Monday, March 03, 2008

"The Armour Of Contempt", by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Gaunt's Tenth Outing, Still Going Very Strong
If only all of the Black Library's authors were this good... Returning in their 10th novel, Gaunt's Ghosts are dispatched back to Gereon, the blighted and occupied planet that formed the backdrop for previous novel, "Traitor General" (2005). Unlike last time, when only a select group of Ghosts were sent to the planet, this time the whole regiment is deployed, in a whole-hearted attempt to liberate the world, wiping the stain of Chaos from the region.
To begin with, however, we get a look at life on the troopships of the Imperium. Dan Abnett is one of the best authors for providing background and story that doesn't involve mayhem and carnage (though it must be said that he is also writes the most realistic battle scenes). From the perspective of all levels of Ghost. Dalin Criid (who first appeared as an orphan child in "Necropolis"), who has just come of age and is hoping to join the Ghosts as a full Imperial Guardsman, only to be deployed as a reserve, on the other side of the planet to his adopted parents Caffran and Tona Criid, which is consumed by brutal assaults; Ibram Gaunt and the other Commissars, Hark and Ludd, as they help prepare the troops and keep order both on the battlefield and during transit, and direct the Ghosts' special mission.

Usually series start to flag a little before their tenth installment, but it is a testiment to Abnett's skills as an author that he has been able to keep this series one of the best selling in the Science Fiction genre.* Couple this with his prolific work on other series as well as his work outside of the Black Library (Dr Who and Torchwood novel-tie-ins, comics, and so much more), Abnett is clearly one of the UKs leading Science Fiction and Fantasy author of this decade.

Tight prose, well-placed humour, believable action, and characters you care about, "The Armour Of Contempt" would be an excellent addition to any collection, and will happily entertain you for a few hours.

Perhaps the only negative I could think of is the ever-growing dramatis personae - there are so many names to keep on top of, sometimes, that things can get a little confusing, as you try to remember if a character's new or appeared previously.
* Because of some obscure labelling/criteria rule, all Warhammer and 40k novels are not counted in British book sales rankings, which is unfortunate, as Abnett would otherwise populate the Top 10

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