Thursday, May 30, 2013
Today we will be reviewing Stormlord, an Imperial Guard short story penned by Black Library newcomer Guy Haley. This short was released as part of BL's Digital Mondays initiative, and works as somewhat of a tie-in with Haley's recent Imperial Guard novel, Baneblade (related protagonists). This e-book short is about 31 pages long, and goes for $2.99. You have to decide if that is worth the price for you. Try to remember you are paying for content, not medium, and in that regard, you are getting a fine little gritty short for your three bucks.
In Stormlord, we have our main character, Lt. Jonas Vor Artem Lo Bannick (quite a mouthful, no?) of the 477th Paragon Foot (Imperial Guard) on the muddy, boggy world of Gullen, caught in a ceaseless, protracted trench war with a group of rebels. Their mission; take out a huge lascannon at the rebel base so that the base city's void shield can be taken down and the Imperium can commence orbital bombardment. This fruitless back and forth campaign promises to be at a victorious end with the arrival of three Stormlords, unholy mixes of super-heavy tanks and troop transports. So, Jonas and company hop on, the Stormlords punch forward, and the crank of the human meat grinder is spun at a furious rate.
Such are the events as they play out. So what makes this short noteworthy?
I've never read any of Haley's work before, but I have to say that I like his style. There is no unnecessary flash here, no 'hip' or 'cool' protagonist. No, this is a snapshot of the classic 'War is Hell' mantra. There is a distinct flavor of inspiration from World War I, as we are painted a scene of weary, mud-encrusted foot sloggers trudging through rainy trenches, and fighting an enemy, well, not so very different from themselves. Jonas Vor Artem Lo Bannick is an interesting protagonist; as a member of a disgraced money family on his home planet, he has to bear the burden of his family's sins. He is not full of false bravado, and although he realizes the differences in class between his men and himself, he fully understands how much they depend on each other. Lo Bannick is constantly nudged and prodded by the Company Commissar, Suliban. Suliban's attentions seem to tiptoe the line between stern encouragement and condescending provocation. He proves an interesting character, a fearfully deadly fly buzzing irritatingly by Lt. Jonas' ear.
There aren't many pages here for description, and Haley makes the most of it, using brief descriptions to fully realize this mucky, unpleasant world, these beaten-down infantrymen. As for the enemy, they are simply rebels, which I feel make for an interesting device. These are not your traditional, corrupted slaves of Chaos. These are people who perhaps had a very understandable reason for not wanting to bear the yoke of the Imperium. Does this make the 477th Paragon the 'bad guys'? No, they are just lifetime soldiers who march and fight, not to the crack of a whip, but to the report of a Commissar's bolter.
Any complaints? No. I wish this was a full length novel. I am only hoping that Baneblade also follows this tone.
Here's What It Is:
A heartfelt short reflecting on the utter fruitlessness of war, set in a universe governed by warmongers.
Good action, likable characters. Vivid descriptions.
Again, it's up to you if paying basically 10 cents a page is worth it. For me, it totally was.
Well, what do you expect for $3? A daVinci original? What you get is a tech-manual reminiscent side view of a Stormlord framed by a harsh black to brick-red gradient. Some weathering on the lettering. Nice color scheme, and it gets the job done, but zero points for original content.
Cover Final Score: