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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: Treacheries of the Space Marines

Welcome back to another edition of Chaos Corner. Old Man Chaos is back in action! Ready to rumble! Er... Yes, well then. I am posting another entry, this time its a book review. I just finished Treacheries of the Space Marines, edited by Christian Dunn. So, was this a strong anthology of Chaos stories, or was it a lackluster attempt to cash-in on the Chaos codex? Let's take a look then, shall we?

 Anthologies are difficult to rate and review, in my opinion. I have the opinion that anthologies are *usually* a mixed bag. Unless they are short stories by the same author, the stories of the average anthology tend to rate from fair to poor, with many different styles, voices, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Treacheries of the Space Marines certainly suffers from that. The works contained here run the spectrum: some are great little reads, while others are totally lacking. To facilitate a review, I'll briefly give my thoughts on each short story:

The Masters, Bidding: The author has a very strange, stilted style of writing, but that only seemed to set the mood of this piece, which sees 4 Chaos Marines attempting to "bid" for a boon from an Iron Warriors lord. It's an unusual story, with each Marine telling stories of the long war. There's no final twist at the end or anything, just a solid story of ego, power, and betrayal. The best part of the read though is the author's description of an Emperor's Children champion. The rendering of this character is so weird, creepy, and actually unsettling, that the reader can't help but be fascinated. I'd love to see the author do more with the Emperor's Children in the future.

Carrion Anthem: As a Nurgle fan, I was hoping for more from this Guard versus Plague Marine tale. The story was written in an easy style, but the plot was downright bizarre. In fact, the premise of a song destroying people sounds more like a Slaneesh device than a Nurgle one. That made me disappointed with the tale, as it didn't feel like Typhus at all. The final charge of the Guard commander at the end was nicely done, but the story overall was weak and didn't seem to "get" Nurgle's ways.

Liberator: This may have been the most unexpected surprise in the whole book. It is a great story about how a group of Marines, fighting a long, bloody war against the Tyranids end up becoming slowly embittered by neglectful superiors and an ungrateful populace. Once that happens, their slide toward Chaos is unavoidable. This neat tale shows how current Marines can go bad, and how a single sergeant can become a warlord of Chaos, bringing death to a dozen worlds. I really liked this one.

The Long War: This is solid "bolter porn", with no frills or anything special. It is the story of Warsmith Ironclaw and his warband, attacking a fortress held by Guardsmen. There's big explosions and all, but there's little else. Yes, the author tries to show how time has passed for the Iron Warriors so differently from everybody else, but again, nothing special is done with it. Enjoyable, but forgettable.

Throne of Lies: This story from Aaron Dembski Boden has been around as an audio book, now its been printed. A strong entry for the Night Lords, this story sees Talos looking to claim a relic that might galvanize his Legion (if such a thing is possible). There's a bit of intrigue, and assassin, and the relic itself will raise some eyebrows, IF you haven't read the Night Lords trilogy already ('cause then you'd already know what happens).

Bitter End: This was a fun, breezy tale featuring the Red Corsairs and their impresario, Huron Blackheart. Again, this is "bolter porn", but a good read. I may have to check out The Gildar Rift, written by the same author, and also features the Red Corsairs, as I did like this short tale.

We Are One: While this premise is interesting, following an Inquisitor as he fights the nefarious Alpha Legion over the course of a century, the execution of it is lacking, as the writing is choppy and the action is disjointed. The final twist is also interesting, but I'm not quite sure how the Alpha Legion actually pulled it off- was it a clone? A plant? Copious amounts of plastic surgery? I'm confused, and that's not a way to end a short story.

Torturer's Thirst: This story had a similar problem- great premise, lackluster execution. This story sees a Flesh Tearer's' Chaplain taken prisoner by Chaos forces. The Chaos Lord plans to interrogate the Chaplain for vital battle plans, while the Chaplain vows to resist and escape. What could have been a great battle of wits between Torturer and Prisoner ends rather abruptly, and the result just wasn't interesting. Perhaps the weakest entry.

Vox Dominus:  I am familiar with Marduk, Kol Badar, and the warriors of the 34th Word Bearers, having read the first book of the Dark Apostle Trilogy. Unfortunately, I haven't read the other two (I should rectify that, as I enjoyed the first). This story sees Marduk scheming against another Apostle and a Lord of the Death Guard, Nargalax. The Death Guard were really nicely handled here, and I wouldn't mind seeing Anthony Reynolds tackle a Death Guard centric book, as he really seems to "get" what the followers of Nurgle are. The action was great, and seeing Marduk plot was fun. The ending, however, was ambiguous. I can't be sure if this is in between one of the other books, or is it going to kick off another round of Word Bearers books? Yep- I'll have to get to those last two sooner
or later.

Rating an anthology is tough- as you have now seen, some of the stories were great, others were fairly poor. Average that together, and I'd say you'd get 2 1/2 Marks of Chaos out of 4. If you're a die hard Chaos fan (like me) then it is worth checking out. If not, I'd say skip it in favor of better works. For my own part, I have just begun Abnett's Know No Fear, which I have heard is phenomenal (it's good so far). I would have read it sooner, but I've been backlogged in my reading since my illness. I'll be sure to review it when I'm finished.

Until next time, my friends...

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