Tim Lebbon,
(Leisure, 2006)

Ten years ago Tom's son was accidentally killed in a military exercise. Now Tom spends most of his free time at the pub. One night he overhears two ex-soldiers discussing what went on at the old site. Neither of them is willing to give him the full story, but after some prodding one gives him enough clues to help him find the answers on his own.

So Tom sets out to the disused field and begins to dig, uncovering a mystery and a little girl who's not quite dead and who speaks to him in his mind. She will lead him to his son if he reunites her with the surviving members of her kind.

By this point, the soldier's indiscretion has been noticed, and one man takes it upon himself to ensure the government cover-up stays covered up.

The burgeoning mystery in the first third of the story is the best part of this novel. Disappointingly, this gets sidelined and drawn out for most of the rest of the book as the action turns into a prolonged chase that culminates in a shootout between the military and the remaining "berserkers."

To be fair, there are other layers to the story: the tension between Tom and Natasha, whom he is not sure he should trust but who is his only hope of finding out the truth about his son, and the grey morality of a hunter who is essentially a good man but who must do terrible things in order to protect the greater whole of humanity. But not only does it feel like decoration, it goes on for too long and becomes repetitive. I kept waiting for the plot to turn, and it never did.

Berserk is a quick read suitable for passing time on the beach or on a long flight, but it is not one of Lebbon's stronger works. I'd recommend Face or The Nature of Balance instead.

review by
Scott Promish

1 March 2008

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