by Kelly McCullough
Review by Paul Haggerty
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441015382
Date: 25 September 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Ravirn needs to go to hell. Of course, getting in is the easy part. The big problem is that he needs to get back out again, and bring somebody with him. Not since the days of Orpheus has anyone come anywhere near succeeding. And everyone who's tried has ended up doggy chow for Cerberus, the three headed guardian hound of the gates. Bob, Dave, and Mort (the three heads of Cerberus) all agree that Ravirn is a great guy and one of their few friends. They'd feel awful about it, but they'll still kill him if he tries anything. But Ravirn is a hacker of the magical web that forms reality, descendant of the Fates who spin, measure, and trim the life lines of all mortals. He's a good hacker, really good, has been named a Power of Chaos by the Fates, and is not one to give up on a friend just because of a little thing like death. Still, that's a lot of teeth, not to mention bad breath, should he fail. And there's plenty of room in Hades for a hacker that thinks he's better than he is. The tens of thousands of people that have tried before him barely make a dent.
Ravirn has two very good reasons for what he's doing. First, he's trying to rescue a good friend who died to save them. Secondly, the friend, Shara, happens to be the webgoblin of his girlfriend Cerice. Webgoblins are sentient computer programs and serve as combination adviser and personal digital assistant. Shara happened to be carrying all of Cerice's doctoral thesis data. Cerice is now mourning both the lost of her closest friend, and the results of years of work, without which, she'll have no future. The result is really putting a crimp in Ravirn's love life, and if the only way he can make the love of his life happy again is to do what legions have died trying, then that's what he's going to do.
The maxim "no good deed goes unpunished" seems to be a core philosophy to Ravirn. Ducking, dodging, hacking, and misdirecting, Ravirn and his webgoblin, Melchior, perform the impossible and succeed in sticking it to The Man, in this case the God of Death himself. And in the process, open a can of worms that threatens all of creation. Shara is freed, but something goes horribly wrong. Immediately after their escape, the magical web that links all of creation begins to crash, whole realities vanishing as if they had never been.
And having had a similar (though far less disastrous) effect on the mweb in the last book, Ravirn is immediately identified as the criminal responsible by the Powers That Be. When the Gods have a feud with someone they're really nasty about it, and they can wait a long time to see the score settled. This incident is making several old enemies very happy. Soon Ravirn is running for his life (again) while trying to fix what he had only the tiniest part in breaking. From the Castle of Discord, to Mount Olympus, to the realm of Necessity itself, Ravirn and Cerice flee, pursued by the three Furies (one of whom has a wicked crush on Ravirn, which seems like a conflict to interest).
When all the clues are gathered, the trail indisputably leads back to Hades, where another prisoner has been seeking escape from the underworld for millennia. And after all that time, the destruction of creation seems like a very small price to pay to end an eternity of torture. To save the day, Ravirn is going to have to break back into Hades and go toe to toe with a god. And while it's not a good idea to anger any god, it's a real bad idea to anger this one. Everyone ends up in Hades eventually, even other gods, and the God of Death has the longest memory when it comes to settling scores.