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The Blood Red City
Justin Richards
Del Rey, 396 pages

The Blood Red City
Justin Richards
Justin Richards has written audio scripts, television, a stage play, edited anthologies of short stories, been a technical writer, and founded and edited a media journal. He is the author of such books as The Death Collector, The Chaos Code, The Parliament of Blood and the series The Invisible Detective, Time Runners, and Agent Alfie. He is also Creative Director of the BBC's best-selling range of Doctor Who books, and has written a fair few of them himself. He lives with his family in Warwick, UK.

Justin Richards Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Suicide Exhibition

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'It was a city full of predators where rats fed on the dead. Most of the predators were human, but not all.'
The Blood Red City is the second novel in the author's Never War sequence, and as might be expected, picks up almost where the first book ended. Ambitiously, the action aliens and Nazis sprawl across the USA, Germany, the Greek island of Crete, occupied France, Stalin's Russia, and good old Blighty. Once again it's a hell-for-leather scramble between those loyal to the Third Reich or the Allies, with the alien Vril following their own agenda and playing both sides against the middle. The story features the same principle cast as The Suicide Exhibition, doing similar things in an equally thrilling fashion. But, does it fly true as a Spitfire, or crash and burn like the Hindenberg?

Übermensch feature quite heavily this time around, and in greater depth. One such creature, Hoffman the undercover Russian posing as Himmler's right-hand man, plays a major part. Through him we learn that it's possible to have Übermensch invulnerability yet still resist the mental influence of the Vril. Others who are infected prove not so adept, which leads to cat and mouse encounters, some of which involve a version of Aleister Crowley that is almost as creepy as the spider-like Vril themselves. Continuing the frantic pacing and edge of the seat style plot employed to such good effect in the first book, this is another highly readable tale. Justin Richards increases his cast of credible characters making incredible escapes, yet doing so with such aplomb that only the harshest of critics would find fault. The ideas and sheer fun triumph over awkward technicalities and the occasional plot liberty. Having said that, The Blood Red City stays meticulously within its time period, and makes good use of characters groping for understanding, before the dawn of the digital age. Indeed, the communication methods of the Vril defy 1940's science, and have more in common with what Crowley and his devotees think of as black magic.

Cleverly, the author makes subtle use of writing in an age where his readers are aware. Not only of how technology actually advanced post-WWII, but also of the fact that superpowers can and sometimes do lose to those they outgun. However, at no point does the story fall out of step with characters and the limitations of their world. Nor does spreading the action further and wider dilute the impact, rather it increases interest and anticipation. As the series progresses, I would hope to see more delving into the actual technology of the Vril, and humanity realising that continuing to fight each other spells doom. But even if Justin Richards has entirely different plans, I'm confident that whatever comes next will be more top notch entertainment.

Copyright © 2015 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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