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The Afrika Reich: A Novel Hardcover – February 12, 2013
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“What Guy Saville knows is violence: violence against animals, children, and those seeking change through the political process. He's spent a career facing it on the journalistic front lines and–admirably–raising public awareness against it, and now he's combined it with heavy research to breathe life into history's greatest villains.” ―Kirkus
“Saville gets everything right--providing suspenseful action sequences, logical but enthralling plot twists, a fully thought through imaginary world, and characters with depth.” ―PW
“A skin-of-the-teeth escape at the end foreshadows a series.” ―Kirkus
“Saville's debut novel makes an energetic leap into alternate history….they'll enjoy the wild, running battle against contemporary history's greatest villains.” ―Thomas Gaughan, Booklist
“an imaginative and entertaining journey” ―The Forward
“The Afrika Reich has been meticulously researched, which raises it a significant cut above the average airport thriller.” ―BookBrowse
“[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.” ―The Economist, Books of the Year 2011
“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
“Fatherland for an action movie age” ―Daily Telegraph
“An horrific reimaging of the Dark Continent” ―The Times
“A thoroughly enjoyable and compelling read” ―The Sun
- Publisher : Henry Holt and Co.; 1St Edition (February 12, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0805095934
- ISBN-13 : 978-0805095937
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.46 x 1.37 x 9.58 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,559,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The disaster at Dunkirk plays a heavy role in this novel and on its main protagonist, a Burton Cole. Cole is semi-retired but is recruited for another mission to assassinate the German in charge of most of Africa, a man who happened to have murdered his mother decades before. Things quickly go awry however and as the team tries desperately to escape the Nazis they uncover a larger plot to seize several of the British colonial holdings despite the Casablanca Peace Accord.
For the most part I enjoyed this book though it has its flaws. The ignoring of basic DISTANCE is probably the worse; villains seem to show up at one end of the continent and then the other only hours later, while our heroes take hours to traverse relatively small distances. There's a bit of coincidence that seems unlikely given the size of the continent, but one can excuse it a bit since it's an action thriller as much as an alternate history. The Nazi plans for Africa are well researched and based on ideas brought out by the Nazi hierarchy in the early days of the Reich.
Very recommended for fans of alternate history and those interested in what the Nazis had plan to do after their initial victory.
That the author has lived in Africa really shines through in his descriptions of how the air tastes and feels, the flora, even the grit and dirt - the setting comes alive as a character in its own right.
The world building is excellent. I loved the exploration of colonialism and the 'what would have happened if Germany became a great colonial power' in this book. Some of this is drawn from historical documents and extrapolations of what might have come to be if Germany had dominated the world after WWII; others are natural evolutions of this from the author's imagination. There weren't really a lot of intrusive info dumps to build the world, which I found very satisfying. I HATE Robert Jordan-type, bloated info dumps and self-indulgent description.
Characters & characterisation: as this is a series, I wasn't expecting a huge arc for the main character. I was very satisfied with the slow unveiling of Burton Cole and his past. Some of this is done as flashbacks, which I did find clunky at first, but then these became less obtrusive as the book went on. The characters' motivations are clear and believable and I WILL be reading the next book as I like Burton and find the antagonist, Hochberg, fascinating. There is a minor romance plot which leaves you wanting more.
The book is written from multiple POVs, with Cole the main carrier of the bulk of the chapters. It works really well, but then that's what you expect from this genre.
Plot: Fast, page turning, with cliff hangers at the end of many chapters. Lots of get-out-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth and hurt-me-bad action, and a few big, satisfying explosions.
What I didn't like: the rationale for then entire mission was weak. I won't give it away, but Guy Saville could have beefed this up a lot more and done a darnside more foreshadowing. This was a let down... the ending certainly wasn't.
Top reviews from other countries
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.