As Above, So Below

KarnakJust because no one worships them anymore doesn’t mean the ancient Egyptian gods are gone forever. All gods, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, or otherwise, have infinite patience. They’re just waiting around until the time is right for a comeback.

But if all the ancient gods are on hiatus, what exactly does that mean? Here’s one theory: According to Hermeticism (a philosophy that embraces the mysteries of the universe), the physical world represents the heavens, and the heavens represent the physical world. The two are basically interchangeable. What happens here on earth is a direct reflection of what’s going on in the celestial realm. As above, so below.

Think about it. If the pantheon of ancient Egyptian gods has been displaced because of a heavenly reorg, what (or who) replaced them? Mankind perhaps? And if so, does that mean we possess the ability to manipulate the heavens too? Magic Eightball says “Sure, why not?”

Obviously this power vacuum offers an opportunity for an enterprising madman to take control of Aaru, Duat, and all the temples of Karnak. All he has to do is resurrect Thoth (the architect of heaven) and Sekhmet (the daughter of the sun) and burn down Manhattan (otherwise known as the Empire of Greed).

That, in a nutshell, is the crisis Gabriel Cross faces in his latest adventure. Cross (aka the Ghost) is familiar with all sorts of supernatural shenanigans. In two previous superhero/pulp/steampunk novels (read our reviews here and here) he dispatched an army of moss men, monsters from an alternative dimension, giant one-eyed squids, and a riot of itchy raptors. More than anyone else, the Ghost has the experience (and the gadgets) to smash any sort of shaggy apocalyptic cult that shows up uninvited to his front door.

But this time the Ghost needs a little bit of help. In the very first chapter, he suffers debilitating injuries from a guy encased in a Gundam/Appleseed-like armored suit. Consequently, to squash the Cult of Thoth, he must put together a preternatural version of the Howling Commandos that includes his sharp-shooting girlfriend, a persnickety museum curator, a necromancer, a couple of inspectors from the New York Police Department, and an 18th century automation. Ghost Gang assemble!

As always, the Ghost is a compelling character who moves between shadows “like a specter, swift and silent.” Like the Shadow he’s a combat veteran who’s ongoing war with criminals gives him a purpose in life. And like Batman, he’s a wealthy dilettante by day who patrols the night with a cache of cool gadgets. His tactics might be anathema, but he gets the job done. “We’re better with him, than without him,” says one crime scene detective.

Despite his well-earned rep, Gabriel Cross isn’t the hero of this particular book. He’s just an ineffectual peripheral character. It’s actually Ginny Gray and Astrid Lunn, two members of his Ghost Gang, who dismantle the Thoth/Sekhmet alliance. We like the Ghost (and we’re looking forward to the next book in the series, Ghosts of Empire), but these two wildcats steal the spotlight every time they report for duty. To paraphrase the quote from the previous paragraph: “Ghosts of Karnak is better with them, than without them.”

[Ghosts of Karnak / By George Mann / First Printing: May 2016 / ISBN: 9781783294169]

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