Eddie Ryder is a reluctant protagonist who owns his departed father Big Eddie’s car garage, but it’s a burden he did not wish for. He used to be a member of a biker gang called the Hell Riders. On top of being repulsive in many ways, they’re also devoted to racism. Eddie still respects most of their code, not out of choice, but out of necessity and survival.
He has been in several situations that left him with very difficult choices to make, which has turned him into a cynical pessimist. He also takes care of an ailing mother with emphysema as well as a younger brother, Carson, and had to quit school to support his family, another decision that he made out of necessity and something that ages him beyond his nineteen years. From a narrative standpoint, I found that J.G. Faherty pulled off a seamless transition, making Eddie a sympathetic character that transforms into a despicable one. The sympathy then shifts to Carson, who takes the lead, and I think this was executed very well.
With a firm nod to the Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider comics (and the 2007 film adaptation starring Nicolas Cage), Eddie suffers a horrific death. Rather than using his newfound and unexpected powers for good, or having to fight the Devil, it doesn’t take long before he transforms into a force of unsettling evil. His inner turmoil at his newfound feelings and actions, trying to resist what he is becoming while firmly pursuing revenge, made for compelling reading.
One of Faherty’s strong suits has long been the strong use of memorable characters that the reader can care for, and his latest novel is no exception. Eddie’s brother, Carson, and girlfriend, Kellie, have to work together against a malicious force and face the threat of an entity that is always five steps ahead of them. This makes for a suspenseful read.
There are copious amounts of cursing, drinking, and sexual content, so I do not consider it suitable for younger readers. Nonetheless, Hellrider is a thoroughly entertaining, pulse-pounding offering from J.G. Faherty and Flame Tree Press that will have a wide appeal to horror and fantasy readers.