Abaddon Books, out now
Trapped on the alien world, the First World War Tommies learn more about their surroundings – and the dangers come from all sides.
Pat Kelleher’s intriguing series continues with this story that focuses on the Land Ship Ivanhoe – a tank to you or me – that has apparently gone walkabout with its crew. “Only” Atkins and his Black Hand Gang are sent to bring it back, only to discover that the lieutenant in charge has become rather too connected with the local environment.
There are echoes of The Man Who Would Be King, and other tales of Empire gone wrong in this, and Kelleher ensures that even though we empathise with the men’s struggles, we don’t necessarily support the positions they take. Part of this comes from his realistic recreation of mores from a century ago, particularly with regard to the way men and women treat each other, but also from a recognition that the humans are an intrusion on the No Man’s World ecosystem.
There are some shocks along the way – sudden death appears from nowhere, underlying the danger the men and women face constantly – and movement in the plotlines left dangling at the end of the first novel, particularly with regard to the humans’ hopes of getting home. More of the world-building is revealed, but there are still mysteries to be unveiled in the conclusion.
Verdict: Adding depth to the characters introduced in the first novel, this is a gripping read set on a world where ordinary rules don’t apply. 7/10