Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: 40 Years by Bernd Struben


Jill over at Strider Nolan Media got into contact with me and asked me to read and review this a while back already, but now I find myself wishing that I had gotten to it sooner! :-) 40 Years is an enjoyable, exciting SF novel!

40 Years is basically about war in all its bloody, gory glory. I’ve never fought through one (and hope never to do so), but some would say it’s necessary. Is it really, though? Must thousands or millions die just to prove how strong a particular government is? Imagine, if you will, this scenario:

Your side has the uber-firepower, the numbers, the training. The ‘enemy’ doesn’t. You land upon their soil, wanting to take it for your people, and then can’t understand why the ‘enemy’ is fighting back, even though they don’t have a hope in hell of winning. But when one of your men is struck down, oh, now there’s righteous anger, and you alone can score hundreds of kills in a minute. Is this war? You have to ask yourself that, because I can practically assure you that similar events have taken place in our history.

These are the kinds of questions Bernd tackles in 40 Years.

We are introduced to Captain Brink D’Mar, a respected and talented Augmented Combat Personnel officer fighting alongside his fellow ACP soldiers in a race to claim as many habitable planets for the Empire of Man as possible; you see, there’s an other race claiming planets, too, but when they find a new planet, they systematically kill every living organism on the planet before settling it. They’re called Pfrlanx, and the Empire of Man is engaged in the Great Race with them.

At the end of the Race will come a lull-period, and then the Great War will begin. Wars need warm fighting bodies and weapons to fight with, and any habitable planet, including the sentients, if any, living on it, will just have to do what they can to provide for whichever side finds them first.

When D’Mar and his fellow ACP’s reach a new planet, 40 years from the nearest staging area, they have only one intention – get in quick, subdue the native population, prepare the way for civilians, and get out. But there’s a surprise waiting for them on the planet, and by the end of the novel, they will all have made choices that will affect the rest of their lives.

Bernd can write! Following D’Mar and his fellow ACP, it comes through clearly that Bernd is one of those people who knows people – the dialogue is rich and varied, suiting the moment or event, with each character having his own voice and distinct personality. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, plenty of moments when you can’t help but sit back and really think about you’re reading – Bernd has got a gift that makes us look long and hard at the one thing humanity is always engaged in -war- and realize that it’s not all CNN updates. He brings a humanity to his story that many authors struggle to find and use.

The action in 40 Years is great! We are treated to very cool machines, ground-based and flight-capable, weapons, armor-suits, nano -technology, you name it, its there. There are some gruesome moments, but that’s war, folks -and I do like the gruesome stuff, anyway- and some very cool “Wow!” moments, spread so well throughout the novel that you practically zip through it. There is no slowing-down here – the plot picks up steam and holds that pace, right to the end.

What was also handled very well was the worldbuilding or information that Bernd lets us know about. When we are told about the history of the Empire of Man and the genesis of the Great Race, it’s never boring and is well-placed; it serves as a hook to pull you deeper into the story with you hardly noticing because it’s so interesting. :-)

One thing that people might have an issue with is the length of 40 Years, and the character development. It’s a short, quick read, perfect for those off-days when you don’t need to go to work, so don’t expect to sink away for days; but it works. I just couldn’t help feeling that if the book had been longer the characters would have been cooler – D’Mar is practically the only character we fully get to know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if the other characters in 40 Years are cardboard cut-outs – there are plenty, and they’re all wonderful and cool, but they would all have been nicely well-rounded and fleshed-out if they had gotten more time to develop.

All in all, 40 Years is great! It’s a welcome addition to the Military SF genre, introducing some great characters that no-one would mind reading about, and is sure to set Bernd up as a future bestseller! I look forward to the sequel, 40 Years Later, and to every other book Bernd will write! :-)

7/10

To order your copy of 40 Years, click here for US and here for UK; those in SA, please use the link at the top of the page. Also, check out Strider Nolan Media’s website for info on them and their other titles.

Be Fantastic!

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