9 Levels of Hell: Volume 1 by E.C. Static - SPFBO8 Book Review

Write on: Wed, 13 Jul 2022 by  in SPFBO 8 Read 586

9 Levels of Hell: Volume 1 is a LitRPG, serial-cum-novel that presents a modern take on Dante’s Inferno for the gamer generation. In E.C. Static’s envisioning Death is bored and has decided to create a game - like, a video game - to make the newly dead play through in the hope they can save a loved one from eternal damnation. 

Clint is the latest ‘player’ into this game, freshly dead from a car crash, and trying to save his girlfriend Rachel who is comatose in hospital while her soul is imprisoned by Death. Replete with FPS-style HUD, inventory management and achievements for creative kills, Death’s game feels a lot like the battle royale offerings that are popular right now. With a twist; there’s nine levels and you have to figure out how to get through them all to save your beau. Being the last-man-standing doesn’t mean anything in this game, unless you’re the last-man-standing at the end of level nine having rescued the princess from the castle.

Clint stumbles upon Malina, an ex-Army nurse trying to save her son, who takes pity on his complete unpreparedness and helps him out. They form a party and develop a good rapport, which helps when another player, Florence, has decided to build an army, slay all the NPCs and kill anyone who doesn’t join her as she camps out and dominates over level one. Clint and Malina get some lucky kills on some of Florence’s goons and become her new fixation. Meanwhile, Clint and Malina are trying to figure out where the entrance to level two is before Florence catches up to them and shoots them.

I thought this was an innovative premise and a good opener to the series: Volume 1 only takes us up to the point Clint and Malina have escaped level one. I did enjoy myself and will be curious to see how the author hones their skills with later instalments. If you’re not familiar with First-Person Shooter games then some of the jargon may go over your head but overall it’s still an easy, accessible read.

A couple of times there were some contradictions in the story that could have done with being picked up on during editing - e.g. at one point Clint has levelled up and it’s a little confusing as to whether he’s a level 2 or a level 3 because different characters say different things. There’s some character development with Clint, Malina and Boots (a Chechen soldier who doesn’t speak much English) but others could’ve been fleshed out more - Florence’s motivation for being a ruthless murderer and spawn-camper, for example, eluded me.

While retellings of Inferno are plentiful, this one promises to bring in Death’s machinations later in the series, which could add an extra angle. Focussing on just what’s in this volume, it’s a good opener that could do with a bit more substance behind the characters, a keener eye on the editing and slightly fewer similes. If you enjoy LitRPGs, definitely give it a go.


Last modified on Wednesday, 13 July 2022 20:06