Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hellfire - a stempunk novel by Jeff Provine

Commies, today's guest is another Tirrgear Publishing author by the name Jeff Provine. He was kind enough to present me with a review copy of his roaring steampunk novel Hellfire.

Locomotive fireman, Nate Kemp, uncovers a conspiracy around the miraculous Newton’s Catalyst, a powder that makes fires burn hotter than they should—secretly releasing the fires of Hell. Now, more is beginning to slip through, and the Rail Agency tries to tuck him away in a mental institution. Nurse Ozzie Jacey helps him escape. They must warn the capital, Lake Providence, before Hell literally breaks loose.

My thoughts:
When something sounds too good to be true, chances are ... demonic forces are at work. Jeff Provine's novel with a very blunt and telling title Hellfire is an allegory for any "miracle product" that promises to solve all your problems, be it a drug that cures all ills (with a long list of potential side effects in fine print) or a new energy source.

I give Provine kudos for taking such a daring move and resurrecting a rather demoded vision of hell as a hot place filled with screams. Over the past few decades, authors and cinematographers have been leaning towards depicting hell as a cold, desolate place of emotional torment. But Provine's depiction of hell is straight out of Dante. I wonder if he partially drew his inspiration from the abandoned city of Centralia in Pennsylvania with underground coal fires burning for decades. I chuckled when I saw that Kemp's supervisor's last name was Jones. Of course! Jones was a very common Welsh name in Pennsylvania, one that a coal minor would associate with a supervisor. I also wonder if the state of Gloriana is named after a central figure in Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queen". So many allusions reveal the author's erudition.

It's refreshing and endearing, like picking up a collector's item paperback with over-the-top cover art by Frank Frazetta. This is definitely not the anemic, gloomy, minimalist "artsy" speculative fiction. It's eloquent, loud, juicy in-your-face steampunk gem. I would love to see it as a graphic novel. The gorgeous cover will only whet your appetite for more.

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