Title: The Sons of Hernán García
Author: Charles Ameringer
Genre: Action and Adventure
The Sons of Hernán García, by Charles Ameringer, is classified as an Action/Adventure. However, it also reads as historical fiction. More specifically, it is a revenge-tale set in early 20th century Venezuela. The history aspect reads well, probably because Ameringer is an actual professor of Latin History, so he knows the facts of that time and place, and is able to translate it well through this story.
The title character of the story, Hernán García, is loosely based on Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gomez, who led Venezuela from 1908 to 1935. He is largely absent from the story’s main action, but as is common in dictatorships, his influence and ears are everywhere, at all times. Further, as García was fighting to come to power at the beginning of the 20th century, he raped and defiled his way across the Venezuelan countryside of Los Llanos. This left many illegitimate children in his wake.
The actual principal protagonists of the story are five of García’s illegitimate sons (hence the title). Pedro Vargas, Horacio Rondon, Miguel Arenas, Alfredo Ramirez, and David Luz make up the quintet of protagonists. In the story, the five brothers end up caught up together in a drunken mistake. They must work together as they are hunted down for their rum-soaked words. Overall, the story takes numerous dark, bloody, and violent turns to a stark conclusion.
The story is tipped off when the five sons gather at a bar in Campoverde for a shared 21st birthday celebration. This event is where things begin to quickly go wrong. As the rum starts flowing, four of them begin loudly complaining and disparaging President Garcia in rather specific and horrid terms. Pedro, the shy one of the group, mentions La Fuerza and the whole conversation grinds to a chilling halt. La Fuerza is Venezuela’s version of a special police force, tasked with handling internal security.
Meanwhile, Gustavo Machado is the primary antagonist of the story and the commander of La Fuerza. He is also a fairly dark and vile person, who is perhaps overly committed to his work. He enters the scene after the owner of the bar reported the sons for their drunken statements. The report worked its way quickly up the chain of command and took on a life of its own: not only is it believed that the President is under direct threat, but that the Communists are seeking to gain power after his death.
This tips the story further into the thrilling action and adventure it is marketed as. Machado hunts the five sons, tracking them across all of Venezuela, and even working to block David Luz’s reentry into the country (he is an American citizen and lives in Houston). All that matters to Machado are his own power and authority. For him, nothing is off limits when investigating threats to the President and his country.
The writing style and brevity of this story turns it into a quick and easy read, though some of the characters were a little difficult to follow, perhaps lacking in development. The story also lacks some emotional depth, and the conclusion could seem like an ex machina. This book is best-suited for mature, adult audiences. Although, mature teens/young adults may also be able to handle the story. This is due to the depictions of torture, sexual assault, alcohol use, and personal violence.
Overall, this book is a worthwhile read. Ameringer has written an interesting, action-oriented story set within historical-fiction. The Sons of Hernán García gives a terrific and harrowing look at life under a dictatorship and all the individual hardships that come with such a life.
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