Part of what makes an epic fantasy so wonderful is just that — it’s on an epic scale that brings you deeper into a world not of your creation. It snares you, brings you in, paints a vivid image in your head and makes you wonder how you have never read this author before. That was my first impression upon delving into Stephen Zimmer’s massive tome, The Exodus Gate, which is the first book of his Rising Dawn saga.
Benedict Darwin is a talk show host which bears some resemblance to late night shows about government conspiracies, aliens and whatnot. Soon afterwards, he comes into possession of a device which, at first, seems to be nothing more than a very detailed virtual reality device. He goes into the virtual realm and discovers that there is something decidedly odd within the world. Perturbed, he shuts it off and leaves it along — until he decides to let his niece, Arianna, try it out with him. Thinking it as nothing more than a game, the two realize soon enough that whatever — or wherever — the VR world is, it is not some fanciful creation. Benedict and Arianna find out soon enough that there is a war going on, and that it was in the final stages. He also discovers that humanity, and freedom, are about to lose all as the nephilim — cursed children of fallen angels and humans, all but wiped out by the Great Flood talked about in the bible — seek to implement their rule over earth once more with the creation of a One World Government.
Caught up a series of events that are quickly spiraling out of their grasp, Benedict and Arianna find themselves as allies to the strange wolf-creatures in the virtual realm, along with new-found allies in their own realm, against a widening array of forces worshiping the darkest evil of all — Diabolos, the Shining One, emperor of the Abyss.
Rich in detail, The Exodus Gate brings to life mythical creatures and thrusts them into the limelight, forcing the reader to examine both the darkness and light without a filtered lens. The author has an excellent premise early on, and builds the tension very slowly throughout (sometimes a bit too slow) as he reaches for the finish, like a tidal wave building p steam before crashing into the beach. The pacing is slow at times, but some of the action is so intense that these slower times feels more like a deep breath than anything else.
Some of the secondary characters feel like mirrored doubles of others, but the vast cast of characters hides this well. A bit long at other points (an editor could have trimmed some off and not lost anything in the story, IMHO), The Exodus Gate is an excellent alternative for those who could not make it through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
One very good read, though plan on more than one sitting. It is extremely detailed, and not a book to be taken lightly.
—Reviewed by Jason