By the Blood of Heroes (The Great Undead War #1) by Joseph Nassise
Publisher: HarperCollins/May 2012
The Great Undead War series
Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for the review copy
At the end of 1917, the increasingly desperate Germans introduce a new gas to the battlefield: T-Leiche-“corpse gas” – that radically alters the face of the war. Unlike other chemical weapons that attack the living, T-Leiche resurrects the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited, if not quite fresh, source of troops.
When legendary Allied pilot and war poster-boy Major Jack Freeman is shot down and taken captive by the Germans, veteran Captain Michael “Madman” Burke is the only man fearless and wild enough to try to rescue the American Ace. With a small squad of heroes – his right-hand man Sergeant Moore, Clayton Manning, the filthy rich big-game hunter turned soldier, and professor Dan Richards, Tesla protege and the resident authority on all things supernatural – Burke must traverse the putrid ground of no man’s land to infiltrate the enemy’s lines.
Using an experimental dirigible, the team penetrates enemy lines to face incredible danger and find risk and peril at every turn, including ruthless traitor smugglers and marauding bands of the Kaiser’s undead. But only when they arrive at the prison camp is the true importance of their mission unveiled. Now, they just have to get back to their own trenches – if they can stay undead, that is.
First of all, this book was crazy fun. I’ll admit, I’m not usually a fan of WWI, WWII, or, for that manner, any war stories, but I’m a big fan of Joseph Nassise’s, and I was certainly game to give it a go. Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. In By the Blood of Heroes, WWI is in full swing, but the Germans have a bit of an advantage. They’ve created a “corpse gas” that turns their dead into zombies, and they’re using them on the frontlines. Able to control them using some sort of device, the prove to be an effective and demoralizing force to be reckoned with. When ace pilot Jack Freeman is shot down and captured by the Germans, his brother Camptain Michael Burke is put in charge of a group of soldiers tasked with his rescue. What follows is a rather exciting, fast paced adventure.
Set against a background of an alternate WWI, the zombies became much more terrifying, since they were being used and controlled by the Germans as killing machines. And we’re not just talking about mindless shamblers. The Germans have been…experimenting (shudder), and there are some forms of the zombies that have retained their faculties, and even their sanity (although I wouldn’t consider most of these guys sane to begin with, so that’s open to interpretation.) There are plenty of classic adventure and horror elements in this story, and the action is nearly nonstop. Also, there are lots of steampunk elements (Burke has a mechanical arm and can you say airships?), and the story is peppered with fun historical figures like the Red Baron. Plenty of zombie melee goodness, too, and the author keeps his writing tight and crisp, moving the narrative right along. There’s plenty here to love for alternate history and zombie aficionados alike, and lots of goodies that would be right up any horror fan’s alley! And don’t worry, even if Burke and his crew manage to rescue Freeman (against almost overwhelming odds), there’s plenty of evildoing to be done, and the Germans are more than up for the task. The author ends this one up wonderfully while leaving plenty of material for further novels. I’ll definitely look forward to more in the series!