Big Mother 40

Written by Marc Liebman
Review by Justin M. Lindsay

The Soviets are working with the North Vietnamese at an experimental base to develop and test new strategies and tactics meant to cripple US air and ground efforts in the Vietnam War. Navy pilots, and the SEALs they support, are a particularly deadly thorn in their side. Josh Haman, pilot of the helicopter Big Mother 40, has proven himself to be cool under fire, steadfast when confronted with both belligerent hostiles and commanding officers, and a truly gifted and dedicated pilot. So much so, that his name, and the name of SEAL team Gringo Six leader, Marty Cabot, have become known to the NVA. But as the action heats up, more than their lives and the lives of their men are at stake. This entire theater of war hangs in the balance.

Liebman is a veteran helicopter combat pilot himself, and he has poured his firsthand experience into Big Mother 40, his debut novel. So much so that you’ll leave this novel feeling as though you might be able to fly a helo yourself. Or conduct a Navy SEAL raid. It’s significant that the back cover blurbs for this book all come from military personnel. If you like a quick-paced and action-packed story, you’ll enjoy this one. Liebman also does a great job of fleshing out the foils to our hero pilot. Both Koniev and Thai are compelling characters. Unfortunately, they are far more compelling than our hero and his sidekicks.

Haman and Cabot are little more than Hollywood action heroes who can do no wrong. Liebman’s choice to interweave a love story into an otherwise testosterone-laden spree comes off as contrived and artificial. It serves to flatten the characters by being forced upon them rather than provide depth. That being said, Liebman does have a flair for combat description and impeccable credentials when it comes to Vietnam-era warfare. His earnestness in demonstrating his characters’ prowess and infallibility will hopefully be tempered in his future novels.