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Monday, March 22, 2010

"Ghosts of Manhattan" by George Mann (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official George Mann Website
Order Ghosts of Manhattan HERE
Read FBC Review of "The Affinity Bridge"
Read FBC Review of "The Osiris Ritual"

INTRODUCTION:George Mann has quickly become of my favorite authors with his wonderfully entertaining Victorian alternate history series "Newbury and Hobbes" of which I reviewed the first two installments as noted above, while "The Immorality Engine" is a highly anticipated novel of 2010.

When I heard that he will start a new series set in the same universe but somewhat later and in a different location, I was very excited and "Ghosts of Manhattan" became another book for my 2010 anticipated list; after all who can resist a blurb like this: "1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. "

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Ghosts of Manhattan" stands at about 240 pages and is divided into 22 numbered chapters. It follows three main POV's, the seemingly idle rich Gabriel Cross who is haunted by his war years in France, the steampunk superhero "Ghost" and the police detective Donovan. A steampunk superhero adventure in an alt-Manhattan around the 1920's is the perfect description for this very entertaining novel; "Ghosts of Manhattan" opens a new series set in the same universe as the "Newbury and Hobbes" one but taking place several decades later and in the "colonies" rather than in London.

ANALYSIS: "Ghosts of Manhattan" is a fast, furious, ultra-entertaining read and as pure superhero adventure as it gets with clear-cut heroes and villains, gadgets (steampunk here), non-stop action, high body count and minimal plot. It lacks the subtlety of The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual but the engaging direct style of Mr. Mann makes it work superbly and you cannot help but root for the main heroes "Ghost" (whose identity is clear on page 10 or so) and detective Donovan as they chase down the nasty mob boss "The Roman" whose signature is placing original roman coins on the eyes of his victims.

"Ghost" has a suitable day persona familiar from the superhero world, but it comes with a twist related to his army service in this world's version of WW1 in France. While we get only hints of this here, I believe this aspect of the hero's past offers a great way to expand the scope of the series in volumes to come.

In contrast, detective Donovan is the typical efficient, clean cop who is determined to do "the right thing" at any cost though as the novel progresses he also develops somewhat beyond the parameters above.

The world of the novel is of course another main character and here is another place where Mr. Mann shines with airships, jet packs, golems, steampunk versions of tv/video/phones and much more. The world of "Newbury and Hobbes" already featured many cool gadgets, but here we are going one step further as befits a novel set some 20 years or so later. There are also some hints at the complicated geopolitical situation that followed the Allied win in WW1 since now England is the dominant superpower and has the relevant "toys", so there is a sort of "cold war" going on with the USA.

I loved the book and could not put it down until I finished it so I rate it a strong A and an excellent debut to a new series that I plan to follow and read each volume asap


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