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Pax Britannia: Gods Of Manhattan by Al Ewing

01/01/2012. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

Buy Pax Britannia: Gods Of Manhattan in the USA - or Buy Pax Britannia: Gods Of Manhattan in the UK

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pub: Abaddon Books. 247 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906735-39-5).

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Although I like the idea that Abaddon Books represents, short, over-the-top Science Fiction, fantasy and horror in the vein of the old pulp novels that used to line convenience store book racks in the Golden Age, I haven’t been a fan of most of the ‘Pax Britannica’ series. The premise is a fun one. The Victorian Era hasn’t finished and the Queen rules a steampunk empire from a machine throne, whilst Nazi robots rule Europe and the USA is a socialist republic.

The combination of all the fun tropes of pulp novels promises much, but I’ve found Jonathan Green’s adventures of the dandy Ulysses Quicksilver to be obvious and too clichéd. Even for the theme of the Abaddon line, Green’s work is too obviously derivative and strays too often into events that even for this setting break through my disbelief.

The exception to this was the excellent ‘El Sombra’ by Al Ewing, a smashing rip-roar of an adventure in Nazi-occupied Mexico. When the robots of the Reich massacre his town, young poet Djego became masked vigilante El Sombra, defeating the Nazi occupiers with nothing but a sword and Latin ingenuity. The mash-up of the Zorro myth with steampunk Nazis was fun without ever straying into too-ridiculous territory and I was disappointed when the series returned to the Quicksilver’s less interesting storyline.

I was delighted then, to receive a copy of ‘Gods Of Manhattan’, Al Ewing’s second in the ‘Pax Britannica’ series, where the action moves to New York City in all its decadent glory. El Sombra has headed north in search of more Nazi sympathisers to kill, as an underground Nazi crime syndicate attempts to wrest control of the city.

The other hero dedicated to cleaning up the streets of Manhattan is the superman-like Doc Thunder, a take on Doc Savage, who has the strength of ten men and can’t be hurt by normal weapons. He does have his weaknesses, however, in the fate of his sidekicks and lovers, Maya and the gorilla-like Monk Olson. When Monk is brutally wounded by a mysterious assailant, Doc Thunder goes in search of some of the potential killers, including El Sombra and the twisted vigilante Blood Spider, who wears a mask with 6 eyes and a suction cups for climbing the city’s buildings.

The action is relentless and everyone double-crosses each other multiple times, with a number of villains coming back from the dead. The fact that we’d never seen these villains before made their reappearance less dramatic than it could be, but overall the plot licked along at a decent pace.

There’s plenty of re-used material in the setting, principally from classic comic book movies like ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Superman’. Unlike the Ulysses Quicksilver novels, I liked the main characters enough to enjoy this borrowing, rather than it grating. The story is ridiculous and overblown, but works on that pulp fiction novel. It’s not great literature, but ‘Gods Of Manhattan’ is a fun quick read that would be an enjoyable way to spend a long journey.

Tomas L. Martin

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This book has 103 votes in the sci-fi charts

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