By Danielle DeLisle
Judson, Theodore. Hell Can Wait. Calgary: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2010. Paperback. 224pp. $10.76 USD. ISBN: 978-1-894063-23-4.
Maternus, a Roman soldier, has been languishing in Hell for centuries due to a bureaucratic mix-up. When the political wheels finally turn, an angel and a demon are assigned to his case. They decide that to prove himself worthy of Heaven, Maternus must perform three tasks. He will only be allowed into Heaven if he completes the tasks and never loses his temper. Quite a feat, since he will have to deal with the culture shock of the modern world while he is completing said tasks.
I really liked Maternus as a character. I found him likable, compassionate, honest, and smart. I also thought he was very believable as a Roman soldier in a new world. I was rooting for him all the way. The problem was that I just couldn’t connect with anyone else. Maternus was the only character I felt was real. The “friends” he meets in the book are just miserable people and the angel and demon are not much better. I kept thinking that Hell was bad, but Heaven didn’t seem all that great, either.
The angel berates Maternus for what are, in my opinion, perfectly valid actions. Several men were going to seriously hurt Maternus after he tried regaining stolen property. If he had not defended himself, he would have died. The angel nearly screams at Maternus for losing his temper. The angel tells him that if he can’t “control his primeval rage for two seconds”, he will never see Heaven. Talk about overreacting. This is just one example of what I felt was a common occurrence in the book: a completely disproportionate reaction by characters to what was going on. I couldn’t help thinking that if this is how they judge you in Heaven, why would you want to go there? It bordered on the ridiculous at times.
The second item that bugged me about this book was the solutions to the tasks he is given. I don’t think I am spoiling too much by describing one briefly. Maternus has to find someone to care for this girl who was a major bully at the school where he worked. The solution turns out to be hooking her up with the school nerd. She protects him from teasing and he pretends to care for her. Is this the type of message the author was trying to send? That parasitic relationships are all right?
I think the writing was fine. It was descriptive and well-edited, with a good flow of sentences. The writer can create a likable character because I was rooting for Maternus. I was engaged with the text. The problem is that I don’t think I was where the author wanted me to be. I took some parts, which the author intended to be taken earnestly, with some cynicism.
All that aside, you may find this book an enjoyable read. I believe it takes all kinds and I am afraid the book may have suffered from my obviously differing worldview. I invite readers to check it out and form their own opinion. If nothing else, it sparked some very interesting theological discussions with my friends.
Ms. DeLisle lives in the wilds of the U.S., where she writes about the crazy happenings in the world. She can be found online at: http://picaresqueblog.blogspot.com.
You can purchase Hell Can Wait from Amazon.com.
Angels and Demons Week continues until December 31.