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I had heard a lot of great things about the Space Marines Battle series, and given my preference for the boys in power-armor, I eagerly picked up the first book in the series: Rynn's World.

One of the dangers of living with a Google-centric interweb, is the danger of finding too much information with little. I'm not sure when, where or why, but at some point in the recent past, I had read about the battle of Rynn's World, so I knew the basic premise of the book before I even opened the parcel from Amazon.ca.

You cannot minimize the impact of knowing the end of a story before reading it - we all chuckled half-heartedly in Star Wars Episode II when Obi-Wan confided to Anakin "Why do I get the feeling you're going to be the death of me?". In any case, knowing the story got me excited to read the book, as I was looking forward to the brazen stand of the outnumbered Space Marines against a mighty Ork Waaagh!

I'll spare the plot analysis, but move right on to what I liked and disliked about this book.

Not having read anything else by Steve Parker, I was a little worried about the quality of the writing - a waste of effort on my part. Rynn's World has a very fluid narrative to it, and after reading it, I am seriously considering hunting down the author's previous works.

Parker goes full out to break the mold of a typical Space Marine. He includes the young hot-head, whose rash actions gets his squad into trouble; The noble servant, who follows orders without question; The rebel, who despite his defiance, remains in good graces with the chapter because of his dedication and ability.

One thing that truly touched me was how Parker handled the relationships between ordinary humans and Astartes. Some of the Space Marines looked down on those they protect with contempt; others with compassion. The Chapter Master, Pedro Kantor, manages to display a growing concern for the well being of the ordinary human as the narrative progresses, despite carrying a burden of worries greater than what most commanders have to deal with.

The message I think is clear: the humans are beneath the Astartes, but without the humans, the Astartes hold no purpose. They were created by the Emperor to protect his subjects, so to care for the mortal is fullfill the duty of a Space Marine.

I only found two items of complaint with this book.

Firstly, I found a huge consistency error, towards the last third of the book. On page 468, Capt. Cortez comes face-to-face with an Ork warlord: Urzog Mag Kull. He claims that Kull was responsible for the death of Capt. Drigo Alvez. Right away I sensed a problem. I went back to read about Drigo's demise, and sure enough, he had simply been overwhelmed by Orks outside the closing gates of the inner city. What Cortez should have said was that Kull was responsible for the death of Capt. Drakken, who died pulling back from an assault on the planet Badlanding.

I can appreciate that oversights of this nature can creep into your writing, but the same error is repeated several pages later, when Alvez's death is attributed again to Kull. Unless this book has some 'deleted scenes' that I am unaware of, people are pissed over this Ork killing the wrong Space Marine Captain.

Shame on you Mr. Parker - double shame on Mr. Parker's editor.

My second complaint stems from the pacing towards the middle of the book. Once Kantor and Co. make their way back to New Rynn City, it becomes a waiting game: can the Space Marines hold out against the Orks in time for reinforcements to arrive out of system. Given the nature of Warp travel, they would have to wait a long time for help to come. And therein lies the problem.

The author describes a stalemate situation, where the Orks camp out of range of Imperial artillery, and begin to construct Gargants. Now I don't deny the tactical sense behind such a decision, but I find it difficult to belive that Orks sat peacefully for months during the construction. Wouldn't the Ork lust for battle compel them to mount attacks, non-stop, throughout those intervening months?

There is also little mention of food stores, or ammunition, on the part of the Imperial forces. Earlier in the narrative there is some mention of manufacturies that could supply arms and such, but I'm pretty sure the Orks had taken those over by the time this stalemate occured. Fresh water was derived via the river, but what about food? Millions of civilians and troops were crowded together, and no real discussion of famine?

I recognize the author's intent was to just 'move time along', but I feel it could have been handled in a far more exciting, if not realistic, way. By the time the action picks up again, eighteen months have passed since the initial invasion, and we are only treated to a mere fraction of that.


Liked: Fluid writing, interesting characters who not only develop, but die! Interesting insights into the minds of Astartes, as well as that of a Chapter Master.

Disliked: Huge inconsistency in the narrative, lazy transition.

OVERALL: I really enjoyed this book, and heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys Alamo-esque scenarios, or who enjoy reading about Space Marines covered in Ork-goo.
 
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