'48

'48

by James Herbert
     
 

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World War II has been over for three years, since 1945. The Allies lost. So did the Nazis. The only winner was a hideous plague, the Blood Death, hatched in Hitler's secret labs and sent over the Channel in a last grim rain of V-2s. The Fuhrer's final horror brings a death neither merciful nor dignified, but swift and certain: the blood coagulates suddenly in the…  See more details below

Overview

World War II has been over for three years, since 1945. The Allies lost. So did the Nazis. The only winner was a hideous plague, the Blood Death, hatched in Hitler's secret labs and sent over the Channel in a last grim rain of V-2s. The Fuhrer's final horror brings a death neither merciful nor dignified, but swift and certain: the blood coagulates suddenly in the veins until it stops the heart and bursts the brain, transforming a living body into a screaming mass of suffering tissue yearning only for extinction. London is a ruin, roamed by packs of feral dogs, the occasional leopard loping along Regent Street - and a few AB negative survivors who are mysteriously immune to the Blood Death. Hoke is an American loner who lives with his dog and his Matchless G3L motorcycle on the upper floors of Buckingham Palace. Pursued by "slow dying" Blackshirts who scavenge the "AB-negs" for blood and body parts, Hoke has survived so far through cleverness, speed, and sheer brutality. But his luck is running out. Led by a home-grown British fascist named Hubble, the Blackshirts are closing in. Then Hoke finds out that he is not alone. Other AB-negs are as determined to survive as he is - and as willing to fight. They include two women, a Lady and a factory girl; an air-raid warden; and an escaped German POW. This unlikely team must confront the Blackshirts in their den - even if it means descending to the Underground, where the stairways are heaped with bones, gasoline-soaked rats are used as self-propelled firebombs, and the only way to the future is to clamber over the decomposing corpses of the past. Welcome to '48, where the living envy the dead.

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Editorial Reviews

The Times (London)
"Relentless actiion...tkes off at a fierce pace and continues until the blood-soaked conclusion."
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061052934
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/01/1997
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.11(d)

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Douglas E. Winter
"Another triumphant thriller that blends two-fisted action with the supernatural."

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