By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I, Joseph Nassise, Harpoer, ISBN 0-06-204875-2, 345 pgs., $14.99

The Red Baron

The Red Baron (Photo credit: jarrodvk)

It’s 1917 and the Kaiser‘s scientist’s have stumbled on a new type of gas to be used in the trenches–one that turns the dead into zombies. They’ve also discovered that if they use it on a battlefield devoid of their own living then all of the reborn dead attack those who are living, primarily the enemy soldiers. But there’s an oddity as well, and that is that occasionally, one of the new-born dead remains conscious of thought. One of these is the Red Barron, who continues to fly and shoot down British planes even though he died in a crash. When veteran American Ace, Major Jack Freeman is downed behind enemy lines and taken captive, Captain Michael, Madman Burke is recruited to go in and get him back.  Burke, and his merry band of oddball madmen, have to work their way behind enemy lines, break into a prison camp, and then return with Freeman to the allied front.

Okay, so Zombies in World War One may be stretching the whole zombie experience a bit too far, but, hey, if it’s fun then it’s worth it.  Nassise does a credible job with taking what could be just a really silly premise and keeping it pretty straightforward.  A couple of the characters are pretty stereotypical but no more so than you would find in any war movie of the period.  Making the Red Barron one of the aware zombies is a bit of a stroke of positive intelligence as you get not only a known name villain but a pivot point for some of the action.

It’s an interesting book, entertaining, fairly tight in it’s plotting with decent characters.  There is one major error in the book however. At one point the allies have one of the bad guys tied to a chair in the prisoner of war camp and they are working him over for information.  One of the Americans says, “let’s shoot him.”  And then there’s a noise outside, they leave the room.  Never to return.  I assume the guy is still sitting there, tied to that chair.  Kind of a bone head error.  I assume the book was read at least 3 times for errors so it got through each time. I read that passage 5 times just because I was sure I was missing something, some word, some thought, that would make this behavior okay.  Nope, not in there.  Ah, well, I suppose when zombies are involved you have to expect the occasional brain error.

I’d recommend it but only conditionally. If you’re not a zombie fan then there’s not going to be much here for you.  Otherwise, it’s worth picking up.

And, to get your own copy, just click here: By the Blood of Heroes: The Great Undead War: Book I

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The Hollows Insider, Kim Harrison, Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-197433-5, 301 pgs, $25.99

This Witch For Hire

Image by programwitch via Flickr

Kim Harrison is nine books in on her Hollows series. The books twist on Clint Eastwood movie titles and are best classified as urban supernatural fantasy since they involve witches, werewolves, vampires, pixies, elves, and other fantastical creatures living in an alternate version of Cincinnati. The series has generated a loyal following and, I have to admit, I have enjoyed the books myself, at least up to the one before the most recent (which I have not read yet). The writing is done skillfully, the characters are well developed and interesting, and the setting is uniquely enjoyable.

Now we have this book which contains new fiction, facts, maps and a plethora of tidbits large and small about the Hollows universe. You’ll find memos from the characters to each other, newspaper articles, spell recipes, cookie recipes, case files, inside dossiers, and much, much more. For those of you who just can’t get enough then this is the book for you. And there is plenty of book to be had here. It’s hefty, illustrated and chock full of stuff.

I’m always of two minds when it comes to books like these. On the one hand it’s an artifact of overindulgence. Do you really need to see memos from one character to another or fictional security reports? It’s a bit of unhealthy obsession. On the other hand it is interesting to see just how deeply authors develop their worlds and just how much material is created to put together a work of fiction.

In the end I find these more interesting than not. I don’t think I have ever read one from cover to cover but they are fine coffee table books and interesting to skim through, stopping here and there to absorb the brief tidbit of fictional fact. In the long run I find that I would rather be reading the next novel in the series though.

Definitely recommended. If you are a fan you positively, absolutely will not be able to do without this. If you are not yet a fan you might be more interested in picking up the first novel in the series. If you’d like to buy the book just click the link below.

The Hollows Insider: New fiction, facts, maps, murders, and more in the world of Rachel Morgan

Shadow of Power by Steve Martini, (A Paul Madriani Novel), Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-123089-9, $7.99 Paperback, April 2009

For those who do not know, Paul Madriani is defense attorney who has been around the block a few times. This means that the cases he gets are typically atypical. This time he’s handed the case of a young man who has been charged with the murder of a writer best known for his craving of headlines and publicity. The book in question, portends to present evidence of a secret language within the US Constitution, one that supports slavery and presents the whole document in an entirely different light. There’s also supposed to be a letter, now missing, written by Thomas Jefferson that supports and provides even more evidence towards this conspiracy. The young man charged with the murder has the motive, the connections and the shady background to make him not only a prime suspect but the only one. But Madriani thinks things are just a little too pat and when a Supreme Court Justice disappears under mysterious circumstances, Madriani begins to think that the two events are more than related and begins to dig. As things heat up he finds himself closer and closer to what could be some devastating answers about the shadow of power.  All he has to do is survive the hornet’s nest he’s stirred up.

Steve Martini writes an honest thriller. No gimmicks, no phony twists, no cheap escapes, or shock disclosures. Sure there are surprises, there have to be in this kind of novel, but they all make sense and fit the story in what turns out to be a very well crafted plot. As usual, Martini writes with flair and fast pace and his protagonist is not only smart but fun to be around.  The action moves along and is definitely worth following.

I liked this book–read it in two sittings which is unusual for me these days. I found the writing to be crisp, the dialogue to be genuine and interesting and the story to be first-rate. Martini creates a mystery plot with just the right amount of suspense and twist. Definitely recommended whether you’re a current fan or coming to the series as a new reader.