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Mortality Bridge Paperback – August 26, 2014
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--John Scalzi (Old Man's War)
Niko's race through Hell is one of the greatest supernatural adventure stories of recent memory. It is not a mere allegory about sin and redemption, cowardice and nobility: it's also a damned good story, which sets it apart from almost all existential allegories.
Mortality Bridge has something for everyone: Great characterization, vivid description, pulse-pounding action. It's a story of human weakness and redemption that's even older than the myths the novel draws upon, a story we can all relate to. An incredible, touching, exhilarating work that I wholeheartedly recommend.--SF Revu
Brilliant. An unforgettable tale of one man's journey to Hell. The writing is filled with vivid sensory detail. I was pushed to my limits by this one. Immeasurably sad. Moments of transcendent joy and beauty and compassion. A very well-written book that made me feel intense emotion. I recommend it.
A mad mixture of Orpheus, Faust, and Dante. Expansive, gonzo encounters, all of which are vividly rendered. It ends with a killer-diller final sentence. The language is all. Mortality Bridge is, you should only excuse the expression, a Hell of a read.
--Sci Fi Magazine
About the Author
Soon after Ariel was published he moved from Florida to Los Angeles, California, where he continued to write fiction and screenplays as well as teach college writing courses, seminars, and workshops. He has published stories in literary, science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and magazines, as well as publishing articles and comic books. In the early nineties his imprint Sneaker Press published chapbooks by the poets Carrie Etter and the late Nancy Lambert.
Steve has also been a martial arts instructor, professional paper marbler, advertising copywriter, proofreader, typesetter, writing teacher, and website designer and editor.
In 2000, Steve took some time off from writing. He learned to play the didgeridoo and began composing and DJing electronic music.
As a DJ he has played clubs, conventions, parties, Burning Man, and sporting events. He produces three of the world's most popular music podcasts: Podrunner, Podrunner: Intervals, and Groovelectric.
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This story is not for the faint of heart, or the faint of spirit.
It is a book you will either love or you will hate...but I adore it.
It is an intense combination of gut-wrenching introspection, heroic determination and brutal carnage with a slice of hope on the side.
I only ask that you give it a chance and not DNF as a knee-jerk reaction to the violence.
It was worth every gory, emotional, desperate, hopeful and torturous moment. A love story set in Los Angeles and Hell? Bring it on. Steven Boyett is one twisted dude. All you have to do is look at his author photo. That double-pointed black goatee speaks volumes. Even with the visual nod to the ultimate evil, the man did considerable research through the world's collection of myth, epic poetry and legend, yet made the story his own. This book is incredible.
Basic plot synopsis: Niko, an American of Greek origin, an amazing blues guitarist, junkie, lost the love of his life, hits rock bottom after personal tragedy, makes deal with the Devil. Cleans himself up, gets famous, gets his girl back, girl dies, Niko goes to Hell to get her back. Will play in exchange for her soul.
From this barebones synopsis it may sound like Boyett warmed up the Orpheus myth with a bit of Crossroads in the microwave and retold it in a modern setting.
That would be INCORRECT. There are aspects of Orpheus and Crossroads in this story, but it is so much MORE. Boyett created his own mythology out of a plethora of the old ones and stamped Boyett all over them. New, fresh, edgy and dark, this is not your mama's mythology.
Niko is an emotionally charged character. Much like Robert Johnson, at one point, he literally loses everything in his life and the tragedy colors his music. Niko may now be rich and famous, but he is troubled, humble and damned. The only two things that he loves are his girlfriend Jemma and his music. He will literally go to Hell and back for her, and this Hell was designed by Robert Rodriguez on acid. What more could you ask for?
There are surprising moments of camaraderie, aid from unseen allies, short stark moments of beauty and humanity amidst the torment. There is even humor. The riff on Siamese cats is LYAO...
There is also driving-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure, heartbreak, car chases, a few classic characters, a few moderns, the best classic car, and I can't talk about anything else or spoilers will fly out.
There are three messages that ring loud and clear above it all:
Love is the strongest power in the universe.
Take responsibility, be humble and ask forgiveness
Free will is the most precious gift imaginable, and the most underrated.
In reviews, readers throw around references to Orpheus, Dante's Inferno, Virgil's Aenead, Bosch's Underworld paintings, Robert Johnson's Crossroads, but they should also include the cult of Hades, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey , the Egyptian myth of judgment, paintings of the underworld by Bruegel, the Sumerian epic poem Gilgamesh, the Twelve Labors of Heracles, Persephone, Auguste Rodin's Orpheus and Eurydyce, the epic poem The Harrowing of Christ and many others. Don't expect to find these classics in recognizable form. For example, you won't find Dante's perfectly demarcated circles of Hell with a single type of suffering for a single sin, but there will be different sections of an infinite Hell for a single sin torment, including some from the Inferno and a sighting of Virgil with his lamp. Boyett has taken, in his words, a knife, to the abundance of source material and made it his own in some uniquely extraordinary ways. His choice of torments for specific sins is ferally imaginative, downright ghastly and all his own.
Boyett takes imagery to a new level, and frankly there were two times where I wished he wasn't quite so spectacular, as I keep seeing these images as I write this review. Keep reading! The text is salted with bits of light. Just wait until you get to the aqua-eyed, stone demon that flies on filagreed wings. Now that is goodness squared.
Niko's trip through hell cannot be described without spoilers. Just buy the damned book. You'll be thanking me later ( unless you abhor violence, then stop immediately).
If you appreciate the classics, are a sucker for true love and can handle the violence without tuning it out or skipping it, you have a wonderful experience just ahead. It was deeply emotional and more uplifting than any of the descriptions or reviews hinted.
The good stuff… The writing is brilliant. The words themselves are living, throbbing, moving creatures that crawl off the tablet and make your skin crawl. Difficult it is to find a page or passage that is devoid of poetic construction. The story is modern and pop culture and classic and ancient. There were prominent elements of Mortality Bridge that were spot light predictable, and yet it didn’t bother me in the least. It’s the journey, not the destination. The confluence of so many legends mixing together in Boyett’s “hadeography” created their own unpredictability where I would wonder if he would borrow from Faust or Milton or throw something downright weird into the mix. Red plastic beach shovels come to mind (shudder).
The bad stuff… The descriptions were awful to read, and I have a pretty strong stomach. I would never want my kids to read this book even when they reach their teens, and I have reservations over referring a friend or family member. Hermaphroditic demons who let it all hang out, the tortured methods of Hell’s denizens, the brutality of the finality of people’s existence for all eternity.
Which leads me to Mortality Bridge’s biggest problem: who is the audience? Horror enthusiasts won’t find the boogie man or vampires or zombies they crave. Christians will balk at some (but not all) of the theological choices Boyett makes with who he sends to Hell. Atheists will scoff at the mere concept of Heaven and Hell.
However a book’s rating should not suffer because of an unsure audience. The novel needs to stand or fall on its own merits, and there are many which lift Mortality Bridge high indeed. From the tragic meeting with Sam to the never-said-but-clearly-shown reason for the Drop, Niko’s painful journey is difficult to dislodge from memory.
P.S. While not a Christian story by any stretch, if Hell is half as bad as Steven Boyett depicts, this book will scare just about anyone into seeking salvation.