Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review: One if by Heaven, Two if by Hell by Rick Maydak

Boston barkeep Ethan Reyes has the disturbing ability to read minds. To him, this ability is more of a curse than a gift as people’s private thoughts assault him day in and day out. Ethan numbs himself against the onslaught with copious amounts of alcohol, but people’s thoughts keep worming themselves into his head anyway.

Ethan has had his ability all his life, but a frightening encounter with an ugly, toad-like demon when he was a child had made him keep quiet about his mind-reading. It now appears that the demon is back and not only is it killing people around Ethan, but tempting him to join him. When Ethan doesn’t give into temptation, the demon makes a mental prisoner out of Ethan’s object of affection, Taylor, after she is the victim of a brutal gang rape and slips into a coma. The demon hopes to force Ethan to do his bidding in bringing about the end of the world, but Ethan is more powerful than he believes himself to be.

Can Ethan defeat the demon or will the world be lost?

Combining a Biblical background of angels and demons with bloody passages, One if by Heaven Two if by Hell is a pretty intriguing read. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down by inadequate editing, some unbelievable actions by the lead character and a rather rushed ending. This didn’t completely ruin the novel for me, but nonetheless the flaws were glaringly evident.

The film jumps right in and introduces us to lead character Ethan Reyes, but I never felt a connection to him. Also, some of his actions just seemed ludicrous, like when he watches the woman he loves get gang raped and does nothing to stop it. After that, he came off as more and more unlikable as he seemingly bumbles through scene after scene, until, of course, he goes through a “transformation” that makes him into a seemingly braver, stronger badass. This radical change in character was just a bit too much for me to believe.

While the book overall felt dragged out, the ending felt both rushed and yet like the author was still trying to drag out the action. Even though Ethan is sure the demon is harming Taylor, it seems like he feels no sense of urgency in getting to her. He even stops to remove one of the demon’s dead victims from the ceiling where he has been pinned…like the police wouldn’t track down Ethan now that his fingerprints and DNA are all over the place?? Plot holes like this spoil the book in certain parts, but like I said before they don’t make the novel completely irredeemable.

I especially enjoyed the passages where Ethan entered into Taylor’s head while she is in a coma and got to explore her own personal sanctuary where she was hiding from the demon. These very descriptive passages really kept me reading. The descriptions of bloody violence that pepper the pages were also very gruesome and really made you feel like you were there, smelling the freshly-spilled blood and slipping on its coagulating puddles.

For a debut novel, author Rick Maydak certainly could have done worse, but One if by Heaven Two if by Hell still falls into the middle-of-the-road category. I enjoyed the overall story of good vs. evil, but I just had to suspend my belief a bit too much for some of the actions that the lead character took (or didn’t take, as it may be). The book also needed much more editing, as typos and grammatical mistakes pulled me out of the story. Still, I’ll look forward to Maydak’s next novel as he hones his craft a bit more and hopefully gets a better editor.

Buy it on Amazon!

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