In 1873, on a French island colony, Paul Clément witnesses the ritual murder of a young man who has apparently risen from the grave. Provided with a sound pharmacological explanation for this, atheist Clément thinks nothing of swearing his silence on pain of damnation. Back in Paris he uses the secret island drug, along with new technology that can restart a heart, in a reckless experiment to explore the mysteries of near-death. But there is no white light of Heaven waiting for Paul Clément; he has broken his oath, and chosen Hell. When his soul returns to his body something else comes with it – something beyond the power of man, and perhaps of God, to destroy.
Clément’s journey is as thrilling as it is horrific. Tallis’s pitchfork-throwing demons might be comical if not for the (appropriately) graphic descriptions of cruel depravity as the doctor’s careless ambition ruins lives and afterlives all around him. Through it all Clément wrestles with a basic question of theology: how could God allow such evil to exist? He never gets an answer, nor should he. In the end it’s the struggle that counts. Recommended.