The Iron Duke
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $15.00
The Horde had conquered England; setting up its nanotechnological control tower to insure no rebellion occurred. The invincible enemy was unprepared for a pirate Rhys Trahaearn who blew up their tower and liberated the country. He became a hero and rewarded as the Iron Duke. No longer working as a pirate, respectable Rhys is a successful merchant.
A corpse is dumped from an airship landing by Rhys’ home. Half-Horde Police Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth leads the official investigation. Rhys has plans for the cop, but soon is at her side as she treks the zombie swamps after the identification of the victim leads her to conclude a sinister conspiracy plans to destroy England.
This alternate England science fiction is a terrific high seas and air adventure in which the romantic subplot is kept in the background as the lead couple struggles with saving the country. Action-packed from the moment the body fell from the sky, readers will feel they entered the world of Brooks in which nanotechnology plays a key role. Rhys is a roguish hero while Mina used to prejudice is a dedicated person who risks her life for people who look down on her mixed breeding. The Iron Duke is a fabulous thriller. Harriet Klausner
Jane and the Damned
In 1797, Jane Austen is depressed when her manuscript is returned obviously unopened and rejected. Her father the Reverend tells her to keep trying as like him, her mom and her siblings, believe she is very talented.
Jane, her sister Cassandra and Catherine Bigg attend a dance at the Basingstoke Assembly Room. At the gala, Jane meets Sybil Smith who repairs the wannabe writer’s sleeve. Soon after her encounter with Sybil, she meets Miss Smith’s brother who tastes her blood and turns her into a vampire. Jane becomes ill and her father takes her and the rest of the family to Bath to find the cure for vampirism. When the forces of the French Revolutionary Army cross the Channel, Jane joins the English vampire corps led by Luke Venning to repel the invaders.
This is an entertaining Jane Austen vampire tale that readers of historical fantasy will enjoy although the recasting of the famous author in a variety of roles has been so frequent, it feels like its own sub-genre (see Bespelling Jane Austin, which includes a Janet Mullany novella). The story line is fast-paced as the heroine adapts to her new status, but insight into the Damned society is somewhat lacking. Still Jane and the Damned is an enjoyable early regency fantasy. Harriet Klausner
Dying to Live
Permuted Press (Gallery/Simon and Schuster), $15.00
Almost one year ago, the dead began to reanimate. The zombie infestation spread and soon few humans are left to choose fight or flight. Jonah Caine, a former English Lit professor, has been alone for most of this time. He prays that he find other humans, but so far has not met anyone except the undead.
Needing food, he enters a dead urban center in which the abandoned jewelry store is stocked but the liquor store has one bottle of bad bourbon left. Jonah knows how dangerous the urban centers are so hr hopes to leave soon. At a convenience store he hits the jackpot with Twinkies and snow ball cakes until zombies attack him. He kills some and flees with the zombies in chase when a man with a bullhorn calls to him. His first human he has mot seen in weeks, perhaps months. They rescue him. Their leader is Jack Lawson who welcomes Jonah into the group staying inside the Museum of Science and History. He meets Doc a former dental hygienist turned medical practitioner and the odd Milton who is different yet obsessed with rebuilding civilization; it is the latter he finds stimulating as they intellectually discuss philosophy.
This is an intriguing intelligent zombie thriller that hooks the audience from the opening when Jonah kills from a tree house. Kim Paffenroth effortlessly intertwines plenty of action with literary commentary and philosophy. Besides obvious names like Jonah and Milton, there are references from the bible, Dante’s Inferno and works of the Bard. Yet with all that the story line is loaded with action. However, it is the optimism of Milton contrasted to the grim description of a dead America especially the small Midwest city that keeps the reader’s interest in a strong fresh zombie tale. Harriet Klausner