The Afrika Reich – Book Review
The Afrika Reich was written by Guy Saville and published in 2011. It’s a military thriller set in an alternate history where there was a truce between Britain and Germany in 1940. By 1952, when the book is set, Germany dominates Europe and Africa and has carried out a massive genocide of Africans.
The Afrika Reich: Logline
In a world where Nazi Germany has subjugated most of Africa, a British mercenary is asked to assassinate one of Africa’s German overlords. When the mission goes wrong he has to try to escape against impossible odds.
The Afrika Reich: Plot Summary
Warning: My reviews contain spoilers. Major spoilers are blacked out like this secret . To view them, just select/highlight them.
It’s 1952. Burton Cole is a retired British mercenary living in the Suffolk countryside. A British industrialist asks him to infiltrate the German colony of Kongo (the old Belgian Congo, now under German control) and assassinate Walter Hochburg, Kongo’s German governor. Cole agrees as he has a personal vendetta with Hochburg.
Cole travels to Kongo posing as a diamond courier, gains access to Hochburg’s office, kills him and escapes.
Meeting up with his team of mercenaries, Cole travels to an abandoned airfield where he has arranged for a plane to extract him and his team, but as the planes comes in to land German troops shoot it down.
The mercenary team splits up and Cole heads for Nigeria, which is still part of the British Empire.
Meanwhile, the Angolan resistance to Germany send a young freedom fighter, Neliah, to attack a tunnel the SS are building as part of the Pan-African Autobahn. The attack succeeds.
Cole reaches Stanleystadt, the capital of Nazi Africa, where he hopes to meet a Secret Service contact. But the contact is in the pay of the Germans, and hands Cole over to the SS.
The SS put Cole in a slave labour party and take him to clear the tunnel Neliah destroyed. There, he meets Neliah and they escape. They hijack a train, and head for the border. A flight of German helicopters attacks the train, but Cole shoots them down.
Finally reaching Luanda, Cole and Neliah go to the British consulate. There they discover that the ‘industrialist’ who sent Cole on the mission was really from MI6, and that Hochburg isn’t dead – Cole assassinated a double.
The real Hochburg attacks the embassy. Neliah stays to delay pursuit, while Cole escapes via the sewers and heads to the docks in the hope of reaching a Royal Navy ship in the harbour.
Cole finds a tug, but it’s attacked by Hochburg in a motorboat. Eventually only Cole and Hochburg are left alive, although both are wounded. Exhausted, they talk of their past until finally Cole leaves Hochburg to drown.
The Afrika Reich: Analysis
The Alternate History of the Afrika Reich
The point of departure of The Afrika Reich is the 1940 evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk failing. Eighty thousand British soldiers are killed and two hundred thousand surrender and become prisoners of war.
After this debacle, Churchill resigns and Britain accepts German proposals for a peace treaty. The treaty leaves Britain unoccupied but Germany is in control of most of Europe.
The Soviet Union is also defeated and the USA never enters the war, fighting a separate campaign against the Japanese. Germany invades and subjugates many of the European colonies in Africa, except for those that are part of the British Empire. There are regular incidents and skirmishes between German and British troops on the borders. At the time of the novel, tensions are high and both sides are expecting war to break out.
The Germans divide Africa into six regions: Kongo, Ostafrika, Sudwestafrika, Aquatoriana, Kameruns and Westafrika, as shown in this map:
The Afrika Reich is a fast-paced, all-action novel. It has an ‘On the Run’ plot (see Spy Novel Plots) with Cole being chased across Africa by the Nazis.
The On the Run Plot
- Is involved in an Inciting Incident with an group of Antagonists.
- Realises they are not safe from the Antagonists.
- Is also not safe from the authorities, as they are powerless or controlled by the Antagonists.
- Goes on the run, pursued by both the Antagonists and the authorities.
- Involves one or more Allies in their escape (Optionally, there is a romance sub-plot with one of the Allies).
- Narrowly avoids capture and death (or is captured and escapes) by both the Antagonists and the authorities.
- Persuades the authorities they should work together to stop the Antagonists.
- Confronts the Antagonists and stops (or fails to stop) them.
The Afrika Reich is a action-packed, violent novel and most of the chapters end with a cliffhanger, giving it that ‘unputdownable’ feel. It does though require some suspension of disbelief at times. Cole is a tough veteran fighter, but even so, in a grittier novel he would probably have succumbed to his wounds at some point. His heroic invincibility is well within the boundaries of the action thriller genre though.
Some reviewers have compared The Afrika Reich to Robert Harris’s Fatherland, and C J Sansom’s Dominion, but Fatherland and Dominion are a different type of novel – they have Mystery not On The Run plots.
The Afrika Reich is more comparable to military thrillers like Daniel Carney’s The Wild Geese, particularly the second half of that novel where a group of mercenaries have to escape after their mission goes wrong.
There are two approaches to writing alternate history. The first is all about the alternate history itself, showing it unfolding with a cast of characters, often politicians and generals, who can see the big picture. Harry Turtledove’s novels often take this approach. Even more extreme are alternate history novels written as a false document – a history book from the imaginary world. These novels are often self-published, as although their plausibility and research appeal to the hardcore alternate history fan, they lack mass appeal.
In the other approach, the alternate history is the setting for the story and a way of taking the reader outside their usual boundaries so ‘anything can happen’. This is the approach taken by The Afrika Reich. For this reason, it should have cross-over appeal to military thriller fans.
Exposition in any novel is a difficult act, and this is doubly true for an alternative history novel. The author must walk a fine line between explaining enough that the reader understands the back-story, and explaining too much and risking the reader becoming bogged down in a history lesson.
The key to exposition is to ‘show don’t tell’ and Guy Saville handles this well. The appalling sight of a huge square made entirely from the skulls of Germany’s enemies shows the consequence of brutal genocide more effectively than any description.
The Afrika Reich:Alternative Cover
Desert colours seemed right for a novel set in Africa and the skull motif is one of the most striking in the novel.
The Afrika Reich: My Verdict
A non-stop, action-packed chase thriller with an intriguing setting. Recommended.
Want to Read It?
Here’s the book trailer:
The Madagaskar Plan – the sequel to The Afrika Reich
A sequel to The Afrika Reich, entitled The Madagaskar Plan is now out.
This is the logline:
In an Africa controlled by Nazi Germany, an ex-British agent discovers his Jewish lover is imprisoned on Madagascar. With the island rebelling, his archenemy pursuing him, and their children missing, he must fight insurmountable odds to rescue her.
See The Madagaskar Plan for my review.
A Kill in the Morning
If you like The Afrika Reich, then you’ll also enjoy my alternate history thriller A Kill in the Morning, which Guy Saville was kind enough to endorse:
A kaleidoscope of genres: part action/adventure, part espionage, part mind-bending sci-fi… I’d certainly suggest you give A Kill in the Morning a go.
You can read the opening here: The first two chapters of A Kill in the Morning .
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