Monday, 18 January 2010

Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson

Way back in time ( further then I care to remember or admit) when being a grown up seemed like such a long time away, I was thrilled to buy Space Marine. This was a book about Space Marines, actual Space Marines blowing stuff up. Of course I was far too young and innocent at the time to 'get' some of the more hidden subtext. Anyway after a long time the Imperial Fists are finally back in their own novel, Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson.

I was keen to read Sons of Dorn as I had read Chris Robersons offering from Solaris and Dawn of War II. But how does he fair with his first novel for the Black Library where he doesn't have a computer game script to fall back on.

It would be impossible to write a review about this book without mentioning Space Marine. Space Marine is a much loved novel from the early days of Games Workshop ( soon to be released in the new POD service from the Black Library) and it's inevitable that people will draw comparisons. I even heard someone refer to this book as Space Marine: The next generation! I don't know why people would compare the two novels as Space Marine was about three recruits who hated each other and finally became 'brothers' where as Sons of Dorn is about three recruits who hated each other and finally become........... wait a second!

Joking aside anyone expecting a retelling of Space Marine will be in for a surprise. Taking a tip from the latest Star Trek film the time between the protagonists arriving at the phalanx ( the Imperial Fists spaceborne fortress) and their first real campaign as scouts passes from the end of one chapter at the begining of the next. Which although surprising at first was probably a smart move on Mr Robersons part. He avoids the inevitable comparing of the two books and there are already plenty of novels and background material describing the process of turning a boy into a marine.

The finale is well written and action packed which it needed to be after a very slow start to the book. All of the main 'characters' from the Imperial fists appear such as Lord Pugh, Chaplain Lo Chang and not forgetting everyone's favourite giant hammer wielding terminator Captain Lysander, who seems to have become someone of a cold hearted SOB when it comes to tactics.

Reluctantly I will say that the book is not perfect. I can already hear the knives belonging to the background fanatics eagerly being sharpened. The Imperial Fists seems to have gone from a careful selection process of recruits, to a hap hazard conscription process where they seem to take whoever looks goods ( I think the book mentions thousands of potentials) and knock them out before stacking as many of them as possible into ships. Some of the technology also seems a bit too 'futurastic' such as the machine which enables one of the Captains to be taught three seperate languages so he can speak fluently to three different people on a planet that hasn't been visited for hundreds of years.

Still as a start to a series it's a strong offering, and offers shows that the author has plenty of potential as a Warhammer 40,000 author. If he is able to improve his 'grasp' of the 40k universe ( i.e making things more gothic and arcane) I can see him joining the top ranks of Black Library authors. He's close but not there just yet.

3.5 out of five.

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