Liviu's Reviews > Hell's Gate

Hell's Gate by David Weber
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's review
Nov 18, 2015

it was amazing
bookshelves: read_2015, genre-sf, t_n_bks_2007_earlier, read_2009, read_2012
Read in November, 2015

(review November 2015 on something like the 4th or 5th complete read)

Hell's Gate is the first book from the Multiverse series which started in mid 2006 expecting to go on constantly for a few volumes, with at least 4 in the initial arc and more if sales allowed it - ending on a "now the main action starts", the second volume Hell Hath no Fury was published a little while later to end at a pause in the action (though still on a semi-cliffhanger in one of the main political subplots), but events outside anyone's control put the series on hiatus until luckily, the situation could be solved and the series resumed with a new co-author in the upcoming Road to Hell (tbp March 2016);

so while I read the 2 books a few times across the years since, I haven't been pumped for a series continuation in a long while as I am for this one - hoping Baen will offer an earc to for sale asap, with December 15th floated for now, though one hopes even earlier - and i decided to get back in the flow of the series, though my intention was to take it easy and read the books gradually until RTH is released (in mid December at least 1/2 the book will be available to purchase in a Baen bundle), but again the books engrossed me so much that I had to finish them fast now...

Let's make a few points here about Hell's Gate:

- dramatic introduction to the 2 human civilizations living on "parallel" Earths that are connected through portals and many other Earths in-between, though all have been empty until now when they meet on the Earth variant that gets the title name -

the Sharonians (hint - if an author calls a civilization/planet after his wife, they are the clear good guys, though obviously there are schemers and bad guys within as always in DW's universes), who have an early 20th century civilization (trains, steam engines, early internal combustion, machine guns, but no planes or electricity) and psy powers called "talents" manifest in some 30% of the population (usually one per person with most notable being the "Voices", telepaths allowing almost instant communication on a planet, though Talents don't work through portals); split into many states, but with a dominant Ternathian Empire (a sort of Roman Empire but based in Ireland) who has been the main power for some 5000 years and whose Calirath dynasty has powerful precognition talents; opposing them, the sneaky and treacherous Uromathian Emperor, Chava (Uromathia being our China), while the main portal through which Sharona (under the aegis of the Authority, a multinational corporation/organization) started expanding in other Earths some 80 years previously being located close to Othmaliz which is our Istanbul - formerly capital of the Ternathian Empire at its height, but now part of an independent state; notable characters from Sharona are Emperor Zindel Calirath, his heir, Marine Captain/Prince Janaki (currently not far from Hell's Gate as it happens), his oldest daughter and next in line to the throne, Andrin - still in her late teens but already seemingly the most powerful talent in the Calirath line in a while, and the Emperor himself is no mean talent too - Voice Shaylar, of Arabian origin, first woman allowed on a new Earth first exploration team (obviously Hell's Gate!), her husband, Mapper and outdoors-man, Jathmar, Voice Kinlafia (the backup at the portal to hell's gate to whom Shaylar communicates, later politician on Sharona), various officers in the Authority and later Sharonian army, various other leaders and public figures

- the Arcanans - a magic (individual wielder of magic, some 20% or so are called Gifted) based civilization with mass produced spells, war and transport dragons, enhanced horses and unicorns, spell powered weapons and transport (spells not working through Portals though), but no inkling about engines, guns, bullets, trains etc - their weapons are swords and magic enhanced crossbows and fire/lightning throwers; explorers of the Multiverse for some 200 years when the apparition of the first portal on Arcana led to a terrible war to end all wars in which spells of mass destruction almost led to the complete collapse of their civilization; ending in the "Accords" and an unified Union with local autonomy, the Arcanans have 3 major civilizations - the Andarans (the Native Americans of our Earth), martial, obligation bound, mostly patriarchal and forming some 80% of the Army though not as Gifted overall as the Ransarans (the Chinese and east Asians of our Earth), who are monotheistic, liberal, wealthy and split into many subcultures, but all regarded as hedonistic by the Andarans and decadent by the really bad guys of the series, the (Shakira - Gifted and some 20% of all Mythalans, the most powerful denoted by vos in front of their names) Mythalans (who are from Africa of our Earth and were the first who tamed magic and built civilization) and who regard themselves as superior to everyone and consider the rest of the Mythalans (the Garthan) no better than slaves, Accords or no Accords - the ultimate war was fought by the Mythalans against the alliance of the Ransarans and the Andarans and despite the superior martial prowess of the Andarans and the developed magic of the Ransarans, the Shakira mastery of magic almost prevailed, so the Accords left them with a lot of power overall and considerable autonomy in their lands; notable characters are Jasak Olderhan, Scout captain and leader of the first contact team whose father is the most powerful Andaran noble, magisters Gadrial (Ransaran) and most gifted non-Mythalan possibly ever and vos Dulainah, her mentor who left the famed magic academy at Mythal Falls (Victoria falls) when she was framed and unjustly expelled as a student, and founded a magic academy in the Andaran capital near our Niagara Falls, where they are now the main leaders, as well as testing a new portal detection device that could revolutionize Multiverse exploration (also at hell's gate of course), army general and commander of all Arcanan forces in the Hell's gate portsl chain, vos mul Gurthak (obviously Shakira and the main known villain to date), army general and commander of the Arcanan expeditionary force, Harshu (! - Andaran), diplomats Skirvon and Dastiri, various officers, dragons and soldiers

- the book starts explosively with the (botched) first contact, then there is a lull in the action and the immediate responses, followed by a slow building of tension, punctuated by some slower political maneuverings in Sharona (the one part that could have been trimmed a little, though it may become important later) with as mentioned the ending at the "now the war really starts" point...

Excellent stuff and with an implied promise of at least two more books with a reasonable ending (and obviously more if sales allow it as DW hinted at lots and lots of convolutions, including Dragons exploding through a portal on our Earth at some future time), highly recommended for a fast and addictive read with the usual inventiveness, great characters and all one expects from a David Weber universe novel
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