I always liked the way that the Space Marine Battles books look. Their classy art direction (cover art, white backgrounds and big red lettering) always seem to draw my eye and as a collection, and they all look quite nice on my shelf. This was one of the reasons i started with the series when i was deciding what to begin reading in the Black Library’s extensive catalogue.
As i mentioned earlier, Fall of Damnos was the first novel i read in this series. I picked it up primarily because it dealt with the Necrons (which to my knowledge don’t have a lot of presence within The Black Library) and at that point i was really very interested in them as a race (the new codex i believe hadn’t yet made an appearance). Well i’m quite glad that i also picked up Helsreach as well as this novel really didn’t fill me with much hope as to the quality i could expect from 40k novels.
Buried and forgotten to time and snow, the Necrons of the Imperial world of Damnos have risen to take back what was once theirs. With the noose tightening around the last remnants of defence it falls to the 2nd company of Ultramarines to turn the tide of battle.
A lord Flayed One by the name of Satah the Enfleshed comes immediately to mind when thinking of the strengths of the story. The overall narrative paints him in bit of a tragic light as through him, we can fully understand the horror of what happened to the Necrons. His insanity is caused by the fact that his body of flesh and blood was replaced with that of metal and circuits and as a result not only does he want to be able to feel something tangible again he also just wants to be released from his immortality. Despite Satah being the most (for a lack of a better term) fleshed out all of the Necron lords have a good deal of personality between them all, and the scenes between each other are worth reading.
Overall the one thing that this novel really didn’t disappoint on was with the presentation of the Necrons themselves. Here they are shown to be frighteningly more advanced in their technology when compared to the Imperium of Man. As they are able to blow capital ships out of orbit and otherwise attack where and when they want with their advanced teleportation technology.
Despite Kyme having all of the right intentions when creating a “human element” to this story what he manages to come up with is either not concluded on a proper note or uninspired and dull.
Two of the main human characters Falka and Jynn start the narrative as mining buddies but by the end they have transitioned into soldiers. The real meat of their relationship is that both of them think the other is dead. Falka benefits from this motivation the most as he fights for the memory of Jynn and believes that he will see her again. This is great stuff, a real human motivation to his actions, but its cut off completely and not resolved in any sort of appropriate manner by the end of the story (more on this later).
To be absolutely blunt, with all of the internal bickering, political posturing, moping around, and out and out arrogance displayed in this book, that awful Utramarines movie, and the Space Marine video game, it would appear that the Ultramarine chapter is filled to the brim with a bunch of tossers. Seriously. All of the fiction i have read about these guys does not endear them to me, or make me believe that they are the best the Adeptus Astartes have to offer.
Its not that i’m against the Space Marines succumbing to grief and doubt (far from it Helsreach and even Rynn’s World are much better with this) but what we have here is just so bland and predictable. Sergeant Scipio’s grief over the death of his Chaplain is supposed to be a big secret, but when the big reveal came about, it came about 100 pages after i had already figured out what his moping and moodiness stemmed from.
Another thing that bothers me, is the absolute arrogance on display by the Ultramarines. With only one company they expect to turn the tide of a battle that was already over, and destroy the millions of Necrons on Damnos single handed. The human forces that are left on the planet might as well be shooting the Necrons with water pistols for all the progress they made against them, its only when the Ultramarines show up do they start to become competent about their defence. By contrast even a zealot like Grimaldus knew he and his brothers were all going to end up dead even with a hive city’s worth of competent support. But the thought of defeat just isn’t a reality for the “best of the best”.
The biggest problemwith Fall of Damnos though, would have to be with the ending of the story. It settles with just stopping to tell it fully. One of the larger narrative drives is Librarian Tigurius going on and on about how “a champion will fall…” (can you guess who that could be?)
All of this wouldn’t be a problem if the prophecy actually came true. Nope. Sicarus lives, the Necron Lord is defeated and the story stops right there with dangling plot threads, and an epilogue that does absolutely nothing to service the story. As any and all “revelations” it has to show are things that can be surmised during the reading of this story by anyone paying attention.
When i first bought Fall of Damnos i was really looking forward to what the Space Marine Battles series could offer. That being expansions on interesting battles that we only get a few paragraphs about in the Codex fluff. And i was quite disappointed with my first choice of stories to read.
Fall of Damnos is the worst book in the SMB series as it is bolter porn through and through. It is populated by uninteresting people (with the exception of the Necrons) and predictable plot elements. That being said, despite its flaws the book isn’t horrid (otherwise i wouldn’t have read it all the way through) its just mediocre. Perhaps some people will read it and can enjoy it but not me.
** OUT OF FIVE
it would seem that The Black Library is giving the same hard cover treatment to Fall of Damnos that Helsreach got with a new short story sequel being packaged with the main novel. I’m not reading this i have no interest in anything else Nick Kyme or the Ultramarines have left to do on that frozen world.