Book Review: “The Directorate” by Berthold Gambrel

This is a repost of a book review I did on my old blog, so I figured I’d bring this one back and remind everyone about this gem! Fellow blogger and author Berthold Gambrel’s sci-fi adventure can be read here for just 99 cents. You can give it a download, then come back and read my review!

In the 23rd century humans have not only colonized Mars and the Moon but built thriving civilizations. As one may predict, the peoples from each planet start to get a little nationalistic in their pride for their home-world. A war breaks out, the conclusion of which spawns an overarching government called The Directorate. They oversee the goings-on of Mars, Earth, and the Moon and, in an effort to avoid future wars between the planets, push an agenda of sameness between the worlds. And that holds up for a while…

Until one extremist with a bomb decides to make a statement.

This story is told in 3rd person and follows Lt. Theresa Gannon, a low-level officer in the Directorate’s military/law enforcement branch. While on the Moon, she is witness to a terrorist attack on a famous library and this sets her on a collision course with destiny.

I really want to talk more about the plot but I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll bite my tongue. I will say that the story is fairly straightforward, even for a guy like me who is easily bamboozled in books and movies, but that’s not a knock on the story at all. I’ve written before about predictability in fiction and how it’s not necessarily a bad thing. To me, reading is about the journey, not the destination. And if the journey is beautiful and pleasant and delightful, then who the hell cares if you end up exactly where you expected to be?

The dialogue was good, never clunky. Gannon was a believable, relatable character. A military woman trying to do her duty while battling an underlying premonition that not everything she’s seeing is on the up and up. She has to make some hard choices, and it’s not always the best choice.

For a military character, she was really well done. As a military man myself, it is so easy for authors to get this completely wrong and end up with a cheesy caricature. Not Gannon. I felt like I could relate to her struggles, to her thought processes and the way she dealt with trauma.

The only thing about her character that disappointed me was that, when she finally kills someone in combat, the moment is just glossed over. In previous chapters she’d made a point to mention how she’d never yet been in direct combat and so wasn’t sure if she’d be able to handle it; after all, merely seeing the aftermath of combat had left her shaken.

I knew a ‘first kill’ would be coming and I thought it might have some profound meaning to Gannon, but it seemed to be just business as usual for her. I didn’t want a scene where time stops as she reflected on the gravity of the act of killing; that’s one of those cheesy cliches I hate. But I would have liked just a touch of reflection in the eerie calm that follows combat. Even a passing mention, now that the danger has passed and her mind can relax, that she had ended a life would have been, I thought, appropriate.

And then the ending was a little too abrupt/untidy for my taste. A lot is left undecided in the aftermath of the plot’s resolution. Again, without spoiling anything, I would have liked to get at least some inkling of the Directorate’s next move or Gannon’s role in the military, all events considered. But that’s just a personal preference.

I wanted to give this 5-stars. It was a real page turner and I read nearly the entire thing in two days. But it lacked that extra oomph a 5-star read needs. I was very pleased with the story, but not thoroughly blown away. 4 or 4.5 stars is what I’ll give it, and a strong recommendation to fans of sci-fi!

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