C.C. Ekeke's Star Brigade: First Renaissance begins in the year 2394. Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and
encountered many intelligent species, some of them friendly, some less so. A vast Galactic Union of Planetary Republics made
up of humans and assorted other species also has many different neighbors - among them the Kedri Empire, whose citizens are ferocious warriors. The Union's elite force of super-powered people, the Star Brigade, protects the people against terrorists and other threats. If
all this sounds familiar, it's not surprising, as Ekeke combines ideas from comic books,
Star Trek, Star Wars, and various other science fiction traditions. The mix is enjoyable,
At the beginning of the book, Habraum Nwosu, whose ancestors come from Africa, is a war prisoner of a mechanical species, the Cybernarrs.
He befriends one of the purportedly emotionless beings, which then lets him go.
Reunited with his girlfriend and family, Habraum is hailed as a war hero and
later recruited into the Star Brigade.
Fast-forward nine years. Habraum had married his girlfriend, they had a child,
and he rose to the rank of captain within the Brigade. A year ago, though, his wife died in an accident; soon after, one of Habraum's missions ended in disaster with him
being the lone survivor. Ensuing panic attacks forced him to leave the Brigade.
During Habraum's year-long absence, the Brigade has fallen in disrepair; almost all of the veterans
have departed 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
return and whip the Brigade back into shape. Habraum agrees, although somewhat reluctantly.
Soon the Brigade is pitted against a purported terrorist group that is trying to free their own species held captive in various labor camps around the galaxy. Years ago a small group of this telepathic Korvenite species
conducted 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
who uses religious rhetoric and his own vast telepathic powers to convince the freed Korvanites to follow him.
At the same time, strong subplots range from a Korvanite girl trying to resist Maelstrom to the
Union's Councilor working to forge a trade agreement between the Union and the Kedri. There are also a
number 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 point-of-view of characters who are never seen again.
Limiting the point-of-view characters to only Habraum and Maelstrom would have
given the book more focus.
The writing is a little too detailed and long-winded, but it is also
energetic. 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 since most of the words are explained in the text and
the remainder can be easily deduced. Other problems include every alien being,
no matter how different physically from humans, finds human women alluring.
There are also some vocabulary problems, such as "species" and "race" being used as synonyms.
But the narrative is also
energetic; Ekeke's love of science fiction and comics shines through clearly. After a slow start, the plot and the characters are quite engaging. People who are already space opera or comic fans should enjoy this book.