Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Traitor's Gorge

Traitor's Gorge by Mike Lee. A Warhammer 40K Crimson Fists novella, originally published by The Black Library, 2013. Approx. 105 pages.

Put into general release last year and recently relegated to the Black Library Vault (although now SOLD OUT), Traitor's Gorge is a ~30,000 word novella by Mike Lee, once again writing about the post-Rynn's World Crimson Fists. Traitor's Gorge focuses on Chapter Master Pedro Kantor, who, along with Sternguard and Terminator squads, continue the arduous purge of the orks from their devastated home world.

This will be a relatively short review, since the execution is nearly identical to what we saw in The Few. Ergo, what worked there, works here; and what was lacking there is on full display.

The events of Traitor's Gorge take place roughly two years after the attack on the Crimson Fists home planet, Rynn's World. Snagrod has left, and the remaining humans (the roughly 1% that survived), and the last hundred Fists are still expunging the greenskin taint. After finishing up a sweep of xenos filth, they receive word that an exploratory group (dispatched by the nobles at New Rynn City to obtain some agricultural equipment) have gone missing. Given the amount of time since they disappeared, Kantor knows chances for a rescue are dim. There is, however the chance to honor them with retribution. Exhausted and frighteningly low on ammunition, the Fists head off for a snaking riverbed known as Traitor's Gorge.

Unbeknownst to both the Fists and the orks, a third party has a vested interest in the events developing on Rynn's World. Eldar farseer Sethyr Tuannan, of the Alaitoc, has seen some grim portents. She sees the rise of a new ork warboss, one filled with enough malicious intelligence to supplant the mighty Snagrod. And so, embracing the age-old mantra that "the enemy of my enemy is my ally", she takes a contingent of rangers and warp spiders to the Gorge.

As mentioned, as it was in The Few, there is little to no characterization going on in Traitor's Gorge. Kantor spits out some cinematic rally calls, and Sethyr contributes some arbitrarily obscure riddles. There is an interesting "Yogi Bear" greenskin (he's smarter than the average ork). The rest of the cast list is names and unit types. It's all fine though, for the physical descriptions and action scenes are done very well.

Lee understands the very different physical traits of these three races, and integrates this into the tactics employed and battle scenes written. There is a lot of crushing hand to hand combat between orks and Astartes, due to depleted ammo stores. The eldar fight with their trademark grace and obfuscation. Intense detail is paid to weapons and uniforms; the scene where Kantor is introduced contains such a vivid description of his custom armor that I felt he was standing before me.

If there is any one thing I can pin down as a flaw it is the "ork chapters". At the beginning of each chapter is a small icon which lets you know which race it will focus primarily on. While these are not first-person POV's, for some reason, the ork chapters utilize a smattering of "orky" terms, like "hard shells" (for the Space Marines. Parker had used that term as well in Rynn's World). It just seems odd to have random ork words thrown in. It's not like the narrative was following some orkish stream of consciousness. It's like those old 80's movies which, when they showed Soviets, they would be speaking in English (under the assumption that the audience understood it was supposed to represent native tongue), and yet, for no real reason, instead of saying "no", someone would say "nyet". It just doesn't feel right.

So that's it. If you love a lot of action in your WH40K books, then you should love Traitor's Gorge. You are getting 100 pages of well-written battle scenes with some obligatory moments of exposition tucked in. The back and forth gets mind-numbing after a while, but never dull.

Here's what it is:
The depleted Crimson Fists and the crafty eldar "team up" to unleash holy hell on the some not-exactly dumb orks in a pure action novella. If you want a ton of graphic carnage, this is for you.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

This is a nice cover at first glance. The posing is solid, the colors are vibrant. But sorry, the more I look at Kantor's power fist, the more cartoony it seems. I know the technology is canon, I know armoured Space Marines take, ah, liberties with anatomical correctness, but it looks like those Tex Avery/Tom & Jerry type shorts where a character blows into his thumb to inflate his fist before socking someone in the mouth. Maybe some electric crackling would distract from how balloon-like it looks?

Cover Final Score:


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