Many colleagues defined this book as the modern version of the Divine Comedy and since I am Italian, this description filled me with immense satisfaction. Yes, the book is a modern, whirling and scary version of the poem written by the superb Italian writer Dante Alighieri. The book I have reviewed is titled Highway To Hell and the author is the talented English author Alex Laybourne. I must confess that as soon as I have seen the book on my bookshelf, I was impressed by the cover. Indeed, it is like the one of another famous gothic horror novel: The Monk. I reviewed also the latter, a couple of years ago. Highway to Hell is a modern gothic horror novel, not a poem, like The Divine Comedy, but the background and some details remind me the medieval background of this Italian poem. Putting aside all the comparisons, Highway To Hell is a good way to depict and describe Hell as everybody believes it is, a set of separate rooms, where people endure an awful punishment for their sins.
Characters and plot
The main characters of the book are modern people, namely modern sinners, who lived an existence full of mistakes and bad deeds. They are strangers to each other and live in different countries, they are different ages, but their souls are very similar and accustomed to commit sins. Their names are: Marcus, Becky, Richard, Helen, Sammy, and Graham. Marcus, a former boxer; Becky, a whore; Richard, a playboy; Helen, a manicurist; Sammy, a construction worker; Graham, an old man. They share the same fate: to die! But their death is not a solution to clean the world from their flaw and imperfect life, it is a tortuous experience which drags them into a hell described like the catholic one. All of them seem obsessed by a heavy sense of guilty against their friends, partners, parents, relatives and their end is somewhat linked to an infernal vision where their punisher has the look of the things their fear the most: Marcus sees the spirit of his father, who appears like a zombie with yellow eyes and rotten flesh, Richard sees a big cockroach, which sudden turns into a sexy and sexually outfitted woman who seduces and pushes him to have sex with her once again, yes, because this infernal monster, half woman and half insect, is one of the victims Richard has seduced and deceived during his life.
Every chapter has been dedicated to the single characters of the book, becoming like a stunning collection of horror stories. In my view, the most impressive chapter is the one dedicated to the death of Helen, the manicurist, plunged into a mysterious and tangled forest. She is naked, chained to a wall, in a cave, where an abusive man pierced her flesh with iron hooks. And then, maggots, spiders and all you could imagine in a scary and supernatural hell. The story is morbid, highly seasoned with sexual descriptions that make the book suitable for adult readers only. Bdsm descriptions are evident in some of the most impressive chapters, and sex and horror are always good ingredients to create high emotional strain novels. The pace is always fast, breathtaking and does not leave room to any break.
Style of writing
The book is well written, and the author proved great descriptive skills in addition to a powerful imagination. Very good the choices of adjectives and adverbs, all together focused to create emotional strain and apprehension during reading.
Four stars. I have given four stars because some descriptions are too morbid and creepy.
Suitable for translation into Italian?
Yes. For its style, the book is highly suitable for translation into Italian language. I recommend the Italian publishers to buy the rights to translate Highway to Hell into Italian.
Suitable for the Italian literary market? Yes, Italian readers love gothic horror novels.