For months, I was looking forward to Sign Here, the debut novel by Claudia Lux. Apart from its eye-catching cover, the synopsis sounded wholly original: A guy working in Hell? That could be both fun and horrifying! I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this novel, even if it turned out to be a very different book than I’d expected.
Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!
Peyote Trip has been working in Hell ever since he arrived eons ago. His job is to answer people’s calls for help and get them to sign a contract, guaranteeing their afterlives will be spent in Hell, no matter how good they were when alive. However, Peyote has big plans for himself, and all he needs is one more contract within this one family before he can fulfill it. While Pey is forced to work with a new wildcard coworker, Calamity, we also follow his Earth family as they get closer to calling for his help.
I loved the premise of Sign Here. Peyote’s job is literally to make deals with people on Earth, sentencing them to an eternity in Hell. It’s a deal with the devil, even though Pey isn’t actually the devil – he’s just a guy who died and went to Hell and is now stuck working a never-ending corporate job. What a deliciously awful setup! How much fun this novel could be! 😈
Alas, Sign Here ended up being more middle-of-the-road for me. There’s a lot I liked about it, but there’s also a lot I would have changed. I’ll start with the good:
Claudia Lux offers some imaginative and laugh-out-loud descriptions of Hell. On the one hand, Hell is basically an eternal sales job (*shudders*). Everyone has to communicate with beepers, and the music is always whatever they most hated on Earth, and just a bit too loud. The details are a lot of fun and paint Hell as awful, but in a more creative and silly way than usually depicted. I loved that aspect of the novel.
Peyote is also an interesting and nuanced character. I enjoyed getting to know him, why he ended up in Hell in the first place, and what his evil plan for escape is. There are some minor shocks which add to the story’s impact. His boss and coworkers are mostly terrible, but in a way that drives home how hilariously bad Hell is.
His new coworker, Calamity, is a character I’m conflicted about. I liked the dynamic she brings, both in her interactions with Peyote and in her muddling of his plans. She’s fun to have on page. But I didn’t really like the way her backstory unfolded – it was interesting yet odd, and ultimately it could have been stronger.
Then there’s the Harrison family down on Earth. Parents Silas and Lily have their own issues (some going back two decades), and their teenagers – son Sean and daughter Mickey – are facing some potentially life-changing problems, too. Mickey’s new friend may be the catalyst none of them saw coming.
Herein lies my second problem with Sign Here: While I kind of liked the chapters following the various Harrison family members, I didn’t love them. The characters range from flat to unlikable, and the backstory and present story are also letdowns. It does get fairly exciting and nerve-wracking near the end, but ultimately the whole plot didn’t hit hard enough for me.
In essence, I enjoyed Peyote and all the descriptions of Hell and his job, but everything else fell flat. It was somewhat fun and funny, a little bit thrilling, but never enough of either to make an impact.
Sign Here is a fine read, and with its fast pace, it goes by quickly. But despite some great qualities, the payoff isn’t quite there. The premise is great, though, and I hope I can find another book that delivers.
Get the Book
You can buy Sign Here here – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.
|Sign Here by Claudia Lux|
|Number of Pages||416|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||October 25, 2022|
A darkly humorous, surprisingly poignant, and utterly gripping debut novel about a guy who works in Hell (literally) and is on the cusp of a big promotion if only he can get one more member of the wealthy Harrison family to sell their soul.
Peyote Trip has a pretty good gig in the deals department on the fifth floor of Hell. Sure, none of the pens work, the coffee machine has been out of order for a century, and the only drink on offer is Jägermeister, but Pey has a plan—and all he needs is one last member of the Harrison family to sell their soul.
When the Harrisons retreat to the family lake house for the summer, with their daughter Mickey’s precocious new friend, Ruth, in tow, the opportunity Pey has waited a millennium for might finally be in his grasp. And with the help of his charismatic coworker Calamity, he sets a plan in motion.
But things aren’t always as they seem, on Earth or in Hell. And as old secrets and new dangers scrape away at the Harrisons’ shiny surface, revealing the darkness beneath, everyone must face the consequences of their choices.
About the Author
Claudia Lux is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, and has a master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. Sign Here is her first novel.