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Dulce at Decorum Est

One morsel review: a dieselpunk story set right on the fields of WWI, with a great atmosphere, a definitely noir mood, but maybe too distant characters.

Dulce et Decorum Est
John Paul Catton

Genre: dieselpunk
On the fields of WWI, an unexpected, mysterious and deadly enemy appears, changing everything. The soldiers call them Angels.

Second  installment in the Tales From Beyond Tomorrow series

If you have ever read anything dieselpunk, or watched any dieselpunk film or enjoyed any diesepunk art, you’ll know: WWI setting is the classic of classics for this genre.
This story is set right on the fields of WWI, in a wasteland that resembles Hell more than any place on earth, where angels walk.

Angels. This is how soldiers call the mysterious enemy they face, supernatural beings that changed war and the people involved in it.
There’s a strong sense of foreboding about these angels. Nobody knows what they are, where they came from, or why they are here. Everybody knows their destructive power. All the story revolves around the mystery surrounding them, which kept me reading. But, if I may be honest, I found the resolution a bit too cryptic. Well, at least for me. Which may or may not be a problem, since the ending stays in the same mood as the rest of the story. I just felt there was more I could (and should) have grasped.

The characters are also right into the tradition of noir disillusioned characters. Their sense of disempowerment invests the entire story. This is particularly true for Captain Blake, the main character, who’s a man who feels trapped and unable to save the men he’s responsible for.

I had kind of an issue with Captain Blake, though. He’s the main character, still I could never come close enough to him to really identify. I live all the story through him. I see the trenches though his eyes, I feel the foul, sticky air through his senses, I can read his every dark thought on what’s happening to him and his man. The narration is very vivid. And still, there is always a distance between Captain Blake and me, as it seems to be a distance between him and the story unfolding before his eyes. It’s like he’s a witness more than an actor, as if the actual story happened to someone else.
So, because of this distance of the main character from the story, I also felt detached, which in a way didn’t’ allow me to become involved as deep as I could have.
Bit of a shame, because all the other elements – atmosphere, historical details, dark mood – are very vivid. It was still an enjoyable read.

This is part of a collection of stories. Each story had been available individually, but a collection is coming out now gathering all of them, Tales From Beyond Tomorrow – Volume 1
Keep an eye out for it.

DULCE ET DECORUM EST (John Paul Catton) In the fields of WWI an enemy arises more terrible than anyone could ever imagine. Even more terrible than the enemy in the opposit trenches (book review)

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