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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Just Finished Reading: Ghosts of Karnak by George Mann (FP: 2016) [294pp] 

New York, 1927. After the recent events with the creature at the funfair it came as no surprise to Gabriel that Ginny needed a break – a break from New York, a break from monsters and even a break from him. Heading to Egypt seemed like a good idea. It was somewhere exotic, somewhere very different and somewhere where she could recharge and consider her next move. Gabriel, AKA The Ghost, barely had time to think about her. A turf war was breaking out between a new crime boss known as The Reaper and the smaller gangs that could challenge his authority. But the New York police department had other worries right now. A dead girl had been found, attacked and dumped in plain sight. This was no ordinary killing, not a robbery, not any kind of sexual assault, it was a message pure and simple – if the word ‘simple’ could be used in this case. Carved into the girl's skin, both pre and post-mortem were esoteric symbols quickly identified as Egyptian. That was really all Inspector Donnovan needed, a war brewing between mobsters and cultists with civilians and police officers in the middle. Meanwhile in Egypt itself, Ginny has fallen in with a pair of archaeologists eager to show her their latest findings in the desert. The dig is impressive and promises to reveal much about early religious practices long abandoned. But something is stirring in the deep desert, something old, something dreaming of revenge and dominion, something with designs on Ginny and then, New York itself. 

This was my third Ghost book (one more to go in the series) and I enjoyed it quite a bit. About the only thing that disappointed me was a notable lack of world building present in the previous books. As with any alternate history piece, or indeed any SF/Fantasy world, I’m interested in the how and the why of things being different and how the particular society functions. We get very little of that here. Indeed, apart from police dirigibles, the mention of coal powered cars (in passing only), and some crude ‘cyborg’ enforcers it could very well have been our world he was writing about – almost. But... There were many things to enjoy here too. My regulars will know that I keep banging on about the importance (to me) of good characterisation. Here we have that in spades. Gabriel/The Ghost is an interesting character – part Gatsby, part PTSD fighter pilot from WW1, part steampunk Batman. His psyche is complicated (or shattered and barely holding together depending on your PoV) and I’d like to know a LOT more about his experiences in and above No Man’s Land. Donnovan and his sergeant side-kick Mullins are definitely growing on me and I look forward to knowing more about them in the next/last book in the series. Ginny is a FUN character, attractive, somewhat dissolute but useful in a firefight and not easily fazed or controlled by anyone. A new favourite is Astrid who is Gabriel’s esoteric expert and, I think, essentially a witch. She’s feisty, fun and VERY knowledgeable – pretty handy with a gun too! The baddy was somewhat disappointing considering who and what he was but I suppose having an unbeatable ‘boss’ isn’t exactly fun either for the reader or the good guys fighting him. The ‘boss’ in the second novel is still my favourite so far. Overall, this was a FUN read and the plot whizzed along nicely. I’m definitely looking forward to the next volume and other books by this author. I may even dip into some works I have on Egyptian religion as this book definitely piqued or re-piqued my interest in the subject. Recommended but read the other two books first to get based properly in the world.  

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Stephen said...

The premise of this does sound interesting as hell. Police dirigibles sound ominious, though. I guess in this universe Ice Cube rants about the ghetto blimp!

CyberKitten said...


The police seem to be very ineffectual in these books - despite having videophones and some kind of weird 'computer' system in the morgue. It's an interesting series overall. As I said regarding the last instalment this is 'a solid work of SF, alt-history, horror tinged, steampunk'. The only thing missing from this one was, as I said, the world building I'd been enjoying in the other two previous books. The last book is based in London so I'm hoping that we'll get to know more about the alt-British Empire and the ongoing 'Cold War' with the USA....

VV said...

I’m interested. Should I read the Ghosts books in order? Are they connected and build upon each other?

CyberKitten said...

Reading them in order is best. They are linked - mostly by character development.

1. Ghosts of Manhattan (2010)
2. Ghosts of War (2011)
3. Ghosts of Karnak (2016)
4. Ghosts of Empire (2017)

VV said...