cover image Hell on Earth

Hell on Earth

Michael Reaves. Del Rey Books, $22 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-345-42335-1

It's Alive and The Silence of the Lambs meets The Stand in this ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful blend of quest novel and splatterpunk epic. The book begins with a bang, as it were: a 15-year-old gives birth to a horrendous winged monstrosity that rips its way out of the mother's womb, then proceeds to exsanguinate everyone present. Unfortunately, this is typical of what's to come: the atrocities pile up and up until they topple over into absurdity. Colin, an orphan raised by sorcerers; Zoel, an angel; and Asdeon, a demon with a sarcastic sense of humor and an unsettling tendency to transform into tough-guy icons like Humphrey Bogart, team up on a quest to recover the Trine, three talismans that impart galvanic power, missing from its place of safekeeping. Along the way they encounter a psychic young woman stalked by a serial killer who survives not only death but dissection, as well as a Gulf War vet turned professional bodyguard whose former client was Cuisinarted to death. The plot strands all converge in Las Vegas where else? where the Devil is planning to end the world. The denouement is predictably apocalyptic. This uneven m lange of serial killer thrills and ornate Gothic narrative may appeal to some hard-core horror fans, but for most readers it's an unsavory mix. Even more disconcerting that Reaves (Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter) excoriates mindless slasher films in some irrelevant asides when he himself is serving up the literary equivalent of those cinematic abattoirs. (May 1) Forecast: Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter has been on PW's hardcover bestseller list for three weeks as of this writing. That's much more because it's a Star Wars title than because it's a Reaves title, of course, but some readers will remember Reaves's name and give Hell on Earth a strong initial push.