Home > Books, Reviews > Robo-Skeletons Versus Epic Heroes

Robo-Skeletons Versus Epic Heroes

Well, it’s the season to be spooky, so I’d thought I’d finally get round to a book that surprised me and that I enjoyed quite a bit; The Fall of Damnos 1 by Nick Kyme.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the book; it’s a novel set in the 40K2 universe, and features the near-perfect warriors of humanity, The Ultramarines3 bashing the hell out of spooky robotic skeleton monsters, the Necrons4. The plot is quite straight forward; ancient mechanical horror rises from the depths of the densely populated mining world Damnos, and Space Marines turn up to punch said antediluvian menace in the face. I was expecting an action packed diversion, a rip roaring tale of adventure starring lantern jawed heroes smacking villainous villains, peppered with gritty darkness .

By the way; In this story, Damnos falls Just so you know.

And I got all that. What I wasn’t expecting was to walk away feeling sympathy for all of the characters, including the Necrons. The trick to a good action story is to make the reader/viewer/listener care about characters involved, and The Fall of Damnos does this by giving us an insight into the daily routine of the main characters, we see Ultramarines politicking in a ‘Greco-Romans in Space’ sort of way, we see the inhabitants of the doomed planet getting on with the daily routine and most interesting of all, we see the Necrons politicking and vying for favour and power within their own ranks. Given that Necrons are basically gothic cyborgs, this is a bit of a treat. It’s nice to see the evil robot monsters get a chance to actually be villains, rather than yet another faceless threat.

It’s not without its flaws; Kyme spices up the Ultramarines by giving them a bit more of political bent, and this isn’t explored strongly enough to be compelling. As fun as a 40K version of HBO’s Rome would be, Fall of Damnos really doesn’t have the space to cram it in, this is a book about big men with big guns shooting horrific monsters. The Ultramarines felt fairly interchangeable to me, and though this paralleled nicely with the robotic hordes, this element didn’t engage me strongly enough to work. Personally, I found the characters that happened to be ordinary people the most interesting; dragged into a war between titans, the human characters, from the plucky resistance fighters to the despair driven commander moved the story forward for me.

If you like the 40K setting, and like well written space marine battles, this is for you.

1: I deliberated a lot about writing book reviews; I’m a writer myself, and I’m especially interested in so called tie-in novels because I do love playing in other peoples creative sand-pits.
2: The fun thing about “tie-in” fiction is that the author can add depth to an existing world, yet they only have to explain aspects of the world that are relevant to the current story. That means the writer can litter the book with references for the fans, without alienating new readers. Its nifty, and I like it, though critics of “tie-in” fiction misunderstand this element entirely.
3: In the past, I’ve described the Ultramarines as “The Manchester United of the Astartes”. By which I mean they’re so popular and ubiquitous that people fall over themselves to find reasons to dislike them, because fans always like to whinge about the team at the top. The football metaphor doesn’t really work for other space marines, so I am unable to work out which chapter recently defeated the Ultramarine 6-1 in an Inter-Astartes Soccer Match. Probably the Imperial Fists.
4: Necrons are a peculiar mix of Undead monsters, cybernetics-gone-wrong and horror-from-beyond-time. They fit the classic sci-fi cliché of Cybermen and Borg, but also have an occult twist to them that reminds me of the darker sort of Cthullhu Mythos story.

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  1. October 31, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Good review, Ed. Sounds like I took much the same as you did from FoD. Not without glaring weaknesses, but it did present quite an interesting dynamic for a book, more characters than usual for non-Abnett 40k, but not as varied/endearing as those in Kyme’s Salamanders books.

    Moren’n that, I rather enjoyed the review, you should do more!

    Also, I understand it’s only half of the Damnos story, so Kyme (or another) still has the other bit to do. It’s a game of two halfs, to add to your analogy!

  2. October 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    How recent is this story? The new fluff I’m seeing for Necrons you see, actually sounds very much like they’ll be given some genuinely interesting characters – at least, they will the further up the chain you go…


    • November 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Very recent, it’s written with the new codex in my mind, I believe.

  1. November 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

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