Almost back to his original stride, this is probably the Holt that I’ve enjoyed the most in the last five books. That enjoyment can also be summarized in one word: Eurobosch. Yes, following DisneyWorld, the MGM Grand Theme Park, Atlantic City, and Cyberia, the most famous theme park in all of history is now open for business. Based on that mad genious Hieronymous Bosch and his most famous work, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” and operated by the holding company of Beelzebub, et al. You don’t have to take the painting and imagine what thrilling rides and attractions are available–Holt has it down.
That’s just a part of the book, though. The plot concerns a certain George Faustus who has managed to effect an escape from Hell, right during an impending audit. Now that Hell’s operated as a business– once you start reinventing government, it was inevitable–the loss of a major asset can’t be tolerated, and the chase is on.
The good parts here are equal to his previous best, parts like Helen of Troy being a lovely and perfect little woman with a slight penchant for decorating. In the time of Homer, that couldn’t amount to much (what? a curtain over the castle window?), but with centuries of design to choose from…. And Leonardo da Vinci–wasn’t he just the greatest geek that ever lived? And that’s only a couple of the strange yet amusing additions to the lives of historical and fictional personages in the story.
[Finished 3 December 1994]