'48 (novel)

'48 (James Herbert novel - cover art).jpg
First ion
AuthorJames Herbert
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreAlternative history
Published1996 (Harper Collins)
Media typePrint (Paperback & Hardback)
Pages330 pp (first ion, paperback)
ISBN0-00-647600-7 (first ion, paperback)

'48 is a 1996 alternative history novel by British horror author James Herbert. The book follows an American pilot stranded in a dystopian London after Adolf Hitler, moments before being completely defeated, uses a biological weapon delivered by V-2 missiles, which mostly wipes out the human race.

Plot summary[]

The story follows an American pilot, Hoke,[1] 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.


With the V-2 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.


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