Whiteout by Andy Clark. A Warhammer 40,000 short story, Day Two of the Summer of reading 2015, originally published by The Black Library, August 2015. Approx. 25 pages.
Sometimes I don't know what the heck is going on over at The Black Library. In one week, they release both Space Wolves and Deathwatch series (the first story of which featuring almost no Deathwatch). So, what happens soon after? They release a Deathwatch story headed by a Space Wolf and put it....on the Summer of Reading 2015 slate. I don't get it sometimes...
One thing to mention: Whiteout is Andy Clark's first published short story for The Black Library. So, a hearty congratulations to him, and best of luck in future writings. As it stands, this first outing is pretty solid.
A Deathwatch kill team is descending on the frozen world of Atrophon to take out a high-value ork asset, part of Waaagh! Dregsmasha. Working on a tight timetable, they are to operate on the Eastern side of a mighty river known as the Strakk. Three bridges linking the banks of said river (and keeping orks on one side and defenders on the other) were to have been demolished by Catachan sappers. Of course, obstacles take no greater pleasure than appearing at the most inopportune moments; and so, one bridge still stands. Now, the kill team has a choice; pursue the target or finish the job with the bridge, saving the defenders from utter annihilation.
The kill team itself that we are presented with is handled well enough. Members from fairly classic Chapters were cherry-picked to meet the narrative needs of the story; we have a stoic Ultramarine brother-sergeant, an Iron Hand to tickle any necessary machine spirits, and a taciturn Raven Guard, because we need someone to fly to certain places. Our main character is a brash braggart Space Wolf named Lothar Redfang. And finally, there is a White Scar apothecary, so we have a member with the quiet ferocity to balance again Redfang's bombast.
A nice, standard array to be sure. It might have been more interesting to see a member from a lesser-known Chapter in there, but what we have works. Just because I say "standard" doesn't mean not well done. We get a good enough idea of each character's personality, or at least the importance of their individual contributions.
As a central character, Redfang is enjoyable enough. Let me clarify; since it might be bias guiding me. I am not too crazy about Space Wolves, and find them more annoying than exciting with their "wet leopard growl Wolverine" antics. Therefore, from the first page, Redfang was beginning to annoy the ever-loving crap out of me. Luckily, Clark is sharp enough to make the other battle brothers keep him in check, and remind Redfang that he is the new guy in the group.
All in all, the personal interactions are enjoyable. There is some well-placed humor, nothing overboard. The dialogue has more of a cinematic punch than any real gravitas, but that fits the overall tone.
What really wins the day in Whiteout are the location descriptions and the battle scenes. The world building is done extremely well; especially in bringing the brutal snowstorm to life, or showing the true scale of the bridge.
Whiteout also showcases some of the most wicked combat scenes I have read in a while. Clark really outdoes himself with the ork on Space Marine action. There is a real sense of what it must be like to get mobbed by these monsters; with these orks being capable enough of doing palpable damage to ceramite Astartes armor with just their wicked hand weapons. Some of the action is pretty over the top, but deliciously so.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. There are no big surprises in the story structure. You have a fairly good idea from the get-go what will be compromised, what will be accomplished, and who will make it. It doesn't really matter; this story captures a lot of the fun of WH40K, without being mindless bolter porn. Give it a shot.
Here's what it is:
A fun and bloody short story from a promising new author. Assign extra points if you are a fan of either Deathwatch or Space Wolves.
Nothing really wrong with the picture of the Space Wolf here. It's just that the black background is a poor choice. A wintry background would have been the better choice by far. This blackout adds nothing; worse. it detracts.
Cover Final Score: