Simmeon Anderson’s ambitious novel is a fusion of science fiction, alternate history, post-apocalyptic fiction, and international thriller that ties in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. It spans centuries and follows a group of advanced humans (aka Hatchet Men Shadows) as they attempt to save humankind from their nemeses (the Hatchet Men Ghosts).
The main storyline is set largely in 2050 Baltimore in a radically advanced future. Racism, and any form of hate crime, has been outlawed, and cities float via magnetic levitation, but crimes like homicide, drug dealing, and sex trafficking are at an all-time high.
Jennifer Lin is a young woman struggling to come to grips with the death of her fiancé and unborn child in a car accident months earlier. After her sister persuades her to go out to a club, things go terribly wrong when they inadvertently become witnesses to a Russian crime boss’ murder in one of the club’s VIP sections. Jennifer’s grief is suddenly overshadowed by her will to live as she’s thrown into the middle of a supernaturally nuanced war between the Shadows and the Ghosts.
There’s much to like here: The science fiction elements are understated but original (for example, the godlike humans have breathing holes all over their bodies), the pacing is breakneck, the action nonstop, and—somewhat surprisingly—there’s a subtle adventure-fantasy tone throughout. Cool weaponry abounds (like the Zweihander, a giant sword of unknown origin), and the extended fight sequences are well done.
But there are flaws as well. Aside from an abundance of tense errors, the novel’s structure is problematic, having a rambling prequel (more than 60 pages) that doesn’t sufficiently explain and explore the (potentially fascinating) backstory, such as the tale behind the alien that crash-landed on Earth in 218 BC and made Hannibal the first Hatchet Man after the Carthaginian general saved it.
Despite such frustrations, readers will find this a furiously paced and fun read, with original touches.