'48 by James Herbert


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 Mad Max meets dystopian London bloodsuckers three years after the Allies lose WW II, in a what-if tale by the author of (among 18 others) the much richer, or at least completely different, Portent (1996). Hitler hits London with his V1 rockets but still finds himself losing the war. So he fires off V2 rockets, which hold a deadly virus that freezes human blood and causes fast death, although some rare victims die more slowly. Only that three percent of the population with AB negative blood survive the virus--so that gangs of slowly dying Blackshirts roam the city looking for AB-negs whose blood they hope to exchange for their own. One of those fighting the Blackshirts as they pursue him is Hoke, an American once with the RAF who now holes up in a vacated luxury hotel, the Savoy. Hoke has been cleaning the streets around the Savoy of dead bodies and hauling them to a stadium where he expects someday to have a mass cremation, his little gift to mankind. Meantime, he races about on his Matchless 350 motorcycle, locked into anger against the Germans because the virus killed his wife and child, while the Blackshirts are Nazi sympathizers sprung from England's worst prewar racists. So when an AB-neg German pilot and two women save Hoke from an attack by Blackshirts at the National Gallery, Hoke leads them to safety through Tube lines filled with dried corpses and houses them in his well-stocked digs at the Savoy. Eventually, the Blackshirts are led to the group by one of the women, an upper-class Nazi sympathizer, and once more the chase is on. All praise to Herbert for his haunting vision of Ghost City, the hotels and subways and buses filled with the long-dead and dried-out. But the plot goes forward like a tiresome movie crunchfest, action scene upon action scene, boom upon boom.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-105293-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1997


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