Review: Hell Squad: Reed, Roth, Noah by Anna Hackett

reed by anna hackettTitle: Reed by Anna Hackett
Format read: eARC provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: science fiction romance, post apocalyptic
Series: Hell Squad #4
Length: 204 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: August 10, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

As part of Hell Squad, former Coalition Navy SEAL Reed MacKinnon fights for humanity’s freedom from the alien invaders. He also fights for his brown-eyed girl-the woman he rescued from the aliens’ secret laboratory. He admires her quiet strength and will to survive, not to mention her elfin looks and curvy body…but he knows he has to keep his distance. She’s nowhere near ready for what he has to offer and he’ll protect her from everything, even his own powerful desires. Energy scientist Natalya Vasin has lived through hell. Still struggling after her captivity, scarred by the aliens’ experimentation, all she wants is to be normal again…and she wants Reed MacKinnon. But the rugged soldier is holding back, treating her like glass, and she won’t accept that from anybody. As Reed and Natalya wage a sensual battle of desires, they also work together to decipher a mysterious alien energy cube. Hell Squad needs Natalya’s expertise and they need her to go back into alien territory to use it. But on a mission to destroy an alien outpost, secrets are uncovered-of what the raptors really did to Natalya. Secrets that mean the future she wants with Reed is just an impossible dream.

 

roth by anna hackett
Title: Roth by Anna Hackett
Format read: eARC provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance, post apocalyptic
Series: Hell Squad #5
Length: 204 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: August 10, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

In the aftermath of a deadly alien invasion, a band of survivors fights on…

Roth Masters is a protector to the bone. Driven by the losses of his past, he fights side-by-side with Hell Squad to protect the human survivors of the alien invasion. As leader of Squad Nine, he and his team are known for their perfect timing in a firefight. But Roth knows they need more intel on the raptor invaders—something to turn the tide of the battle. And he knows the woman he rescued from an alien facility is hiding secrets he desperately wants to uncover.

Former Coalition Central Intelligence Agent Avery Stillman is still adjusting to her new life. Left with terrible gaps in her memory, she has vague recollections of failed negotiations with the aliens, the invasion, and after that…nothing. Until a hard-bodied soldier pulled her from a tank in an alien lab. Now she’s trying desperately to remember, to help fight back, and also battling the crazy attraction to the man who keeps pushing her for things she can’t remember.

Soon Roth finds himself torn between his duty and keeping the strong woman he’s falling for safe. As the pair head into alien territory to investigate, they are attacked and crash land alone, far from base. They have to work together to survive the aliens, but when Avery finally remembers everything…her secrets could annihilate all they hold dear.

 

noah by anna hackettTitle: Noah by Anna Hackett
Format read: eARC provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance, post apocalyptic
Series: Hell Squad #6
Length: 204 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: August 10, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

The battle of survival against the invading aliens heats up…but Hell Squad never quits.

Tech genius Noah Kim works day and night to keep the survivors at Blue Mountain Base with lights, power and hot water. He’s also working on a top secret project to help keep them safe. He’s tired, stressed and under pressure—and one woman adds to it all. An annoying, infuriating redhead he calls Captain Dragon.

Captain Laura Bladon lost everything she cared for in the alien invasion: her loving family, her Navy SEAL fiancé and her military career. Since then, she’s been numb, her feelings encased in ice, and she’s dedicated herself to her job as chief interrogator and running the base’s prison. But one person can get under her skin in an instant—arrogant, brilliant Noah. He’s the one thing that makes her feel—and that makes her very afraid.

But as Laura helps Noah on his project, the two are drawn irresistibly together. As they head into the desert with Hell Squad on a mission to a hidden alien outpost, sparks fly and a passionate desire is uncovered. Both are holding onto past hurts, scared to take the risk of loving again…but when the unthinkable happens, it changes everything…and Laura and Noah must find the power to save themselves, their friends and their love.

My Review:

Because I read these in one lovely distracting bunch, I’m going to review them the same way. If you like either science fiction romance or post-apocalyptic romance (or both), Anna Hackett’s Hell Squad series is a wonderful way to spend some time in a setting where you absolutely would not want to live. No matter how much fun it is to peek over the characters’ shoulders and see their lives!

gabe by anna hackettOne of the fun things about this series is that the ending of each story gives readers a sneak preview of who the main couple will be in the next book. So at the end of Gabe (reviewed here) we all knew Reed was next. Likewise, Reed foreshadows Roth a bit, and Roth foreshadows Noah. And for those of us who are awaiting the next book with the proverbial bated breath, events at the end of Noah tell us that the next hero is Shaw, who looks like he is finally about to get his head out of his ass – if it doesn’t get handed to him first.

