First things first… this is NOT steampunk. Yes, it’s 1890 London, but this is the London we know from history books. Queen Victoria, horse-drawn carriages, and the London Tower… but no goggles or steam-powered ray guns. But whether you’re a fan of steampunk or not, The Lazarus Gate is one really cool novel that involves a brewing war between two parallel worlds.
Captain John Hardwick has been traded in a prisoner exchange and finds his way back to London with an opium addiction and concerns about fitting back into society. But someone’s had their eye on John, and he’s given a special invite to join a secret group charged with protecting Queen and country from all enemies… especially enemies that no one else in the world know about. The Apollonian Club hides its secrets well, and John is drawn into a mystery involving attacks on London where the culprits seem to disappear into thin air when pursued. John puts new eyes to the investigation and quickly discovers a strange pattern for each attack, allowing him to predict the location for an upcoming attack. This brings him to the attention of the enemy, of course… and that’s when the real danger is revealed.
London is under attack from agents from a parallel British Empire. As the tale progresses, the technology and personnel required to make the jump from world to world is discovered as well as the reason for the attacks. John even discovers that not everyone can be trusted as the enemy agents are frequently sent over to find and kill their duplicate and take over duties until the final invasion is started and the enemy crosses over and steals our world from us.
I absolutely loved this book (and the better news is that this is apparently the first book in a series), and the interesting technologies used by the enemy to cross over were both unique and deeply twisted. There’s a hint of Lovecraft mythos tucked into the pages, too… and as far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong dropping in some lurking horrors in the middle of a story. Plenty of twists and turns abound, and there are some truly breath-holding moments when you’ll begin to wonder about the fates of the various individuals you meet. John is a broken man, and when he realizes he doesn’t know who he can trust any longer… the tale just gets more involved and pulls you in deeper for some fun and diabolical reveals.
Author Mark A. Latham has nailed the setting, the language, and the sense of dread of a London under attack. The finale is just pure page-turning fun, and I think I must have read the final 100 pages or so in a single sitting without a break. And now I cannot wait to see where Latham takes John and the Apollonian Club membership next.
Note: I was provided a review copy of The Lazarus Gate by Titan Books. The book is available now.