The Afrika Reich
|The Afrika Reich|
|Genre(s)||Thriller, alternative history novel|
|Publisher||Hodder & Staughton|
|Publication date||17 February 2011|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Pages||448 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-09-174827-5 (first edition, hardback)|
The Afrika Reich is a 2011 alternate history action thriller novel by Guy Saville. In this world, the point of divergence occurs when the United Kingdom is defeated by Nazi Germany during the Dunkirk campaign in 1940, forcing Britain to conclude a non-aggression pact with Germany. Due to the influence of an active Colonial Policy Office (KPA), the Nazis carve up a new colonial empire in Afrika, extending their racial genocide to Black Africans. By 1952, Britain and Germany have divided up much of the continent between themselves.
The story is based around the British mercenary Burton Cole who has been dispatched on a secret mission by the British government to assassinate Walter Hochburg, the Nazi Governor General of Kongo. This plot occurs in the backdrop of increasing tensions between Britain and Germany which threatens to disrupt the uneasy truce made in 1940.
In September 1952 Burton, posing as an SS surveyor, enters Schadelplatz (named for its plaza of skulls, which Hochburg says is made of "twenty thousand nigger skulls" and can accompany panzers) and gains access to Hochburg's office, having taken the mission at the behest of Ackerman a representative of Lusaka Mining Corporation, due to his vendetta with Hochburg. Assassinating Hochburg and escaping with the aid of Patrick, an American from the defunct French Foreign Legion, Cole is able to escape the Schadelplatz and meet with his team in a Central African Airlines plane from Rhodesia. However, they are soon spotted and shot down by SS troops (who took over responsibility for German Africa from the Afrika Korps in the mid-1940s), and Burton and Patrick flee for German Aquatoriana, to reach British Nigeria.
In a subplot, Neliah, a Herero living in Portuguese North Angola (Angola south of the Benguela Railway 'appropriated' by the Reich in 1949 for imposing heavy taxation on black marble used in Albert Speer's architectural designs to the fury of Germany) with her sister Zuri and members of the Portuguese (white) insurgency (Resistencia), is sent on a trek to Loanda in the face of a German invasion and, more personally, the potential for deportation to Deutsch Westafrika, colloquially known as "Muspel", to which all African blacks in German territory have been deported as part of Nazi racial purification policy.
Forced to make for Kongo after a failed attempt to steal a Luftwaffe plane from an airbase fighting a Belgian-French insurgency, Burton and Patrick head for their agent in Stanleystadt, the capital of Nazi Afrika (apparently on the site of Stanleyville), a Frenchman named Rougier. They are forced to flee across the roof of his apartment and he falls into traffic before he can inform Cole of Ackerman's identity.
Captured by a German conscription gang while attempting to escape to Neu Berlin, Burton and Patrick are taken south along the Pan-African Autobahn (PAA, or Road of Friendship) to the North Angolan border, where they are separated. Forced to clear a tunnel Neliah's insurgents have destroyed, Burton soon meets Neliah, and they flee, with Zuri, westwards. Patrick, meanwhile, is imprisoned by SS officer Uhrig, in a facility where he discovers the dark secret of the German section of the PAA: the corpses of dead German soldiers, mixed with gypsum and limestone, are ground into the road, as part of Hochburg's ideal of "Aryanising" Africa. Escaping, Patrick meets with Zuri but is recaptured, with Burton and Neliah rescuing them moments before Zuri is gang-raped.
Hijacking an abandoned train, they move along the Salazar Railway to Loanda, but are caught up by German Walkure helicopters. Although they take down three and a troop transport, they are derailed but still manage to reach Luanda, which holds out thanks to an agreement between Field Marshal von Arnim and the Portuguese governors. Heading for the British consulate, Burton makes some discoveries: 'Ackerman' is really from British Intelligence; 'Rougier' is a member of the Gestapo, having testified at the trial of Dolan, a Welshman who was part of the assassination team; Hochburg was not assassinated by Burton—it was a decoy—and finally, von Arnim and the British are collaborating in a phony war in North Angola and Rhodesia, to reduce the influence of the SS, whom Arnim claims had swayed Hitler's mind from reality: for example, the deportation of the blacks to Muspel reduced many plantation owners to ruins, despite their progress.
Hochburg orders the German army forward, and the British consulate destroyed. Entering Loanda's sewers, Burton, Patrick and Neliah make for the docks to get on a tug that will take them to a waiting Royal Navy ship. Neliah, defiant to the end, remains to fend off Uhrig, who has pursued them, presumably dying in the final defence of Loanda. Although Burton and Patrick escape on a tug, they are ambushed by SS motorboat-attackers, led by Hochburg. Burton and Patrick fight them off, and in the end only Cole and Hochburg are left alive. It is revealed why they have a vendetta—Burton, the son of a German settler in Togoland and a British woman, lived in an orphanage in the jungle following the Great War. Hochburg came to them as a missionary, having seen his family brutally killed by tribesmen, the root of his racist hatred. Although Hochburg was taken in, he engaged in an affair with Cole's mother and eloped with her. However, she left to go back for Burton, and was herself murdered by tribesmen. This led Burton's father into a depression, and when Hochburg returned to burn down the orphanage, he remained while Burton fled to join the French Foreign Legion, where he met Patrick whom he saved at Dunkirk (in this reality a "fiasco" where 80,000 were killed and the rest taken prisoner), leading to his mercenary life. As their tug begins to sink, Cole gets into a rowboat and leaves Hochburg to his fate, who gives a Parthian shot as his last words, saying it was because of Burton that his mother died.
Looking back at the spot where his best friend and worst enemy both died, and at the ruins of Luanda, Burton contemplates his return to his lover in Suffolk, Madeleine, and then comes to a realisation after conversation with Ackerman - her husband Jared authorised the mission, which was from the start intended to fail. With this in mind, Burton wills the ship to go faster, as the book ends with a historical note on the background of the story.
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- Saville, Guy. The Afrika Reich. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4447-1064-9 WorldCat
- 'Saville gives us an horrific reimagining of the Dark Continent' -- The Times 2011/01/29
- '[the] plot is clever, imaginative and, in its finale, wholly unexpected. In a crowded field, The Afrika Reich stands out as a rich and unusual thriller, politically sophisticated and hard to forget.' -- The Economist 2011/01/29