George Mann's Ghosts Of Manhattan claims to be the first "steampunk superhero" novel, and now you can judge its pulpy, Jazz-age noir sensibility for yourself. Pyr Books has the first six goggle-wearing, thug-punching chapters online for free.

As a fan of Mickey Spillane and various other ultra-pulpy writers, I'm easily seduced by the kind of two-fisted prose Mann is serving up here. Plus it's an alternate 1926, where the United States is mired in a Cold War with a British Empire that's just buried Queen Victoria at the age of 106, after artificially extending her life. And not only is it an alternate history, but the Ghost, our superhero, has some special technology in his goggles:

Reaching up, the Ghost felt under the brim of his hat until his fingers located the rim of his goggles. He tugged them down over his eyes, turning the lenses slowly away from the bridge of his nose. Everything took on a red sheen. Targeting circles floated, disembodied, before his vision. He cranked the lenses once again, tiny cogs whirring inside the device, and the view suddenly magnified, becoming sharp and bright. He could see the sidewalk five stories below as if he were only a few feet away.

The sound came to him again, a stifled cry. The Ghost tracked along the sidewalk toward where he thought it had originated. There, by the mouth of an alleyway, was a large armored car, thick iron plates cladding its sides to form a tank-like vehicle, the windshield just a slit in the otherwise impenetrable metal sheeting. The engine was running, and the exhaust chimney was belching oily black smoke as it burned coal at a furious rate. Behind this, in the alleyway itself, he sensed movement. He decided to investigate.

The Ghost flicked a switch on the side of his goggles and the lenses snapped back into place, returning his vision to normal. He glanced along the edge of the building, looking for the quickest route down to street level. Just a few feet away, a steel fire-escape ladder was fixed to the outside of the building. Shrugging to loosen his shoulders, the Ghost pulled himself up onto the stone lip of the building, ran sure-footed but carefully along the top of it, and dropped easily onto the metal platform below. His heavy boots rang out into the quiet night. Then, gripping the railings with his gloved fists, he used his weight to slide down from platform to platform, hitting the sidewalk a matter of moments later.

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Check out the whole six-chapter preview over at Pyr Books.