Joelene Reviews: Phillip W. Simpson's - "Tribulation"
Three years after the event that shattered the world as we know it, Sam is still walking the desolation of post-apocalyptic America. While he no longer has his father-figure and guide, Hikari, or his beloved Aimi; he is on a mission to find Grace, the only friend he may have left. She, however, is in the depths of hell; and, even if she is still alive, after experiencing its torments she may never be the same again.
Aided by the Watcher, Samyaza, and with an unexpected new ally, his fight to protect the innocents continues. However, new friends might not be enough to save him from the latest horror his father, Satan, has unleashed on him.
Tribulation is the second book in the [intlink id=”8812″ type=”post”]Rapture [/intlink]trilogy and, like its predecessor, the action begins right from the start. With the world already set up from the previous novel, the plot commences from the first few pages as well. It is a refreshingly exhilarating way to start a book and suits this action-packed series well. Back-story is worked in as the novel progresses so, while readers starting out with Tribulation will be able to understand the events, those who have read Rapture won’t get bogged down in scenes from the past.
As he has proven in Rapture, Simpson is a master at crafting battle scenes. In Tribulation, he shines again. The way Sam sees and interacts with his surroundings in battle is almost poetic. The atmosphere and settings stand out as well; the widespread desolation almost taking on a life its own. It makes for some incredibly creepy build-up and some stunningly vivid fight scenes. New demons are introduced, far more terrifying than those in the previous novel, and that amps up the terror factor too.
While the plot has deepened and the danger and risks are both higher; Sam hasn’t developed enough as a character to meet the challenges. He makes the same mistakes he did last time. Not physically, but spiritually. He makes pacts with creatures he can’t trust without regard for the consequences and, at times, it seems as though he has no understanding of the Bible; breaking covenant and then wondering why he’s punished for it.
As a character he works well. Despite whatever heritage he has, he’s a good person. Those around him have more darkness in them than he does, though he does not seem to see it. Without Aimi and Hikari to lean on, I really wanted to see him branch out emotionally and rely on other people. Though he considers doing this with Grace, he has no understanding of complexities in relationships and can or will not adapt to her brokenness. He has developed so much as a character physically; adjusting his methods of fighting and applying them to different foes. It adds appealing depth and substance to the tale, making the battles stand out from one another. Without the accompanying emotional development, it feels as though only half of the potential is being met.
The Grace and Sam plotline is the most interesting development in Tribulation. Grace seems to be the only person in Sam’s life who isn’t perfect. She’s not the angel that Aimi is; always sweet and pliable. So willing to do what Sam wants that he doesn’t need to ask her. She’s confused, cranky and lashes out at those nearby; and she’s not afraid to show all of those facets of herself. Despite Sam’s anxiety about her behaviour they have a bond that will hopefully strengthen in the final novel, Apocalypse.
Anyone who enjoyed Rapture will love Tribulation. As fast-paced as the first, this novel treads a darker road. It expounds on the mythology; casting both Heaven and Hell in a more uncertain light than they had been. By the end of it, you’ll be waiting for Apocalypse.
Tribulation – Phillip W. Simpson
Pear Jam Books (December, 2012)