Lawyers in Hell – Book Review – Updated – July 25, 2011 – Republished as One Piece

Much to my delight I was given a pre-release copy of Lawyers in Hell to review. I was disappointed that certain lawyers who I’ve written about in the past were inexplicably left out, but one cannot have everything.

What one can have is a lot of fun. The original review was written in two parts. On July 25, 2011 I finally got around to combining them into one piece. It’s a lot neater. I really should have waited and done the review as one piece, but I was working against a time limit. The book was originally due out July 15th, then we found out that it was being shipped early, and well, Tempus Fugit.

This Is Hell

For those who are new to the series, it needs a bit of explaining. The series was originally launched by Janet Morris in 1986 with the book Heroes in Hell, and it was regarded as one of the greatest Shared Universe Fantasy series, being cited by Orson Scott Card in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Unlike most books, the “Hell” series is about failure. This is after all Hell. Happily ever after isn’t what you are going to get, and isn’t what you will get. The people who you’ll meet in Hell are not going to be nice people. Murderers, thieves, and scoundrels. Yes. Saints? No.

Of course murders, thieves and scoundrels do make for interesting protagonists. Very interesting protagonists. People like Gaius Julius Caesar were drawn to power in life. So was Cleopatra. Read any good translation of Josephus Flavius for a less than flattering view of the Egyptian queen.

The people in Hell are there for punishment. Which means that most of their attempts at doing anything will fail. Spectacularly. With extreme prejudice. Those that hated each other in life, will still hate each other. Back stabbing is an art form in Hell.

I think that’s one of the reasons that I love this series. The level of conflict is amazing, even when there isn’t any violence. It’s like two cats having a stare down, both puffed up to three times normal size. Neither wants to fight. Neither is going to fight. But they both put on an act that makes it look like there will be blood all over the place, until they can back away gracefully.

I loved the original series, and wasn’t happy when it went on hiatus. I was overjoyed when I heard that it was coming back, and I was even more overjoyed when Janet Morris offered me the opportunity to be able to write this review as an insider.

In a normal book review, the reviewer reads the book without any contact with the writer, or in the case of an anthology, the writers. In the first Gulf War, embedded journalists were used with the armed forces. For Lawyers in Hell I was the embedded reviewer!

I’ve spent the last month working inside of the project with the writers and editors, learning how they put together the books. It’s a fascinating process (and no, I can’t tell you the details, part of the deal is that I won’t talk about some things). I’ve met some really neat and talented people. In some cases I’ve been able to help out a bit. If you do a whois on JanetMorrisandChrisMorris.Com you’ll notice the odd coincidence that the website is registered in my name, and the same is true of JanetMorrisandChrisMorris.ca and JanetMorris.ca (we couldn’t get JanetMorris.com unfortunately).

It’s been a fun experience, and I’ve been invited to stick around, and continue to watch what happens as the next books in the series come out. After Lawyers will come Adventurers in Hell, Visionaries in Hell, and Swashbucklers in Hell. There is a novel in the works (yes, I know the title, but I’m holding that back), the publication date has not been finalized yet, but it will be in the first half of 2012.

I had a wonderful time reading Lawyers in Hell. Official sale date was supposed to be July 15, 2011, but it wasn’t a hard release, and much to everyone’s surprise books were in the stores nearly three weeks early, which is why I had to rush out the original review. And that’s why the combined review doesn’t match the original two part reviews which are still on the site. I had to rewrite it to bring the tenses into line. It really bothers me when one paragraph is in present tense and the next paragraph is in past tense…

I’m going to give Lawyers in Hell a FIVE star rating. Here are the reviews:

Interview with the Devil

by Janet and Chris Morris is a cautionary tale about interviewing the most powerful force for evil, and how one shouldn’t try to allow one’s pride to override one’s common sense in the urge to get a story.

Tribe of Hell

by Janet Morris is about the native population of Hell, who regard lost souls, demons, devils, and Satan as interlopers. They act as hosts when visitors from the Heavens visit Hell, and such visitors are coming. It’s also about a lost soul, who knowing of the coming visitation, intends to try to appeal his sentence.

The Rapture Elevator

by Michael Armstrong is delightful little tale about another lost soul who intends to appeal his sentence, even he knows that this is Hell, and that the rules are stacked against him.

Out of Court Settlement

by C.J. Cherryh deals with another side of the legal coin. What do you do if you want to avoid court at all costs? In this case you might just bring in the most brilliant legal mind of your era, even though your family and his were enemies in life. And if a few complications, like a Viet Cong raid on the rose gardens happen, well, it is Hell…

Revolutionary Justice

by Leo Champion is about justice of a sort. Assuming that you could have anything that could be considered justice in a place called Hell. William Walker argues with Che Guevara over who is in control of the revolution…

Tale of a Tail

by Nancy Asire starts with Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS, aka The Iron Duke, measuring his grass, much to the amusement of his old foe, and next door neighbor, the Emperor Napoleon, and Napoleon’s lover the Countess Marie Walewska. It then proceeds to go downhill from there. This is Hell after all 🙂

And Injustice For All

by Jason Cordova is about the dangers of asking for what you deserve. Especially when your name is Marie Antoinette, and you are possibly just a bit spoiled. Just a bit.

