It is hard to review "Hell Ship" without giving away any of its surprises. Every reader himself/herself should peel back layer upon layer of this novel and discover what beauties lie ahead. The beauties, mind you, are not nice to look at nor is the story a particularly uplifting experience. The scope is of the grandest scale though, not only in terms of who or what populates these pages. There have been alien species who destroyed civilizations, planets or even full star systems. In the wake of the slave collecting entities in this book whole universes are purged from existence, while the "Hell Ship" is filled with the weirdest and strangest creatures imaginable (or unimaginable).
Philip Palmer is a master word smith even though his overly excessive use of obscenities may suggest otherwise. In his worlds, it seems just the right way to communicate. It doesn't make the aliens more human but it helps the reader to sympathize with them on some level (although it is unclear on what level because they are so different from us that they are only ever described physically when absolutely necessary). The writing is brutally visual when needed and it lets the characters determine the pace of the storytelling. Sometimes thousands of years pass in a single sentence and yet you feel the pain and desperation of every single minute of that time.
Maybe the end is a bit rushed, but this could also count towards the great scope of the story. It would probably be more disappointing if this alien multiverse was wrapped up in a more predictable way. I closed the book with a satisfied sigh after the last page. If you have never cried for an abominable alien or followed the thought process of a hive mind, here is your chance. It's a memorable perspective of optimism in a world of eternal hopelessness.