Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Review: Gunheads

Despite my continued resistance, I'm finding myself slowly drawn into the futuristic hell of Warhammer 40K (WH40K).

Over the Thanksgiving Weekend, I finished my first WH40K novel--Gunheads, by Steve Parker.

I bought my copy at Half Price Books along with a handful of the initial stories in the Gaunt's Ghosts Series.

I chose to "test the WH40K waters" with a one-of novel instead of plunging into a series within a setting I have mixed feelings about. 

Gunheads is one of over a dozen Imperial Guard novels.

These books are directed towards WH40K fans, and are written by WH40K fans.  Based on my neophyte experience with the game's rules, Steve Parker seems to have a good grasp of the details of this uber-dystopian future.

While there's a plethora of WH40K novels, I remain only interested in the "ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances" stories. Tales of the Imperial Guard are like the Red Army--IN SPACE.  I felt great sympathetic towards the men and women doing the fighting and dying--mostly the latter--but held many of the leaders in contempt.

Gunheads is about the mission of the 18th Army Group Exolon, who find themselves on an Ork-infested planet attempting to retrieve the super-heavy tank, Fortress of Arrogance.

(Image found on This Is Not A True Ending Archive--Traditional Games)

Initially, I thought sending thousands of men and hundreds of tanks on a quest to recover an old tank was a lame plot device.  While this is in-keeping with the superstition and reverence Imperial citizens have towards technology,  I was relieved after reading further that many of the officers and men felt they were on a suicidal fool's errand. 

Overall, I liked Gunheads, which has an average 4.3-star rating on  Only one reviewer, an active duty armor officer who thought the portrayal of the soldiers and tank battles fell short, gave the book a 1-star rating. 

I'm only giving the novel a 3-star rating for a couple of reasons. 

First, the author spread himself thin, by not focusing on Sergeant Wulf and his tank crew, as advertised on the back cover.  The story is about a massive planetary expedition on a combat retrieval mission.  Wulf wasn't even instrumental to the mission's success, but merely a participant.

Second, I'm still not a complete fan of the WH40K 'verse.  It's hard for me to muster enthusiasm about an interstellar empire that employs Inquisitors and Commissars to weed out heresy and maintain morale. So the only reason why I even care for some of the Imperial Guardsmen is because some of their fellow humans in other branches of the Imperium of Man, along with all the other alien species, range from just-as-bad to a-whole-lot-worse.

The more of a WH40K fan you are, the more you'll like Gunheads, and I'm sure all the other works found in The Black Library.

(Image found on Apocalypse40K)


commissarmoody said...

I am a Fan of the 40k universe but lots of there books fall pretty short. Dan Dan Abnett's offerings usually do not disappoint, With the Guants Ghosts Novels usually being pretty good.
Kind of a "Sharpe's" in Space sort of thing.
I will say though that the story does need to be finished soon. Seems like the last few novels are just dragging the story on.

Ted Henkle said...

Thanks for commenting Commissar Moody!
I hope you don't consider my review to be heresy. :)
I like the WH40K game mechanics, but I'm just not that crazy about such an over-the-top dark setting.
I've heard good things about Dan Abnett's novels, and have copies of the first three or four Gaunt's Ghosts books, which I have yet to read.
I sympathize with you on reading on-going series that ends up dragging. I felt the same way about David Weber's Honor Harrington series.