Written By: Hal Duncan
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Monkey brain Books
December 2008, $9.99
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy
A hitman, a hooker, a homosexual kid, and a hobo suicide make the ultimate prison break... escape from Hell itself! It’s Escape from New York meets Jacob’s Ladder, by one of fantasy’s rising stars.
Four sinners die and go to Hell, a twisted version of New York City, each to their own torment. The four meet, and decide to make a break, guns blazing. Before they manage to escape, they discover Lucifer himself kept prisoner by the angel Gabriel, and in freeing him find themselves facing an angel’s wrath. But when news of their attempted escape gets out, the souls of the damned are transformed into a rioting mob, and all Hell truly does break loose.
Hell as a twisted city, it’s not a new idea. Edward Lee has done it with his City Infernal series which I like and so have other authors. And yet Duncan makes it his own. This is an infernal Manhattan where everyday suffering is televised for all to see and our four characters find themselves in their own personal level of Hell.
The book begins with each of their deaths, then their arrival in Hell, the comforts of such a place, and finally their escape. I found myself liking a couple of the characters and did not believe that some of them truly belonged in Hell, while the hitman was perfectly deserving of his damnation which is a credit to Duncan’s writing and not just my beliefs. You want them to escape and root for them. While yes, he is not always so subtle in his mini commentary/rants (Vox News = Fox News) or Hell being like an immigration line some references are meant to remind you, to make you think such as the similarities to Matthew Shepherd or the homeless becoming the forgotten.
The escape itself doesn’t come until the latter half of the novel and until then it is part action and part gritty satire. To say that it is like Escape from New York except New York is Hell works. Oh and Lucifer completely rocks. He reminds me of Gaiman’s Lucifer reminding our “heroes” that Hell is place where humans condemn themselves to spend eternity. He had nothing to do with it. You think you deserve Hell, bam there you go. As someone who isn’t religious, at least not in the Christian sense I cannot help but partly agree. Even if you don’t regard his Hell as a Christian Hell, but our current life here on Earth, we do make our own Hells and the way out is Hope. Not a mad little message there wrapped up in a great little action adventure romp.
I also enjoyed the w ay it was written especially when we get the second person narration in the latter half of the book so that we are ‘Lucifer’. It’s a quick read but an entertaining one and made me curious enough that I want to check out Duncan’s other novels.
3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks
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