Author: Pat Kelleher
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Page count/Size: 348pp
Release date: 9th October 2012
Reviewer: Chris Stocks
On 1st November 1916, 900 men of the Pennine Fusiliers (including nurses and other support staff) plus Lieutenant Tulliver of the Royal Flying Corps and his biplane disappeared from the Somme. The alien world in which they found themselves is strange and deadly, with carnivorous plants, giant flying predators and an aggressive, semi-intelligent fungus that re-animates its spore-infected victims as a weird form of fungal zombie. There are also various intelligent species, including the insectoid Chatts and the humanoid urmen (who may or may not be the descendants of humans previously transported to this world).
The Alleyman is the third book in the No Man’s World series (the first two being Black Hand Gang and The Iron clad Prophecy). Unfortunately I have not read the first two books, but although this means that I found myself in the middle of on-going plotlines, this did not really detract from my enjoyment.
The soldiers spend most of their time simply trying to survive day to day in the hostile environment in which they find themselves. They are also trying to make peace with the Khangarii (one of the clans of the Chatt); find out what happened to a tank and its crew that plunged into a mysterious crater at the end of the previous book; track down the evil Jeffries, one of the platoon who claimed to have transported them all from Earth by means of a necromantic ritual; discover the nature of the world in which they find themselves and, if possible, find a way home. In addition, Lt Tulliver encounters the eponymous Alleyman (a little knowledge of World War One slang would identify the nature of this man, though I won’t spoil the surprise for the uninitiated here) and must decide whether he can trust this one-time enemy and now potential ally…
As you can tell from the potted summary above, the plot of this book moves at a fast and furious pace. In many ways it is a ‘pulp’ novel, but it transcends this categorisation by the creative realisation of the alien world and its inhabitants and by the sympathetic portrayal of the men and women stranded on it. Despite the pace of the various plot strands, clues to the nature of the world are dropped at regular intervals to keep one’s interest piqued.
Overall I found this a fun book to read, was intrigued by the setting and interested in following the exploits of the Pennine Fusiliers on this strange, alien world. I could easily be persuaded to go back and read the first two novels and look forward to finding out how the series continues. Definitely recommended!