First of all, I knew John Grey, the main character, was gay (he makes a comment right at the beginning of the story that let the reader know), but until ¼ of the book I did wonder if there would have been a love interest for him, since Dante, my most likely candidate, was clear was not the one. Second, again John is gay, but I really, really loved that Jay Bell didn’t stress this as the main reason for his quest through Purgatory, Hell and Heaven; on the contrary, the event that John is gay is almost insignificant, for his character and for the mission he has to accomplish he could have been gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, bisexual… whoever he wants, since sexuality was not the engine behind everything. By the way, if you were wondering, John being gay is not the reason why he is in Purgatory and not in Heaven.
When John arrives in Purgatory he finds an aseptic place, a temporary stop for people to redeem from their sins and go in Heaven or to fail on the mission and go down in Hell. The task seems easy enough, but the strange thing is that this Purgatory is overcrowded, by the way from people from every time and religion, and they all seem without “motivation”. More than the horror of living in Purgatory, John is pushed into action by the boredom, by the nightmare of not having stimulation for more than 1 week. At first, let be true, John is not exactly an hero, and I was wondering why he was the chosen one, why he was more suited to the task than Dante, a thief from the ‘80s or Jacobi, an heretic from the XVI century.
Dante and John manage to escape Purgatory and go to Hell (pun intended); the fact that Hell is way better than Purgatory and not so scaring at all was a nice surprise. John was always waiting for the downside of the place, but there is no one; on the contrary, here he meets Rimmon, an handsome incubus who joins Dante and John on their quest. Maybe the only downside is that, while Rimmon is not against the idea of having sex with John (he is an incubus after all), he is already in love with an angelic beauty, someone with whom John cannot compare.
Dante, John and Rimmon start a simil-Divina Commedia-journey, but in modern term, and so, other than the “catholic” afterlife places, they visit all the other religion, from the beginning of the existence of men on earth to today. They are more lucky than Dante Alighieri, their adventures are less scaring, and more or less, no one of the souls they meet are in pain, or suffering, apparently everyone is happy in their afterlife.
I think I understood the metaphor of this story, it’s not religion wronging people, it’s the rigid structure people built around religion; if you manage to get free of all the “tinsels” and go to the core of it, then you are good and safe.
Amazon: Hell's Pawn
Amazon Kindle: Hell's Pawn
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (July 27, 2011)
Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bott
Cover Art by Andreas Bell