Steampunk, alternate history WWI, fighting the Kaiser’s zombies, oh, don’t forget the Bloody Dead Baron...what’s not to like? The answer is not much in the first volume of Joseph Nassise’s The Great Undead War.
By the Blood of Heroes is the first volume and it kicks the series off to a great start. The war in the trenches has ground to a stalemate after the Germans invented the zombie gas which reanimates the fallen soldiers and turns them into barely controllable shock troops for the Germans. Scientists on both sides continue to work on inventions and experiments designed to give their side a decisive edge to win the war. An American ace gets shot down behind enemy lines. This pilot holds a little known secret which could prove devastating to the Allies if discovered, so a rescue mission deep behind enemy lines must be undertaken. Working to stop the effort is the infamous Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.
This is a very inventive and very entertaining book. Interesting characters on both sides along with dirigibles, steampunk inventions, and mad scientists all in a richly populated and detailed world. The action moves along briskly from start to finish with plenty of surprises along the way. Looking back, there are a surprising number of set pieces. From the trenches, to the battle in the air, to POW camps, to experimental research facilities, to airships and trains. The amount of detail and action crammed into this book is impressive. The only thing that felt a little rushed was the backstory between the downed pilot and the leader of the team sent to rescue him. Hopefully this can be expanded a bit more in future novels.
There is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required and maybe a thing or two that don’t bear close examination, but all-in-all this is a very well thought-out and fun adventure. There were a number of things that could have been glossed over in the hope that the reader would just accept them, but the author went to the trouble of providing a plausible explanation for most of them. That attention to detail added to my appreciation of the story. I am looking forward to the continuation of this series. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.