The Berserkers are Scandinavian legend, ferocious, brute warriors who swept all before them during the dark ages.  Part of a they would work themselves into an uncontrollable rage, and were known from the Byzantine Empire to Iceland as unstoppable in battle.

Questions have arisen as to what made them so horrifying in their rage, but no conclusive answers have come forth.  Theories involve the spiritual to the psychological, but perhaps the most plausible involves the use of psychedelic plants of some sort.  Now, what if those plants could be found and harvested for medicinal puposes one thousand years later?

I smell a medium-sized novel coming on!

Blood Brothers is the fourth book by (Frede)rick Acker, succeeding 2005’s Dead Man’s Rule, which itself came on the heels of the very Famous Five-looking Davis Detective Mysteries.

So, what’s it all about?

Well, turns out that two Norwegian brothers, Karl and Gunnar, having built up Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals over thirty years into a USD$300m company, have found the secret to the Berserkers.  It’s a small plant, which they’ve developed into a drug. Which does…interesting things, and has…interesting side effects (you don’t want to be in the cage with the ape on which the drug has been tested).

Problem is, Gunnar’s not happy with Karl and has left and taken the secret of producing the drug with him.  Bloody Gunnar and his bloody selfish nature! So, Karl sets out to sue his blood brother (get it? Blood Brother? Oh, forget it), retaining Ben Corbin, with his highly pregnant wife, Noelle as administrative backup on the case.

What ensues is essentially a legal drama.  Yes, yes, it has biotech undertones and that’s all very well, but it’s still a legal drama.  There are a lot of injunctions and motions and proceedings and trial dates and hearings and all that kind of thing.  Acker doesn’t dwell too much on the legalese, but it’s there and if it’s not your thing you might find yourself dozing a little.

Otherwise this is not an overly complicated book.  It’s simply written from end to end, without weaving too many strands together;  it’s mainly one long storyline. I mean, this is more of a book you would grab for that four hour flight to Houston than one you would settle in with in before sleep for a couple weeks.

Myself, I prefer the more epic books, but Blood Brothers does alright for itself.  Acker has created some interesting, if not incredibly fleshed-out characters. Corbin, the main protagonist, is portrayed as loving and lovable, but that’s about it.   His wife has a little more tension in her, being parturient and thus prone to some edginess – hey, she’s allowed, alright?

The crux of this book centres around the plot with varing success;  there are smaller, more incidental sub-plots which are less entertaining and do little to add to the story.  Acker has created something linear, which gives the impression of constriction to the reader.  This could have been a Michael Crichton novel with its scientific background, a true monster to read and devour, if Acker had had the patience to develop the characters more slowly (and satisfyingly) and give them more of the action as opposed to the simple narrative. The only other thing that bothers me about the book is some of the simple writing, which I have noticed tends to pervade Christian novels (especially those by less experienced authors).  In the case of Blood Brothe, it detracts from a story whose framework relies on a lot of research;  if the dialogue is unrealistic, how can the book be taken seriously?

In all, not a bad effort by Acker. Signs of growing pains but nothing to condemn what is otherwise a fine effort by a writer with potential, who merely needs to focus his talents on nuancing his character and storylines.

– Das Critic writes for readravereview.blogspot.com and enjoys epics more than <400 page books.

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