The cover on Living Hell shows a young man flying through the air with a sword as he attacks a tentacle inside a spaceship hallway. I knew at once I wanted the book. Catherine Jinks has written some highly regarded books in the past, which I fully well intend to pick up and read.
However, this novel as a killer premise — literally — but doesn't quite pay off in the end. The premise is outstanding, to a degree. A generation ship (one of those designed to sail through the solar system for years, for generations) gets hit by a strange energy wave that somehow (universal life force?) changes the ship from a metal construction to an organic one. That really struck me more as magic than as science, but I went with it because the idea seemed unique enough and there was that awesome cover with the sword-wielder.
Unfortunately, the book lagged a little at the beginning, which may tax some young readers to get to the meat of the story. From there, though, the novel rushes through everything that's going on. Seriously, the adventure lasts only hours, and I'm not even sure how many hours it took to get from Point A to Point B.
Jinks does skillfully play with the science and technology aboard the Plexus, and I enjoyed her imagination at work as she figures out different dangers the ship's systems would offer. I could see the book being done as a movie, filled with gore and "surprise" moments as our heroes crept through tunnels and crossed "streets" within the ship.
Primarily, the novel presents a survival tale, simply getting from one place to another, and for the most part it does so in an entertaining fashion. However, there's no respite, no time to decompress and think about things. The group hurries on, and the narrative never gives the reader a chance to take a breath.
I can see where teens would have a hard time putting the book down due to the action and the uncertainty of what's going to happen, but I also think that readers who do put the book down will start to challenge some of the "science" that brings the ship to life.
The ending doesn't really resolve anything, and I felt frustrated. I wanted to know more than what we're left with.
One of the other aspects about the book that surprised me was the language. If the gore level doesn't keep the novel off elementary book shelves, the adult language will.