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Pax Omega
Al Ewing
Abaddon Books, 267 pages

Pax Omega
Al Ewing
Al Ewing was born in 1977, three days before Elvis died. Indoctrinated into the loathsome practice of comics at an early age by his disreputable brother, the child progressed from his innocent beginnings to the loathsome depths of sin represented by the British comic 2000AD, long known as a haunt of depravity. He remains esconced there to this day as a writer of the bizarre and fantastic, when not involved in even more sordid past-times.

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SF Site Review: Gods of Manhattan

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A review by Nathan Brazil

'So, I hear you've got some action? Something regular army can't handle, is that right?.'

'Oh yeah.'

Zitron took a long puff on his pipe.

'It's one for the Yodelling Bastards.'

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Pax Omega is Al Ewing's third sortie into the world of Pax Britannia, as created by Jonathan Green. The first two, El Sombra, and Gods of Manhattan, were both highlights of the steampunk genre. Pax Omega is described by the publisher as a "galaxy spanning adventure" and true to its word begins with a small group of aliens playing God. What follows is a trip through time, taking in the 1920s, a large World War II episode, the alternate future aftermath of that conflict, and then into the furthest future.

A rather unoriginal start sequence featuring the aforementioned aliens leads to their power source being lost. Then we're into 1728, and a segment concerning a 22-year-old Benjamin Franklin, which sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. At this point, I was wondering what was going on, as what I was reading was not much like the style -- or content -- of Al Ewing's previous works. Happily, things picked up again delivering what I'd hoped for in the next segment, which featured an alternate Thomas Edison in the Wild West, who had become physically attached to an electrical power source that had fallen through time, and made him into something akin to a super-villain. The counter to this wayward Edison was the Lonesome Rider, an all but invincible alternative to the character played by Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western period. At the same point in the story we encounter Franklin Reed and his Locomotive Man; the world's first robot. Real world legend Grey Owl also has a cameo appearance. Only after this sequence, approximately 100 pages in, do we return to familiar ground and close to the present day. Jason Satan, toxic super-villain, has a definitive encounter with Doc Thunder. This, at last, is the story I thought I'd be reading when I began, and it's what the author does best. In this take on history, the eve of World War II happens in the year 2000, and Ewing's depiction of Nazis does not disappoint. What is a thinly disguised pastiche of Nick Fury leader of S.T.E.A.M assembles a prototype Avengers (complete with at least one direct analogue in the form of a character named Blood Widow), against the nefarious scheme of Third Reich super science.

Specifically, a plan to capture out of the time stream the now legendary Lonesome Rider, who has become bonded to the ultimate power source. The same cube introduced with the aliens back at the beginning, and a close relative of the Cosmic Cube familiar to Marvel Comics readers. Mixed in with all this excitement, is the ongoing story of Djego, also known as El Sombra, Al Ewing's Zorro-like swordsman who names all Nazis bastards, and believes that the only good bastard is a dead bastard. We follow this thread to its ultimate conclusion, crossing decades, and ending with a new beginning for Djego. Albeit, one that he had not anticipated. A seismic shift takes us further on, revealing the results of the alternate history where steam-powered robotics is the new high tech. Naturally, the robots revolt, which is all part of another plan, by whom I shall not reveal.

In turn there is a suitably apocalyptic clash between Pluto, the robot leader, and the Doctor, which is the name that Doc Thunder has adopted. Then it all goes wrong, with a segment entitled One Million Years Later. Some readers may enjoy this exordium and terminus approach, starting with god-like aliens, traipsing through human history, and ending with the death of Earth and rebirth of God. But for me, it shifted too far away from what makes steampunk such fun to read, and edged into rather bog standard, not very interesting pulp SF.

Pax Omega was a mixed bag. The majority comprised of the kind of material that Al Ewing writes so well, and was a joy to read. However, both the beginning and the end dabbled with stuff that, simply put, was not nearly as interesting or entertaining as the meat of the book. Had Pax Omega been my introduction to this world and its characters, I'm not at all sure that my interest would have been held. At times, only the knowledge of how much fun it could be kept me turning the pages.

Copyright © 2012 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 www.inkdigital.org.


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