Hell Can Wait Paperback – Oct 1 2010
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"...like Heinlein, Asimov and other great writers in the genre, Judson never lets his message get in the way of the story..." - Publishers Weekly, Fitzpatrick's War (Daw Science Fiction)
"What Judson has accomplished here is so much more than a simple Bat-Durston camouflage of ancient history. His future is so odd and skewed that his tale more resembles a work by Gene Wolfe or the unjustly forgotten Mark Geston..." - Sci Fi Weekly, The Martian General's Daughter (Pyr)
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Top Customer Reviews
An angel, Mr. Worthy, and a demon, Banewill, follow Maturnus' progress, one hoping for the Roman's salvation, the other for his damnation. Long-suffering Banewill knows the odds are against him - after all, good always triumphs over evil in the end - but he gamely does his best to keep Maturnus in hell by increasing the difficulty of the Roman's challenges. Worthy agrees, perhaps because gaining entrance to Heaven shouldn't be easy.
The tasks? Maturnus must, for example, help love blossom between a bullied, overweight, introverted nerd and the most terrifying girl in school. He must help a bitter old woman find happiness in her dying years. And he must play the matchmaker between a forty-something eccentric and the librarian who's infatuated by the loser's best friend, a handsome poet. And all the while, Maturnus dreams of Maria, a slave girl he encountered just once, a girl who impressed him with her bravery, a girl who fanned the flames of Maturnus' inherent decency.
Maturnus is a smart guy, but his ancient background leaves him somewhat at sea when navigating 21st-century societal norms.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
by Theodore Judson
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy; 1st edition (October 15, 2010)
Have you ever wondered what happened to Maternus, a Roman soldier who led a failed rebellion against the Emperor Commodus in 186 AD? Well, neither have I, but fortunately for readers Theodore Judson did and has written a brilliant, humorous fantasy about the bonds of friendship and the eternal nature of love.
Maternus has literally gone through Hell. A bureaucratic screw up kept him in this most undesirable place for close to 2,000 years. Eventually the mistake was caught, and Matt finds himself in the 21st Century where Mr Worthy, an angel, has decided that even though Matt was a thuggish, brutal Roman soldier he had also shown qualities of decency - like sparing the innocent and feeling a special love for a saucy young lady. It's therefore possible, says Mr. Worthy that Matt can earn redemption. The demon adversary Mr Banewell, not wishing to lose a resident, challenges this assumption. With some acrimony the two finally agree that Matt must pass three tests before entering the pearly gates.
As for locale these are the parameters:
"He has to be among the unfamiliar, in some nation that could not have existed in his lifetime. There have to be independent women who are able to stand up to him, and lots of bothersome children to distress him. Put him in an affluent place, somewhere that would not know or pardon his type of violence."
Mr Banewell suggests Aurora, Colorado, just outside Denver. Mr Worthy agrees.
To help Maternus (now known as Matthew August) make his way in this new world he is given the gift of literacy, however, his references are still to the 2nd century. Thus Mr. Worthy shows him a building with a cross on it and Matt assumes it must be a place of execution. While applying for a job as janitor at a middle school he is asked about previous employment. Matt answers honestly that he was in the army. His numerous scars attest to combat. Where did he fight?. Mesopotamia he answers and his educated audience nod in understanding. Matt is surprised to discover that war still rages in the area.
Because of his strange mannerisms and odd way of speaking Mr Worthy advices him, if asked, to say he is from Montana. This works.
It's tough going at times but Matt, with the help of a library card, educates himself, by reading all the great books. He even makes friends which is a new concept for him. These friends unwittingly help him with the difficult tasks assigned by his supernatural watchers.
This was a thoroughly delightful book that believably portrays Matt's fish-out-of-water experience in a modern day American suburb. Judson gets everything exactly right. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Maternus (mentioned in Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire") has spent the last 1800 years in Hell because his file was lost. When it is retrieved nd processed, he gets a chance to prove that he is not just a killing machine. When he was alive, there were a number of instances where Maternus would kill only those who deserved to die, and spare the innocent. But Mr. Worthy, and angel, and Banewill, a demon, make the stakes very clear to Maternus. If he loses his temper, and lets out his inner warrior, even once, a new, and very permanent, level of Hell will be created just for him. Is Maternus sent back to the days of the Roman Empire to show that his soul has not totally vanished? He is sent to present-day Aurora, Colorado.
Mr. Worthy sets up Maternus (now Matthew August) with an apartment, and a janitor job at the local middle school. Maternus is also given the ability to read, and he is introduced to the local public library, where he spends much of his time. There he meets Stephen and Shen, both residents of a local rooming house. Stephen, who is white, is one of those who is constantly writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper about some Major Crisis (next week it will be some other Major Crisis). Shen, who is black, is very handsome, and attracts the ladies like flies to honey. He is also a poet, performing at local poetry nights, which Maternus attends.
Mr. Worthy and Banewill give Maternus several seemingly impossible tasks to perform. They inlcude bringing some joy and companionship into the lives of Edith Pink, a student at the school where Maternus works, and Margaret Lambkin, a resident at a local nursing home. Both Edith and Margaret are the sort of people for whom the description "mean, rotten and nasty" is much too generous. Through it all in this strange new world, Maternus is comforted by the memory of Maria, a woman he met during his soldier days, and whom he has never forgotten.
This story is surprisingly good. It's got heart, it's got intelligence and it says a few things about present-day America. The reader will not go wrong with this one.