A group of World War One soldiers marooned on a hostle planet set out to rescue their missing tank.
Book Review Pat Kelleher The Ironclad Prophesy 2011 Abaddon Books
The second in the series of No Man’s World fantasy / horror novels dealing with a division of British soldiers stranded on a very hostile alien World, after being snatched from the Somme in 1917.
Down to about five hundred men now, the men gain some morale from seeing the poppies of the Somme mud have started to grow wildly on the Hell World, and actually pose a threat to the deadly native vegetation.
Little else gives them hope though. The tank crew have vanished on reconnaissance mission, and the alien human-insect-hybrid like hordes that have been held back by fear of the powerful machine are now attacking more frequently, because it is not being deployed.
The lead character, known as Only Atkins, is sent with a field nurse, a captured Chatt (insect entity) and small division, to track down the tank crew and bring it back if they can.
The story now weaves between the three parties of Earthlings on the hostile World. The men on the Somme disc of mud that was snatched from Earth holdout against the aliens, and find that some mysterious hypnotic force is causing both humans and insect-hordes to stand sill, gazing into the sky, awaiting the arrival of a host of flying jellyfish monsters that are being drawn over by the wind.
The tank crew have indeed run into problems – one alien monster has fallen in love with the tank and actually tries to rape it with the men inside. However it is their internal conflicts that really endanger them. The tank is fuelled by a highly toxic native alcohol – considered too deadly to drink, but able to replace the long since exhausted Earth petrol that drove the tank. Trouble is, the fruit-fuel fumes affect the tank interior and the men are going increasingly insane with visions. Their leader in particular begins to see himself as a god, and offers a friendly native tribe that he can save them from a formidable cave dwelling monster of immense power.
The squaddies led by Only struggle desperately against the crazed tank crew, and the monsters that hamper their own quest to bring back the Ivanhoe (the name given to the tank) safely, in time to save their friends at the little piece of England trapped on their far from home doom-scape World. The danger of mutiny and conflict between the men of the same army is played out very well here.
Well written pulp drawing several comparisons between the alien hordes and the conditions of real warfare’s own horrors – the jellyfish entities are compared to zeppelins, and the alien creatures are beginning to realize how much they outnumber the Earth invaders, who just want to go home. The men, running lower in numbers and ammunition, now fear a full-blown attack by the enemy.
There is little mention here of the crazed human sorcerer, Jeffries, who brought them all to the strange and deadly planet. However, a few clues have been found to his wherabouts by the close of the story ready for a search for him to begin in book three in the series.