A quick, fun, intellectually engaging read that I enjoyed
Thiago D’Evecque gives us a strange, twisting tale in Limbo. A spirit is awakened in limbo and given a mission to select twelve heroic souls to be reincarnated on earth to prevent the apocalypse. A weird merging of catholic theology, folklore, and legend, Limbo is a quick, satisfying, and altogether fascinating read.
What truly shines in Limbo is the use of real world legends and myths. D'Evecque has an ability to take legends from around the world, bend them just slightly, and use them to great effect in his own tale. It's fascinating to see myths from Asia, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere interact with one another and exist simultaneously. The novel is a bit of a tour de force of various legends. As a result, it's certain to appeal to those who love history. The tale isn't particularly action-packed, but there is something interesting and compelling in the various figures the main character encounters and in our discovering the history of the main character. In fact, the element of the novel that I most enjoyed was discovering more about our nameless protagonist. Each time the main character returns a soul to earth we discover more about not only that soul, but the protagonist. This trail of breadcrumbs culminates in the final pages of the novel in a true sense of discovery, not only for the reader but for the protagonist. It's well done and something I thoroughly enjoyed. In some ways, this is an intellectual fantasy. Not only is part of the fun in discovering these legendary characters from around the world, but equally interesting and engaging is the way each character is seen to embody certain virtues. But then, their understanding of said virtue might be quite different from what the reader is used to. It makes for a fascinating read that keeps things interesting intellectually in a way that isn't always common in the fantasy genre.
This is a translation of a work originally published in Portuguese. The translation is clear throughout. There may be one or two places where the wording was slightly odd, but overall the translation didn't get in the way of the read. There were elements of the story that did begin to feel a little repetitive, especially in the second half. In particular, the need for the protagonist to fight each soul to send it back to earth began to feel old hat. It would have been nice to see some mechanism for this outside of something action oriented. There were also a few times when I felt like the story perhaps erred too much on the side of exposition, explaining - through the mechanism of the main character's thoughts - what perhaps could have been shown in the narrative proper.
Overall Limbo was a quick, fun, intellectually engaging read that I enjoyed. This will appeal especially to history buffs and those who are looking for something outside of the box. It's a weird, strange, twisting ride and I look forward to what else D'Evecque will come up with.
Review by Calvin Park
Paul from United Kingdom
The author of Limbo, Thiago d’Evecque, approached me after reading about how much I loved Never Die and asked if I would like a copy of his book for an honest review. Thiago’s description of Limbo was very alluring.; ‘The book has a lot of mythology and references to games, RPGs and nerd culture in general, from Lovecraft to Final Fantasy’ So I flew over to Amazon to have check if there was a ‘Look Inside’ which would help me to get a quick feel for the book myself … I’d read just a couple of lines, was absolutely hooked and scurried back to my emails firing off a reply which I tried to make sound more civilised than the ‘SEND BOOK NOW PLEASE’ my heart was screaming. Limbo opens fantastically with the, as yet, unnamed protagonist being restored to consciousness with no knowledge or awareness of their surroundings. -’Some habits returned simply because they were difficult to forget, such as breathing. Thiago does a great job in the first chapter of making a connection between the the reader, the protagonist and the mysterious, baroque environment which is going to be our home for the next 162 pages. It was the language and its structure that really excited me when I read the preview. Short, dramatic sentences roll into one another creating a heavy cadence that pulls you along in the strength of their wake. Taking artistic license, if the sentences are undulating waves then there is a midnight glitter of spray in the form of lyrical and descriptive touches. -’There was only darkness, faint glitters, and shameless flashes, blinking around unbidden in disgusting glimpses.’ Our protagonist is a mysterious and engaging character throughout, tasked with ‘recruiting’ a host of mythological characters who need to return to a pre-apocalyptic Earth. This isn’t, however, a fantasy Earth this is very much our Earth desperately in need of saving. -’I saw political wars using religion as a pretext. I saw religious wars using politics as a pretext. I saw ethnic cleansers disguised as democracy. I saw genocides disguised as military defense. I saw support for genocide aiming profit.’ The protagonist is not quite human, standing a little distant to us but loving us and respecting us in their own way despite the horror we sow. Their other-worldliness and ineffable belief in our redemption definitely gave me Morpheus/Sandman vibes. There are multiple themes layered throughout Limbo, religion and theology prime amongst them and particularly how freedom of choice and freedom of will aren’t quite ‘free’ within certain institutions and structures. This myriad of themes wrap themselves around and suffuse themselves into Limbo’s two main plot devices. The plot initially is quite linear with the protagonist moving from character to character and dispatching them to Earth. This is a thankless task and quite frankly a painful experience for them - literally. They frequently fight suffering painful and un-healable wounds, sure they want to save Earth but what is in it for them? What Thiago has done is very creative, each character who is ‘convinced’ to return to Earth, restores a part of the protagonist’s memory. This creates a hook for both the protagonist and the reader to both care about the journey and to root for their success. Beyond this it also expands Limbo into another two genres, romance and mystery. As much as I enjoyed the forward moving plot I think I enjoyed the backwards revelations more, the eventual reveal of the main character is done so cleverly and with a surprisingly deep, bittersweet back story. Limbo’s crowning glory though, has to be the diverse and inclusive use of mythological characters. It would have been so easy to take the most well-known players of mythology, creating a cast which was very white and very male. Not on Thiago’s watch. Yes we have characters from Greco-Roman, Norse and British history but we also have them from Indonesia, Africa and the Middle East and there’s a healthy mix of male and female. It’s obvious that a lot of respect and care has been afforded each character that we meet. They exist within culturally appropriate environments and all feel unique and different. They speak, and where necessary fight, in a way that feels true to their myth they’re not just cookie-cutter characters. Special mention has to be given to the ‘Cosmic God, the Great Ancient One, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Corruption of the Abyss, the Breath of Death, the Emperor of Madness…’ otherwise known as Chuck. He’s such an awful character in the greatest of ways and I’m a sucker for a talking sword, ever since I first picked up Lilarcor in Baldur’s Gate II. -’I warned you didn’t I? Gormless Bastard.’ Pacing wise I would have to say that Limbo is a slower more meditative read focusing more on thoughts, ideas and dialogue than out-and-out action and with a liberal sprinkle of dark humour that is genuinely funny and never feels forced. The action scenes that there are written well with all of the frenetic force and bloody violence you’d expect. There are some minor issues with Limbo. Inconsistencies with the protagonist such as stating they know how to fight dirty, and doing so, but to then chastise a target for doing likewise in a later chapter. Immersion breaking references to social media and children putting pictures on fridge doors when I don’t think the main character would actually be aware of these things. There were also some minor issues with sentences not reading quite right and the incorrect use of her and him. But I do have to acknowledge the fact that Limbo was translated from Portuguese and they are very minor issues. Errors such as these don’t detract from the story and can be found in every book ever written. Overall Limbo is an exciting and unique read which crams an obscene amount of mythology and entertainment inside its slender form. The cake may be a lie, but to say Limbo is fantastic … isn’t. Who would I recommend this to? The thoughts and concepts in Limbo wouldn’t I think look out of place in a Sandman arc and so I’d certainly recommend it to anyone that enjoys dark, intelligent fantasy. Readers who enjoy history and mythology would also find a lot to love in Limbo’s pages. as most of the characters we meet are from countries whose mythology isn’t quite as well known and so it has the potential to really enrich their knowledge. Referring back to Thiago's comparisons I would also suggest its a good fit for fans of RPG & DnD. The humour, particularly from Chuck, had a very DnD feel while the setting and writing style made me think of Planescape: Torment and Torment: Tides of Numenera.
7.8/10 from 2 reviews