called Armor (by John Steakley) which revolved around a character that had made more planetary assaults there and was statistically possible.
But I digress.
The premise is that humanity has survived a nuclear holocaust by taking to the skies. (There is a reason they did this.) The airships were never meant to fly for so long. The Hell Divers must descend the surface to find parts and supplies. After 250 years, radiation has done terrible things to the few creatures able to stay alive.
As intriguing as the premise is, it’s the actual writing and the pacing of the plot points that makes this story great. Nicholas Sansbury Smith knows how to raise the stakes. The characters are always right on that line where you think they're able to handle what is being thrown at them and yet have little chance of survival.
I was particularly fond of the ending, which was suspenseful and full of imagery. I don't know if it is a cliffhanger exactly, but I definitely am looking forward to book two. I went and joined his mailing list after completing the book.