Sunday, October 4, 2009

Black Library Review: Warhammer 40K - Assault on Black Reach by Nick Kyme


Other than playing Dawn of War 1 with a friend about 4 or 5 months before reading this book, I had never really paid much attention to the Warhammer universe; a shame, right? I totally agree! :-) This same friend bought Dawn of War 2 for himself and was showing me the game, explaining the universe to me and the different chapters of Space Marines (still can’t decide whether I like the Ultramarines or the Blood Ravens more), not to mention much much more! And as he told me about this huge universe I realized that I had been sitting with my head in the ground – so I decided to get myself a Warhammer novel ASAP (while waiting for a favour from an awesome guy and an awesome company ;-) ) and start making my way into the 40K universe. :-) Nick Kyme’s book grabbed my attention with its length and the blurb on the back, so I started reading it…

As an intro to the Warhammer mythos (40K, I should add, since there is SF- and Fantasy-Warhammer, and 40K is SF) Assault on Black Reach is, in my opinion, a perfect place to jump aboard.

There is just enough history, back-story and worldbuilding to satisfy a newbie like me as well as those more versed in the Warhammer 40K universe, something that must have been pretty difficult to do considering the length of the novel, and though I haven’t played the boardgame (and probably never will, considering the extent of Warhammer-related products in South Africa, this blogger laments) it seems like Nick also did an excellent job translating the events from that game into the novel.

The action is fast-paced and incredibly brutal (Warhammer is definitely not for kids!) with a level of tension maintained throughout that most novels battle to achieve, and to be honest, I was expecting a 300-type of story: the Space Marines that land on Black Reach number around 500, if I’m not mistaken, while the Orks number around 10000, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nick had not taken this route – instead, the novel goes a long way to showing just how incredible these Space Marines are, and that odds such as what they face in this novel aren’t too much to contend with. :-) But it’s not all plain-sailing, believe me!

The Space Marines arrive to cleanse Black Reach of an Ork infestation, and as the action unfolds, many of the Marines begin questioning their purpose there and if they can, in fact, trust their leader to pursue the battle against the Orks on this front without it becoming a quest for personal glory; if this novel falls short in any way, it’s probably here:

The length of the book must have put a crimp in Nick’s efforts at characterization; I’m talking about the kind of characterization we’re used to where we are offered deeper windows into characters’ souls, growing (or not) as the characters do (or don’t), but Nick doesn’t do badly at all – the characters we meet have their motivations and come across as unique, reacting in their own way to situations brought up in the novel.

I definitely recommend this novel to fans of Warhammer (be it the boardgames, the PC-games or the novels) and to newbies like me looking to get hooked on and lost in a new universe – if you like your SF populated with great characters, interesting technology and epic events, then this will be for you! :-)

7/10!

The next Warhammer 40K book that I will be reviewing is Ben Counter’s Chapter War! :-)

For more info on Warhammer, don’t forget to check out what Black Library and Games Workshop have, and here’s a link to the Warhammer 40K wiki! :-)

Plus, check out Nick Kyme’s site here.

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