Hellwegs Keep

By Justin Holley

Hellwegs Keep, a novel by Justin Holley
Book details

I have always felt that the idea of travelling space is horrific enough without the thought of added monsters or manipulations of the mind. The only thing between you and the vast vacuum of space is a few inches of steel. When you arrive on a new planet, things are not much safer. The air may be breathable, but what about all those new pathogens and diseases yet to be discovered or creatures that your mind cannot even imagine lurking below? You can keep your vast wealth of raw materials to yourself, the cost is too high as the crew of Justin Holley’s Hellweg’s Keep discovered. 

FBI agent Kendra Omen may no longer be on Earth, but her authority reaches the stars when 37 miners are lost, assumed dead. Omen’s job is to investigate how this happened, an accident, criminal negligence? The local authorities are at a loss what to do, if they send more people down the mine to search, they too disappear. Something is calling more victims deeper into the dark to visit the Old Gods. 

Space horror is a tried and tested genre that comes with the pre-terrifying nature of space already wrapped up. The majority of Keep is set on the surface of a moon so has a more land-based terror to it, but it certainly does not ease up on the sense of the alien. It is not long into the book that the reader suspects not everything is human at Hellweg’s Keep. The workers and the investigators are all being visited by people from their past. This is bad enough, but when they are encouraging you to morph through walls of rock, things can get permanently deadly. 

With an FBI character at the centre, the book opens as a crime/horror crossover, but the book soon forgoes the crime elements for more pure horror. Omen’s initial travels in space and her arrival give the reader a chance to understand the world that Holley has created, once this is known, the gloves come off. From then it becomes a book of survival as members of the latest rescue team are picked off. 

The book evokes classic space horror and Event Horizon comes to mind. A blend of the phycological and physical horror set in far space. This in turn evokes Hellraiser. These are two touchstones that you should keep in mind when deciding if the book is for you, it is very much in the same vein. 

With the vastness of space to explore, Keep does feel a little small in places as it sets the final sections inside a cave network, only to blow the reader’s mind with huge science fiction concepts at the end again. Is the book a space epic or claustrophobic horror? It is the smaller story, but with some lofty ideas. The characters are interesting enough, but I only really liked the company of Agent Omen. You can see the book working as a solid horror film if cast with charismatic actors. I do not think this book will reach out to a wider audience than horror, but fans of claustrophobic space horror will enjoy another ride into the fear of the mind.

Written on 12th December 2023 by .

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