Okay, so here’s a tough question. How do you fairly review three different books by three different authors in the same collection? I guess we’ll find out in today’s review of the Imperial Guard Omnibus: Volume 1.
Contained within are the novels Fifteen Hours by Mitchel Scanlon, Death World written by Steve Lyon, and Rebel Winter authored by Steve Parker. At the time I read it, it was my first introduction to all three authors so I had no expectations. You may also notice that I now link the authors to their bios on the Black Library’s site if you want to take a look at the lives of these upstanding gentlemen.
My reason for picking up the omnibus is a little more complex than I first let on. My dad, who had passed away more than a year ago at the time, had served in Vietnam as an MP Captain. So I took to learning about the struggle on foreign soil to understand a bit more about what he went through. I also turned to fictional stuff about jungles or Vietnam as well.
I started watching the Rambo series, and reading the amazing Punisher Max comic series (which will get a blog post later as it is an amazing graphic novel series). What I learned inspired me enough to effect my fictional writing, hence my interest in Catachan. I picked up the omnibus just for Death World. I just got more with it.
I’m going to start with a quick summary of each of the three books.
The first book of the trio was Fifteen Hours. The book covers the tithing of a seemingly calm world, scuttling a fresh faced kid (the main character) into the Imperial Guard. A clerical error within the Administratum sends his unit to world different from the one he was intended. Upon arriving, the recruit’s entire squad is lost and he is snowballed into a completely different regiment to survive the Ork onslaught. The namesake of the book comes from a statistic; new recruits who survive for greater than fifteen hours show a better chance of survival long term.
The second book was Death World, and the real reason I picked up the omnibus. A short story takes place before the book begins about protagonist Lorenzo’s trial to join the Catachan Devils. In the book, Lorenzo is shipped to a battlefront which Imperial command believes is a ‘death world.’ The jungle planet is overrun with Orks, and Lorenzo’s squad is sent on a special assignment alongside an obnoxious Commissar. Meanwhile, supporting the squad from a distance is the elusive and unbelievably lethal Sly Marbo (an anagram for Rambo).
The final book, Rebel Winter, was an unexpected but delightful surprise. A rebellion against the Imperium on a cold planet. In response, the Imperium does what it does best and sends an army of Vostroyans to deal with the uprising. But like the other two novels, Orks pop up. The book focuses primarily on a commander who was born in the lower classes, but against the odds is promoted to an officer despite such positions usually being reserved for nobility. Even from a distance, Parker develops Vostroya with the back stories of his characters.
To my surprise, the three books were actually in the order of how I preferred them, although part of me had to detract a point because all three novels involved fighting the Orks. Greenskins get monotonous after a while. Scanlon’s characters are catchy, especially the three stooges trio that the main character gets set up with. But the setting and story over all just don’t impress me. Lyons was more enjoyable, the explorer’s story meshing well with the combat and plot. I love the way Lyon wrote Marbo, less as a character and more as an elemental force.
But Steve Parker crafted the best tale of the three. No, I’m not saying that just to avoid getting beaten up. Parker’s characters were memorable because of their back stories, which not only crafted their personality but managed to effectively explain the traditions and world of Vostroya. His plot sufficiently mixed things up with a combination of rebel forces, Orks, a few internal political enemies and even the Inquisition. The book was satisfying and hinted of a sequel I wouldn’t be against.
Ultimately, two out of three good books makes a worthy buy. I got my finger’s crossed that Rebel Winter gets a sequel.