You know, there are often times when I get a book through the post, one I've not heard of before, and think - shall I or shan't I? This was the case with 40 Years by Bernd Struben from Strider Nolan Media. The cover didn't really appeal to me and pique my interest that much, but reading the blurb did. It sounded like the sort of book I would enjoy and I instantly thought of John Scalzi's Old Man's War books, a series I've enjoyed immensely. 40 Years is also a fairly short novel, standing at just shy of 200 pages, so when I browsed my to-read stack this stood out as one I should try - I wasn't going to lose much by giving it a shot. I can honestly say that I was so glad I did decide to pick it up - it's a quick read that packs so much into it's pages and left me wanting more!
Brink D'Mar is the commander we follow through 40 Years as the ACP arrive at a new planet ripe for the taking. The usual tactics of suppression don't work and the ACP find themselves in a bitter fight against the natives who just don't want to give up their land. While humanity's enemy, the Pfrlanx, choose to genocide a native population in order to gain access to the planet and its resources, this is not something humanity does, instead preferring to oppress the population before taking control of the planet, leaving the natives alive and consigned to specific areas. Not used to fighting this sort of war they have to make some choices that not everyone agrees with, but they make a discovery that surprises even them.
The first thing I have to say about 40 Years is that it is a well written novel that makes you want to read more. Bernd Struben has done an excellent job of portraying the ACP forces and the natives, leaving much to be embraced about the story. The action is fast and furious, well thought out and not unreasonable, while the society presented on the planet is strange, yet relatable. He's created some good aliens here, but much of the story focuses on D'Mar and the choices both made by him and the ACP force as a whole.
One of the questions I found he handled particularly well was that of genocide - is it right, why should it be done and what would the consequences of such an action be. The Pfrlanx are spoken about many times and the overall impression is that they do not care about the inhabitants of the planets they take and annihilate them all to take the system as their own, a point that humanity make when trying to talk to the natives of the planet they are invading. We also have a character that is tired of the wars that humanity are fighting and instead want to live side by side with the aliens they meet rather than above them, something that gives the reader that other perspective that is needed in a story of this type.
Speaking of characters, Struben has a variety here that all work together as part of a unit, and as part of the hierarchy of a military force. There's the group that is tiring of the way life is going, while others strictly adhere to the orders given by their superiors. The interactions and discussions that go on are interesting and varied, helping to flesh out both the characters and the story.
Suffice to say that Bernd Struben has delivered an impressive novel, full of military action, good characters, believable conditions and interesting storylines. There's talk of a sequel to this book and I'll be making damned sure I pick it up as soon as humanly possible! Great stuff.