Take a battalion of World War I British soldiers (a.k.a Tommies), and put them on a hostile alien jungle planet. Then, add several dozen ravenous monsters, and a race of talking bugs with a superiority complex. Next, sprinkle a shortage of ammunition, and a psychopathic murderer that makes Jack the Riper look like Mr. Rogers, and you’ve got the general premise for Pat Kelleher’s No Man’s World: Black Hand Gang. The end result is unique sci fi story that makes for a very entertaining read, and will keep you hooked for the possible sequel.
On November 1st 1916, the nine hundred men of the 13th Battalion of “The Pennine Fusiliers” are dug in on the Somme, waiting for the order to “go over the top” into an inevitable bloodbath. Without any warning, the entire battlefield (along with most the Pennines) is suddenly and unexpectedly transported to another world. The Pennnines emerge from their muddy trenches to find that their tiny section of the Western Front is smack in the middle of a primordial jungle. It isn’t long before the new arrivals attract some of the curious and rather vicious wildlife, and a bloody battle ensues.
The book is very well researched, and the reader will feel privy to the everyday going-ons of the average British Tommie in World War One. From insulting slang, to different types of trenches, as well as the uses and operations of various WWI-era weapons, Kelleher appears to have done his homework, as his British Tommies seem to be as close to the real deal as possible.
Much of the first portion of the book is set aside to build up the situation, as well as identify the numerous characters. Readers of war narratives will be familiar to this set up, as Kelleher spends a good deal of time establishing the “brothers in arms” mentality. The characters are unfortunately not very unique – there’s the good guy soldier that everyone admires, the despicable corporal that seems to hate everyone in his unit, and the Lieutenant that doesn’t want any responsibility – the characters aren’t really what the book is about, as it is more so about the absurd setting, and how on earth (no pun intended) they got there. His description of the planet is wonderful, and for most of the book, the reader will wonder how any of these men will be able to survive. How they got there is somewhat explained during the side story of the treacherous Lieutenant named Jefferies (who displays his Manson-like characteristics early in the book), and so the theme of the occult and black magic carries on through out the story.
What readers may not like though, is that No Man’s World is set up for a sequel; so do not expect any immediate answers. In addition, the author states that his story is based on a historical occurrence, although as far as I know, there aren’t any records of anything like this ever occurring. I give No Man’s World: Black Hand Gang 7 out of 10 ray guns.