Measure of a Man

by Deborah Koren features a lawyer named Alan Bensinger who wakes up to meet William Barclay Masterson aka Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. And then things get really complicated…

The Adjudication of Hetty Green

by Allan F. Gillbreath is about a lawyer who is responsible for adjudicating new inhabitants of Hell. Because some cases are especially complex, and the case of Hetty Green is one of those that is. It seems that every department of Hell wants a piece of her soul, and it’s his responsibility to decide whether she belongs to any of them.

Plains of Hell

by Bruce Durham stars two major Canadian historical figures, General James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, who re-fight their famous battle on the Plains of Abraham in Hell on the Plains of Hell.

The Register

by Michael H. Hanson where we learn that even in Hell, honesty has its uses. Of course the people on the other side may be less than happy about your choice of weapons…

Island out of Time

by Richard Groller involves a special forces team checking out a very odd island. Pythagoras and Harry Houdini make up part of the team, and the helicopter pilot is a very, very special man.

Appellate Angel

by Edward McKeown is about a court case. Huemac the Aztec Priest is seeking remission of his sentence in hell for being an Aztec Priest, the duties of which involved tearing the hearts out of sacrifices. The lawyers have to argue both sides of the case. Is Huemac guilty of anything more than following orders?

With Enemies Like These

by David L. Burkhead. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. tries to kidnap Lieutenant Colonel William Dunlap Simpson. The attempt fails, something goes really badly wrong, and both men end up in an afterlife that they’ve never seen before.

The Dark Arts

by Kimberly Richardson where Clarence Darrow represents a truly unusual client.

Heads You Loose

by Michael Z. Williamson. In this interesting little story we follow the Coordinating Legal Airborne Platoon (CLAP) as it makes a paratroop drop over Kabum, Ashcanistan, where the inhabitants don’t like lawyers in death any more than they had in life, and try to show their appreciation in the time-honored way – by shooting back.

Check and Mate

by Bradley H. Sinor, in which John Adams defends Aleister Crowley on a charge of cheating at chess.

Disclaimer

by John Manning in which Monty, a new lawyer in Hell, gets his first assignment, and it’s not what he was expecting.

Orientation Day

by Sarah Hulcy in which we meet the Chief Librarian of Hell’s Law Library, and get to see a class of new lawyers taken through Orientation.

Remember, Remember, Hell in November

by Larry Atchley, Jr. stars one of England’s most iconic figures, Guido “Guy” Fawkes. Guy is quite certain that his being in Hell is a mistake, after all, he did everything for the church…

Theo Khthonios

by Scott Oden stars one of the greatest warriors of all time, Leonidas, and his Three Hundred, the men who died with him.

Erra and the Seven

by Chris Morris in which Lysicles once again meets Erra, and in which Eshi asks a question.

And that is the last story in this volume, at which point we have to ask:

What is Hell?

Most Fantasies involve heroism. Hell is different. If a soul has made its way to hell, that soul has already lost. Thus most stories are about loosing, or about losing gracefully. Or about losing with extreme prejudice. Or escaping by the skin of your teeth.

In very few of the stories does the protagonist “win” in a classical way. This might make the stories seem brutal, or sad, but they aren’t. That is one of the challenges of writing for the Hell Shared World Anthology, of finding a way of making a loss into a win.

You take characters. You give the characters choices. The choices involve good and evil, honesty and treachery, winning and loosing. The choices will affect the characters, because these characters are continuing characters.

I have beside me “Heroes in Hell” the first volume in the series, and I’m looking at the Contents page. Seven stories, four of the writers are represented in “Lawyers in Hell”, writing about the same characters a quarter century later. Take “A Walk In The Park” by Nancy Asire, which stars Napoleon Bonaparte and The Duke of Wellington meeting in Hell for the first time. By the time we get to “Tale of a Tail” the two of them have become much like Oscar and Felix in the Odd Couple.

And we’ve got C. J. Cherryh’s “The Prince”, in which we are introduced to the Julian household, and it’s hangers-on, which include Dante Alighieri and Nicollo Machiavelli. The stars of the show of course are Gaius Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Hatshepsut, Sargon of Akkad, and Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, all of which are still with us a quarter century later in “Out of Court Settlement”, though there have been changes in the relationships between the characters.

Some of the characters in Lawyers are new characters. Some are old friends. Some, well, we aren’t sure what the Viet Cong in DeCentral Park are, and it looks like they aren’t sure what they are either.

It’s been great to see the series renewed, and to see it pick up where it left off, not as a rebang. With Digital Publishing I think that Lawyers in Hell will probably be the most popular book in the series, because it will be able to reach an audience who would have never been able to find it before.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Tuesday June 28, 2011

Updated Monday July 25, 2011

 

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