I've often wondered what will happen after I die, where my soul would travel, but the myriad of choices presented in Jay Bell's book 'Hell's Pawn' made me rethink the whole idea. John Grey takes an amazing journey beginning in Purgatory and ending in Heaven. During his traveling, he has the privilege of visiting several versions of the afterlife which he portrays in vivid detail. John has a special sort of energy which allows him to do things on the other side that others can't, and this is his key to success. John has a sense of purpose that others don't possess. John seems to be the only one with a drive to change, unlike his friend Dante who is comfortable being himself, being in the moment, without any desire for redemption. He wants to be productive and if the activity in which he's engaging isn't, he quickly loses interest. John's mission is to help Hell unite the different realms to free Purgatory from the domination it is under, but he's determined not to simply be Hell's pawn. The song 'I Did It My Way' kept filtering through my brain as John puts his special touch on negotiations between the realms, wheeling and dealing for their support. It was gratifying to watch John's confidence grow while he honed his diplomacy skills.
Rimmon is a fascinatingly complex character. With him, as with many other characters along the way, I see the theme 'don't judge a book by its cover', even if it has red skin, horns, and a tail and stereotypically speaking, looks like a demon which we associate with evil. However, it's the heart that counts and as John discovers, regardless of appearances, Rimmon has a good heart. He admires John and wants to love him, but his heart belongs to his estranged lover and he is unable to move on and get it back. Reconciliation with his lover is the only thing that will put his heart to rest.
One of the themes that I appreciate greatly is that animals have souls too, and if not inhibited by external sources, they have free reign and a much keener sense of direction than humans. So does John's traveling companion in spirit. Animals have the ability to travel in whatever realm they wish, which, to me, speaks to the purity of their spirit. Personally, I wouldn't want to be in any kind of afterlife that didn't include animals.
The amount of information Jay fits into two hundred and seventy six pages is amazing and a bit overwhelming; still the story flows so well. I can hardly begin to describe the plethora of ideas put forth in 'Hell's Pawn'. At the same time, Jay's incredible sense of humor shines through along with references to the past such as: Then the music changed, and his ridiculously bloodshot eyes widened. "Hey, who's singing this?"" Nirvana. They're after your time." "Man, they're really good! Music is way better in the future." John thought of the endless boy bands and sophomoric teenage pop stars that had dominated the music scene since the likes of Kurt Cobain had died, but kept his mouth shut. It was kinder to let Dante believe the lie." It's a departure from Jay's usual storytelling, yet it still maintains his comfortable lyrical style, his passion and depth. Even though it's fantasy, it's a book that is best read at a slower, more deliberate pace, and perhaps even more than once, in order to grasp its significance, but in the end, it's worth it. Thanks, Jay for such a thought provoking look into the other side.