There are books that start well and then gradually lose impetus or descend into cliché. There are books that
start well and stay that way. There are books that are average from beginning to end. There are books that are hopeless from
beginning to end. What you very rarely get is a book that begins badly and starts off by making you dislike it and then picks
up speed, hauls you in and won’t let you go until the end. That sort of book is, as I say, rare and that sort of book
is Star Brigade: First Renaissance.
Let’s start with the bad stuff; firstly Star Brigade. We have had Star Wars, Star
Trek, Star Gate and probably some others that escape me at the moment. So Star Brigade is just cliché and
bandwagon. The cover looks like comic art with three superheroes, rather than a serious novel. The first 15 pages are on the
verge of being absurd, with their tortured prisoner suddenly being released on a seeming whim by a cyborg-type being who is
painted as not having whims anyway.
Now let’s look at the good stuff, starting again with Star Brigade. We’ve had Star Wars,
etc., so the potential audience has been created and can now be tempted by a new series. Comics also have a decent audience
now, with women reading them more than ever. There’s a female character on the cover, so there’s cross-gender
appeal. The first fifteen pages are…no, they’re unsalvageable.
This is a book that takes the humanity-spread-throughout-the-galaxy-with-quick-space-travel-and-galactic-empires
as a given. It has characters with "extra" powers: flame, blasts, phasing, telepathy, etc. It has a race that is treated appallingly
and is fighting back. It has intergalactic treaties, intergalactic terrorism and intergalactic war on a huge scale. And stuck
in the middle of this are the Star Brigade who are a small bunch of super-heroes from various races gathered together in the
cause of galactic peace. If that all sounds somewhat clichéd, that is because it is. But, as you read on and it gets its hold
on you, it doesn’t matter, not a bit, not a jot, not a nano-byte. In short, not at all.
This book got me. It wrapped me in its spell and kept me enthralled until the end. It’s not, as I indicate
above, screamingly original but what it does have, in large quantities, is energy and enthusiasm. C.C.Ekeke loves what he
is writing and this really comes over. He is having such a good time that you can’t help sharing it. He’s on a
ride and you’re in the passenger seat (of an intergalactic cruiser).
I have two criticisms. The first is that opening chapter. I know he’s setting things up for what’s
to come but it’s just ridiculous. I’m one of those absurd people who finish every book they start. However, if
I wasn’t, and if I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I would have given it up at that point; other people might
well do that.
Secondly, the fight scenes. These are well described and take you into the action. You are never unsure about
what is happening and generally they work well. They do go on a bit, however. Ekeke had ambitions to be a comic book artist.
You can feel that in this novel. What might work visually will not necessarily work as well in words. The final fight between
the main hero and the main villain felt interminable, they’d both have been down to their atoms at that length of time
and intensity; cool it a bit.
That said, I wouldn’t change another thing. A thoroughly enjoyable space opera and I look forward to
either the next volume (it is definitely the first of a series) or a comic book adaptation, or both.