The latest novel in George Mann’s pulp superhero book series is here, featuring crime-fighting vigilante The Ghost (AKA wealthy socialite Gabriel Cross) on another high-octane adventure against the forces of darkness. As the fourth instalment, Ghosts of Empire needed to be bigger and better than previous books to keep things from growing stale. Thankfully, it succeeds.
An old friend from the British Secret Service calls The Ghost and his friends to London to investigate a ring of Rasputin-worshipping sorcerer/warrior monks who have a scheme up their sleeves to bring down the British Empire. But who is the Russian mole in the Secret Service? And what does this all have to do with the personification of Albion itself?
What sets this series apart from the cluttered superhero genre is its intoxicating blend of genres. Pitched as part pulp fiction, part horror and part alternate history, each book has generally focussed on one aspect over the others. One that hadn’t been emphasised too much up to this point was the alternate history element, but this is fixed with Empire. In this steampunk-lite version of the 1920s, just because the line of ascension passed down differently, England and Russia are two great empires teetering on the brink of war.
While this is an effective backdrop for events, Empire’s strength is in its action-orientated, increasingly ambitious storytelling. Just look at the ever-growing members of Team Ghost. The vigilante is not operating alone anymore and has built a band of loyal allies including, but not limited to, a crack British secret agent, a dogged New York detective and his girlfriend Ginny who just so happens to have the powers of an Egyptian goddess.
The ragtag bunch of heroes are a likeable lot, although Mann might have overdone it with his cast of characters in this one. With the Secret Service running around as well, the narrative stretches itself across various different viewpoints. This increases the scope of the story, for sure, but it does leave the reader wanting more from their favourite characters.
Ghosts of Empire will delight fans of this series and lovers of supernatural superhero fiction - in comic book terms, it’s like Batman finding himself in the mythology of Hellboy. Featuring a nifty crossover with Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes books to boot, The Ghost’s world is expanded and explored in new ways in this instalment, leaving lots of promise for future novels. Let’s hope Mann delivers on that promise soon.
GHOSTS OF EMPIRE / AUTHOR: GEORGE MANN / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 13TH OCTOBER