Review: From Hell with Love

Posted: September 24, 2010 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Simon R. Green, Fantasy, Humor

James Bond meets Harry Dresden–except with a much bigger family–in Simon R. Green’s newest urban fantasy mystery, FROM HELL WITH LOVE (Amazon).

Our hero, Eddie Drood, is devoted to the family cause: keeping humanity safe from the real horrors that threaten it. He’s spent his entire life saving the world from one danger after another, and the needs of the Drood family has always come first. Now he has to protect Earth from Hell itself, even at the expense of the life of the woman he loves.

Doctor Delirium, who usually isn’t taken very seriously by the Drood family, has stolen the Apocalypse Door, and threatens to open it and let all Hell loose if his demands aren’t met (these demands include rare postage stamps…). But not everything is as it appears. As Eddie works to track down the semi-evil mad scientist, he discovers that the real power behind this threat are the Immortals–a kind of anti-Drood family who think of humanity as their playground, rather like a mob of high-strung gradeschoolers set loose at Chuck E. Cheese.

Eddie and his complicated ‘family’ are an interesting bunch. Eddie himself is driven and determined, but also sentimental; he’s got a history and it flavors the choices he makes. While he prefers being a field agent to a former role as head of the Drood family, he’s known for leaving a path of destruction everywhere he goes, which rather ruins the ‘secret’ agent part. Another main player is his uncle the Armourer, whose inventions make it possible not only for Drood field agents to kill people in strange and unusual ways, but also makes their activities undetectable. He used to be a field agent, himself, and has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Or there’s the half-lucid librarian William. Or the ruthless rogue Drood, Tiger Tim. Or the Bride of Frankenstein. Yes, she happens to be an old friend of Eddie’s. The characters in FROM HELL are more caricatures than people with depth; if anything, you could say that they all have too much personality.

If the characters are any indication that this novel is slapstick cheesy fun, then you should also be expecting it from the action. Eddie walks into fights with brazen disregard for subtlety, over and over again–he appears to be a fan of dramatic entrances and even more dramatic finishes. Witness: Eddie, as he fights a self-healing dragon, in order to defeat it because he can’t hack it down fast enough to kill it, lets himself be intentionally swallowed and turns the dragon from the inside out. Yeah, and that’s just in the first forty pages.

The plot is often random, as Eddie reacts to a varied and dazzling assortment of events, from half-crazed Droods, to an army invasion, to monsters at a convention. At times it’s predictable, other times events don’t at first appear to have any connection with each other. But Green sprinkles enough clues around that when the next curve ball shows up, the twist does make sense. Then something else random happens.

Eddie’s PoV narration is entertaining and often silly; unfortunately it includes a liberal dose of cliches and emotionally prosaic musings when he’s fighting or thinking about his enemies. When the story gets dark, it’s the humor that keeps the themes from bogging down readers. The pacing moves pretty well, but the flow could have used some streamlining as well as the addition of better transitions. The wordy dialogue adds to the uneven pacing and makes the story feel over-padded with information because every character loves to talk. A lot. And it’s not only verbose, it can get grandiose. I’m a sap for good dialogue, but this got annoying when I just wanted to get on with the story.

James Bond meets Harry Dresden--except with a much bigger family--in Simon R. Green's newest urban fantasy mystery, FROM HELL WITH LOVE.

Technology and magic together are integrated into the Drood way of life. And like Q’s inventions for James Bond, the Drood field agents have some nifty gadgets to make their job easier (my favorite is the Merlin Glass), like the golden torc they use to armor themselves while in battle. While this indestructible armor does have limitations, Green tries to create concern for Eddie’s well being with questions about how much the armor can handle, only to have it always work out. That happens a lot actually, seeing questionable limitations not become limitations at all, which affects suspense and makes problems too easily resolved. But since this story is all about the ridiculous, Green gets a pass, otherwise it would have been a sticking point with me.

FROM HELL WITH LOVE is the fourth volume of The Secret Histories series, but Green explains the back story without confusing new readers, so this book is fine as a standalone. However, this book isn’t for everyone. It’s a popcorn-fun kind of read, so don’t be expecting anything with depth… or logic for that matter.

  • Recommended Age: 18+ for themes and violence
  • Language: Scattered here and there
  • Violence: It's plenty gory and bloody... and it can get pretty wacky, but it's fun to see what Green comes up with
  • Sex: It happens off camera and there's some innuendo

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