Sunday, July 7, 2013

Flashback Book Review - Cadian Blood by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Cadian Blood by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. A Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard novel, published originally by The Black Library, October 2009. Approx. 320 pages. 

Cadian Blood

Cadian Blood (CB) is a Warhammer 40,000 (W40K) novel, I believe it is the first Black Library novel by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (AD-B), and it showcases the Imperial Guard, notably the Cadian 88th Mechanized Infantry.

CB is the story of an effort by the Imperium of Man to reclaim the planet of Kathur, a planet of significant religious importance which has suddenly fallen victim to an extremely powerful Chaos taint. This taint kills off the inhabitants of the planet, as well as travelling pilgrims and the Planetary Defense Force in record time, a span of about a week. Worse yet, those that died have became a horde of "plague-slain", shuffling undead minions of the Chaos that has lorded over them. Yup, all those Amazon reviews are right! It's W40K with zombies, and honestly, how can that be a bad thing?

Suffice to say, it isn't. It works, and works big time. AD-B is a great writer. To think this is one of his first offerings bodes well for the future of the Black Library. Now like I've said before, I'm still a relative newbie to the W40K world, and still haven't read an entire Space Marine novel yet. I like the rank and file aspect of the Imperial Guard, and the characters AD-B serves up are awesome. 88th Warden-Captain Thade, Darrick, Seth, Osiron, Dead Man's Hand, Jevrian, Caius, Tionenji, you really come to root for (or against) these guys.

Back to the story overview, the 88th is part of the Kathur Reclamation Spearhead force. They are charged with retaking some key landmarks until the main Imperial force arrives to purge the taint from the world. However, something is afoot. Unlike other taint situations where the world would be firebombed to nothingness, they are instructed to leave all artifacts intact, thus making their job more difficult against the plague slain. By why the precaution? Why is the 88th suddenly seconded to an high ranking Inquisitor and assigned a Commissar? And what is the mysterious voice that calls out, and to whom is it calling?

The Good: Like I said, AD-B is a solid writer. He is the most character-oriented Black Library author I've read. And for a "W40K Zombie Book", it's driven more by character interaction than bloody gibbets. There is action, and in no short order, but the cast is the treat here. Battle situations are tactically sound and exciting. Plus, there are three more specifics about AD-B's writing that caught me:
1. Descriptive keywords. Don't you hate authors that drastically go overboard or totally bare bones in their scenic descriptions? Not a problem here. AD-B knows to trust his readers intelligence, and lays out enough detail for them to draw a coherent picture. Hence, no wasted paragraphs, no boredom! Not easy given that he was describing a world full of religious architecture.
2. Quicky character bios. I love when authors do this. Take a minor background character who's about to have their moment, and flesh out a quick bio as to what lead them to this point. Guess what? It makes you care about that character! Take note, writers. Case in point, the captain of the Depth of Fury.
3. Sense of Astartes scale. AD-B's real strength may be in writing about Space Marines. They've popped up in other Guard books I've read, but never with the descriptive scale seen here. They're not just jacked-up supermen here, when they enter a room, you feel yourself looking up to them, hear the armor and augmetics at work. You get a sense of their pride, their own agenda, honor. And his descriptions of the tainted Death Guard, well, let's just say I can still here the buzzing of bloated blood flies. Great stuff.

The Bad: No real complaints, actually. Hate to say it, but Cadian Blood may have bumped off Gunheads as my favorite W40K title. My only complaint is that the Black Library made this title Out Of Print after only about a year (if even) here in the States. As a result, I am forced to report the library copy I read as lost. Or maybe I should report it.......Unbroken.

My Rating, for what it is: 4 1/2 out of 5 Aquilas

Here's what it is:
AD-B's debut novel shows why so many consider him the best writer in The Black Library. This title is not only a great foray for an Imperial Guard Cadian unit, but other denizens of WH40K lore get stellar treatment as well. Chaos minions, Space Marines, tainted Astartes, psykers, even the Imperial Navy. Even if you do not care for Guard novels, this one deserves a shot.

Final Score:


Cover Score:
Unfortunately, the cover for Cadian Blood is not as stunning as the content. Doing the bulk of the jacket in a steely camo pattern is decent looking, however the cover pic itself is stiff and unbelievable. Obviously the background was created first, with the the characters placed afterwards. But the postures are just random and, odd. To be honest they reminded me of Colorforms. Composition was not at the forefront of these drawings either. For a black and white comic book panel, this pic works fine. For a mass-market paperback cover, not so much.

Cover Final Score:


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