"Gestapo Mars" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Titan Books
Written by Victor Gischler
2015, 304 pages, Fiction
Released on September 22nd, 2015
Discussing the merits of pulp is like talking about meat in the sense that you’ll always find folks who can’t digest it or choose not to consume it for a plethora of reasons. If you belong to the group of readers that enjoy it, know this: Victor Gischler’s Gestapo Mars is the literary equivalent of filet mignon with a side of fries and a cold, cold beer. Hyperviolent, oversexed, full of crazy ideas, packed with action, and delivered at breakneck speed, Gestapo Mars brings together the best of what sci-fi pulp has to offer and then sprinkles enough smart ideas and humor on top to make it the kind of book even those who think they’ll hate it should read.
Carter Sloan is a trained assassin. Well, he’s a trained assassin out of commission and on a long, cold cryogenic nap. He’s been in that state for 258 years, his longest stretch. Then his skills are required to accomplish a job, so he gets woken. The government needs him to hunt down a dangerous and very mysterious enemy known as the Daughter of the Brass Dragon. They tell him the future of the galaxy-spanning Reich is hanging in the balance, but not much else. Sloane is not in the best of moods after being shelved for so long and then learning how much things have changed, but he knows he needs to follow orders. Unfortunately, nothing is exactly as he expected and everyone seems to have their own agenda. What follows is a wild ride through the galaxy that’s full of sex, violence, aliens, and the kind of discoveries that make even the best soldier doubt his mission.
Gischler wastes no time with unnecessary filler. From the first page, Gestapo Mars is filled to the brim with witty, humorous dialogue, space mayhem, and violence. That being said, there are a lot of great science fiction ideas in the narrative and a healthy dose of smart passages that remind readers that they’re in the hands of a superb author who’s having a hell of a lot of fun. For example, even though Sloane is fighting aliens and a member of the Reich, every time war/conflict/politics are discussed, the narrative dips into philosophy while retaining its nonstop action insanity:
The notion of them is the most unifying concept ever created. In order for the idea of us to mean anything, there must be a them. The vast majority of people are content to be left alone, and go about their business. But whisper in their ears that somebody else wants them to live their lives differently, and suddenly you’ve roused a sleeping tiger.
While there are several passages like the one above, most of Gestapo Mars is just dirty, sexy, aggressive pulp dressed up like a soap opera and festooned with a few elements that seem pulled out of bizarro fiction (an agent turned into a talking dog and some fighting/talking dinosaurs are just two of many examples). The dialogue crackles with the humor of cheesy 1980s action films, the hero is a strong, hypermanly womanizer, and the action is packed with explosions, shootouts, and enough twists and turns to keep the story interesting all the way to the end. Here’s a small taste of just how brutal and fun things get:
The behemoth wasn’t choosy. He swung the gun in a slow arc, slicing through scavenger and Reich soldiers alike. Men climbed over one another to get out of the way, battle cries changing to screams of panic and despair. Limbs tumbled through the air, trailing blood. Heads exploded. A Reich soldier standing over me was cut in half at the waist, a chunk of him falling to one side of me, the other chunk to the other side.
Gestapo Mars is what happens when an author who can deliver a superb story regardless of genre decides to have as much fun as possible with pulpy tropes while also injecting the narrative with his own voice and enough sharp concepts to make it into something special. If you like to read novels that make you laugh out loud and are more fun than a dozen angry chimpanzees let loose in a music festival, pick this one up today.