"The Beast Arises" series is in full swing, and "The Last Wall" does not dissapoint. It's another solid title for fans of good, old grimdark space opera.
|One of the most badass covers ever|
David Annandale once again proves that the depressing, truly grimdark side of Warhammer 40,000, is what he's really good at. From start to finish, readers can clearly see how far the Imperium has fallen. Endless politics, law enforcement brutality and the eternal squalor of trillions of God-Emperor's subjects, are the main themes of this book. Just like in "Damnation of Pythos", we get the feeling that there is no hope, no future and, what's worse, it was us, humans, that are to blame for this. The High Lords of Terra fight and bicker constantly, with only Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of Assassins, trying to do something, anything to counter the threat, presented by the Orks. When the ruling council of Imperium proposes a horrible, but potentially effective, plan with which to destory the Ork Attack Moon, hanging over Terra, almost no one bats an eye.
The plan itself? Organise the Proletarian Crusade, composed from Terra's citizens, and send it to orbit to destroy the alien abomination. When I was reading this, images from Soviet and Nazi Germany's propaganda videos, came to my mind immedietaly. Of course the person who proposes this horrible solution, does not take part in the assault itself, which only works to further the feel of hypocrisy and total disregard for human life in the Imperium of Man. It's also worth noting that this is still the 32nd millenium, and not the "hopless and grim future" of modern-times Warhammer 40K. Yeah, let that sink in for a while...
|Friggin' depressing (ADRIANHILLMAN VIA GETTY IMAGES)|
This plot, being the most important in the whole book, really shows how far the Mankind went from the ideals of the Great Crusade and the Imperial Truth. The fires of zeal and fanatical fury have been stoked high by the High Lords, and most citizens of Terra sail out to their deaths without regret or fear, the catechisms of hate and prayers to the Emperor on their lips. It's at once incredbily depressing and fascinating, and Annadale shows this horrible mindset in a truly masterful way.
Now there will be minor spoilers, since I wanted to talk about a major thingie in this book, that still makes me shiver with terror. You see, "The Last Wall" may just have the highest, single bodycount of all Warhammer 40,000 books and novels so far. Of course, I mean the highest bodycount in a single land engagement, during the shortest period of time. I may be mistaken, but there is a scene at the end of the book, where... many people die. Like really, really many of them and in a horrible, gut-wrenching way as well. I literally winced as I was reading this, and the best part? It fits this book so damn well, it's almost scary, as is my mind, since I've enjoyed this part immensly. No more spoilers. You'll just have to experience this part yourselves.
Aside from the Crusade plot, there's really not that much going on. The Inquisition tries to dominate the High Lords, while struggling with inner conflicts. The Techpriests of Mars once again prove that they are their own masters and try to formulate a plan, that will preserve them, even if the rest of the Imperium falls. Vangorich and his deadly lieutenant Esad Wire, also knowns as Beat Krule, work their own, shadowy deals, that are ultimately aimed towards the goal of defeating the Orks, but the ammount of players on the board, and their influence and power, make this deal a real chore, and a dangerous one at that.
The Sons of Dorn also plan to take the fight towards the Orks, and Captain "Slaughter" Koorland, the last Imperial Fists, quickly becomes the main leader, behind whom the rest of the descedants of the 7th Legion will gather. He takes it hard, still haunted by the loss of all of his brothers on Ardamantua, but just like any real son of Rogal Dorn, he intends to fulfill his duty, no matter where it might take him.
|Daddy's watching, so do your job|
There's also a tasty bit about the fate of a certain Traitor Legion, getting his ass kicked by the Greenskins. As it turns out, not only the Imperium falls to the might of the Beast. It's also very refreshing to see some of the bad guys getting their shit pushed in, especially since nowadays Black Library mainly makes them into immortal badasses, who "did nothing wrong." Their portrayal is also really, really good, with Annandale not falling into an obvious (but still dangerous) trap of showing them as a "kill, maim, burn!" kinda guys. Good stuff.
The book ends in a massive cliffhanger, with another faction joining the fray. No spoilers this time, but I can only say one thing: Terra sure lacks major defences on its lower levels.
This is it, my review of "The Last Wall." Loved this book a lot, and while I know that David Annandale can be a hit or miss to some of the fans of WH40K, I think that in this case he made a really, really good job. Sure it's depressing, dark, gritty and horrendously bloody, but let's be honest - this is 40K we are talking about, so that's quite normal and mandatory, and it simply works. I highly recommend this title to anyone, who loves a good, solid and dark sci-fi experience.
- Fascinating portrayal of Imperium, in all its heartless glory.
- Various agendas, shadowplays and politicking. Great counterparts to heavy action, of which there is a lot.
- The first appearance of a Traitor Legions. They are both intimidating and flawed, just like they should be.
- The final engagement is simply stunnig and crushes the reader into his chair/couch/floor etc.
- At this point, I'm not going to write about how awesome Drakan Vangroich is. You know that already.
- This book is really, really dark and sombre. Not for anyone, that's for sure.
- Did I mentioned that it's also depressing?
- Like, a lot. God, I'm getting a drink. A lot of drinks in fact.
Until next time! A review is in the works, and it's about a certain game, set in a certain fantasy world. Stay tuned.