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Ghosts of War by George Mann

8/10 An enjoyable romp over the rooftops of NYC.

It is 1927, and New York City is under attack. Flying among the airships, strange winged creatures swoop from the sky and carry away its citizens, and only the Ghost can protect them. He is close to finding their origin: a deranged military scientist who is slowly rebuilding himself as a machine...

The Cold War with the British Empire threatens to escalate into bloodshed, and there are murmurs of a terrible weapon that could fracture space itself. Only by making an uneasy alliance with a British spy will the hero, haunted by memories of his own war, stand a chance of preventing another...

This is a fast-moving and exciting steampunk adventure set in an alternate 1920s. Fans of horror, sci-fi and history will enjoy this original pulpy thriller. There are obvious parallels with Batman and the Shadow, but this familiarity does not hinder it.

Gabriel Cross is the playboy on the outside but a tortured soul beneath the surface. He encapsulates the war weary 1920s of this piece. Ginny is the ice blond party girl who gets his attention and Inspector Felix Donovan is the tough honest cop who acts as the perfect foil to Cross/Ghost.

The story is familiar but it is the backdrop and setting that makes this worth a read. It can get macabre and gruesome at times, but for the most part this is an enjoyable romp over the rooftops of NYC with plenty of aerial battles and gadgets thrown in.

All of Mann’s characters are fallible human beings, damaged in some way, each given thorough back-stories without ever slowing the plot down. For all the frenetic action there are calmer, introspective moments. This allows the characters and reader to get off the ride and take stock, making the novel richer.

This revised edition includes a short story called Husk, which is both ghoulish and chilling, proving that there should be a lot more to come from the Ghost.

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