I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Sign Here by Claudia Lux. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Claudia Lux’s novel Sign Here, Peyote “Pey” Trip works in the deals department in Hell, but he has a plan different from his fellow employees—a plan that involves getting just one more member of the Harrison family to sign their soul over. Pey thinks his chance has finally come when the Harrisons head to their summer home with the daughter’s new friend in tow. However, Pey’s new coworker Calamity just might throw a wrench in his plan, as she has her own schemes. The more Pey learns—and the more the Harrisons’ lives start to change throughout the first days of summer—unforeseen consequences arise, and Pey has to decide what he values most.
I feel like the description of this novel in Edelweiss (a site I use often for work) gave me a slightly inaccurate idea of what this book would be.
First of all, I thought this would have much more of a playful, Good Place sort of feel than it did. Most of the characters are not very likable. Sure, they’re fascinating and layered and full of personality, but none are particularly pleasant. However, seeing the way they interacted was really intriguing, and I liked watching how their relationships evolved over time.
It was also cool how several of the narrators (we see many points of view) are hiding something. This added an unpredictable dynamic between the story and the reader, and this is ultimately what kept me reading; I had to know what was really going on here, and the more I learned, the more I had to see how this would all crash and burn. I can’t really go much more into detail without spoilers, though.
Another positive thing about this book is definitely the settings, mainly that of Hell. That sounds weird… let me explain. So like in The Good Place, the afterlife is quite bureaucratic and tedious in places. Sure, there’s also outright torture, but there’s also a lot of paperwork that is torturous in a different way. I also thought it was entertaining that the place is miserable for the employees, too. From the radio only playing one’s least favorite genre of music, to the beer being exclusively Jager, I thought this was a fun touch.
However, there were a couple elements I didn’t enjoy. For one, I really didn’t like Silas. He’s really creepy in the way he thinks about his daughter’s friend who is summering with them. Nothing happens, but some of his narration borders on vaguely predatory at times. It felt gross to read, and because of this he was easily my least favorite character.
Another thing to note about this book is that it is much darker than its description sounds. There is a decent amount of violence, either on the page or referenced. Part of one character’s backstory involves an incredibly traumatic childhood of growing up in a dangerous cult, then dealing with sexual assault in foster care. And the other main plotline involves the murder of a teenage girl. There are also brief references to an eating disorder and self harm. So clearly, this is a book for adults, and even then, it’s not for everyone.
Furthermore, I thought this book would explore ideas of morality and the dichotomy of good/evil more than it did. Instead, a lot of the story feels like it’s just following largely unpleasant people going about their lives (or afterlives, in some cases). Considering my expectations being quite different, this was pretty disappointing.
In the end, Sign Here was not the greatest book for me. The themes could have been a lot stronger, there’s a good amount of more graphic or intense content than I was expecting, and a couple of characters were especially awful. The plot was so intriguing, though, that I did want to keep reading to get answers. So overall it wasn’t the worst book I’ve read this year, but it certainly won’t be anywhere near the top of the list either.
Sign Here will be published on October 25th, 2022!