Some time ago Black Library anounced the start of a new series, spanning the entire year 2016. Apparently it will concentrate on the biggest WAAAGH!!! in the history of the Imperium, right until the invasion of Ghazghkul.
However there were some... troubling signs as well. Only the first book was written by an author, who can be considered "decent" in the Black Library. Abnett is definetly still the best they have, alongside Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Chris Wraight. Ok, granted there's also Guy Haley on board this train, whom I really like (check oout his Black Templar stuff) but then I've spied names like Gav Thorpe and Rob Sanders, both of whom are not exactly terrible, but also not that great. "Deliverance Lost" by Thorpe was cringe-inducing, same with terribly boring "Skitarius" and "Tech-Priest" by Sanders. Of course it's quite normal for BL to advertise their new series with a BANG, in this case the BANG is none other than "Mighty Dan" himself. So how did it worked and is "I am Slaughter" a decnt book, heraldling a great and fresh series, set in the universe of WH40K?
Don't hold your breath folks. It's decent, but unfortunately just that.
Oh and of course there will be SPOILERS. You have been warned.
|Check out the reflection in his sword!|
"It is the thirty-second millennium and the Imperium is at peace. The Traitor Legions of Chaos are but a distant memory and the many alien races that have long plagued mankind are held in check by the Space Marines. When a mission to exterminate one such xenos breed on the world of Ardamantua draws in more of their forces, the Imperial Fists abandon the walls of Terra for the first time in more than a thousand years. And when another, greater, foe strikes, even the heroic sons of Rogal Dorn may be powerless against it. The Beast Arises… and it is mighty."
The book is told from multiple perspecitves. There's the titular "Slaughter", an Imperial Fists captain, leading his men in a xenocide of Chromes, a species of alien insects, living between dimensions. These creatures pose such a huge threat that an entire chapter is sent to Armatura, the world where Chromes have emerged, with only a few Battle Brothers left on Terra. It's at this point that we learn about a huge change that occured within the Sons of Dorn.
Their names are fucking stupid.
Apparently after the Siege of Terra, the Fists decided to take "honour" names who are simply silly. Like the titular captain "Slaughter" or a dude named "Zaraphustra", "Kill-shot", "Longstrike" (do not mistake with a rather famous Tau) and many other. Now this is a perfect example of Abnett's "improvements" to the setting. He did that a couple of times before, but every time these changes were actually good or at the very least decent, like the "theoretical - practical" in "Know no Fear" or a more savage look of Vlka Fenryka in "Prospero Burns". This however is simply dumb. These names are not badass, they don't invoke fear or respect. I will never take seriously a guy whose name is "Benchpress", given to him by his gym buddies.
There are other characters as well and, unfortunately, every single one of them is more interesting than the Astartes. Officio Assasinorum Grandmaster and backstabbing enthusiast, Drakan Vangorich, plays a huge part in the story and is easily the most sympathetic hero of all. Every 40K nerd knows that Vangorich, at one point, axed the entirety of High Lords of Terra, but only now we can understand his motives. Abnett masterfully portrays his frustration and anger at the Council's of Terra unwillingness to act against a threat, that is almost at the doorstep of the Mankind's cradle. He's not a power hungry maniac, like Gorge Vandire, but a patriot who dosen't wish to see his Imperium, which barely survived the onslaught of Horus, once again threatened with destruction. Vangorich's motives are relatable and given the other High Lord's incompetence, Dan really made a character that's not only sympathetic, in a 40K sort of way, but who's actions are also thought out and carried out with best interests in heart.
Of course one could say the same about Horus, so what do I know?
|A true patriot right there|
The rest of the cast is a pretty solid assortment of individuals, ranging from High Lords of Terra to Inquisitors, being still a realtively fresh faction, to Tech-Priests. None of them is as memorable as Vangorich, but their power plays are entertaining to read, especially when the Ork threat finally arrives and suddendly politics and shadowy deals in the halls of Terra go down the drain. The Greenskins themselves are presented as a genuine threat, one that SPOILER wipes out the entire Imperial Fists chapter and will soon move towards Terra itself. Here's another problem tough. You see, the Orks are in this book for maybe 3 chapters tops (similar thingie was done to The Razing of Prospero which took about the last 2 chapters of Dan's "Prospero Burns"), and given the fact that this is a relatively short read/audio it's not much. Oh yeah, I've forgot to mention that this series will apparently consist of half-novellas, instead of full releases, something which I've found mildly irritating. For all the fuss that the Black Library gave us, having a 12 short books is kind of a letdown, especially for the price they're asking for it.
Anyway, back to the Orks. The Greens have apparently constructed a Death Star-like super weapon with moving mouth (I'm not kidding), which works as an entrance to some big orky empire, from which they can transport huge quantities of troops and materiel to fight their endless wars. The horde is commanded by a Warboss known as the "Beast" and... "Slaughter". Oh, I see what you did there Dan. Pretty clever. Anyway the "Beast" is such a badass that apparently he can make the Ork Super Moon talk, because... it's dramatic? I don't know. By this point things gotten really silly and I was just waiting for some more action from Drakan Vangorich, because that was interesting and easily the best part of the whole book.
I will be honest with you. I think Dan Abnett is slowly getting tired of writing 40K. It really shows in his last books such as "The Unremembered Empire", "Macragge's Honour" and now in "I am Slaughter" as well. I had a good reference to his earlier work, beacuse when reading this newest, blockbuster-like entry in the world of Grimdarkness, I was also reading the "Eisenhorn" trilogy and boy is there a difference. Altough you don't have to come back that far. "Propsero Burns", one of my favorite sci-fi books of all time, released a couple of years ago, is so much better than this, not only beacuse it's longer, but simply beacuse it's better written. I know that Dan is also working for other publishers and companies, and that his newest entry into the Gaunt's Ghosts saga has already been delayed. Maybe he should take a break from writing for Black Library, take a vacation, recharge his batteries and then come back to expanding the universe of Warhammer 40,000. He's still one of the best, if not the best, author that BL employs and it'd be a shame to see him go to waste. It's not about Dan and Space Marines, since he portrayed them incredibly well in titles such "Know no Fear", "Legion" and "Prospero Burns". I think that it's about having too much on your head. Take a break and then come back to us Dan. We need you to keep writing excellent fiction and while "I am Slaughter" was a good read, it was far from excellent. Unfortunately.
-Shows the Imperium right after the Heresy.
-Interesting portrayal of Imperium's inner politics.
-Drakan Vangorich's character and motivations.
-Battles are decently written.
-Imperial Fists dumb names.
-The main antagonist/threat appears at the very end of the book.
-Talking Ork Moon.
-It's a very short book, too short for its price.
Until next time and a Happy New Year! Hopefully 2016 will be the year of more regular updates.
|Don't worry, it's not that bad|