Review: Ghosts of Manhattan

Posted: April 30, 2010 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: George Mann, Steampunk

If you have been following our not-so-humble blog, you know we like George Mann. So when we got our paws on his GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN (Amazon), published by Pyr, we knew we were in for a treat.

GHOSTS is set in America during the roaring 20’s, but with a Steampunk bent, and as if that isn’t cool enough, George Mann inserts enough Urban Fantasy elements to create a sweet mesh of the two genres. Actually, the genre almost does a complete swap in the last third of the book. It was a little jarring, but the pace of the book swept us along, without giving us time to let the change bother us.

Let us say, right up front, this book won’t be for everyone. The violence is just brutal. The opening scene was quite violent even for us, and we love a good action scene. The titular character uses a flechette cannon and shreds bad guy’s heads. There is plenty of swearing and talk about sex. One of our close friends, read the opening chapter and didn’t finish it. He heard that Nick liked the book, and said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Your sensibilities will largely determine whether you like this book. If you have to ask yourself whether you will or not, you will probably be offended.

However… the action scenes were SO awesome. They were very clear, immediate, and visceral. There wasn’t an action scene to be found that didn’t make us wonder, just for a minute, exactly how the Ghost would be maimed or crippled, and yes, he was injured PLENTY of times. Also, to Mann’s credit, there wasn’t any indication of “Butcher syndrome” where the protagonists were exhausted, injured, and spent, and somehow managed to reach inside and find some well of energy left. We hate that. When the characters in GHOST were presented with a challenge, they had to actually meet it. No Deus Ex here folks! Woohoo!

Aside from the pacing and strong writing, if we were to pick out a strength of the novel, it would be Mann’s ability to make these characters all believable and likable. All except the love interest of the protagonist. She remains largely a mystery, with a fairly shallow characterization until the end. But by then we didn’t care quite as much about her as we should have. The rest of them are Ah-Mazing, though. Gabriel is the perfect jaded playboy; the Ghost is menacing, dangerous, yet ‘heroic’; Donovan, while having a slightly cliche cop story, was enjoyable the whole time. The villain(s) were just as intriguing. Bravo, Mann!

One of the cool things that was done in the book was the attempt to keep us guessing at the true identity of the Ghost. We both actually wished this aspect had been pressed harder. It was obvious right from the start who he was, but there were constant moments of “Wait… is he really… or is he someone else… ?” We could have done with more of those.

GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN is a bit cliche-ridden, quick, a little on the light side of plot, a bit heavy-handed at times, but is just plain fun.

As soon as Steve finished the book he called Nick (who luckily got to read the book first). As if the website wasn’t proof enough that we are linked at the brain, we both said at just about the same moment, “Could have been 150 pages longer.” We really wish this was true. The fast pace works both for and against the book. Ever eaten a meal so fast you barely got to taste it? That’s a little bit how the book felt. It was too fast and too short, with extremely likable and interesting characters, that ALL deserved a lot more screen time than they were given. The book didn’t just leave us room for dessert, but another course when we were finished. That’s a little annoying.

GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN is a bit cliche-ridden, quick, a little on the light side of plot, a bit heavy-handed at times, but is just plain fun. It hurls the Steampunk and Superhero genres at each other with full force, and somewhere in between the two Urban Fantasy/Horror gets caught in the Melee. We like the recipe that was created here. A lot. We want more, and are looking forward to the next installment. Is it the best book you will read this year? Not even close, but it is completely entertaining.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Ayup. Rated-R here.
  • Violence: Oh wow, yes. The first chapter is a very good indication of what the rest of the book contains. In said chapter bad guys kept disintegrated by flechettes, burned and boiled by jetpacks, and a lady gets stabbed. It interesting choice to start the book with that much graphic violence.
  • Sex: A few acts committed and mentioned, nothing graphic or explicitly shown

P.S. – Also, the cover art, by Benjamin Carre, is soooooo rad. Nick is determined to get a giant print of it to hang in his room.


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