Saturday, August 27, 2011

Imperial Glory - Book Review

Imperial Glory by Richard Williams
Tired and broken by war, the men of the Brimlock Eleventh Imperial Guard are a force on the verge of collapse. Having been stretched across the galaxy by their loyalty to the Emperor, they are presented with one final battle that will allow them reward they all seek: to colonise the distant world of Voor and live out the rest of their days in peace. All that stands in their way is a force of savages – a plague of feral orks that has spread across the planet. But can the Brimlock’s battered bodies and minds hold up to this greenskin invasion?

In the latest imperial Guard novel from the realm of the Black Library we join the Brimlock Eleventh Imperial Guard who are already heavily depleted, find themselves battling for not just their lives but for a home against the mighty Greenskin army on the distant world of Vorr. Yes as we all now expect from the Black Library, it does have some heavy duty combat, but not as much as one might have thought and certainly not as much as with the Space Marine novels out there. The style of the writer is one that concentrates on the struggles of both the mind and the physical and as such does a great job of bringing both the fore as the reader feels the troops exhaustion throughout the title.

The novel does have many good points, there are some strong characters (some of which are almost too funny) and some that are recognisable from other genre and films. The characters do fit together well apart from the overly “evil” Commissar who just seems there as something to add for no real reason other than to show the various parts of the Imperial Guard. The plot is unfortunately a little bit too much like a military option, the story is almost to formulaic, you know what will happen before it happens all because it’s been planned out beforehand. This telegraphing of the plot is a tad frustrating as there is little in the way of surprise but I guess the characters themselves make up for this. Yes this does mean you might plod along and miss the odd intriguing bit here and there but I’m sure in most cases they will be picked up.

As mentioned though whilst there is action a plenty the focus is on three main characters and how this campaign plays out for them. We have Major Stanhope, a man who’s unable to put the past behind him, 2nd Lieutenant Carson, a man unable to escape his past actions, and Private Blanks, a man who has no idea what his past is. There’s a number of really great supporting characters as well that flesh out the company, you really get the sense that the 11th have been fighting far longer than is healthy for a person’s wellbeing. Physically, they’re extremely capable soldiers, but mentally there are questions! Just keep an eye out for Mr. Emmet and you’ll know what I mean. The problem is that whilst this is an interesting angle to go with the Imperial Guard I do think it should have been spread out and not only focused on this but also on the day to day functions of the guard, we could have had a campaign series here instead of a single novel, as there are some very tantalizing hints to the working world of these guardsmen.

Whilst ‘Imperial Glory’ won’t rank up there with my all-time favourite Imperial Guard novels as at times it’s just a little too slow and when thinking about the novel it does make me think of missed opportunities for developing the characters, backstory and even the campaign it certainly is a good read. The novel kept me reading and when it really got going I was glad that I’d stuck with it, but it’s ending whilst premature was different enough from the normal flow of the Black Library stock that it actually made me pause for a moment or two as it is very emotional. Williams’ family has its own share of military figures (as the appendix at the end shows) and throughout the book you definitely get a sense of this knowledge and experience as when the chips are down and combat is joined this really comes across. However despite all that the novel gets a solid 3 and a half out of 5 as despite its human appeal and emotive undertones the initial starting point is somewhat laboured and the story doesn’t allow for as much in the way of surprises as one might like. Still a good and potentially great study of the Guardsman’s condition in the 40k universe. An interesting read and I would love to know what other people thought of it.

Available from:
Imperial Glory by Richard Williams
Softback, 416 pages, softback • ISBN 9781844168880

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