General Tiber Maximillian Adolphus rose up in a rebellion against the corrupt and decadent Constellation of Planets and its ruthless leader, Diadem Michella Duchenet. He failed, defeated by an act of base dishonor from commodore Percival Hallholme at the crucial last battle. He and his supporters were banished to the Deep Zone planet of Hallholme (the titular Hellhole) as an act of "compassion" by the Diadem that was intended to lead to their deaths. But the General thrived in exile and now plans a bold action for the abused Deep Zone planets to gain independence. The web of intrigue and hardship has an unexpected turn when the previous inhabitants of Hellhole, a planet still reeling from an asteroid impact 500 years ago, shows signs of its original inhabitants returning.
The Hellhole trilogy of books is co-authored by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert. The first book came out in 2011, and the second, Hellhole Awakening came out in 2013. Throughout the books there are multiple viewpoint characters both among the protagonist "Deezee" rebels and the antagonists in the Constellation, some of whom die during the course of the books. It handles the social and political aspects of living in a frontier, inhospitable wilderness and the Deadly Decadent Court that overtaxes them. Interspersed with the politics and intrigue there's a lot of personal and even romantic drama.
These books provide examples of.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The original goal of the Xayan race.
- Break the Cutie: Antonia. Not once but twice. Her lover murder her noble family, conviced her it was assassins and they lived together as fugitives for months. Once she escapes him and gets to Hellhole, she starts to heal from her emotional wounds. Then he finds her and rapes her.
- Colony Drop: The Ro-Xayans drop two asteroids on Candela. It turns out they did it to Hellhole as well with the original asteroid impact.
- Demonic Possession: What the Diadem and Ishop Heer believe the aliens and slickwater do to people. For that matter, Sophie and the General had their doubts and carry them for a while. Til the Xayans prove their honesty and value as allies.
- Determinator: Keana Duchenet, who stalemated the Xayan trying to possess her and forced him into a partnership type arrangement instead.
- Determined Homesteader: Sophie Vence, with a side order of "most successful businesswoman on planet Hellhole".
- The Exile: Setting up a colony on Hallholme was meant to be a slow death for Adolphus and those that went with him — the Diadem arranged for supplies to be fewer and faultier than needed — but what Adolphus believed to be a secret supporter remaining in the Constellation managed to arrange to supplement the supplies during the crucial early period, allowing the exiles to survive and even thrive, with Adolphus wondering if the supporter stopped because they were found out or because they risked being found out. It is eventually revealed that the added supplies were arranged by Percival Hallholme, who thought making the exile sentence a de facto lie dishonorable, and felt responsible given the events of the last battle.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: The setting has two types: spacedrive, a type of low-power warp drive (trips between star systems take weeks or months); and stringline, a drive much faster than spacedrive but with the side effect of being unable to navigate at full speed. This is mitigated using iperion, which gives ships a "quantum path" to follow between systems.
- A Father to His Men: Adolphus acts this way, and has their Undying Loyalty in return.
- Feudal Future: The Constellation is an interstellar elective monarchy, with the monarch (the Diadem) elected for life from amongst the nobility by a council of prominent nobles who in turn rule one or several planets. Adolphus' rebellion was even fuelled to a large degree by an historic issue for feudal states — what to do with all the surplus sons.
- Fling a Light into the Future: The Xayans built two of these. The slickwater pools stored memories and personalities of the Xayans to survive the asteroid that would destroy their planet. A second group built an undergound bunker of artifacts with five Xayan Popsicles.
- Honor Before Reason: Once Adolphus gives his word, he keeps it. This is why he lost in the backstory, Percival Hallholme, under order by the Diadem to lie and claim his ships were full of the rebel's family members and comrades, caused Adolphus to hesitate long enough to get critical damage on his opponents fleet.
- It's All About Me: Diadem Michella Duchenet is the epitome of this. Any piece of bad news, it takes her roughly ten seconds to conclude it is a plot against her.
- Mental Fusion: Up to a point. When a human and Xayan merge they remain separate identities sharing a body, but they can share their memories and they can focus combined wills into their Telemancy. Further, groups of Xayans and Shadow-Xayans can create group efforts at Telemancy with planetary scale.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: All of the sympathetic and moral characters in the Constellation military believe this to some extent. Despite having first hand knowledge of Diadem Michella Duchenet's immorality and ruthlessness, they support the government.
- Nice Guy:
- Keana's jilted husband Bolton, who just wants her to be happy even if it involves having a lover. He views their Arranged Marriage as a political necessity. Takes a level in badass in the second book when he insist on joining the attack fleet going to Hellhole to rescue her.
- Then there's Vincent, who is essentially an Action Survivor caught up in the stories events. He just wants to do geology surveys, but goes on dangerous missions to help his buddy Fernando.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Adolphus, through and through. Also, despite his actions, Commodore Percival Hallholme.
- Spoiled Sweet: Keana Duchenet, daughter of Diadem Michella. While she's careless, she doesn't have a malicious bone in her body.
- The Spymaster: Ishop Heer. Despite being tremendously talented his germophobe tendencies make him stay away from potentially important discoveries.
- Whatevermancy: Xayan Telemancy, a combination of Telepathy, Mind over Matter and a wee bit of Reality Warping.