Warhammer 40k Forum and Wargaming Forums banner
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Henry Zou's latest is under a cloud at the moment, but I'll ignore the accusations levelled against him for the sake of review balance.

At first glance Flesh and Iron appears to be yet another tale of a Guard-regiment-against-impossible-odds. First glance is correct. As is second and third glance. I really have to wonder what Imperial Navy actually does. Whatever it is, it certainly doesn't involve the orbital bombardment which would instantly resolve ninety-nine percent of these Guard-regiment-against-impossible-odds scenarios. Anyhow, rebellion has come to Solo-Baston and - as it appears to be the Navy's day off - into the breach step the hard-drinking, regulation-flouting, maverick-if-the-commissar-don't-like-it-he-can-have-my-badge good ol' boys of the 31st Riverine. Not only does the 31st have to fight against near impenetrable jungle, hostile natives, and an indifferent high command, they must also traverse a vast, narrative-sucking mire of turgid clichés. Ultimately they, and the story, overcome all obstacles - but only barely.

On the Imperial side characterisation is thin. So thin it's practically translucent. Flesh and Iron's earnest colonel, corrupt cardinal, and shifty corporal make Battle for the Abyss look like a Dickensian character study in behavioural nuance. Happily, Solo-Baston's rebels and natives are more intriguing. Their culture is vividly painted without too much exposition. I found the naivety and comparative incompetence of one particular rebel cadre strangely endearing given their unsavoury affiliations. It's a shame so little time is spent with them.

Either Zou's prose, the editorial process, or both have improved since Emperor's Mercy. I didn't encounter any of the gaffs which occasionally marred his previous novel. The pacing is also smoother, and the point of view switches are better timed. I can't recall finding myself bored or losing my grip on the narrative for the first three quarters. The Riverine's assault on the rebel held siege gun is gripping and worth the wait. And there the story should have ended, but it doesn't and things start to unravel. There's really two novels within Flesh and Iron and the final quarter is an attempt to squeeze the second one in. As such, it feels both rushed and redundant. I believe Henry Zou painted himself into a corner by making one character both pivotal in this novel and a major character in Emperor's Mercy. If it had simply concluded shortly after the 88th Battalion arrived back in Imperial held territory it would have been a masterful piece of grimdark pathos.

Ultimately Flesh and Iron is an enjoyable, action-driven romp, and if my review sounds negative it's not because I didn't enjoy the book, but rather it's my frustration with what could have been a minor 40k classic if only it had more judicious editing and focus.

6.5/10

Highs: Interesting native culture fleshed out beyond the cookie-cutter rebels/cultist that normally populate 40k.
Lows: The redundant and anticlimactic subplot featuring corporal shifty.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,628 Posts
Very impressive -and ultimately fair- review. Hell, I even envy you somewhat, for your succinct, yet concise style; tangent-free, unlike my own :p

You certainly know your-thing, and I'm guessing you have reviewed before? Consequentially, I may buy said novel.

+Rep.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
6,993 Posts
I agree with bobss, very good review; especially that bit where you manage to do it without any spoilers. So many people take the cop-out road of including them rather than doing the work of keeping them away thats it is a very refreshing sight.

Been meaning to get this novel myself, but have been on the fence about it because I heard the characters were a bit bland. (Also heard the accusation bit, but I have never read or seen the other novel that it is said to steal from so that has less impact on me at this time.) Will have to pick it up at some point.


All in all, good work Xenocide.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
507 Posts
I was gonna order this novel myself but after reading some disturbing comments about plagiarism involved in some way just couldnt. I think every author loans some things from everywhere, but almost straight copy from another authors work is unacceptable.

Im real sorry if im wrong, but this is what i have read about this novel.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
"Of course I plagiarize. It is the privilege of the appreciative man." - Oscar Wilde

It's a time honoured creative practice to lift ideas wholesale from other sources. Some call it plagiarism, some call it hommage, I call it lazy. Regardless, I wouldn't let that put you off Flesh and Iron Roninman, especially if you're fond of Imperial Guard novels. And Zou's portrayal of the anti-Imperial factions is above par for 40k fiction.

Also, thanks for the kind words gentlemen. I try to avoid spoilers because I'm far too weak-willed not to read them in other reviews - even if they're hidden. I'm that feeble.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
138 Posts
I have seen sentences from both of the works in question, and let's just say if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the original works authors head must have swelled to the size of Jupiter from praise.
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top