2012; 427 pages. Book #1 (out of 2) of “The Prometheus Wars” series. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Fantasy; Military; Mythology; Action-Adventure. Overall Rating : 5*/10.
There’s been a very unsettling (and secret) archaeological discovery deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Some say it might be the legendary city of Atlantis, but that's doubtful, since some extremely advanced technological artifacts have been found there. And they've caught the attention of the US military.
The most intriguing one consists of a control panel connected in some way to a circle of standing stones, which look kind of like Stonehenge, except on a much larger scale. There are some sort of runic symbols associated with the control panel, so a scientist has been called in to decipher them.
The gist of the runes seems to be that the control panel opens a "rift" between here and another dimension, and that opening it will unleash an Evil capable of destroying our world.
The scientist thinks we should back off and leave things be; we don't know if the warning is metaphorical or actual, and the risk’s too great. The military thinks such technology could give us a leg up on our enemies in any future conflict, so we should open up the rift and see what happens.
Guess whose opinion is going to carry the day.
What’s To Like...
Beyond Hades is an ambitious mixing of mythology with an action-military adventure, plus a dash of dimension-hopping and time-travel thrown in to spice things up. The heaviest emphasis is on Greek mythology. Indeed, I think the book may set a record for the sheer number of creatures, people, and places from the Greek legends. It’s interesting to see how the mythical creatures called forth by Luke Romyn fare against modern-day weapons and special-ops personnel.
The storyline is straightforward. An archaeologist, Dr. Talbot Harrison, and an Australian special forces commando, Wes, cross through the rift to try to set things right again, and find themselves up against every mythological entity imaginable. These range from well-known ones, such as cyclops and minotaurs, to some obscure ones, such as the Hecatonchires and a leucrota. I'm a huge mythology buff, but there were quite quite a few of these beasts that I'd never heard of. Luke Romyn changes the spelling of some of these slightly, but if you're wondering whether he made these up (and I did), Wikipedia has postings for all the ones I checked.
Talbot is main focus of the story, but frankly, Wes is the more interesting (and colorful) of the pair. The author apparently felt likewise, because ANAICT, only Wes returns for the sequel, Slaves of Valhalla, where the scene shifts to Norse mythology.
Most of the book consists of our two heroes meeting, greeting, and in many cases, doing battle with one beast or legend after another. It all starts to blur after a while. But if you stick around, things pick up around 70% (Kindle) with some nifty plot twists and an exciting climactic battle. And oh yeah, I much enjoyed the killer puppy; it reminded me of the lethal rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
Beyond Hades is an action-packed adventure tale, and I felt like Luke Romyn made a conscious effort to make sure there were no slow spots. This is a standalone story, as well as part of a 2-book, completed series. All the main story threads are tied up by the end. The only R-rated stuff is a slew of cussing, mostly from the mouth of Wes. I have no problem with cuss words in stories, but here I thought it was overdone, particularly since, what with mythology being the dominant theme, this might have been better penned as a YA novel, with teenage boys being the target audience.
Beyond Hades sells for $4.99 at Amazon. Its sequel, Slaves of Valhalla, is the same price. Luke Romyn has another dozen or so e-books available at Amazon, including a series called The Legacy Chronicles; all of which fall in the $3.99-$4.99 range.
“Have you ever fired a weapon, Doctor Harrison?” asked the captain as they dashed along the empty passageway.
Talbot shrugged – now probably wasn’t the time to ask if Playstation counted. (loc. 572)
“Zeus here-“ began Talbot.
“You mean like Greek-god Zeus?” interrupted Wes.
“Hmm. Cool,” said Wes, appraising Zeus once more.
Talbot grinned despite himself. “Well Zeus was just saying that we’re practically on our own for the fight ahead. They’re still recovering from the last war and need to protect their own borders from the creatures of Tartarus.”
“What’s a Tartarus? Isn’t that what Doctor Who travelled around in; you know the telephone box with the flashing blue light on top of it?” (loc. 3345)
“So you reckon Prometheus is a starfish, is that what you’re saying?” (loc. 5990)
Sadly, as other reviewers at Amazon and GoodReads have noted, there are some significant issues with Beyond Hades. Besides the aforementioned abundance of cussing, the formatting is sucky and a better font could have been chosen. Those things are minor. More serious are the writing and the storytelling.
To be blunt, the writing needs another round of polishing. There are telling/showing issues. The plot gets stuck in a do-loop for the first 70% of the book, as one mythical creature after another pops up out of nowhere, wanting to do harm to our heroes. After about the third one, I was just wishing the plotline would move along.
The storytelling is in even more need of attention. Deus ex machinas and WTF’s abound. A few examples (of the non-spoiler variety):
In the WTF category: How did Talbot and his brother come to be fluent in the mysterious ancient language? For that matter, why are the beasties from the other dimensions instantly able to find them in our dimension? How can such huge beasts proliferate in our dimension (and a popular tourist attraction in Australia collapse), yet no one seems to notice?
In the Deus ex Machina category: How convenient is it that Zeus can instantly make Wes fluent in the Olypmpian tongue? How timely is it for Prometheus’s eagle to show up at the most critical time and rescue our heroes from beasts-with-evil-intent? Ditto for the life-saving bulls of Khalkotauroi?
I got the feeling that, if Wes and Talbot were pitted against some evil entity which could only be killed by sugary snacks, a gray storm cloud would appear on the horizon and it would start to rain marshmallows.
5 Stars. I loved the basic concept of Beyond Hades. But the ending is above-average ending, but it's not quite enough to make up for the writing and storytelling issues. Another round of editing and beta-reading is called for.