Spoilers follow in the rambling review below. Read with caution if you haven’t read Infernal yourself!
** Note: This review is based on a copy of the book I received from the author himself after conversing with him on Twitter. I’m not sure if that’s relevant or important, but I notice other folks usually post that information in their reviews. **
I originally wrote a very bland and generic, spoiler free review of this fantastic novel by T. Joseph Browder. I didn’t even begin to do it justice, despite sharing that review on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon. It’s bothered me, to be perfectly honest. That brings me to this blog post, where I plan on remedying that horrible book review by posting one of my famous spoiler-filled book reports! That’s right, spoilers, ladies and gentlemen. So do with that information what you will because we’re about to begin the show.
Let me start out by saying this: if you’re a fan of Browder and have read his previous collection of short stories, Dark Matters, or his short horror fiction tale, Plague, then you’ll probably love Infernal. Infernal is T. Joseph Browder’s first foray into novel territory, and he hit it out of the park as far as scope and subject matter goes. Infernal isn’t an easy to categorize genre book because it touches on a little bit of everything. There’s horror, suspense, religion, science, science fiction, drama, military action, historical subject matter, sexual tension (depending on how deep you want to read into it), and philosophy. All that thrown into one book, stretched out into an epic playground of multiple worlds (the Multiverse) and set into motion by a master storyteller who obviously had fun doing it.
Infernal is basically the story of Richard Farris. He’s living the single life with his Saint Bernard out in the woods. He’s a troubled man, a man with a past that includes a crime that’s hinted at in the beginning, and that we learn much more about later on in the novel. He’s been to prison, has some tight first aid skills, does his own home remodeling and just likes to be alone, it seems. During a pretty bad winter storm, though, he discovers a severely injured woman not far from his property. He brings her home and tends to her wounds, but she’s out of it. He leaves Charlie, the Saint Bernard, to guard her while he goes to grab some sleep himself. He’s awoken the next morning by a swat team from a company known as BanaTech storming his home searching for this strange woman.
This is where we are thrown into the meat of the story, and this all takes place within the first chapter or two. After this introduction, the rest of the novel is one adventure after another, and it doesn’t let up until the last page. That’s how I like my books to move – fast paced, banging out the details I need and moving on. Push the story, don’t let it just sit there and meander around the description of a scene for ten pages while offering insight into what is driving a character for 6 more pages. Just hit it and go, buddy! Browder moves his story along, paces it well and keeps the flow smooth from one scene to the next. If anything at all can be blamed for slowing it down, it’s the detail given to weapons and/or military gear. We really don’t need to spend the time describing every single weapon someone has on them, what type of ammo it uses and how powerful it is when fired. Mention it briefly and move on. This one hang up throughout the novel is honestly the only complaint I have with it.
Discussion of firearms aside, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I received Infernal. I’d been reading the blurb on the author’s website and it sounded interesting enough. Even when I started reading it, I thought it was pretty sweet considering what it was dealing with, although I still, admittedly, had no idea where he was going with certain aspects. The idea of a Multiverse and the ability to travel between the different realms using Rips is very much what the television show Sliders was all about. But then Browder throws his own turn on the situation by adding BanaTech as the guys who want to conquer the other worlds, rape the lands of their resources, rule over them all and use the Rips, the power behind them and all their fancy devices to do it. That’s sort of new. But what I really dig is the background on the Rips themselves. It’s also the one secret of the novel that threw me for a loop, although I saw it coming right before it hit me in the face.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that when I was browsing through the Amazon Kindle bookstore one day and started seeing all these novels related to modern takes on angels and such, I rolled my eyes. I laughed, even. Angels? Oh great, I guess it was only a matter of time since we have sparkling vampires, hunky werewolves and such. I swore I’d never even glance in the direction of one of these “angels vs. demons” books. Yet, here I am, and I liked it.
That’s right, spoiler time, folks! The reveal that Richard Farris is the angel Gabriel, is one thing. The history lesson explaining just what the Rips, the All, the Infernal, the Multiverse and everything else is was easy enough to understand, and a nice play on the tale of creation. And as I said, I didn’t even see the whole “hey, he’s an angel” thing coming. I admit I did sneer and roll my eyes, but then I kept reading because this is an awesome book. I’ll tell you what, it’s a pretty decent pay off, too.
Our journey from having Richard Farris pulled into the drama of BanaTech, the Multiverse and the search for The Key to where we end up by the last page is an epic one. T. Joseph Browder handled it well and I have to admit that I’m anxious to read more stories set in this universe. I was also thrilled at the mention of Hammerfall, which is an event that occurs on an alternate earth and is the basis of two short stories in the author’s Dark Matter’s collection. Having a good chunk of the novel play out on that very world was something of a nice nod to dedicated readers, and just served to leave me wanting more tales set in that particular world. I’m a Hammerfall Earth fan, darn it. I demand to be served! (Just kidding! But if you wanna write some stuff about it, I’ll read it …)
So, yeah! I know I’ve been all over the place here, but that’s how I work best. Infernal is a massive undertaking considering the details Mister Browder has worked in to it. He has the whole backstory of The All, has the division of alliances between good and evil, has the multiple worlds upon which he has created and destroyed. He has the theories of all these science fictions and science facts and science maybes all thrown into a ball and juggled around. It’s really something that deserves to be read and something that I hope Mister Browder is proud of. I started out excited, hesitated when the angel aspect as revealed late in the game, but kept going and loved every page of it.
In fact, thinking over it now, I do have a complaint about how Sophia was played out in the end. Having the events transpire as they did I guess made sense, but then to have the surprise turn of events in the last page or two kind of made me do a mental double take. It was kind of like pulling a rabbit out of your hat after making darn good and sure everyone saw you grind that sucker up into a fine puree just seconds before. It left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. And this is coming from a guy who loved everything else about a novel that involves a new take on creation, angels, multiple earths, etc. Yet I’m thrown into a tizzy about this one detail that’s revealed at the end.
Time will tell, I suppose, because as Richard himself points out, Sophia said herself that most mirrors have the same drive and motivation no matter what version of earth they come from.
So there you have it. My spoilery review of Infernal, by T. Joseph Browder. I loved the book, though it had issues – mainly the wordy descriptions of weapons and vehicles. The whole “hey, I’m an angel” thing went over smoothly enough and I’m cool with it. But the ending concerning Sophia left something of an odd taste in my mouth. Anxious to see what’s going on, and also kinda curious as to where all these other angels were when all this crap was going down concerning the focal point generator and Richard and Bana being the only two putting their necks on the line.
Short verdict: Pick it up!