Tracking the murderer of her fiance through 19th century London’s darkest warrens, Jacky Snapp has disguised herself as a boy. But the disguise fails when she tries to save a girl from the ghost of her jealous husband. Jacky soon finds that she has made herself visible to the ghosts that cluster around the Thames…
And one of them is the ghost of her fiancee, who was poisoned and physically transformed by his murderer and unwittingly shot dead by Jacky herself.
Jacky and the girl she rescued, united in the need to banish their pursuing ghosts, learn that their only hope is to flee upriver to the barge known as Nobody’s Home — where the exorcist whose name is Nobody charges an intolerable price.
Those familiar with Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates, which I have previously talked about as part of my Mining the Genre Asteroid, should be jumping up and down in their seats right now. Nobody’s Home, for those familiar with the details in the precis, is set firmly within the world of his landmark time travel novel.
At 80 pages long, Nobody’s Home is much more of a novella than an actual novel. The tight focus on Jacky and her new ally, Harriet, though, gives us a viewpoint through the world of Powers’ 19th century London that never wears out its welcome. Although it sits within the wide ranging time frame of The Anubis Gates rather than being a prequel or sequel, there is still plenty of dramatic tension to go around in the story. More importantly, the novella drops readers right back into the delicious, alien weirdness that is Powers’ 19th century London without missing a beat. Powers’ 19th century London is like none other, and this story brings that right to the fore. From the London Stone to doings on the Thames, the sense of place is note perfect with The Anubis Gates. This novella could have been written right after The Anubis Gates for all that it so effectively brings readers into that space and time once again.
In addition, it’s a crucial story about Jacky. While Harriet’s dilemma and problem are interesting, the real treat for readers of The Anubis Gates here is what we learn about Jacky. While the plot beats of her story are mapped out, here, in Nobody’s home, we get beats of her emotional arc and story that aren’t explicitly laid out in The Anubis Gates. I had a real “aha” moment as this story hurtled toward its conclusion with its revelations about Jacky and her story and her coming to grips with it unfurled. I understand her better as a character now than when I did before reading it.
And did I mention the illustrations? Artist J.K Potter (who illustrated other works put out by Subterranean Press) has lent his talents here. In an eye-catching style, the book features sepia portraits and people-focused imagery. I particularly liked his illustration of Dog-face Joe, whose actions in the Anubis Gates hang over and drive the plot of this story in Nobody’s Home. The period styling really brings the text to another level of immersion.
Subterranean Press has done a great service to fans of The Anubis Gates in bringing readers another story and more characters from that rich and powerful world. I’d not recommend this to those poor souls who have not read The Anubis Gates, as it does not work as an entry into that world, but as an adjunct to The Anubis Gates, it is a rare and fine treasure to be savored.