Mark A. Latham's The Lazarus Gate was published by Titan Books in September 2015. It's the first part of The Apollonian Case Files series.
Information about Mark A. Latham:
Mark Latham is an author, editor and games designer with a passion for nineteenth century history, from Staffordshire, UK. Formerly the editor of Games Workshop's White Dwarf magazine and head of Warhammer 40,000, Latham is now a writer of novels, short stories, and tabletop games, such as Legends of the Old West, and Waterloo. Latham is published in Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about The Lazarus Gate:
London, 1890. Captain John Hardwick, an embittered army veteran and opium addict, is released from captivity in Burma and returns home, only to be recruited by a mysterious gentlemen's club to combat a supernatural threat to the British Empire.
This is the tale of a secret war between parallel universes, between reality and the supernatural; a war waged relentlessly by an elite group of agents; unsung heroes, whose efforts can never be acknowledged, but by whose sacrifice we are all kept safe.
A REVIEW OF MARK A. LATHAM'S THE LAZARUS GATE
Mark A. Latham's exciting and richly told novel, The Lazarus Gate, was a most pleasant surprise for me. It's an exceptionally entertaining novel that combines many different elements in an amazing way. It's a veritable page turner that may cause temporary literary addiction, because it hooks the reader from the start and almost forces the reader to stay up until morning, trying to finish it as fast as possible to find out how the story ends.
When I began to read this novel I didn't know what to expect from it, because I'd only heard a few things about it and was mostly unaware of its contents. I found myself enjoying the story very much, because it was a gripping and genuinely intriguing story with many twists.
To be honest, entertainment-wise this novel is one of the best and most compelling novels I've read this year, because it's first-rate entertainment with plenty of style. It's also one of the best Victorian speculative fiction novels I've ever read due to the fact that the characterisation is good and the author knows how to create an excellent atmosphere. Many Victorian speculative fiction novels have been written during the recent years, but this kind of well-researched, fluently written and entertaining novels are unfortunately rare. This novel is a bit akin to James P. Blaylock's Langdon St. Ives novels in terms of prose, quality and storytelling. It's also slightly reminiscent of the novels written by George Mann.
The Lazarus Gate can be categorised as a fantasy novel that combines fantasy, science fiction, weird science, horror and gothic elements with a dash of Sherlock Holmes. It reads like a fantastical blend of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes.
Mark A. Latham blends different elements in a superb way and creates an incredibly fresh story that's full of surprises and twists. When you begin to read this novel, you'll notice that it has clearly been written out of love for storytelling, because it feels exciting and fresh.
Here's information about the story:
- The prologue: Sergeant Clegg is pursuing anarchists who are responsible for an explosion. When the policemen are about to arrest the anarchists, they disappear and only a body of a man with a mutilated hand is found... Captain John Hardwick is being held captive by Burmese rebels. He is released from the Burmese prison... The Artist has finished painting his latest works and sends his servant on an errand. He also feeds his pets...
- John Hardwick returns home, escorted by Captain James Denny. He doesn't know where to live or what to do, because he hasn't had a chance to think about financial matters. He organises his life and gets a message from Sir Toby Fitzwilliam to meet him at the Apollonian Club. He meets Sir Toby who asks him to join a group of investigators to fight a secret war (the group represents various government agencies). He accepts the proposition and joins the group.
- John Hardwick begins to investigate the dynamite incidents. The mysterious people in black seem to plague the city and nobody knows anything about them, except that they are always near the explosions. Soon Hardwick finds out that the mysterious happenings may be connected to parallel universes and the dynamiters may not be from our world...
This the beginning of a wonderfully written story that's full of entertainment, adventure and surprises.
The story flows fluently and effortlessly from start to the amazing finish without any kind of problems. I appreciate it that the author takes his time to introduce the protagonist and the happenings to readers. It's great that he doesn't rush things, but lets the story unfold in a natural and compelling way.
The Lazarus Gate is Captain John Hardwick's story and it is told by him. His personal and distinct voice makes the story interesting, because he has his own views about many things. He also makes his own conclusions about certain things.
John Hardwick is a fascinating and well-created protagonist, because he's a retired army captain who has an opium addiction. Duty, honour and loyalty mean a lot him, because has served in the army. He's a resourceful man who doesn't give up easily when he's interested in something. He has to think about where his loyalties lie, because he has to be loyal to the army and also to the group of men he's working for. His courage and loyalty are tested when he begins to investigate the explosions.
Hardwick's opium addiction is handled well. He was given opium in the Burmese prison and has ever since been addicted to it. He has been cured from his addiction, but he still craves opium. The author writes well about the protagonist's feelings about his addiction and how disgusted he is by his weakness.
Hardwick's brutal experiences at the Burmese prison camp have had quite an impact on his life. He is still haunted by what happened there, because he was tortured and treated in a brutal and inhuman manner. Although he was kept alive, he was treated horribly and suffered a lot.
