Blood and Judgment
In this novel, a group of actors putting on a production of Hamlet find themselves transported to two alternate universes related to the play. Will, who plays the title character, wakes up in ancient Denmark, where he is destined to play out the life of the original Hamlet (Amlodd) as told in Saxo’s chronicle. The other actors find themselves in a world apparently created by the power of the story — the world of Shakespeare’s Hamlet — where they may be destined to live out the tragedy to its bloody end.
This book is excessively muddled. The plot, especially its sci-fi, infinite-worlds elements, is at best unconvincing, at worst incomprehensible. The concept — actors transported to an alternate universe where they must either live out the story of their play (and kill one another) or break away from their “destiny” — is an interesting one, and could have made for a good novel. But this book suffers from lack of organization, extreme cheesiness (much of which revolves around a rebel teen who turns into a tentacled demon and claims to be the god of the Hamlet-world), and some confusion as to message and theme. Lame dialogue and clichéd characters don’t help. Plus, the story as it played out in the Hamlet-world didn’t bear much resemblance to the play, in my opinion, except for the pairings-up of the Claudius and Gertrude actors (as well as Hamlet and Ophelia, an interpretive choice not necessarily included in the play), and the deaths of a couple of characters. Because of the lack of similarity between the actual play and the workings out of the Hamlet-world, what was (I guess) supposed to be the central concept — destiny versus choice — didn’t come through very strongly at all.
The author is a Christian, and he does bring up some interesting concepts occasionally, in the midst of unimpressive dialogue. Besides the idea of personal choice, which is featured not in the Hamlet-world but in another sequence altogether, he also brings up the value of human life, and, in a way, self-sacrifice. The debate between absolute truth and relativism also takes center stage for awhile (with relativism’s proponents portrayed as just plain stupid rather than philosophically in error). Occasionally, one or another of the characters gets on his or her soapbox and preaches in a style I found annoying, though I agreed with much of the content. However, the author’s perspective on revenge was muddled — on the one hand, Will/Amlodd’s revenge — seen as central to the culture in which he lives — seems to be a negative action, but on the other hand, comments are made to the effect that this era is a much more positive one than the modern world. There are also some bizarre bits about a ghost who committed suicide and so didn’t go to Heaven or Hell — his explanation as to why is, like the rest of the book, seriously muddled.
Content warning: This book contains moderate violence, sexual content (nothing graphic, but a fair amount of material), and bad language.