A world traveler meets his untimely end, only to be recruited by the denizens of Heaven to undertake an expedition into Hell in McGee’s (Goodbye, Cruel World, 2012, etc.) fantasy thriller.
Dayson Snow is a prolific adventurer and philanthropist, forever distancing himself from the life of privilege into which he was born. Returning from Africa, he runs afoul of aging Creole hit man Jean LaFourche, a monster of a man rendered immortal by a strange lightning strike. The encounter with Jean costs Dayson his life, but his story is only just beginning. When he arrives in the afterlife, Dayson finds that the fabled paradise of Heaven is nothing more than a xenophobic bureaucracy in crisis. Worse yet, he discovers his death was a mistake. To correct that—or, at the very least, discover why—Dayson and his motley crew must journey into the depths of the Nine Circles of Hell. McGee’s novel epitomizes high concept, with enough spectacle to fuel a story encompassing Earth, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell. Despite the scope, there’s no skimping on the little details: touches of the historical and supernatural fill out a deep, wholly realized world. Almost all of the characters—and there are many—have rich, ample back stories, introduced in manners that build upon plot instead of distract from it. Yet as well-drawn as these characters are, their motivations are not always clear—Dayson’s especially. He is too often moved forward by his affection for loved ones back on Earth who are rarely present in the text. Though the story is quite long, it’s mitigated by the quick pace it keeps. Dialogue is snappy, only occasionally slipping into sludgy exposition, and there’s plenty of action to keep the story from stagnating.
Lengthy with a few dangling plot threads, but pervasive cleverness and fresh ideas make for an intelligent read.