Hellboy: On Earth As It Is In Hell by Brian Hodge
2005, Pocket Star
Review Summary: Although not a horror novel fan, I think I will be checking out some of Hodge’s other, original works, since I definitely liked the potential I saw in his writing and characterization.
I wasn’t paying strict attention when I bought this online. I thought I was purchasing a Hellboy graphic novel, and was a little disappointed that I got a regular novel instead. But, whatever – I put it on the shelf, figuring I’d read it one of these days.
The writing isn’t bad at all, actually, and the plot has interesting, if not fully realized, elements, is coherent and is actually nicely tied up at the end. There are some interesting (side) characters that I wish had been more involved with the story – the English priest Hellboy goes to for quiet advice now and again, the psychic Holt, the Vatican excorcist, the college professor on loan to the BPRD, the son of a smuggler paying back his father’s debt to the Bureau – these are all interesting characters, and there’s just enough description and interaction between these and the main characters to signal the possibility of something vital in these characters and their interactions.
The main characters’ interactions – Hellboy, Liz, and Abe – with the other characters are potentially interesting, and the author manages to sketch something deeper in their characters through their relationships with the bad guys – the rogue seraphim, and both the victims and willing hosts of demonic possession – that allows one to start imagining full-fledged people behind the characters.
If I hadn’t seen the movie, however, I don’t know that I would’ve been able to picture any of these main characters, or their relationships to one another, very well, if at all.
Without any specific faults in the novel, I almost feel bad saying that there just seems to be something missing from the book – like the author could have maybe just taken one step closer to the edge, just another hundred or two hundred pages perhaps, and fleshed out his ideas and really “owned” these characters, if only for the length of the book. I’ve seen the possibility in other series’, particularly some of the older entries for the Star Trek series, where the author manages to exercise something entirely unique about the universe they are writing in and really make a lasting mark on your impression of the characters involved.
Perhaps the author couldn’t, being that the characters really are not his own, or perhaps this is as far as he can take them. Although not a horror novel fan, I think I will be checking out some of Hodge’s other, original works, since I definitely liked the potential I saw in his writing and characterization.