Review: Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler

Only Victor Gischler can make a book titled Gestapo Mars work.

This is the quintessential example of a guilty pleasure to read. You know you should abhor the idea, yet you can’t put it down. And in the end, you may even feel the need to go take a shower. Scrub off the first and second layer of skin before feeling even remotely cleansed. But at the same time, you’ll tell your friends, “You’ve got to read this.”

Gestapo Mars is a publication from Titan Books, scheduled for print in September 2015’

Gestapo Mars CoverThe cover art is almost as striking as the story itself. Titan in-house artist Julia Lloyd has taken elements of a red alien landscape, some retro style flying saucers, and the shadowy lower torso of a sexy woman’s silhouette high stepping in a traditional Gestapo march. It is a symbolic image of the contents within where readers will find themselves doing a double take both on the inside and on the outside.

As the story begins, Carter Sloan is a highly trained operative brought out of cryogenic stasis after 258 years of hibernation. The advancements have evolved to the point where all agents have some sort of traceable technological enhancement. The government of the Nazi Reich has changed also. As new dangers arise, the powers to be have decided to go old school once again. Agent Sloan’s assets lie in his training. He has the ability to infiltrate the enemy’s forces without the same detection other operatives face. Newly assigned to search out and eliminate the daughter of the enemy known as the Brass Dragon, he is once again put into service for his government.

Thanks to the unusual plotline, the character Carter Sloan is an enigma in a literary sense. Being the story’s protagonist, readers will feel obligated to cheer for him at every turn. Yet, when considering he represents one of the vilest military regimes in the history of humanity, that timid little voice looking over your shoulder cries out in horror at the shameful possibility.

This is where my literary senses came in and slapped me back to reality with a reminder. That sneaky fine-print disclaimer we’ve seen so many times on the publisher’s page says it all. “This is a work of fiction.” People, places and things are all figments of the author’s twisted imagination “except for satirical purposes,” of course. And this is where Gischler shines.

So what does this mean we should expect from the author here? Let’s see, Gestapo Mars comes from the guy who brought us science fiction works like Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, and Vampire a Go Go, along with his recent dip into the fantasy realm with Ink Mage (previously mentioned here with future plans of reviewing the second installment in the series The Tattooed Duchess). His other works in the crime noir field as well as being a popular writer for the comic book industry should be evidence enough that he is a talented writer.

But if you need proof, this is a good place to start. With a nod and a wink (and the literary disclaimer), it looks like Gischler had some fun.

For instance, Sloan is a character not unlike the charismatic Austin Powers, except without all of the flashy clothes, twisted teeth and bad British humor. You might even notice a hint of James Bond in this. There is however a lot more explicit sex and over the top violence, all of which is necessary to the integral to the story.

One might also liken the Nazi Reich to the Empire of Star Wars. Readers won’t hear much about the atrocities of the past, we just know that the Reich controls the galaxy and as long as you play along, you’ll be under their protection. But if you rebel, they’ll use every resource available to extinguish the threat. It’s kinda like a Vader perspective. Yup, there are quite a few references to Star Wars, but all within the nomenclature of the disclaimer, I’m sure.

Throw in a mean gelatinous race of aliens known as the Coriandons who want in on the whole “ruling the galaxy” thing, and you have a reader conundrum of who to cheer for. Oh, and the Coriandons also have a giant ship that might remind you of the Death Star. With some interesting twists on the ship’s vulnerabilities, we get to see another wink from Gischler as he pays homage to (or makes fun of) the classic film.

Star Wars wasn’t the only tongue-in-cheek comparative work found here. There are plenty of flashes throughout the book where readers will draw on other classics, and get it. I’m sure we’ve seen cyborg prostitutes and talking dogs someplace before? Right?

In the end, readers will have as much fun reading Gestapo Mars as it appears Victor Gischler had writing it. With so many twists and turns, you never know where the next page will take you. All the while, pushing the limits of political correctness, the book still avoids the nastiness we’ve loathed from actual history and relies more on the archetypical strengths fandom has grown to expect from a galactic empire.

As a fan of Gischler, I wanted this book to work. It does. I got it.

The tag line on the back cover calls it, “An unapologetic science fiction novel of sex, violence, and Nazis.” You might feel a little dirty afterwards, but you’ll also be looking for the sequel.

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