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'48
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London in 1948 is devastated by a Nazi-created hemorrhagic plague in versatile British horror novelist Herbert's (The Ghosts of Sleath) frisky foray into splatterpunk alternative historical fiction. Three years after Hitler's rockets loosed the Blood Death across London (and presumably the rest of the world), the city is a charnel house. Ruling over the dead are a band of neo-Nazi British who are slowly expiring from the plague. They hunt the handful of souls immune to the disease, whose blood the Blackshirts crave in the vain hope that transfusing it into their own bodies will save their lives. The action is relentless, following the efforts of one of the immune, Eugene Nathaniel Hoke, a "Yank," to elude capture as he pursues his quixotic quest to lay to rest as many of the dead as possible. Wild chases, escapes and combat by hand and firearms fill up the narrative, which complicates as Hoke teams up with four other immunes, including a remorseful Nazi and three Brits, one of whom betrays the others. Very much in the spirit of George Romero's zombie films, the novel lacks Romero's irony but adds texture to the inevitable tedium of nonstop mayhem through an imaginative use of London landmarks, culminating in an explosive climax in the city's Tower. Herbert's nightmare tour of the damned city is bound to appeal more to British readers (the book was published last year in the U.K.) than Americans, though fans of the gruesome on both sides of the Pond should find this bracing fare. (July)

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