Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden,
Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier & the Vampire
(Bantam, 2007)

The sheer size of Baltimore caught my attention before I ever heard a word about the novel. On most library shelves, it'd be tucked in with the oversized volumes.

The book itself is brilliant -- good quality paper with illustrations by Mike Mignola rendered in black and white on almost every page. More than anything, Baltimore reminds me of an illustrated library bound series I had growing up. If you love books and their construction, Baltimore is a joy to hold in your hands.

Reading the story by Christopher Golden is like picking up a Poe. Elements in the narrative are so very familiar, with just the subtle twists that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Baltimore opens with Captain Henry Baltimore musing on the difference between toy soldiers and the real ones as he is set to cross No Man's Land with his men to fight the Hessians during World War I. He is wounded and floats in and out of consciousness, literally buried in a trench of his dead men.

While fighting what he believes to be a carrion bird, he inadvertently injures the Red King, a vampire who was at that time feasting only on the dead. This act unleashes a plague -- which we know of as the influenza epidemic of 1919.

The book continues with similar tales told by Baltimore's three friends, who have each had their own encounters with supernatural beings in various guises. Then Baltimore's diary arrives with the former soldier's recollections.

Baltimore is a bleak read, but a fascinating one. The allegory of war at the beginning brought tears to my eyes. I definitely recommend you set aside whatever time you'd need to consume a 284-page novel when you start this book. If you're like me, you won't want to stop.

review by
Becky Kyle

17 May 2008

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