Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review - George Mann's Ghosts of War

Ghosts of War by George Mann
Published by: PYR
Publication Date: January 2011
Format: Paperback, 232 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Gabriel Cross, the erstwhile Ghost, is still in mourning from the loss of his love Celeste. She did what he would have done in her situation, but that doesn't mean his heart is so easily healed. But luckily for Gabriel New York is a city under siege. The newest devilment takes the form of winged creators, half brass, half dark magic. These raptors swoop out of the sky and kidnap people, for what evil purpose no one knows. They aren't just the bane of the police, with over fifty people missing, but Gabriel as well, they are too strong and too fierce for him to kill and too fast for him to follow back to their nest in order to rescue the captives, if they should still be alive. Gabriel's friend on the police force, Donovan, is surprised when his boss pulls him off the raptor case a puts him on the case of a missing British spy at the request of Senator Isambard Banks. Yet the more Donovan looks into things with the help of Gabriel, the more it looks like the two cases aren't so separate as the Senator would like them to appear.

The fact of life is that sometimes life itself gets in the way of a good book. This past week I've been bedeviled, luckily not by raptors, but by deadlines and holiday preparations. A few times perhaps I would have liked a raptor to swoop me away from my work, but only if it was to a cosy bed and not where the Ghost finds their victims... but alas, I don't think they'd play ball. Therefore a lot of the peril and immediacy of the book was lost due to the sad fact of setting it down. Sometimes when this happens I picture the characters in the book standing around and looking bored waiting for the story to begin again, like actors waiting for the director to shout action. Silly though this thought is it does show how attached I become to my stories. But enough about me, I'm sure that's not why you're reading this.

Ghosts of War was a solid second outing in George's Ghost series, though it might have veered a little towards a certain trope that every penny dreadful and every horror story has utilized, the big bad that everyone though vanquished returning. Yes, yes, I get that this is more a tradition of the genre then anything else, and I will admit that George gave enough of a spin on a certain evil creature's return that it didn't overly annoy me, it's just that at a certain point credulity sometimes gets strained. The villain, who definitely was totally dead, I mean 100% totally for sure dead magically goes, "but wait," can really become a really tiresome trend.

Yes, their are villains we grow to love, but lets look at Doctor Who as an example. Am I the only one who thinks that the Daleks and the Cybermen should be put on hiatus for AT LEAST five years? No! Because new is more unique then old told in a different way. Though George tells the old in a new and different way, so I will allow it this once because yes, it did work, but I don't want to see these Cephalopod-esque aliens for quite awhile now, thank you.

But what I felt was the flaw in the book was oddly it's creepy reflection of reality. A group of wealthy men and politicians war mongering. Where there is war or the possibility of war, no matter how disgusting it is to us, no matter how unpalatable, there are people looking to either make money or secure power. Even if their means are supernatural verging on the extraterrestrial, well, their motives are sadly all too common. Everyday in the news their is something like this. Or at least I feel that way. Politician's are more and more looking out for their own interests and their own pocketbooks than doing the altruistic job of helping their fellow man. I read, for the most part, to escape the real work, the news that could easily bring on a panic attack. To have the news seeping into my story... well, yes, it's realistic and shows that humans haven't changed, but it kind of puts a damper on my escapism.

That doesn't mean that I am any less enamoured of the Ghost. In fact I have kind of gotten maybe a little overly attached to him and one thing in particular is making me worried about him. What is that one thing? It's the breaking down of his identities. I don't mean breaking down as in having a break down, but as in Gabriel and the Ghost merging, coming together and accepting that they are both needed in order to become who Gabriel once was, before the war shattered him; and before he created careful facades in order to survive. I am liking that he's coming to terms with himself, growing and becoming more functional...

But at the same time I'm worried. With this acceptance of who he really is, this inclusion of both halves I'm worried that he might be in danger. By being seen with Donovan as Gabriel and not the Ghost, might people start to wonder? Is his safety at risk? His old flame Ginny shows up out of the blue and within minutes he's all, I'm the Ghost! There's a reason superheroes have secret identities. The secret is their for protection. Sure the secret might weigh on you and cause psychological issues, but wouldn't you rather be safe then sane? I guess I'll have to wait for more of his adventures to find out!


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