Kathy Davie's Reviews > Hell's Gate

Hell's Gate by David Weber
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's review
Apr 07, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: military, sci-fi

First in the start of a new military sci-fi series, the Multiverse. I know, it sounds like a working series title, but it is accurate.

My Take
The culture shock when Sharona and Arcana encounter each other, not knowing the language of the other, is tremendous with the story a fascinating exploration of how a simple misunderstanding can lead to mistakes that affect the governments of numerous countries and escalate military action. Weber and Evans take full advantage of the variety of human greed and its kindness to create a complex pair of worlds with characters we love and hate. It will certainly make you question the validity of sides.

The story indicates that Shaylar is madly popular on Sharona, so her supposed death rouses the entire planet to overwhelming anger with hordes of men enlisting in the army to avenge her death. But other than that she's the first woman to be part of a survey party which the Portal Authority exploits by using her as the face of their portal exploration marketing efforts, I don't understand why she is so loved and adored.

You can imagine how the Sharonians reacted when Shaylar's experience was projected by the equivalent of a Voice News channel! Their entire world is shocked and terrified of war coming to them and everyone immediately goes to a war footing — troops and logistics, a Conclave of all the rulers leading to a demand for a world government.

On Jasak's side, he's an Arcadan, we don't really learn about his world [Arcana] in general but more about how it affects him and his party. The animosity from the Mythalans comes through pretty clear and we learn about Rasnaran beliefs and history, but nothing like we learn of the Sharonians.

The dialog is definitely appropriate although the conversations between Andrina and her father are just too good to be true. Thank god for fiction where we can create the world we want!

The end sets up even more tension with the Arcanans about to attack although they're supposedly in truce talks with the Sharonians — I get the distinct impression that Jasak's people are more interested in pursuing war with their various agendas than in attempting to resolve the initial errors. And the Sharonians have finally voted on who's to run the new empire…a vote with which the cetaceans are oddly concerned. Oddly, because the dolphins and whales of Sharona have never been interested in the politics of man before. Of even greater concern was when Shaylar's parents learned of her "death", and the entire bay erupted in cetacean anger.

Weber and Evans have done a lovely job of creating two completely different universes composed of various countries each of which has its own culture, animosities, and alliances. I must admit to a partiality for the Sharonians. I love their almost universal values, and they certainly seem more interested in peace than the Arcanans!

The Story
Two separate peoples from two separate universes exploring portals, which take them to unexplored universes until, inevitably, the two exploring parties meet by accident, in accident. A scout from each side manages to kill each other in a way that terrifies their own teams, leading to a cockup of massive proportions — and points out the stupidity of promoting people based on patronage rather than merit!

The only two Sharonian survivors of a mistaken attack, Shaylar and Jathmar, are taken prisoner by Sir Jasak Olderhan, an honorable hundred who must protect their lives from his own people and is helped by Magister Gadrial Kelbryan.

Unfortunately for the Arcanans, Shaylar is a Voice and projected the entire attack to another Voice who experienced everything Shaylar did until she was struck unconscious.

The Characters
Aracana is…
…a planet that manipulates the energies of their world, using magic, to function as a manufacturing-farming-military society. Sir Jasak Olderhan's rank is hundred and he is an Andaran, a very honorable race, who takes the two surviving Sharonians prisoner. Magister Gadrial Kelbryan is a Ransaran.

Sharona is…
…a planet that runs on the standard mechanical gadgets, although a percentage of the population has Talent. Shaylar, a Voice, is married to Jathmar, whose Talent is Mapping, are the only survivors of a mistaken attack. Shalassar and Thaminar (a farmer) are Shaylar's parents; her mother has a Talent for speaking with cetaceans and is the ambassador for her country to the whales and dolphins, who have a vote on their planet.

Her Imperial Highness Andrina is the seventeen-year-old daughter of the emperor of Ternathia, Zindel chan Calirath XXIV of Ternathia is now Zindel I of Sharona.

A Voice can project their experiences to another Voice in complete Technicolor. Talent is the mental ability to speak over long distances, see the vagaries of the terrain for several miles, sense if someone is lying, speak to sentient species, etc.

Mythalans comes through pretty clear.

The Cover and Title
The cover is rather dorky. Two combatants are framed within what I'm assuming is a representation of the contested portal with one man armored and fighting with an axe atop an armored horse against a foot soldier.

The title is one thing Sharona and Arcana can agree on: the portal each came through is Hell's Gate.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 6, 2011 – Finished Reading
April 7, 2011 – Shelved
April 7, 2011 – Shelved as: military
April 7, 2011 – Shelved as: sci-fi

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