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The Afrika Reich Paperback – 15 Sep 2011
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Saville gives us an horrific reimagining of the Dark Continent (The Times)
[the] plot is clever, imaginative and, in its finale, wholly unexpected. In a crowded field, THE AFRIKA REICH stands out as a rich and unusual thriller, politically sophisticated and hard to forget. (Economist)
Fatherland for an action movie age (Daily Telegraph)
THE AFRIKA REICH is a gripping novel and a remarkable exercise in alternate history. (Jacinto Anton in El Pais)
Set in a world in which Britain made peace with Hitler after 1940, this account of a mercenary mission to Africa makes for an engrossing and convincing debut. (Sunday Express Books of the Year 2011)
If readers like terrifying stories behind a dense layer of historical depiction this is an unexpected and unforgettable story that they must read. (Geopolitique Africaine)
Promises to intrigue readers with an imaginative tale of what might have been . . . crafted as a fast-paced political thriller . . . offers readers an abundance of espionage, double-dealing, intrigue and scenes of Nazi sadism, all of which culminate in a not-to-be-divulged ending. Saville's tale is noteworthy not merely for transferring the nightmare of a victorious Nazi Reich to an exotic location, but for shifting our attention to new features of Nazi criminality. (Forward)
a tough adventure yarn, a sort of Wilbur Smith on speed. (Business Day (South Africa))
This graphic, pacy alternate history thriller is scarily convincing. (Australian)
Saville's alternate world is so carefully crafted that it is all too believable. (Jewish Chronicle)
A brilliant thriller with a modern sensibility and super-fast pace, with suspenseful touches that will delight fans of classic thrillers and films.See all Product description
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The book has an old-school feel about it, and reminded me a bit of Len Deighton's classic SS-GB, which has not-unrelated subject matter.
On the minus side, nearly every Nazi in the book comes across as a bloodthirsty fanatic. I think a bit more shading could have been used there.
Also, here and there the prose is clunky and needed more thorough editing. I think the publisher should have caught this.
Storytelling is a bit bland though. The plot is your basic action hero against your basic genocidal maniac. Insert overwhelming odds, soldier camaraderie and big explosions at will. It's not bad, but it's nothing new either.
Characterization though is where this book let me down. Saville makes the classic mistake of making his villain not only supernaturally intelligent and fantastically capable, but also completely insane. His whole reasoning for hating the main hero is so incredibly ludicrous, that I felt like throwing the book out of the window when it was revealed. But that is topped by the 'secret ingredient' of the main road the Germans are building through the African continent and for which he is responsible. By that point, suspension of disbelief was no longer possible and the book had lost me.
However, the real low point is Burton Cole himself. As the main hero, he's good at fighting and...and that's it. There are no other qualities this guy possesses. He's not loyal, since he breaks every promise he makes, both to his men and to the woman he loves. He's not a good leader, since he manages to get each and every of his men killed.
He's also as dumb as a post. Literally every decision this guy makes in the first half of the book is the wrong one (the second half mainly consists of him running away from the consequences of his mistakes). Not only that, but every time he goes into discussion with his men, and they point out the obvious flaws in his reasoning, he still goes ahead and gets some more of them killed.
His best friend doesn't call him out on this. On the contrary, although this guy is introduced as a hard-case who tells Burton he will leave him behind the first sign of trouble, he actually sticks with him from one disastrous decision to the next until he ends up dead. At the end, not only had I zero interest in the next adventures of Burton Cole, I actually disliked him thoroughly.
The Afrika Reich is a barely capable first part of a trilogy that didn't invite me to read the sequels. I still gave it three stars for the highly engaging alternate world Saville has built, but it's a world that deserved a more interesting story, and a better class of hero.