Big Mother 40

Fiction - Military
420 Pages
Reviewed on 03/12/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

Personal experience in search and rescue aviation makes for an excellent plot source as demonstrated in Marc Liebman’s Big Mother 40, the call sign of Josh Haman’s helicopter. The North Vietnamese have created a covert base under the call sign of Venom. This base is testing new tactics that have increased the number of American airplanes that are shot down. Haman and Marty Cabot suspect a leak within the Navy’s communication that, if proven, will make their intelligence division wet their pants. But the folks at DC seem convinced that there is no leak, and the brave men on the field have to proceed as if the leak has not been plugged. Cabot manages to capture a map showing the detailed points of their insertion and extraction landing zones that are pretty accurate. At the Venom base, a Russian officer agrees to take more risk in increasing the tally of airplanes that are shot down. But both the Russians and the North Vietnamese know that it is not a question of if, but when, and they must be prepared to survive an attack as soon as American forces discover them.

It is always a pleasure to review a Marc Liebman novel. Here, you get to read about naval aviation’s under-recognized role in Vietnam, emphasizing the costly mistakes of decision-makers at the expense of the real heroes who gave their lives. Liebman’s naval experiences mirrored in Haman’s adventures make for an enthralling reading experience, and the postscript on factual information about the intel leak on which the plot is based is equally engrossing. Though it is never intended as autobiographical, Liebman’s Josh Haman novels offer perhaps the most insightful criticism of the US Armed Forces available through the character of Haman, who is bound to find his way into the canon of military fiction.

Asher Syed

Big Mother 40 by Marc Liebman is a military suspense novel that takes place during the final years of the Vietnam War. The plot revolves around combat search and rescue missions by the United Stated Navy's aviators who worked in tandem with SEAL teams in Northern Vietnam. Told from multiple points of view and locations spanning the United States, the former USSR, North and South Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina, Liebman casts a deep and wide net as he builds a phenomenally well-developed account of incidents of sabotage that led to many deaths. Lieutenant Josh Haman is the pilot of the special operations helicopter with the call sign “Big Mother Four Zero”, part of a detachment tasked with both search and rescue and tactile transport; one huge cog in a monster of a smooth-running military machine. When helicopters are being taken down with a precision that is beyond the realms of coincidence and luck, the clock begins to tick in finding out how the opposition is obtaining the information and where to find them before the entire mission goes down in a fiery blaze.

There is a ton to unpack after reading Big Mother 40 and I almost feel bad at my attempt to summarize it because Marc Liebman and his spectacular book deserve so much more than that. However, the review would then probably be about fifty pages. There are so many characters on both sides of the war who feed perspective into subplots that all tie into one another. These characters are fully fleshed out to the point of feeling like you grew up with them, and they are so well humanized that even the Gurkha knife in a deserving NVA adversary made me a little sad to see someone “I knew” go down. This is the mark of a skilled writer, which Liebman proves to be with the turn of each page. The book is long but its pacing is steady and laced with enough tension, intrigue, and action to keep a reader locked and loaded as we are provided with a tour of some highly technical helo mechanics. Fortunately for me, I have a brother-in-law who is a UH-1Y Huey pilot with the Marine Corps and so there was a bit of foundational knowledge, but even without that Liebman's Clancy-esque blend of fact with fiction that doesn't skimp on either is enough to speed the story along. Very highly recommended.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Big Mother 40 by Marc Liebman is an action-packed military story. USAF pilots no longer want to fly North Vietnam missions because too many of them are being shot down from a secret missile base they cannot locate. Add to that the loss of deep penetration mission helicopters and Josh Haman and Marty Cabot begin to think there is a leak. Their concerns are brushed aside until a reconnaissance mission has to be aborted after maps are captured, showing insertion and extraction landing points. Colonel Alexei Koniev is testing theories on surface-to-air missiles and Colonel Du Nguyen is under pressure to force Koniev into shooting down more planes – Koniev prefers the element of surprise. Both of them know that, sooner or later, their hidden base will be found and attacked – the question is, when? And how much damage can they do in the meantime?

Big Mother 40 by Marc Liebman is the second Josh Haman story and it is a cracker. Fast-paced, full of intense action, and a thrilling storyline, military buffs are going to love this. Here, we are introduced to our hero, Josh Haman, and his sidekick Marty Cabot and we get to fly along with them at breakneck speed as they battle to find the secret base, destroy it and find out who the leak was. Our main protagonist is developed fully throughout this story, a likable person that you really get to know well. Not only is this is a fantastic action thriller, but it is also educational too, especially for those who know little to nothing about how things worked during the Vietnam war – me, for one. Vivid descriptions help bring this story to life as you feel like you are there, right beside them. Really enjoyed this one, looking forward to the next in the series.

K.C. Finn

Big Mother 40 is a work of fiction in the military, action, and adventure sub-genres, and was penned by author Marc Liebman. The work is intended for the adult reading audience owing to the presence of explicit language throughout and some scenes of violence consistent with wartime and conflict. Our story takes place in the Vietnam War, where many U.S. Air Force pilots are finding their missions increasingly impossible. So when Marty Cabot, leader of SEAL Team Sierra Six, finds proof of a leak in communications, tensions begin to rise, and pilot Josh Haman is sent out in the titular helicopter Big Mother 40 to hunt for the secret missile base at the heart of their problems.

Author Marc Liebman has crafted another thrilling and highly immersive work of fiction with plenty of cinematic scenery, clever tactics, and international tensions for the reading audience to devour. Whilst I have enjoyed reading about Marty and Josh in many of Liebman’s works, in this one I really felt the deeper bond, trust, and camaraderie of the two central protagonists and felt it was essential to the emotional core of the plot. This is sure to make readers all the more invested in the dangerous actions taking place, and I appreciated the attention to detail in the motives and motivations of people from all different sides of the war. Overall, I would certainly recommend Big Mother 40 to fans of enigmatic and realistically penned heroes, all-out action and careful plotting, and for Vietnam War fiction readers everywhere.

Rabia Tanveer

Big Mother 40 is the second book in the Josh Haman series by Marc Liebman. It is a search and rescue mission this time, and Josh is in his element. The U.S Air Force pilots flying to North Vietnam are shot down from a mysterious missile site. With the pilots becoming reluctant to go on missions in North Vietnam, Josh and Marty Cabot are asked to look into the matter and figure out what is wrong here. They believe there is a mole inside their ranks who is leaking information, and when Marty finds some shocking information, he is finally sure of it. And so, the hunt to find the secret missile base begins, and Josh is in the middle of it all. He is flying search and rescue missions while the SEALS try to find the base for these missile attacks. Can they figure out where the base is? Or will Josh’s HH-3A helicopter be another aircraft that is shot down?

I was not prepared for the military terminology mentioned in this novel, but the author did a great job of guiding me through it and there is a glossary at the end. That being said, this story is simply amazing. It is an adrenaline-inducing, goosebumps-raising tale of heroism and sheer intelligence. Marc Liebman crafted a masterpiece with this one. There is action, a sense of chaos, and urgency that just makes you want to read on and not stop. Josh’s competency and his skills with a helicopter come into play in Big Mother 40. The plot is intricate, it demands the attention of the reader, or else they might miss some very important plot point. As always, Josh and Marty worked together like a well-oiled machine. Each of the characters introduced (especially Nguyen and Koniev) are brilliantly written to make the story even more entertaining. I loved it.