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Hell's Gate by David Weber and Linda Evans
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Jon Guenther
Baen Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476780641
Date: 07 July 2015 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: D. Weber's Website / L. Evans' Wikipedia Entry / Show Official Info /

It's difficult to come down on one side or the other in Hell's Gate, the first entry in the Multiverse Wars series created by David Weber. Thus I'm left giving it a mediocre review since it turned out to be a somewhat mediocre book. I've long been a reader of most of Weber's work, but I wouldn't classify this title as a particularly stellar effort.

It's difficult to come down on one side or the other in Hell's Gate, the first entry in the Multiverse Wars series created by David Weber. Thus I'm left giving it a mediocre review since it turned out to be a somewhat mediocre book. I've long been a reader of most of Weber's work, but I wouldn't classify this title as a particularly stellar effort.

First, if you're thinking this is a re-imagining of the original tale first published in 2008, it's apparently not. This is simply a reprint in new trade paperback format in anticipation of the release of The Road to Hell, co-authored by Joelle Presby (the two previous volumes having been co-authored by Linda Evans).

The basic story is of two societies, Arcana and Sharona, that are explorers of portals scattered throughout their respective worlds (think Stargates, if you wish) that transport them to other variations of Earth in other time dimensions, in the loosest sense of the word. A misunderstanding between two military members of these very different societies--one that rides dragons and wields magic, the other which has blended technology and industry coupled with powers of telekinesis and ESP--results in conflict, eventually leading to another skirmish that claims lives on both sides. From this point, the book is off and running. The biggest problem is that it takes almost 200 pages to get that point.

My biggest difficulty with Hell's Gate isn't with the story or world-building; I had the toughest part with the execution. The book is 800 pages (the mass-market paperback version being almost 1,300), and yet there are points where narrative dragged on for ten pages at a time, and then the same exact scene would be told from a different viewpoint. This made for a very rough start and, at other times, seem very intrusive just as the story would start to move.

While Mr. Weber's works aren't known for being small, by any standards, when contrasted to other large novels like those in the Safehold Universe, Hell's Gate failed to maintain a satisfactory pace until more than halfway through the book. On the flip-side, the characters are fascinating and well drawn, and all the political and social pathos of this author's works is there. That proved to be the redeeming grace for me in reading the book, coupled with the hopes there would be a payoff at the conclusion, which did happen: the last 200 pages or so were much better in contrast with the beginning.

So I'm left middle-of-the-road in my recommendation of this title, although I now will have to read the second book to see how all of this is going to turn out. I was surprised, really, that I was left feeling this way about one of Mr. Weber's books but I also can't say it was all bad. If you are one who enjoys the kind of detail and interplay found in some of the heftier epic fantasies, you will enjoy Hell's Gate.

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