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40 Years by Bernd Struben

01/02/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy 40 Years in the USA - or Buy 40 Years in the UK

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pub: Strider Nolan Media. 194 page enlarged paperback. Price: $ 9.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-932045-02-4.

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In a desperate bid to populate the galaxy ahead of the dreaded Pfrlanx, a battalion of Augmented Combat Personnel spend their lives travelling from world to world to conquer the locals and subjugate them to the Empire of Mankind. At first the précis sounds a bit clichéd and the soldiers initially come across as stereotyped, but in this novel Struben has developed a complex and long history rich with personal tragedy and large-scale atrocity that amounts to a very powerful piece of work.

We are introduced to a large number of soldiers under the command of Captain D'Marr as they begin the conquest of the four-armed Borrel race. There seemed to be too many characters to keep track of, but the close-knit military unit quickly becomes familiar as the soldiers reveal the numerous motives that drive them. The rookies are keen to get out and kill as many aliens as they can, the more experienced officers are after a quick and minimal campaign, while some dream of a better life. The internal conflicts are just as important as the external battles as the future of mankind's expansion comes into question.

The hardened soldiers and the fierce fighting are like 'Starship Troopers' on adrenaline, an uncompromising look at what it's like for the individual cogs in a great military machine. Struben treats us to a vast array of arms and armament, with numerous flashbacks to previous missions that inform the technological and emotional development of the unit. The scale is vast - the soldiers living through centuries in cryo-sleep interspersed with numerous brief missions - allowing the consequences of long-range travel and colonisation to add an extra dimension to the tale.

It's not a perfect book. There are several occasions where the author repeats himself unnecessarily, but then I've seen that in books by much better known authors, too. Such minor quibbles don't really distract from the elegant unfolding of the plot as we become privy to more information and come to understand the consequences of what is happening. I enjoyed this book immensely and particularly if you're a fan of military SF then I'm sure you'd enjoy it, too.

Gareth D. Jones

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This book has 13 votes in the sci-fi charts

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