I enjoyed reading about John Hardwick's personal life and his family relations. It was especially enjoyable to read about his father and what kind of secrets were revealed about him. It was also interesting to read about his sister and her fate.
I also enjoyed reading about Hardwick's detective work and adventures, because his work took him to the streets of London and to such notorious and sinister places as opium dens. He was like a fish out of water in London, because he hadn't been there for a long time. He found himself a bit lost in the middle of dynamiters, gangsters, gentlemen, officers, psychics, thieves, murderers and gypsies. It was enjoyable to read about his investigations, because he met different kinds of people and visited many places.
The author writes vividly about the secondary characters. For example, Ambrose Hanlocke - a member of Sir Toby's group - is described as a likeable rogue in a splendid way. The author writes charmingly about him and his traits and shows how boldly he uses the club and its services. Rosanna is also a well-created character, because she's an approriately mysterious gypsy woman who has the gift of Sight. She helps Hardwick in her own unique way.
What happened between Hardwick and Rosanna was handled exceptionally well. The author wrote realistically about Hardwick's feelings and his difficult situation. Hardwick had to think about many things when he met Rosanna and found her attractive, because his life had changed, but he still had duties that needed to be taken care of. His feelings were explored in a convincing way.
There are many surprises and scenes in this novel that will delight readers. I won't go into details about them in order to avoid writing spoilers, but I'll mention that John Hardwick has quite an adventure ahead of him when he begins to investigate things and meets the Artist. His life changes in many ways during the investigations.
Mark A. Latham writes fascinatingly about the war between parallel universes. It was interesting to read about the Othersiders and their society, because their world was similar yet different from our world. Their world was led by an enigmatic dictator called Lazarus who was sworn to lead his people to salvation from the growing esoteric threat that was about to destroy everything. The Othersiders were afraid of the demons that lurked behind the veil, because they were breaking through, and the scientists were having problems with ghostly manifestations and violent explosions of pure chaos (the spiritualists paved the way for these incidents by contacting the dead).
The Apollonian Club plays an important part in the story, because John Hardwick is invited there to join a secret group of agents. The author's descriptions of the club and its members are delightfully vivid. Reading about what happened at the club and how the agents worked together was interesting, because the author seemed to have thought of all the necessary details. Everything felt genuine and believable.
The meeting between John Hardwick and the Artist is an excellent scene. What happens between these two characters is fascinating and brutal. It was interesting to read about the Artist's talents and his pets, because he was an extraordinary man with a talent for painting the future on canvas. He had terrifyingly deformed pets, which he kept alive by feeding meat to them.
There's an authentic and realistic atmosphere in this novel, because the author has a fantastic sense of time and style. He writes beautifully about the places and different people. He pays a lot of attention to minor details and also to certain historical details, but manages to keep the story light and entertaining. His descriptions of the different places are so vivid and vibrant that when you read about them, you can almost feel like you're in Victorian London.
There's also an intriguing sense of impending doom in this novel. The author writes surprisingly well about what the agents do to prevent the threat of the Othersiders and in what kind of trouble they find themselves when they try to do their work. The threat of the Othersiders is real and the agents have to do their best to save the world. The ending of this novel reveals how great the threat is and offers readers an astonishingly macabre sight with weirdness that has a Lovecraftian feel to it.
One of the best thing about this novel is that Mark A. Latham writes fluently about what kind of dangers and risks are involved in travelling between parallel universes. He writes realistically about what can happen to people when something goes wrong, because the consequences can be terrifying and unexpected.
I also want to mention that it's good that the protagonist isn't invincible, but just as vulnerable as any other man. He bleeds and suffers like other men, and he has his own problems and hardships. He also faces treacheries during his work.
If you're fascinated by British English and Victorian way of life, you're in for a treat when you begin to read this novel. You most likely won't be able to resist the lure of this novel, but will be totally hooked by it, because Mark A. Latham uses old sayings, experssions and words to emphasise the Victorian atmosphere and way of life. This is great, because it adds a touch of realism to the story that is lacking from several similar kind of novels. I think that readers will be delighted to read about such words as hansom, penny dreadful, Black Maria etc, because they're seldom found in speculative fiction novels.
There's wonderfully dry and witty British humour in this novel that I found charming. It's nice that the author has managed to add a bit of humour to his story, because it lightens the story in a fantastic way and makes it even more entertaining.
I look forward to reading more stories and novels by Mark A. Latham, because he's a talented wordsmith who writes entertaining speculative fiction. He's a good and passionate storyteller who has plenty of imagination. By the way, if you enjoy this novel and find it interesting, you'll be pleased to know that the second novel will be published during autumn 2016.
Mark A. Latham's The Lazarus Gate is an excellent historical speculative fiction novel to readers who love good mystery, adventure and fantasy stories. If you enjoy reading Victorian speculative fiction, this novel will impress you. I was personally very impressed by this novel and the author's storytelling skills, so all I can say is: More, please!