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Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green

Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green (Abaddon Books, 2011) is the seventh book in the Pax Britannia series featuring Ulysses Quicksilver, agent of the Crown. For those of you who’ve missed the earlier episodes, we’re in an alternate reality based on an epic blending of steampunk, horror, science fiction, science fantasy and supernatural fantasy. There are probably more subgenres at work in this series but it really doesn’t matter. We’re as likely to stumble across a bioengineered kraken, werethings, vampires, zombie super-soldiers and sophisticated Babbage engines in the first few pages, quickly followed by a Smörgåsbord of whatever else the author thinks will pitch us headlong into yet more adventures. There’s a general wildness, not to say mayhem, about the excesses of creativity on display. That’s part of the fun. Yes, that’s right. There’s an irrepressible exuberance about these books as you turn the pages and find even more marvelous absurdities as yet another creature or person from history bounds on to the stage to take a well-deserved bow.

The title to this volume should give you a clue as to what’s afoot. Winston Churchill sends our hero out on a spying operation behind enemy lines. Sorry, I forgot to explain that this is 1943 and Magna Britannia has finally been drawn into the war with Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi war machine has just been reinforced by zombie, i.e. reanimated, super-soldiers who are patched together at Castle Frankenstein (what a surprise) and programmed to march into the valley of death and cause as much of it as possible. After all, the more people the dead kill, the more body parts there are to sew back together and send back out as reinforcements. Now we have that clear, Hercules Quicksilver is allocated a partner called Dr. Jekyll, although the good doctor is being kept on ice as our hero attempts to infiltrate Germany in a captured Zeppelin. But, sadly, dawn breaks before it reaches its destination. Ever-alert Nazi spotters alert the authorities and the airship is brought down by a squadron of weaponised cyber-eagles. After the crash, there are many dead. Once Jekyll gets warmed up, there’s no stopping his alter ego. By now, we’re deep into alternate reality territory as the local version of von Stauffenberg is trying to bring his conspiracy to kill Hitler closer to success. Also behind enemy lines, we’ve got some jolly hockey-sticks escapees from St. Trinian’s Military Academy for Young Ladies and a mystery man (if that’s the right way of explaining him) called Daniel Dashwood.

Jonathan Green with promotional stuff

Once we get everyone to the Castle Frankenstein, it’s all nicely Gothic in the tradition of Where Eagles Dare, except one of the Monstrous Regiment goes to meet her Maker. No, wait. That’s not right in Castle Frankenstein. She needs to avoid meeting anyone who might make her into a Valkyrie — that’s German for dead maiden super-soldier. But never forget this mysterious Dashwood, he of the unsettling visage, who’s also lurking somewhere. Suppose he’s not one of them, but one of them! Yes, if you feel the plot is running out of steam to keep the punk going at full speed, there’s always time travel to get us back in the groove. Now we can all see how it turned out before it happens, as it were. Except, if our hero can get to the time before history went all pear-shaped — a big change from the usual pineapple — he might be able to get it back to what it should have been before. . . well, you know the type of thing secret agents do when able to mess with time. And, wait a minute! Who is this Hercules? What’s happened to Ulysses? Is this a major proof-reading SNAFU? Not a bit of it! And, when they do team up, they have to move on to another castle? Perhaps they should ask H G Wells how to get there.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are moments when the pace does flag a little — that’s not a white flag of surrender, of course — but unless the publisher is going to accept a 1950’s length of book — see time travel could be useful — authors are condemned to pad out their plots to make the designated word count. So, Jonathan Green is to be commended for valiantly persevering and making such a high percentage of the words count in entertainment terms. No matter how you slice and dice it like the original Baron, Anno Frankenstein is hugely enjoyable and, as you would expect, leaves everything set for the next book in the Pax Britannia series.

There’s very pleasing artwork for the jacket from Mark Harrison, taking time of from the comics.

A copy of this e-book was sent to me for review.

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