Star Brigade: The New Renaissance by C.C. Ekeke. Review by Mervi Hämäläinen
The book begins in the year 2394. Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and met many intelligent species, some of them friendly, some less so. The setting is a vast Galactic Union of Planetary Republics made out of humans and many other species. The Union has many different neighbors, among them the Kedri Empire whose citizens are ferocious warriors. The Union has an elite force of super powered people, the Star Brigade, which protects the people against terrorists and other threats. If this sounds familiar, you should not be surprised: Ekeke combines ideas from comic books, Star Trek, Star Wars, and various other science fiction traditions. The mix is quite enjoyable, although rough.
The main character of the book is Habraum Nwosu, whose ancestors come from Africa. At the beginning of the book he is a war prisoner of a mechanical species, the Cybernarrs. Apparently, he befriends one of the purported emotionless beings who then lets him go. Habraum is reunited with his girlfriend and family, and is hailed as a war hero. Later he is recruited into the Star Brigade.
The next chapter opens nine years later. Habraum has married his girlfriend and they have a child. He has risen to a rank of Captain among the Brigade. However, a year ago his wife died in an accident and soon after that, one of Habraum's missions ended in a disaster which he was the only one to survive. He has panic attacks because of the mission and left the Brigade.
During Habraum's year-long absence, the Brigade has fallen in disrepair with almost all of the veterans leaving for more lucrative jobs. Now there is a threat that the Brigade is to be dismantled completely and the few remaining veterans, all Habraum's friends, call for him to come back and get the Brigade back into shape. Habraum agrees, although somewhat reluctantly at first.
Soon they are pitted against a purported terrorist group which is trying to free their own species which is kept captive in various labor camps around the galaxy. Years ago a small group of this telepathic Korvenite species did a terrorist attack against Earth killing millions and leaving it uninhabitable. In revenge, their entire species was hunted down and imprisoned. The leader of the Korvanite liberation group, Maelstrom, is a priest and he uses religious rhetoric and his own vast telepathic powers to convince all of the freed Korvanites to follow him.
At the same time, there are strong subplots ranging from a Korvanite girl who tries to resist Maelstrom to the Union's Chouncilor trying to make a trade agreement between the Union and the Kedri. There are also a lot of point-of-view characters: in addition to Habraum there are two other Brigadeers and at least three different Korvanites. Also, there are brief passages from the point-of-view of characters which are never seen again.
The writing is a little too detailed and long-winded, but it is also energetic and Ekeke's love of science fiction and comics shines through clearly. After a slow start, the plot and the characters are quite engaging and suck the reader right in.
Alas, there are some problems as well. The pages before the eight year jump ahead could have been cut entirely and some of the fight scenes are too long or even redundant. The glossary is unnecessary because most of the words are explained in the text and the rest can be easily deduced. The point-of-view characters could have been limited to just Habraum and Maelstrom which would have given the book more focus. Also, every alien being, not matter how different physically from humans, finds human women alluring. There are also some vocabulary problems, such as species and race used as synonyms.
People who are already space opera or comic fans might enjoy this book.
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Mervi Hämäläinen is a long-time reader of fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. She's currently working as a freelance translator.