Before reading A Hole In The World my only experience of Weston Ochse was his work on an Alien novel that tied into the recently released Aliens: Fire Team video game. He’d managed to craft an interesting story with engaging characters and interesting world building. And throughout it all he managed to create a creepy and atmospheric read. As such, when I read the description for A Hole In The World it sounded like an intriguing idea, one that could be very scary too.
The plot begins with the town of Iron Hat, in South Dakota, suddenly vanishing one day. Not only is the town itself gone, but no one can remember it even being there. People who head to the town turn their cars around and go home, people who work there don’t remember having a job, and records of it start to slowly vanish from databases across the world. Except one man seems to remember it, and appears to be the only one who does. This get the attention of a special branch of the military whose job it is to investigate strange events, and if needs be, kill monsters.
When they discover that another town also seems to have vanished, with only the one person remembering it, one of their operatives, Preacher’s Daughter, is sent across to the UK to assist their British counterparts in their investigation. As Preacher’s Daughter settles into this new team they begin to uncover evidence that something powerful is behind the disappearing towns, something that could lead to a lot of death and destruction.
When I first read the description of this book I thought that this was going to be a spooky mystery story, one where the reader gets to try and figure out what’s happening alongside our lead characters, and scary, spooky things happen. Whilst there are elements of this in the book it’s actually more of a military combat book, where more time is given over to focusing on soldiers being soldiers than the more interesting supernatural aspects of the world. Rather than focusing on monsters, fey spirits, and other creatures that exist we spend a lot of time reading descriptions of guns and equipment, complete with technical specs and names that mean very little to anyone who’s not a big gun fan, and needed to Google a lot.
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Ochse does give a lot of time over to the characters as well, however, come the end of the book I still felt like I didn’t know much about these people; and in a lot of cases found that I didn’t really like them. Preacher’s Daughter, the lead of the book, felt very underdeveloped, despite the majority of the book following her, and that we spent as much time watching her hanging out with people and chatting shit with them as we do seeing her in action. I think one of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that despite nothing saying that this book is part of any of Ochse’s other series, such as Seal Team 666, and as such I came to believe that this was its own stand alone thing.
Perhaps this is my fault, maybe I didn’t think it through enough; but the end result was me being dropped into a story and a world that seemed to have expected me to be familiar with a lot of things. There were times where Preacher’s Daughter would be thinking about her old team, and we’d get long paragraphs about people and places from her past where she’d outline how important this was to her before it suddenly going ‘but they’re long dead now so it doesn’t really matter’.
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I’m sure for someone who had read the previous books this would have been moments of great callback, or added insight into beloved characters, but for someone coming into it fresh it felt tangential and often frustrating. This would also be the case when Preachers Daughter would start talking about things like the time she fought an ancient god in a strange spirit plane, and drop a chunk of technobabble explaining it. Again, for anyone who’d already read her adventures in killing a god this must have been great, but for me it ended up pulling me out of the book.
Overall, A Hole In The World is a perfectly fine supernatural military shooter book. It has some interesting ideas and moments in it, but with it being part of a bigger universe it often felt inaccessible to a new reader, and there were times where I felt like I was lacking a lot of information. For anyone who’s already read Ochse’s series and enjoyed it I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of this one, but for anyone thinking of trying this out without that background it might not be the best place to start with Ochse’s work.
A Hole In The World is out now from Rebellion Publishing.