Hell on Earth
by Michael Reaves
Review by James Walton

Colin, who seems to have no last name, is a mysterious man who lives in an equally mysterious mansion in New York. He is very highly trained in the use of magic and is sort of a cross between the characters "Dr. Strange" from Marvel Comics and DC Comics' John Constantine, though meaner than the former and not as nasty as the latter. Colin awakens one morning to find his mansion burglarized by demonic forces. A magical artifact called The Trine has been stolen from its hiding place and all of Colin's warding spells are neatly nullified. Colin, baffled by the theft, sets out to retrieve his property. Colin is joined in his search by his sometime business associate, a lower ranked demon named Asdeon, and a beautiful angel named Zoel.

Liz Russell is a journalist and the author of a best selling book on a serial killer named Maneater. She spent two years of her life being stalked by Maneater and is one of the witnesses when the killer is executed. But Maneater refuses to stay dead.

Terry Dane is a professional bodyguard for a company with an exclusive clientele. He is very good at his job but he occasionally has nightmares about something he saw while a soldier during the Gulf War.

And wandering around somewhere is a demon who achieved an Earthly body via the unholy union of a father and daughter.

Each of the above have a part to play in the events which unleash Hell on Earth.

When I finished Hell on Earth I put it down and said to myself "I can write a book like that if I want. But I want to write a _good_ book." Not that Earth is a bad book. It's just that there isn't much to it. It's a fairly standard plot found in many books in all genres. Reaves doesn't do much with it, adding just enough to make it a dark fantasy. So it never has a chance to become a good book.

Colin spends most of the book wandering around reacting to situations instead of trying to figure out what is going on. Why were his artifacts stolen? Why is he able to retrieve them so relatively easily? You can understand why Dane and Russell may be a bit confused. They aren't trained magic users, but Colin is supposed to be some sort of guardian.

Why is he so clueless? Why has he been entrusted with protecting the Earth from the Fallen?

Colin's battles with demonic forces, while interesting in themselves, are more like highlight scenes from an action movie. The reader wonders "What was that about" instead of learning more about the story.

About 200 pages into the book Colin begins to show the frustration the readers are feeling. He demands answers from his companions, the angel and the demon, who just shrug and say "You know the rules."

The book's dust jacket mentions that Mr. Reaves has done a lot of work in television and comics. This experience didn't translate well to the novel form. All the emphasis in Earth is on action and scenery. I can see "made for TV movie" stamped all over this one. Hell on Earth reads remarkably like a mediocre comic book. But in the last 10 years or so we have seen comic books which featured superior writing and story telling along with great artwork. Earth doesn't measure up.

At the end of Hell on Earth there is a scene in which Colin is having a conversation with Zoel and Asdeon. This scene is probably meant to be funny but all it does is highlight the comic book nature of the novel.

Although it is self contained, Hell on Earth contains many references to Colin and his previous encounters with the forces of Good and Evil. I can find no mention of a previous book featuring Colin but I suspect the author will be very happy to crank out a prequel if there is interest.

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