Hell is split into two factions, with one side searching for redemption while both recruit the Newly Dead for an inevitable war in this debut supernatural thriller.
People condemned to hell enter through the Pit. These aren’t demons but rather the dead in shell bodies looking the same as when they perished on Earth. Marcus, a Roman dead some 2,000 years by 2011, has controlled hell almost the entire time he’s been there. He’s most often in the Pit to recruit people for what he calls his team. There are those working against Marcus, however, led by Deborah Molinksy, a Jewish woman who instills a belief in others that salvation is still possible. Four people arrive in hell around the same time: 17-year-old Allison Yates, Arab-Englishman Siddig El Tariq, widower Christoph Schmidt, and volunteer counselor Nadia Patel. They’ve each died in different ways but are all in hell for essentially the same reason, which they don’t immediately know. They ultimately must determine if they want to join Marcus’ team or follow Deborah, a decision that may hinge on The Gate above, where some of the dead go but which certainly isn’t the serene notion of heaven. Marcus would just as soon destroy bodies before losing recruits, but even a few on Deborah’s side believe that a violent confrontation seems unavoidable. This surprisingly insightful story zeroes in on its characters. Allison, for one, may be the reincarnation of Christoph’s wife, Sabine, allowing both (Allison with her new memories) to come to terms with Sabine’s death. Similarly, Heinrich von Helldorf, who perished during World War II, has become a self-hating Nazi and holds the magnanimous Deborah in reverence. Hell’s certainly a bleak place, and the fact that some characters who’ve reached The Gate have chosen hell instead makes the afterlife seem even darker. But hope shines bright throughout, epitomized by Nadia’s sanguine declaration: “This universe gave us a means of contrition, and we would feel inadequate if we ignored that.” There’s resolution regarding why characters, even the seemingly good ones, are in hell and how redemption is feasible, with an unmistakable open ending.
An intoxicating variant of the afterlife through the eyes of auspicious characters.