3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Much more than a boy's own story - intelligent action adventure set in a darkly imagined alternate history, 3 Sept. 2011
Much, much more than a Boy's Own story, the Afrika Reich is an intelligent action adventure set in a convincing and darkly imagined alternate history.
By switching the arena to Africa, this novel offers a wholly new take on the "What if Hitler had won the war?" premise. There are uncomfortable parallels with the actual history of colonial exploitation in Africa, and instead of goodies versus baddies, morality is nuanced. The villain, Hochburg, is psychotic and grandiose - but he has been allowed to flourish, not just by Hitler, but by the cynical realpolitik of the British, who have reached an accommodation with the Nazis in order to protect their own interests in the region. Even the heroes, Cole and Patrick, are mercenaries, whose reasons for joining the fray are personal, not ideological.
The conflict between loyalty and betrayal, rescue and abandonment, runs through the novel at every level, driving the plot and underpinning the relationships between the characters. Cole and Patrick in particular have a history as brothers-in-arms, which seems more real than their rather abstract fantasies about settling down with the women they love. What kept me reading - more than finding out who was going to be left standing at the end of each battle, or even the solution to the mystery which sends Cole on his mission in the first place - was the question of whether or not their loyalty to each other would survive under fire.
Hochburg treats Africa as one undifferentiated landmass, epitomised by his attempt to conquer its vast distances with huge autobahns. By contrast, the locations in the book are vividly and precisely realised- jungle, savannah, plantations, an eerie modern city inhabited only by white people. It is no accident that the action kicks off in a place of skulls in the heart of darkness of the former Belgian Congo, and has its ending at the beginning, in Loanda, the first European trading post in southern Africa.
Yes, the heroes prevail through a mixture of luck and extraordinary feats of endurance - but that's true of the survivors of many a real conflict. Similarly, there's a psychological truth at work with those characters who refuse to just lie down and die. I was happy to accept the conventions of the genre, and sit back and admire the choreography. As an action adventure, it delivers, and there are some wonderful set pieces, culminating in a truly cathartic ending which left me feeling as shell-shocked and exhausted as if I'd fought alongside Cole and Patrick.
Whether you like action adventures, alternate realities or just well-written fiction, I would highly recommend this book - and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.