Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Book Review: Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing



I have finally caught up with all the books in the Pax Britannia (PB) series!
Gods of Manhattan is Al Ewings second entry into the series, and as with his other PB book, it owes little if nothing to the Steampunk genre. I know Ewing likes to push the boundary's of Steampunk, but seriously, the only hints Steampunk in this novel are a few "bolt-on" surface details that could just as easily be removed without affecting the book in any way! That is not to say that this isn't a good book, I really enjoyed it, but I think it would probably have received a lot more of an audience if it had been aimed at a Pulp market instead of Steampunk!
El Sombra, Ewing's first Pax Britannia book played out like a psychotic Zorro novel, drawing much from the Pulp genre and adding in a large helping of Weird War II. For more on El Sombra read my review.
This second book, Gods of Manhattan, immerses itself even deeper into the Pulp genre. Featuring a trio of masked vigilantes and super heroes, all competing to rid Manhattan of it's criminal elements, the story pays homage and owes many debts to the Pulp stories of the 1930's.
El Sombra, makes his return having left his Mexican home (see Ewing's first PB novel, El Sombra), he has taken to the road in his search for vengence against the Nazis. Although now that he has arrived in New York the brutal slaying of his targets is not well received!
The Blood Spider is a masked vigilante very much in the style of The Shadow, or probably even more so the original Spider, possibly with a little of Alan Moore's Watchmen character Rorschach thrown in. Gunning down criminals wherever he finds them.
Finally we have Doc Thunder. Clearly based on Doc Savage, but given the superpowers of the original Superman (virtually indestructible, can leap tall buildings in a single bound etc.).
Doc Thunder's primary adversary Lars Lomax, "The Most Dangerous Man in the World", also brings us back to the Superman analogy. He is basically Lex Luthor (lets face it, the initials gave it away), he has a history of trying to bring down Doc Thunder, has committed countless crimes and keeps returning from the dead, after being "killed" when his previous plans are foiled. He even has a bald head...
A lot of the supporting characters are also very familiar to pulp readers. Thunder's sidekick Monk Olsen takes the place of Doc Savage's team of assistants, even resembling Monk Mayfair in name and appearance. There is also an eternal princess who hails from a lost jungle civilization, various disgruntled cops and a whole league of defeated super-villains that are mentioned in passing.
The plot itself revolves around an apparent Nazi organisation and it's scheming to bring down America. There are plots within plots, twists and turns all the way through. Early in the book the reader is led into sympathizing with all three of the main characters as they pursue each other, and the shadowy villains, around the streets of Manhattan. However, it soon becomes clear that more is going on than simply the clash of egos between the three vigilantes.
Although they are poles apart from Jonathan Green's PB books, Ewing's two entries into the series are both well worth reading. Gods of Manhattan is a very well written book and gripped me from beginning to end. Just don't expect it to bare any resemblance to the other Pax Britannia books, in style, content or tone!
As I said at the beginning, this brings me up to date with the Pax Britannia series. However I have just discovered that the first part of Jonathan Green’s new PB book Time’s Arrow will be available in October as an Ebook. So please check back soon and I will review it in due course…












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