Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme

Fall of Damnos, Nick Kyme
A Space Marine Battles Novel
416 pages
Advance Review Copy

When Damnos is hit by cataclysmic earthquakes, an ancient force is awakened. Deep beneath the earth, the necrons rise from their slumber to decimate the human populace. All appears lost until salvation comes from the heavens – the Ultramarines brave an orbital bombardment to deploy their forces on Damnos, led by two legendary warriors – Captain Cato Sicarius and Chief Librarian Tigurius.
They are the planet's last, great hope against the remorseless alien foes, but tensions within their ranks threaten to derail victory. As battle rages on Damnos, and the Ultramarines seek to defeat their soulless enemies, Tigurius receives a terrible vision – a vision telling of the death of a hero... http://blacklibrary.com

So we have Space Marines, Ultramarines no less versus Necrons. Second Company, Captain Sicarius and the poster boys of Games Workshop and Space Undead: two of the single most dreaded subjects of most 40k readers. If you're around online, on 40k forums you hear the constant bleating of how Space Marines are boring and how Ultramarines are the most boring of the boring. "Vanilla Marines" they call them. At the initial sight of this novel I can just foresee the "groan" of Space Marine haters the world over.

Add to this Necrons; space undead. Not exactly easy to get folks interested in. Neither of them really: Ultramarines OR Necrons.
Ultramarines and Space Undead, those characters can't be deep, compelling or sympathetic. Right?

Nick Kyme proves everyone dead wrong.

I have to really hand it to Mr. Kyme. He's taken what could be a disaster of subject matter, the ultimate in boring subjects and breathes life in to in a way I would have never guessed.

First off, as some of the best authors of 40k fiction have already expressed, Space Marines are not boring. They can have depth to them. Hypno-indoctrinated superhumans they may be, but they still have all the failing of mere mortals: anger, jealousy and hunbris. The striving for glory is something that really shines within the Ultramarines and it is quickly shown to be a chink in the armour of the Second Company.

As Nick Kyme shows us, straight away we are thrust in to a world where the "perfectness" of the Ultramarines is tested. First off, there is trouble within the chapter and nowhere else is it as clear as within the Second Company. Internal squabbles and strife threaten to undermine the entire deployment. At the heart of this are several of Sicarius' Veteran Sergeants. We get to see the struggle through their eyes and we get a varied perspective on the internal politics of the Chapter as well as the fight against the Necrons. We see personality flaws clearly, mistakes made, hubris shown and dearly paid for. The Ultramarines Second Company certainly pays dearly in this campaign.

On the other side of the battle lines there are the Necrons. I've never seen such characterization of something so...dead before. Prior to this Necrons have been illustrated as typically undead, unfeeling and largely uninteresting antagonists. They awake and snuff out all life. They are no better than the Tyranids. A faceless enemy out to wipe out everything else. Blegh.

When I started reading the first paragraphs of Mr. Kyme telling the Necron side of the tale I was taken aback. My suspension of disbelief was shocked. I got a taste of what it must be like to be as ancient as the stars, hungering, needing, the pain of being lost, craving flesh and utter hatred of the living. It was awe inspiring. So many things I had never considered were laid bare. in-depth explaiantion through prose on how the various sects and divisions within the Necrontyr actually WORK. Warhammer 40k fans who play Necrons are going to geek out so hard on this their head is going to spin. Without a doubt this is *THE* definitive book for Necron fans. Absolutely required reading.

I've read all of Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novels telling the tales of Uriel Ventris and his 4th Company, and they are good. Mr. McNeill weaves a great yarn and has proven Ultramarines can be fun to read about. Now Nick Kyme is ascending to tell of the Glorious 2nd Company and it appears Mr. McNeill has a Challenge to the Throne of Macragge!

To be fair, The stories of McNeill's 4th Company and Kyme's 2nd Company are completely distinct. They stand nicely on their own as excellent examples of how Space Marines are interesting subjects, and how the "perfect" can be so flawed...human. The Ultramarines in Fall of Damnos are actually very different from Nick Kymes's previous work on the Salamanders Chapter, which is a testament to his versatility as a writer (I know I expected a bit of similarity, redundancy, re-hashing of the same-ol, same-ol. I was happily surprised in Mr. Kyme's ability to keep his work distinct...unique.)

The characters in Fall of Damnos are very rich. Even the venerable brothers encased in Dreadnought sarcophagi are compelling characters. Sicarius is played fairly close to the vest. I would have liked to see more in to his psyche. We get a view in to him and his command squad and I would like to see more of them, but maybe that is saved for later tales. Kyme started something very cool in Battle for Macragge, and it is played out nicely in this novel. (I'd say more but I don't want to spoil the plot/ key subplots)

Internally there is a planetary map, and a nice Order of Battle sheet which is quite useful in keeping track of who is who.

The cover art by Jon Sullivan is perfect (probably my favorite of his in this series). It clearly gives the appropriate feeling of creepy wrongness of the vile Necrons.

This is a damn fine read! nick Kyme shows he can weave a tale and make Ultramarines, Necrons even Dreanoughts compelling as characters. HUZZAH!
Any shortcomings in the plot were negligible. I only wanted MORE of it. Nick Kyme has a firm grasp of what it means to tell a tale in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium: characters die, and nobody is safe. Even the mighty are flawed and the smallest of characters can shine as brightly as a superhuman.

4.5 out of 5 Stars.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a possible good read but the review almost seems too good to be true.

Now I can't wait till this book comes out to see if the hype is really validated or not however, if this is another one of those books that just ends with an Exterminatus of the planet this book will be nothing more than a worthless addition that adds little to nothing to the 40k timeline.

I am hoping for something that will add flavor to the 40k universe, not another story thats ends leaving no purpose for it being there.

Anonymous said...

It was a good book, but I wonder if there will be a sequal? There were many unresolved story arcs.

Jeff said...

Yeah, it's the second in a series.