Friday, October 1, 2010

Hell & Back: The First Death-SC Sherman

Notice:  This is not a YA novel.  It has one scene that was not appropriate for younger audiences-though I think some older audiences could handle it.  It also had a few uses of cuss words and after the novel there is a ‘sneak peek’ at the second book in which there is a couple uses of illegal drugs.

Do people who commit suicide go to hell?

That’s the question Joe Rellik has been asking himself for years and he’s convinced they do.  His daughter killed herself.  He didn’t even know she was upset.  If he’d been around maybe things would’ve been different.  Ever since that day it’s all he’s thought about.
His memory of her was sweet and lovely but while he was fighting deep in the jungles of Vietnam, she did it.  He’s been a warrior all his long life-it’s the only thing he was ever any good at.  Now old age is promising to do what his enemies couldn’t.  It will all be over soon, but he is haunted by the one rescue he can’t pull off.
Bad dreams… if he could just stay awake.  Tormenting visions of her…lost…in that place…tortured, forgotten, discarded, and destroyed.  His love for her is eating him from the inside out.  He can’t leave her like that, all alone.  He might be the only man in the world who actually wants to go to hell.  His madness is driving him to think the unthinkable, but will he actually do it?  Will he pull the trigger and send himself to hell, for her?
Hell and back is a supernatural thriller ripped from the last pages of the Bible.  God and the devil, angels and demons… they all get a chance to influence Joe as he charges into his last great battle, the battle for all things that truly matter.  Joe knows it may cost him his very own soul.

Plot:  Slow.  Intriguing.  Gains momentum.  Fierce. 
This is a rough outline of how the book went for me.  It started slow, and then got intriguing, but still somewhat slow.  It started gaining momentum and then it hit me like a brick and got fiercely intense.
I would have preferred it if it was ‘fiercely intense’ the whole book, but sadly, it was not.  The beginning started out with some engaging action, but after that phase, apart from some interesting realizations about the protagonist, it doesn’t get very interesting until about page 54.
While these things certainly don’t help the book, there was a give and take going on for some of the book.  A good 100 pages are spent in ‘heaven’-literally-and I think if the author would have attempted to do a shortcut in this section it wouldn’t have been quite as interesting.
The plot as a whole has to be one of the most original plots I’ve heard.  While I don’t think anyone can even attempt to predict what Heaven or hell will look like, I enjoyed reading about the possibilities and speculations.  It also caused me to speculate myself, which is always an enjoyable thing.

I think the characters could have been done better.  They could have been worse, though.  When one of the supporting characters was killed I didn’t struggle with it.  I moved right along.  On the other hand, I had to read and re-read several times when another character was lost.  I identified with the latter character completely, but didn’t identify hardly at all with the other characters.  The characters were done well, but not great.

Writing Quality:
Throughout the novel I noticed recurring problems in the writing quality.  While the initial P.O.V. seemed to be 3rd person limited the author wrote it as if it was 3rd person omniscient, switching between characters frequently without an interjection to signal it.  Other problems included occasional contrived and unrealistic dialogue, and as I said, seemed to drag more then a healthy book should.

Conclusion:  I enjoyed the book.  I really did, but I had trouble getting past many of the problems I’ve listed.  I can usually ignore problems pretty well, and I did in this novel, but I cannot in good conscious give this book four or five pens (stars).  However, because of the books fantastic originality and unique feel to it, I cannot give it three pens either.  So I give it three and a half pens.

Get in contact or buy the books at the authors website, here.