Book Review: Hell Divers (Hell Divers Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Hundreds of years after the surface of the earth has been destroyed, the remainder of humanity survives in two airships above the earth, and it's the Hell Divers---the men and women who risk their lives jumping to the surface to scavenge and get things the ships need---who have one of the most important, and definitely the most dangerous, jobs. When one of the ships gets damaged, the very fate of humanity depends on X---the most experience Hell Diver alive---and his crew getting what they need from the riskiest zone in the US, but even X isn't sure he can survive the horrors and mutated creatures that await them.

Book Review: Hell Divers (Hell Divers Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith | reading, books, book reviews, science fiction, post-apocalyptic
Title: Hell Divers
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 356
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


Damn. This was one hell of a book.

It’s all thanks to Daniela’s review that I read this, so I hate to copy her by starting my review the same way, but this book had possibly the greatest opening I’ve ever seen:

The average life expectancy for a Hell Diver was fifteen jumps. This was Xavier Rodriguez’s ninety-sixth.

From there, it immediately threw me right into the grittiness and sucked me in because guess what the first thing was that happened in this book? A jump gone wrong. I could feel the nerves and anticipation while they were counting and waiting to do the jump. I could feel the terror of skydiving through a lightning storm. Everything was so vivid and made me feel like I was there.

And then when they actually got to the surface? Those were my favorite parts because they were always crazy intense.

But really, everything about this book was good. The world-building, of both the surface and the airship and how everything came to be the way it was, was phenomenal. And the concept of the Hell Divers—the people who jumped down to the surface to scavenge and get things they needed—was so unique, well thought-out, and detailed.

I also loved X. He was actually flawed and thus realistic, but he was still likeable. He risked his life as as Hell Diver, but he didn’t do it JUST for the good of the people; he was kind of addicted to the rush. He was also gruff, somewhat of an alcoholic, and not the best father figure for Tin. But then there were times when he did do selfless, heroic things just because that’s who he was, and it might seem incongruous with his flaws, but it wasn’t. It all just worked with his character. And his positive qualities made for some surprisingly touching moments.

The author also did a good job of showing both Maria’s and Travis’s sides of things when it came to the problems with the lower-deckers on the ship. I agreed with Travis that the way the lower-deckers were forced to live was awful and inhumane. They didn’t even have their own rooms, they had to share one bathroom that smelled so bad they couldn’t even stand it, they hardly had enough food to survive, and most of them were dying of cancer from the radiation they were forced to live near. It was truly terrible and definitely not fair. But I could also kind of see Maria’s side of things. I think that maybe something could’ve been done to improve their conditions, but look what happened when she tried to appease them and help them and give them more freedom— *SPOILER* they smuggled and sold weapons and nearly took down the whole ship. *END SPOILER*

Also worth noting is that this book didn’t have any romance. That’s neither bad nor good, just something to keep in mind depending on what you’re looking for.

So overall, this book was intense and detailed and gritty, and every time I picked it up, I ended up being completely gripped and sucked in, forgetting the world around me, not wanting to put it down!


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  1. Greg

    That is quite the opening, and skydiving in an ELECTRICAL storm? I think I remember her review of this one… I love the sound of the post apoc landscape, with mutants and airships. I need more airships! And this definitely sounds gritty and intense. The airships must be pretty big if they have multiple decks and slaves or whatever the lower deckers are. Think I’m adding this one… πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      I never even notice opening lines, but that one was just phenomenal! And yeah, seriously, it starts with a skydive in an electrical storm, if that tells you anything about how intense the book is lol. The ship has a few hundred people, can’t remember the exact number. You should definitely try this one!

  2. chucklesthescot

    I’m so looking forward to reading this book, especially knowing there is no romance to distract from the plot. Yea! It sounds different from any other book on my shelves so I hope to get reading it this summer maybe. I very much like the author’s zombie books. Great review!

  3. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium


    4.5 stars??? OMG OMG I don’t want to read the review! I wont read the review! NOT YET!nope. NOOOO I’m dying to read your revieeeeeeewww waahhhaaa I need to read this book!!!
    Ok I caved and read a little. Stopped at “grittiness”. Off to another post before I cave again,

  4. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium

    hahahahahahahahahahhahaa I’m such a Dory. Ok, I’m back. I just realized it’s book one LMAO!

    I can read it!

    YES THE TERROR!!! I remember the terror of skydiving through a lightning storm and HELL YES the world is downright phenomenal. and yes the Hell Divers are so freaking original!

    ummm,…. I don;t know how I feel about you loving X though. X IS MINE!!! MINE MINE MINE!


    I can share.

    Just because is you. πŸ™‚ and because you do know him well. Your description is spot on. So you have earned the right to be an X girl. πŸ˜‰

    rolling my eyes though! This book does have romance. I’m in love with X humph!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I figured when I saw it lol. And yassss the world building is amazing!

      Don’t worry, you can have X, I will respect the girl code and not steal him from you πŸ˜›

      Btw I forgot you don’t use your name anymore. Do you want me to remove it from my review where I mentioned you?

  5. kris @ lemon-notes

    I have not read Hell Divers, but I think regardless that is DEFINITELY the best opening line I’ve read! Either that or the first sentence of Fahrenheit 451, “It was a pleasure to burn.” Like ok Bradbury thanks for that great line that kind of sums of your book. Gripping opening lines are the best thing ever! Also, I’m so totally into that flawed character that still has a good heart but is still kind of a jack ass. I’m trash for those πŸ˜‰

  6. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    This book sounds so cool. I mean, I would need to read it to really appreciate the worldbuilding because it’s all well and good diving to the surface to scavenge for things but that is definitely not a sustainable way of living so I’d need to know how they survived because they couldn’t rely on scavenging permanently. That being said, it’s such a cool idea and I wouldn’t even care there was no romance because it just doesn’t sound like that kind of book. I’ll definitely have to be in the right mood to read but I may have to check this out, brilliant review.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Actually, most of what I read has at least a background romance, and I tend to get hesitant about books when they don’t have romance, which is kind of stupid though because it usually doesn’t end up bothering me. If a book is good, it’s good, you know? And I don’t miss the romance aspect. Oh, but don’t worry, they have a farm on the airship. The scavenging is mostly for ship parts that keep breaking so the ship won’t fall out of the sky πŸ™‚

  7. Lola

    I love it when a book sucks me in from the start. It sounds very intense and it’s great when the descriptions are so good you can imagine everything so vividly. The world definitely sounds original and well thought out. X seems like an interesting character to read about with his flaws and how realistic he feels. I don’t read a lot of books that have no romance at all, so that’s definitely worth noting. But I agree it’s not a good or bad thing, it just depends on the book and if it fits.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Same! This was definitely intense and vivid, and the world-building was super thought-out. And you know I like my flawed characters! Lol. I don’t read a lot with no romance at all either, but I’m finding that I kind of like it on occasion.

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