Adventures in Bookland: Deathwatch by Steve Parker

This is, basically, the male equivalent of chick lit: big blokes with blasters blasting bad guys. The Warhammer 40k universe misses one trick though. Being dedicated to war – it exists, after all, to facilitate a war game – the spin-off books ignore one aspect of the 40k universe that might not be obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to actually live in it, but that is obvious to at least this visitor: it is a world of wonders. Magic, elves, orcs, space ships, demons – it’s as if all the fantasy creatures of earth’s deep past were waiting for us all along, among the stars. Admittedly, in this version of the future, they are all busily trying to exterminate us, as we are attempting to destroy them, but there you go – you can’t make an Imperium without cracking a few alien skulls. And in the cracking of alien skulls, none are better than the Space Marines. Unfortunately, in the world of 40k books, none are so boring as the Space Marines. Being engineered killing machines who know no fear, sexual desire, curiosity or anything much else apart from glory, honour and loyalty, they make poor protagonists for a 40k novel. Far better when the hero is a normal human being, such as the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, or an abnormal one, such as the Eisenhorn novels. Even better if you can get Dan Abnett to write the books too. But even Abnett failed to make the Space Marines interesting when he essayed a Space Marines novel. In that respect, Steve Parker does a better job, but I wish he’d stayed longer with the characters from the Inquisition that he introduces alongside the eponymous Deathwatch Space Marines.

Albert’s rule number 1 for 40k novels: Space Marines are cool as background characters, riding in on Storm Ravens and killing aliens and Chaos spawn, but they’re not to be used as central characters. Might as well make a tree the hero, it would be less wooden.

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