Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hellgate London Exodus & Goetia Impression

I don’t usually, well ever, talk about novels but I find myself compelled to do so thanks to Hellgate London: Exodus and Hellgate London: Goetia. The first book was sent to me a while ago and just sat on my shelf until a long business trip prompted me to bring it along. Hooked I became, line and sinker. I love reading, mostly manga and DragonLance, and I love video games, but for the most part I’ve not touched any video game based novels, of which there are quite a few (Diablo, Halo, WarCraft). Even stranger I don’t do PC gaming, but here I am talking about a novel based on a PC game I’ve never played. I found these books so compelling I had to search out and buy Goetia, cannot wait for the final volume and I even (gasp!) bought the video game to get into this world. Written by Mel Odom these books are great on their own, no game needed, but can only enhance the story. What’s so compelling you ask; let’s take a look at the high-level for each book and what hooked me …

Hellgate London: Exodus
The year is 2028 and the Hellgates are open in London. Taking society by surprise demons pour into our world and destroy without thought. The military and police are no match and fall like files while the land begins to transform, a process called the burn. Not all of humanity is caught off guard. An underground, hidden, group called the Templar have been training and preparing for ages for this invasion, but even they are overwhelmed and must sacrifice a majority of their men in the battle of all hollows eve, to convince the demons they are no longer a threat, to save the survivors and allow them time to counter the offensive. Hope for winning the war is lost, but hope for keeping the demons from winning remains. Thomas Cross is one of the Templar to fall during all hollows eve, and it’s his son Simon, living in South Africa, and a bit of an outcast since he left the Templar, with whom the story follows. As Simon sees news of an alien invasion in London his fears, what he was taught growing up, comes to realization. The stories, the demons are real and he must make his way back to London. Simon does indeed make his way back to the island, meeting Leah Creasey on the way, a girl looking for her father. Simon faces the dangers of the journey and makes his way back to the Templar with Leah only to find he is still considered an outcast for his leaving years before. We are also introduced to a sad soul, Warren Schimmer, who finds in himself a hidden power and troubled past, which brings him to the attention of another party, the Cabalist, who look to harness the power of demons and seize control of them while changing their bodies with tattoos, horn crafts and the like. During one summoning Warren encounters a demon named Merihim who recruits Warren after a few tiffs, to be his emissary in this world. Merihim cannot enter via a Hellgate due to some demon invasion rules. Warren and Simon are set on collision paths due to their shared objects of gaining a legendary hammer, an errand High Seat Booth sends Cross on with other Templar. Booth is an old childhood rival of Simon’s and let’s just say they don’t like each other. Simon cuts off Warrens hand, Merihim gives Warren a new hand and Simon cuts ties from the hiding Templar under Booth. The story concludes with a desperate plan hatched by Simon to get refugees out of London via a train, a cause many Templar rally too. Merihim and Warren are both encounter and Leah shows up as not the innocent girl looking for her father.

Exodus sets the stage via Simon very nicely. We are introduced to the world, to what has happened to London as Simon encounters it. The various factions seen in the game are introduced also with specific characters tied to each, Simon, Leah, Warren, Merihim just to name a few. There are plenty of questions to be answered and the pacing of the story is nice with lulls in the action to flesh out the story. Not every side is truly good or bad. There is a reason for the invasion, a might makes right type of order, and even within the Templar there are factions and differing opinions. Not all are noble and there are many shades of gray. After the train escape, what is next? Goetia.

Hellgate London: Goetia
Four years have passed since the train exodus and Simon’s group has grown. More Templar from all the houses flock to his banner to help save those left in London, as few as they may be now. News of other Hellgates around the world bring a damper to escape as nowhere is safe. The burn continues to transform the land and Simon is urged to form his own house, which he of course refuses. Leah helps out Simon during a demon ambush and we learn more about her shadow group. Dr. Macomber, a professor of linguistics, is brought to Simon’s attention as he understands some of the demon language and knows of a book, the Goetia, which contains demons names, one method to have power over the demons. Warren also comes to gain a book, one Merihim orders him to get, but one which communicates with Warren and strengthens him. The secret of this book is revealed later setting the stage for the final Hellgate novel, but more on that later. As we learn more about Leah we learn of Lyra Darius, seen at the beginning of the PC game, her fate and what exactly happened, very nice tie-in. Warren faces off with Merihim and takes on a few of his rivals while Simon is betrayed by Booth.

Goetia continues the story and trials of both Simon and Warren and was a quick read since the story flows. The land and setting is bleak, but it’s the faint hope that keeps you reading as our participants are just part of a larger story. We learn more about the demons past in our world, their reason and rules for invasion, which helps explain Merihim, as well as a bit of history on the Templar, including Dr. Macomber’s interaction with Thomas Cross. Simon is gaining more prestige, not wanted of course, but because he embodies what the Templar are. He is a noble and tragic figure. A budding relationship sprouts with Leah (end of the book) and Warren faces a new set of trials, which I just cannot spoil here. Both books are solid, with some minor editing issues, misuse of works and spelling, but overall great. Like I said before these books made me by the video game and take an interest in a series I would not have ever glanced at. I hope this recap urges you to pick up the books and take a journey to a bleak future where the Hellgates are open and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Good times.

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