The Heavens Rise

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Heavens Rise Book Poster Image
Fantasy intertwining sex, violence, makes for mature fare.

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age 13+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the geology of the Mississippi Delta, the geography of the greater New Orleans area and its culture, what investigative journalism entails (a lot of legwork), the dangerous profession of piloting huge cargo ships on the Mississippi River, and the horrifying aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Some political issues might provide food for thought, like whether high pay for dangerous jobs is justified and how much large companies' need to maximize profit affects the health and safety of local communities.

Positive Messages

You don't get to pick which opportunities come your way, so when they present themselves you have to decide whether to go with them or to run from them: "Nothing in life is under our control except how we treat people."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Good guys Ben and Marissa are normal, imperfect people who sometimes make mistakes but who strongly model long-term friendship and loyalty as well as the passionate pursuit of truth. After Hurricane Katrina, they took a small boat and rescued as many people as they possibly could. The villains are easily identifiable as the embodiments of evil, and other characters are good people who do the right thing.


Blood is mentioned frequently and the description often includes details like arterial spray from a slashed throat or people being manipulated into slashing their own wrists. Gore is described, like the brains that inexplicably explode from animals' skulls. Dead bodies and their gruesome injuries are described. A car crash is described in detail. People travel to Southeast Asia so they can torture children for enjoyment, including raping children with furniture legs; the violence is mentioned but not described. One character kills himself with a gun, and blood spray is described. Other gunshots are mentioned or described, but the only shooting narrated is a police officer trying to prevent a murder. Mention is made of physical violence like fistfights, but the fights themselves are not described whereas the injuries usually are. One character's sadistic sexual fantasy is described.


Sexual interaction between characters (straight and gay) isn't so much the issue here as how much of the sexual imagery (about a dozen instances) is tied to violence. Only two interactions are directly narrated, one not violent and the other moderately so: A sweet kiss that's not described is accompanied by a sophisticated description of desire, and an attempt by a high-school boy to make out with his object of desire ends with him slamming her head into the side of a pool. Downloading pornography is mentioned twice, once by a character in high school, and masturbating to it is mentioned once. Sexual imagery includes a simile to describe the peak of an orgasm. A gay character arranges a hookup (a meeting for sex) online that becomes physically dangerous, and the character is saved only by supernatural intervention (no sex occurs). Sexual language is frank, such as a teenager's "painful hard-on," and the villain fantasizes about dark, violent, and sadistic sexual acts. He mentions that in high school his sexual experimentation with girls he did not value ("skanks") included penetrating them with beer bottles and staplers. 


Instances too numerous to count include many variations of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "bulls--t." Once or twice each, "crap," piss" or "pissed," "wank," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation are used. Derogatory terms include two uses of the "N" word; "skank," "bitch," "prick," "bone smoker," "p--y," and "faggot" are used two or three times each; "queerbait," "yat," "stupid fathead," "man-whore," "whore," and "jackass" are each used once.  


Cars: Prius, Lexus, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, BMW, Ford F-150, Mercedes, Toyota 4-Runner. Many alcoholic products, including Zima, Crown Royal, Corona, Goldschlager, Balvenie, Heineken, Southern Comfort, and Dixie beer. Cigarette brands Merit Ultra Lights, Virginia Slims, and Camel Lights. Soda brands Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr Pepper. Tech products: iPhone, Skype, and Myspace. A Hilton hotel is mentioned twice, and lots of everyday products like Maglites, Vicodin, Jacuzzi, and Albertson's are mentioned in passing. The band Cowboy Mouth is mentioned three or four times, and some of the lyrics to one of their songs are quoted. Cross-promotion on the back cover mentions author Christopher Rice's comedic Internet radio program, The Dinner Party Show.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most of the drinking is done by adults, with about a dozen or so mentions of drinking or hanging out in bars, but two or three instances of high-school kids drinking are mentioned. One adult character has a drinking problem, quits drinking for six months, and then relapses. Using a fake ID to get drive-through daiquiris is mentioned once. Two incidental adult characters are mentioned as smoking or smelling of smoke. In high school one main character gave someone Vicodin as a bribe. One character mentions smoking weed in the past.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Heavens Rise by bestselling author Christopher Rice (son of famed vampire -chronicler author Anne Rice) is a supernatural horror story in which monsters born of fear and violence come hideously to life, and blood and gore make frequent, graphic appearances. One of the multiple narrators takes us inside the mind of a sadistic psychopath who only sees people for how he can use or manipulate them and who harbors dark, violent fantasies. Violence and sex are frequently intertwined, and even older teens may learn for the first time about using objects for sexual penetration or about child torture in Southeast Asia. Sexual incidents only happen twice, but imagery is frequently sexual, and sexual desire is described in a sophisticated manner. Cross-promotion on the back cover may lead readers to Rice's comedic Internet radio program called The Dinner Party Show, the motto of which is "Everybody Gets Served" and which features an episode called "Cocktail Chatter."

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byNadia_Ferguson12 January 15, 2016


really i can't give a good review without giving up part of the book. Its just awesome.

What's the story?

Eight years ago when they were in high school, Nikki and Marshall acquired the supernatural ability to physically manipulate others. The ability to \"drive\" other people came at a high price, though, sometimes physically manifesting the deepest fears of those being \"driven\" into nightmarish creatures. In the aftermath, Nikki lost her mother and had to go into hiding. Marshall lost his father and was left in a persistent vegetative state. Now, eight years later, Marshall has fully recovered, is out for revenge, and doesn't mind taking out the whole city of New Orleans to get it.

Is it any good?

With THE HEAVENS RISE, author Christopher Rice has created a gripping and very violent page-turner best suited to adults with a firm grasp of when and how it's safe to indulge in fantasy. He particularly excels at balancing a large cast of narrators, not all of whom are important characters but who are deftly used to advance the action or the exposition. His atmospheric writing terrifically evokes New Orleans' many moods, but there are so many insider references that some of those moods may be missed by those who don't already know a little about the Crescent City.

Some of the exposition is weak, particularly in diary entries that explain things the writer of the diary wouldn't need to explain (like what a "yat" is, or where things are located). And the final fourth of the book is an over-the-top, Hollywood-action, big-screen-special-effects blowout that isn't so much built from the otherwise consistently and grippingly relentless pace up to then as it is detonated from out of nowhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why books about monsters and the supernatural are so popular. What would this story be about without them? Do they help the story or hurt it?

  • Is the bloody, gory violence necessary to tell this story?

  • A lot of different narrators tell the story. Does that help you understand what's going on or make it harder?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and fantasy

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