’48 by James Herbert is the most exciting book ever written. Probably. It’s certainly the most exciting book I have ever read (although Conan and the Road of Kings comes close.)
The story is set in 1948. Hence the title. When the Second World War was coming to an end and Hitler realised that the good guys were going to win, he implements his final solution. This involved firing a load of rockets that contained a deadly virus that pretty much wipes out the whole of mankind. Everyone except people with AB negative blood in fact, which is about 3% of the population. It’s the ultimate in spitting your dummy from the pram.
’48 begins with an American pilot who was stationed in London but is now just trying to survive. He is perfectly healthy because of his blood type. Not everyone got a full blast of the virus, so some are dying slowly. In London, most of the remaining ill-types happen to be blackshirts. British fascists who were fans of Hitler and had consequently been in the out-crowd for most of the 40s. They also happen to be slightly insane and want some healthy blood.
So we have the setting for a chase with diseased Fascists, lots of guns, all through a post-apocalyptic London. Which is pretty awesome.
As I said, this book is buttock clenchingly exciting. The first line is: ‘What the hell was that?’ There then follows an epic chase during which the main characters are established (our hero meets some friendly people), as is the setting and the premise. All while bullets fly, things catch fire, stuff explodes and buildings crumble. The first bit even resembling a moment of calm doesn’t arrive until about a third of the way in. Then it kicks off again until the end of the book where there is an epic showdown at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
48 isn’t flawless but the flaws don’t detract from what the book is trying to do. There isn’t a lot of plot but there rarely is in post-apocalypse tales, they are tales of survival. There are a few other questions such as why the blackshirts seem to have survived in such great numbers and are all diseased. Everyone else in the book has AB negative blood and is ok.
James Herbert’s ’48 isn’t deep but is just great fun. Highly enjoyable action/occasional horror fare. The characters are great and the action is relentless and well done. It should be a movie but I suspect it will give people heart attacks. I loved it and this was my second read of it.
Most. Exciting. Book. Ever.