40 Years
by Bernd Struben, futuristic (2008)
Strider Nolan Publishing, $9.95, ISBN 978-1-932-04502-4


40 Years is a very slim novel, which explains its cover price of $9.95, usually an unheard of low amount for a trade paperback published via print-on-demand technology. As I am reading this slim military science-fiction tale, I can't help but to wonder whether this short story will be better off repackaged as a comic or something to that effect.

Captain Brink D'Mar leads a team of Augmented Combat Personnel or ACP that perform the dirty work needed to allow humans to win the colonization race. You see, the folks spearheading the colonization efforts have a party line which says that taking over a planet and subjugating its folks are necessary because those folks will fare worse should the aliens known as the Pfrlanx get to that planet first. As an ACP, Brink doesn't think too much about the ACP Battalion's efforts to take over the planet and drive the locals to approved settlements while humans swoop in and claim everything else as theirs. He's not programmed to think, after all. He just fights, and when he has done his job, sleeps in his cryogenic chamber until he is awakened for his next mission.

Of course, that will change when Brink finally leads his men to a faraway planet where the folks refuse to surrender no matter how obvious it seems to everyone else that these Borrells have little chance of winning against the ACPs. For the first time, Captain D'Mar begins wondering whether he is doing the "right" thing...

40 Years, by the way, refers to the fact that it takes about that amount of time for anyone to reach the planet of New Columbia where the ACPs and the Borrells are waging their war of attrition. In other words, if Brink decides to give his bosses the finger, he can't choose a better planet to do his finger waving on, heh.

I like this story. The parallels to anything in history that you wish to make - the inhuman treatment of Native Americans and Australasian aborigines by the colonists of their lands, for example - are very obvious here, but that doesn't make this story any less readable. The only problem here is that the short length of the story doesn't allow the author to give his story as much depth as I'd have liked. The story is over before I can begin to care about the characters.

In a way, I feel that the author has done this story a disservice by releasing it as a standalone short novel. Perhaps he could have bundled this one with other shorter efforts and released them in a single collection? Making this one a comic would also be one way to make this story stand out. As it is, 40 Years is a decent and entertaining - if occasionally heavy handed - story, but it is also on the forgettable side. The party is over before it has ever begun.

Rating: 78


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