It’s taken me a long while but I’ve finally finished The Exodus Gate. 🙂
The Exodus Gate is a massive mixture of genres and ideas with an intricate plot and many characters. The story unfolds entirely in alternate worlds – an Earth (named Terra, in the novel) much like ours in its past and present, and the realms of the Abyss and Purgatarion, and it is, at its core, an End of the World novel, touching on much that we as humans have interpreted the Book of Revelations in the Bible to represent – the rising in power and influence of the Dark while the Light makes ready to take a stand.
The story begins in Hell, or the Abyss; a host of Avatars and fell beasts (Angels and demons of various kinds) are preparing to assault the Middle Lands, the realm in which Purgatarion (Purgatory) and the White City (Heaven) are situated. It is their intention to fight the hosts of Adonai (God) on behalf of their lord and master, Diabolos, The Shining One (Satan), and overthrow Adonai as the ruler of all realms.
Down on Terra, a massive cast of characters, human and non-human, begin to move onto the paths that will allow them the hope and ghost of a chance to play their part against the powers that follow Diabolos on Terra.
The first thing that caught my attention about this immense novel (in both scope and vision) was the ease with which Stephen was able to conjure the incredible imagery of the Abyss and its denizens in my mind. His descriptions are intense and lengthy (one of the draw backs, but more on that later) and make it easy to place yourself in the landscapes and places where the characters interact and tell the tale.
Purgatarion is my favorite realm – it was immediately apparent to me that Stephen put plenty of thought into what kind of place Purgatarion is, what happens there and why, etc Terra, too, was masterfully imagined – every institution and country as was as the details that keep everything running were present, leading me to practically a full immersion in the world. Terra is what our world could become if some things went awry or were manipulated in a certain way and there were plenty of echoes that made me really curious about events in our own world. 🙂
The characters peopling The Exodus Gate are many and varied; there are humans (the core cast being Benedict Darwin, his niece Arianna, the friends Seth and Jonathan, and the scary and intensely devoted Dagian and Xavier), An-Ki (a race of wolf-like sentients who lived during the time in which the Great Flood occurred), Avatars, Nephilim, and many more besides.
The humans are well-realized and colourful – Benedict, who runs a radio show dealing with those subjects commonly attributed to Urban Legends, is asked by a friend to test a new gaming system, and is immediately taken with its incredible attention to detail and reality. It is through this game that Benedict meets the An-Ki, and is drawn into the larger tale; Arianna comes to visit him, tries out the game while he’s at work, and also interacts with the An-Ki;
Seth and Jonathan are teenagers who decide to go out on a camping trip, coming into contact with beings they never even knew existed;
Dagian and Xavier are but parts of a plan that were set in motion hundreds of years ago (and thousands, in the case of the Avatars) and are linked to yet more characters;
The result is that the tale being told is huge, encompassing many different points of view (I mean that literally, not in terms of writer-jargon); the characters each had an arc that not only let me get to know them all a bit but which also revealed more about the tale – some of the characters are absolutely pivotal to events, others are pivotal to other characters, and I felt they were all handled very well. 🙂
There is also plenty and action in the novel, taking many different forms, and many events that were pretty awesome to witness, especially where the Avatars were concerned, and the scenes conjured have an almost movie set-piece-fell to them.
One thing that I did struggle with, though, is that Stephen seems to explain and describe a bit too much in certain cases. Some scenes, and much of the dialogue, could have done with shortening and tightening up – some of the descriptions came across as a bit too detailed and in these cases some of the rhythm of reading was interrupted, but it didn’t happen too much or in a way that overshadowed the tale – I was still captured completely by Stephen’s vision and really enjoyed the novel. 🙂
If you’re looking for a a novel that deals with the events pertaining to Revelations and the end of the world in the Bible but don’t want to be innundated with Bible-quotes and the like, and want to discover new worlds and realms with interesting and incredible creatures, then The Exodus Gate is for you. Stephen has created worlds that enthralled me and characters that intrigued me – the kind of thing that every writer aspires to do. 🙂
I give The Exodus Gate a resounding 8 / 10 – incredibly imaginative and highly enjoyable, and I really looking forward to Book 2, The Storm Guardians.
You can order your copies of The Exodus Gate here (Amazon US and Kindle Edition) and here (Amazon UK), but I suggest heading over to Seventh Star Press, Stephen’s publisher, and ordering your copy through them (just scroll down to The Exodus Gate and check out the rest of the products available while you’re at it). 🙂 Don’t forget to head over to Stephen’s website – you’ll be able to read samples and more besides. 🙂
The next book by Stephen that I’ll be reading will be his Epic Fantasy novel, Crown of Vengeance. 🙂