Back to our current three installments, Reed, Roth and Noah. This series so far has shown us two different romantic patterns. In Reed and Noah, just like in Gabe and Marcus (reviewed here) we have a couple where the romantic leads are in an opposites attract mode – or at least surface opposites. In these stories, one party is a soldier, and the other is what passes for a civilian in this brave new world. Marcus’ Elle is a former society child turned communications officer, Gabe’s Emerson is the Base’s Chief Medical Officer. With Reed, the woman of his dreams is a scientist and former POW – one that he rescued from the alien’s experimental labs. The couple in Noah still maintains the pattern, but refreshingly reversed. Noah is Blue Mountain Base’s Chief Technologist, and his would-be lady is the Head of Security.

In all of these stories, we have two people who are absolutely certain that they must be wrong for each other, only to discover that they are absolutely right. Who they would have been before the invasion no longer matters. With the remnants of humanity barely holding their own against the reptilian Gizzida, the strength to survive and the need to find joy in the midst of insanity pretty much conquer all superficial differences. Eventually.

Watching these couples who would probably never even have met before the world ended find out they belong together is marvelous.

cruz by anna hackettThe story in Roth is similar to the romance in Cruz (reviewed here). Both of the people in the couple are warriors of one stripe or another. In Cruz, Santha is a warrior and a scout. In the case of Roth, the woman who haunts his dreams (in more ways than one) is Avery, who is not just a soldier but was also a member of the team that first negotiated with the Gizzida. As Avery finally recovers from her time as an alien test subject, her newly awakened memories reveal that it wasn’t just the Gizzida who were negotiating in bad faith – the humans were too. Or at least one human – the head honcho of the Human Coalition. The pressure is on Avery to remember everything she can about the traitor and his plans, because Blue Mountain Base is closely threatened by the aliens, and they need a Plan B – a safe place to retreat with all their people, both military and civilian. When Roth and Avery investigate potential bolt holes, they find one hell of a surprise, and a whole lot of hope.

Escape Rating A-: The deeper I get into this series, the more I see it as a science fiction romance/post-apocalyptic crossover. This is a near future Earth, but it is definitely a future. Before everything went to hell in the alien invasion handbasket, this was an Earth where we had finally created a peaceful world Coalition government. That’s an achievement that seems pretty far from where we sit today, on the heels of the terrorist attacks on Paris, Baghdad and Beirut last week.

Hell Squad is also post-apocalyptic without being ‘prepper’ fiction. No one expected an alien invasion. This isn’t about some group that finally had their paranoia justified. Blue Mountain Base was a military base that a lot of Coalition military knew existed. Once the squads start getting together, they go out to rescue other survivors. And of course there is a lot of word of mouth about a safe place that spreads virally among the remaining human population. People still trickle in, and survivors still get found, but fewer and fewer all the time. While I don’t generally like prepper fiction, I like Hell Squad because it focuses on the survival and not the paranoia.

The romances in this series drive the characters, and yet they don’t drive the story. The story is the different things that individuals do (and don’t do) in order to keep humanity alive. We keep learning more and more about the alien invasion, the aliens’ motivations, and finally, what went wrong. The chief characters in each book, the ones who find love amidst the chaos, do some things differently because they have found their own personal reason to live life to the fullest, but the story is about them all fighting the good and necessary fight against terrible odds.

One of the things in this part of the series that is now driving the action forward is that Plan B and the reason it exists in the first place. There has not been much in the series until now of humans acting evilly for evil’s sake or for self-aggrandizing, or even self-preservation, purposes. We finally get a glimpse of the dark side of humanity in Roth, as the Blue Mountain Base discovers that humanity was betrayed in return for a safe haven for a select few. Unlike the betrayal of the human race to the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, our evildoer in the Hell Squad series knows exactly what he’s doing when he sells out 99% of the human race to save himself and his selected elite.

We’ve seen the remnant of humanity at Blue Mountain Base survive. Now that they know what they are doing and why they are doing it, they know they have to do more to throw the Gizzida off our planet. As Emily St. John Mandel repeated in the awesome Station Eleven, quoting the Star Trek Voyager episode Survival Instinct, “Because survival is insufficient.”

It looks like that sentiment is going to drive the rest of the series. And I can’t wait.

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