It’s Halloween! Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished…
In addition to all the other exciting things that I did over the weekend I also picked up a copy of the latest Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, Salvation’s Reach. Since I’ve got nothing else to blog about right now I figured I’d share my thoughts about it in a sort of review (what? I bought it on Saturday, do you honestly think I wouldn’t have finished it by Monday? ;))
I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, but caveat lector.
Well, first up, it’s a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, which means I’m pretty much guaranteed to like it. As long as it’s by Dan Abnett and it involves vaguely-Celtic Ninja-Commandos firing off lasguns in people’s faces while making the occasional wisecrack, I’m a happy man. However there were a few things about Salvation’s Reach that meant I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some others in the series.
The first is that we’re introduced to a lot of new characters. The Tanith First is finally getting reinforcements and that means a whole lot of new blood into the regiment (including of all things a… nah, I’ll leave you to read it yourself ;)). On top of that there’s new Commissars and an unexpected arrival from the past. This is well and good, but having introduced all these new people not a lot is done with them. The actual action focuses on the tried and true characters from the other books, which (while I certainly have no objection) leaves the book feeling unfinished. Like it’s Salvation’s Reach Part One rather than a book in its own right. I have no doubt that the newcomers will get their days in the sun in future novels, but it almost feels like Dan bought all these extras on board and then couldn’t think what to do with them.
Another problem for me was that unexpected arrival from the past. The whole thing feels like a cliche. To his credit Dan hasn’t used the character for cliched things, but having them there feels kind of trite – as if he’s running out of ideas so went with a really obvious one. And accelerated aging? Deux Ex Machina anyone? But hey, nothing heinous storywise has happened with the character yet, so we’ll just have to see how the series continues.
But enough about my nit-picking. What’s good about the book you ask? Two words. SPESS MEHREENS!!
Yes, the Astartes make their first on-screen appearance in Gaunt’s Ghosts (or at least the first I can remember, which is all that counts). I haven’t read any of Dan’s work with Space Marines before, but I really like what he’s done with them. Seen from the perspective of the Imperial Guard the Space Marines assigned to the mission are intimidating, frightening, and just alien. The way they talk, the way they behave and the way they think is so different that you get much more sense of just how changed a Space Marine is from an unaltered human. The Ghosts – who in the past have exchanged jibes with Chaos Magisters and taken out corrupted Dreadnoughts using only lasguns and cacti (seriously, Sound and Fury, look it up) are scared to even approach them. They’re the godlike sons of the Emperor, and they really seem like it.
There’s nothing wildly special about the plot, but it gets the job done. The MkRedshirts are present and accounted for (any newly introduced Ghost with a name starting with “Mk” will be dead within four pages – I guarantee it), there’s action, explosions, gunfights and heroic sacrifices. Shoggy Domor (one of my favourite second stringers) even gets some lines. All the ingredients are there for a good, action-packed read. Including, of course, character deaths.
That’s the big thing in any Ghosts novel of course, who (if anyone) dies? (well apart from MkTan, MkKonnor, MkMapp, MkSal, MkGillikudie…). Well, brace yourself, there are two character deaths in this one. One expected, one out of the blue. They’re both pretty heroic and Dan grants the unexpected character some closure before they go, which is good to see since they were another of my favourites. Some nice last words too, sticking the middle finger up at the enemies of the Emperor in true Ghosts fashion. Good, albiet sad, deaths.
Finally, there’s a throwaway reference to a mystery that’s been hanging around since Necropolis. It’s a small thing, such a small thing that I wondered if it was a typo in my copy, so I can’t tell if Dan’s preparing to drop a second shoe that’s been hanging since the Ghosts were at Vervunhive, or if he’s just having a laugh at something the editors missed. He doesn’t do anything with it in this book, but I’m intrigued as to what the next novel will bring.
So, that’s it. Salvation’s Reach. More of a His Last Command than a Necropolis, but still a bloody good read. Bring on the next one Dan! 😉
(PS: Also meant to say that someone obviously handed Dan a Forgeworld catalogue. The story is littered with Forgeworld spacecraft, Forgeworld vehicles, and Forgeworld Spess Mehreen boarding armour. Get a hold of your own copy and tick them off as they come! :))
(PPS: Oh yeah, there’s also a third character death, but it’s a minor character who probably had it coming. So there.)