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The Suicide Exhibition
Justin Richards
Del Rey, 399 pages

The Suicide Exhibition
Justin Richards
Justin Richards has written audio scripts, television, a stage play, edited anthologies of short stories, been a technical writer, and founded and edited a media journal. He is the author of such books as The Death Collector, The Chaos Code, The Parliament of Blood and the series The Invisible Detective, Time Runners, and Agent Alfie. He is also Creative Director of the BBC's best-selling range of Doctor Who books, and has written a fair few of them himself. He lives with his family in Warwick, UK.

Justin Richards Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Shingle Bay was the site of an invasion,' Brinkman said. 'Or at least, an incursion. We received information that the Germans intended to put ashore a small force that would include what they referred to as an "Übermensch."
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The Suicide Exhibition is the first novel in the author's Never War sequence. The basic premise is one that has been richly mined before, but there's still plenty of room for more, if it's done well. Set early in WWII, it begins with a foiled incursion, predicted by an obscure branch of British Intelligence. Known as Station Z, they are grappling with the unknown in the form of occasional incursions into British air space by unidentified aircraft, at first thought to be German secret weapons. Reports from behind enemy lines, and more esoteric sources, also tell of the Übermensch, or German superman; a living weapon to be deployed against the allies. Intriguingly, this has nothing to do with critters from Krypton, and everything to do with the Vril. They were an ancient, legendary civilisation who once ruled the Earth, before going mysteriously dormant in centuries past. Now awoken by the archaeological delving of the German war machine, the Vril are stirring in their ancient tombs. It's an old-school classic mix of Nazi noxiousness and alien tech, remade and reimaged. But is it different enough?

There's a delightfully authentic retro feel about this book. Author Justin Richards knows his 1940s Britain, and successfully maintains not only a convincing interplay of characters from a world more innocent and hopeful than today, but also the less sophisticated feel of desperate times. An age when the world seemed so much bigger. The main characters include non-nonsense Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross, cinema star and spy Leo Davenport, and the Anglo-American pilot Sarah Diamond. The supporting cast is sprinkled with counterfactual versions of real world villains, such as Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, and the 'Great Beast' himself, Aleister Crowley. These alternates are used sparingly, often cleverly, and in ways that stand up as plausible. The twists that have Crowley helping the secret services, and Hess flying to Scotland to warn of the Vril, are things that I found myself wishing had been true. Mention is also made on several occasions of The Coming Race, a real novel which had some influence on Nazi occult beliefs, the most recent reprint of which was reviewed by me here on SF Site. As the story expands upon its theme and picks up the pace, it develops into an action packed cinematic romp, with thrilling set piece Indiana Jones style escapades. One of the best being an early version of the SAS, taking on something nasty lurking in the sands of Libya.

The Suicide Exhibition is the kind of book which transcends its well trod themes to provide something that is always familiar, but still capable of producing a surprise. Although nowhere near as deep, the author's ideas brought to mind the Projekt Saucer series by that seminal wizard of what the Germans may have been up to in WW II, W.A. Harbinson. Like those works, this novel is a gripping read and holds together because, within the context created, there is always a touch of something credible. I finished the book satisfied with what had been revealed, and eager to learn what comes next.

Copyright © 2014 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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