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Poets in Hell (Heroes in Hell) Kindle Edition
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I like fantasy, and I like it dark, this is probably what attracted me to a book set in the vast expanse of hell, what a brilliant playground for a group of writers to unleash their imaginations. Of course, the idea of a collection of stories about poets doesn’t exactly conjure an image of action and adventure, but I can say, this group of wordsmiths may have lived sedate, studious lives, but death gets seriously real for them. There is such a wild, eclectic mix of characters in this collection, all bound together with a common theme, and a running consistency that speaks of very clever world building, behind the scenes. Although each author has his or her own take on hell and the, madcap adventures they put their characters through, there are also common themes and characters binding the collection together and giving the book a strong feel of oneness, giving the reader the feel of roving through the many layers of hell, like some kind of traveller roaming through space and time witnessing all of the action up close.
As I said there are consistent rules running through the collection. Wars are fought in hell, murders committed, anything that happened in life can happen in hell, but generally with horrible consequences. Food tastes like s***, literally, nothing is as it seems, if something appears good it’s most likely just a trick of the devil’s to torment the soul even further. Shakespeare, Yeats, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Helen of Troy… the cast is endless and limitless. They live, love and lose all in hell.
A good book? Hell yeah!
Words have the power to foment change, and when you have a legion of disgruntled poets on the loose, who feel they've been wrongly doomed to an eternity of suffering, you can guarantee that 'change' will cause the greatest inconvenience to His Infernal Majesty...At least it would do, if only more of the condemned bards could remember who they were, or what it is they have to say.
To rub salt in their ever-present wounds, Satan delights to rub their faces in it, by arranging a poetry festival - an ill-literal slam-dunk event - where they risk life and limb to deliver their verses, before a diabolical and often bloody fate befalls them.
Does this let the devil off the hook?
Far from it.
In an open act of defiance, Diomedes leads his Epigoni on a rampage to recover the skin of flayed Odysseus from the walls of the Pandemonium Theatre. Not content to rescue one hide, he sets about to retrieve them all - and damn the consequences. Elsewhere, there are troubling signs that someone is trying to forge his own army of demons, in an effort to oust Satan from his throne. If that wasn't vexing enough, Erra, Babylonian god of plague and mayhem, together with his Sibitti enforcers - creatures who have thwarted the dark lord's plans before - scheme to wreak havoc in one plane of hell after another. Then, to top it all off, it looks as if a vampire is on the loose. Someone, it seems, who is able to prevent the already dead from being reanimated and reassigned to their never-ending merry-go-round of drudgery, pain and suffering. So troubling is this news, that even the Undertaker decides he needs a vacation.
Intrigued? You should be.
If you like your tales of darkness served neat, over hot coals, and with a brimstone chaser, then this anthology is for you.
Its fast, its furious. Twisted and macabre. Sometimes funny, more often bittersweet...reminding us all of what might await us if we're ever denied the pleasure of God's grace at the end.
Read it at your peril.
When I first heard this title, I thought, what could possibly be dramatic or thrilling or frightening about poets in hell? I mean really? I had images of Sylvia Plath chasing someone down Hell’s new London streets with a hatchet, or Billy Collins reciting his famed contemporary poetry to me to a hellish backdrop filled with imps and succubi, until I fling myself headlong off the Santa Monica Pier. But, I respect so many of the authors that contributed to this work that I figured I had to take a read.
I was not disappointed. I should have known.
Every single story has a unique feel to it and every single author’s talents are exemplified in each individual tale. Yet, every single story has a certain consistency to it. I’ve read a lot of shared world stories before, and sometimes they can feel very structured, designed to limit the ability for the tale teller to upset the greater picture—stilted, even. But, these stories did not have that constrained feel to them at all. The one thing they did have in common is one of the traits I love the most: this anthology is dark.
And I love things dark.
The poets (and their supporting casts) were wickedly entertaining—I don’t think you have ever seen Sappho or Homer, or Shakespeare or Marlowe or Longfellow or Dante or any of the other poets in the book cast in this light. There they stand, side by side, upon Lucifer’s stage reciting prose for the fallen angel himself.
Personally, I was shocked to learn that Dante was in hell, given his staunch support of the papacy for much of his life—but there he was, bigger than life—and it was all too plausible. And Longfellow, and Browning, along with a suitably western Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson engaged in a sort-of life-and-death poetry challenge (With just a little more at stake than The Voice or American Idol). And who knew that Napoleon and the Iron Duke would be working together in the dark afterlife of Perdition?
It was fantastic.
And yet, despite all of the larger than life characters, (great names, like Poe and Pound and Plato to name a few) and all of the unbelievable situations, the stories all maintained a commitment to the underlying hopelessness of hell and the darkness that must be part of the tableau for it to be engaging. It seemed to me entirely plausible that these great characters still strove against the hopelessness, held to the deep values and commitments to the traits that made them giants of their time. All (or most, anyway) of these characters were in their own way heroic, despite, or perhaps largely because of, their situations.
It also seemed to me that Heaven must be severely lacking in culture if none of these folks made the cut! But, I digress.
I recommend to anyone that enjoys dark fiction, anyone that enjoys shared-world fiction, and anyone that enjoys horror take a read of this anthology. I don’t think you can go wrong and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.