Ghosts of War by George Mann
Titan Books, 318pp standard paperback, £7.99 cover price
£3.47 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
Combining a steampunk-styled 1920s New York City and some Philip Marlowe-esque grit and noir, with a schlocky 40s-style pulp comic/film tapestry of ‘what next?’ Ghosts of War is quite simply a whole heap of fun! As you can probably guess, I really liked it (and this despite not having read the first book in the series, Ghosts of Manhattan).
In an alternative 1927, the US and Great Britain are at loggerheads, and into the mix come flying mechanical winged creatures who are swooping ordinary US citizens away for dastardly experimentation by a mad military scientist type who is bent on inciting a war. For millionaire playboy Gabriel Cross (aka pulp-style hero The Ghost) and Police Inspector Donovan, this becomes a thorny problem indeed, and not just for the flying dirigibles (aka zeppelins) that usually patrol the skies above the city. Conspiracy, counter-conspiracy, plot twist upon plot twist, and a whole host of peripheral characters serve to move the action relentlessly along, and all too soon we’re embroiled meat and potatoes deep into a comic strip fantasy that never lets up. Well, okay, it does slow down in a few a few places, usually giving way to some intense brooding by Ghost with his former lover, the permanently alcohol-infused party girl, Ginny, but for the most part you’re just racing through the chapters, eager to see how they’re going to get out of that one…
Employing steampunk gadgetry galore and his trusty rocket boots, The Ghost becomes the key player in this stirring adventure tale, and also goes through a lot of self-examination and introspection as he tries to fight the good fight alongside Donovan’s police force and the aid of a foreign spy. This is a book that really wants to be a classic comic strip in the style of The Shadow or even Modesty Blaise, and is all the better for it in my opinion.
To say much more would be to spoil it for you. Needless to say this was a wonderfully fast-paced action-mystery-crime-adventure that, ironically, gives ‘The Roaring 20s’ a brassy steampunk upgrade, kicking and screaming louder than ever in a world where tesla coils, zeppelins, mad scientists, and crazy contraptions are de rigueur. A fabulous read.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here