|Genre(s)||Alternate history, Horror novel|
|Publisher||New English Library|
|Media type||Print (Paperback & Hardback)|
|Pages||330 pp (first edition, paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-00-647600-7 (first edition, paperback)|
'48 is a 1996 alternate history horror novel by British horror author James Herbert. The book follows an American pilot stranded in a dystopian London after Hitler, moments before being completely defeated, uses a biological weapon in the shape of V2 missiles, that wipes out the human race with the Blood Death - aside from those who suffer the Slow Death and those with AB blood type.
The story is written in first person from the viewpoint of the American pilot, Hoke, and tends to ramble in his thoughts which sometimes leads us to question his sanity - even he suggests several times that he may not 'have all his marbles'.
The story follows an American pilot, Hoke, who lives alone in the streets, constantly hidden and on the run from a gang of diseased and terminal Blackshirts, afflicted with the 'Slow Death', who attempt to capture him to use his blood to save their leader, Lord Hubble, via a blood transfusion.
Desperate to capture Hoke as his life draws nearer to its end, Hubble sends his entire force out to capture the American pilot. Hoke escapes thanks to the aid of three fellow 'ABneg' survivors - two women and a German navigator, shot down over Britain long ago.
Hoke, being used to three years alone, detests his saviours and, corrupted by propaganda, is almost unable to contain himself in the presence of the German even though the war has long since ended - this forces the reader to question Hoke's sanity, and to sympathise with the 'enemy' and wonder if Hoke will accept his friend, or do something terrible to him.
With the V2 missiles came two types of the same disease. First is the Blood Death which kills the subject instantly in a gruesome way. The arteries become blocked and explode, the skin splits and blood pours from every orifice. The Slow Death has the same climax but takes longer to work, up to years, and weakens the subject, blackens their fingers and hands and bruises their body internally. Victims of the Slow Death are generally much weaker and slower to react than the AB negs, however some individuals (such as McGruder, Hubble's bodyguard) seem less prone to its debilitating effects.
A main theme throughout this book is the effect of propaganda, shown by the relationship between our main character and the German survivor. Since their meeting, the German survivor happily sides with the American - who, in turn, loathes the German, as we see thanks to our main character's narration - referring to him as 'fritz' and constantly mentally threatening him with death. This causes us to sympathize with the German, and to doubt our main character's morals.