Monday, July 22, 2013

Engine of Mork

Engine of Mork by Guy Haley. A Warhammer 40,000 "Apocalypse" short story. Originally published July 2013 by The Black Library for Digital Monday. Approx. 21 pages.

As I am still only 75% done on my Hobgoblin reread, and I don't want to end July with only 3 or 4 posts, I decided to spend my Sunday with a fun little short story. And since Guy Haley has been churning out quality shorts recently, I decided to jump on his newest release. Haley actually had two shorts come out recently; Mork and Iron Harvest. But being as though Harvest is a follow-up story to Baneblade, which is on the to-read shelf, here we go with Mork...

A trio of ork mekboys (of the Red Suns) have been retained by Boss Grabskab (of the Death Skulls) to help partake in an upcoming Waaaaagh against some puny 'slashfaces' (Tau). The mekboys are led by Boss Mek Uggrim, who is none to fond of the thieving ways of the Death Skull crews. However, he directs his teams efforts towards completing their 'stompa', a smaller-class ork gargant, which projects a quite-imposing figure in the fashion of the ork god Mork.

Like most shorts (and pretty much all one could expect in a 20 page one), the narrative is fairly cut and dry: we meet the mekboys, they have some problems with the stompa to hammer out, "Fat Mork" comes alive at last, there's a righteous scrap with some other boys, and finally, the slashfaces decide to steal the initiative and bring the battle to the orks. So is there anything special the Haley brings to the table in this tale? And is anything lacking?

Haley's affinity for all things orky shows clear in 'Engine of Mork'. The language, dialect, banter, mannerisms, all have a genuine feel. Yes, I know that sounds silly: "genuine sounding made-up creatures. Hurr hurr hurr". But it's true; sometimes in situations like this, the dialogue can be forced; authors write for how they think something of a certain intelligence would sound based on a perceived level of achievement. Haley has immersed himself into the culture of the greenskins; he has become a regular Jane Goodall of the Orkish races, and that is what makes these tales so much fun. A good amount of detail is also rendered to the technology that makes these ork beasts of war mobile and deadly. This detail is conveyed in ork-speak, and, it somehow all makes sense. Then again, in obstinate machines, a few hammer-whacks will usually fix anything. 

As seen in previous works, Haley presents engaging, and exciting battle scenes, be they accounts of ork on ork brawls or in actual battle with the Tau. Ork/Tau conflicts are interesting in nature because they are a study in wanton brutality vs. surgical precision. Again, we are given the ork perspective, as Tau weaponry is scoffed at because it makes a "pop-pop instead of a proper bang-bang". More playful wording as ork pistol rounds "spank off of" Tau armor. Most importantly, battles sing with the bombast of destruction, smashing, and bellowing. All the things that make life worth living for a greenskin.

Unfortunately, for all the good aspects of Mork, there are certain factors hampering it from reaching the whimsical, lofty heights of "King of Black Crag". Of the three central characters, only Uggrim distinguishes himself. The rest just act, well, orky. It is mentioned that one has a sharp tongue, and the other is a bit more intelligent than the average greenskin. And yet, it doesn't really resonate that way. At one point, one of the mekboys loses his teeth (funny stuff), and ends up speaking with a lisp. However, after that one punchline moment, the lisp disappears. And when Haley puts forth the notion that this stompa is a walking, roaring, bellowing fetish of Mork, and the mekboys within are like the organs that keep it moving, he misses on the chance to give Uggrim a real sense of megalomania as he becomes the "head's head", so to speak.

One more gripe, and this is not directed at Haley, is the editing. This is the second time I am finding typos in a Black Library short. This time there were two; an "in" instead of an "on", and a sentence ending without a period, or any spacing before the next sentence. Seriously, there isn't a lot of proofing to do here. I know it doesn't alter the story, but any time the reader has to stop reading to shake their head over amateur errors, it interrupts the continuity of the experience. As mentioned before, typos don't take away from the story's final tally.

All in all, the biggest misfire of the story is that it does not feel like a self contained story, with a beginning, conflict, and resolution. Instead, it feels more like a chapter from a book. A well-written chapter, but not a story.

Here's what it is:
More greenskin fun from the man that is emerging as The Black Library's go-to authority on them. If you are not into orks, pass on this tale. A little too lean for the price tag as well.

Final Score:


Cover Score:
Definitely not one to write home to Mom about. A silhouette of an Ork Stompa (possibly a pic of a model or taken from a rulebook), illuminated from behind by a burning, orange light (nod to the Red Suns). Not much more that you could expect for the price, but since some of the Digital Monday exclusives have had some pretty decent covers, and given the word count of the story as well, a little more would have been nice. Actually, a lot more would have been better.

Cover Final Score:


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