Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
on 9 May 2013
We have already been treated to a number of Imperial Guard novels, including a few where battle tanks and tank battles figure prominently. There has not been any, up to now at least, which focus on a young disgraced aristocratic Lieutenant but also on the ancient Martian super tank Mars Triumphant - hence the book's title - of which he becomes a crew. In fact the tank itself, and its machine-spirit, is one of the book's heroes just as much as Lo Brannick, the young Lieutenant, or Cortein's, its veteran commander, or the Martian (but very human) enginseer Brasslock, who was perhaps the most sympathetic character of the lot. The characterization is therefore rather good, at least for some of the main characters, even if not overwhelming.
The plot itself is also good, although not entirely original. The young Paragonian aristocrat enlists in the Guard to fight an Orkish horde which has attacked Kalidar IV, a distant planet racked by incredible and very lethal sandstorms. The planet is a strategic asset because of the rare minerals that it contains and the Oks has seized one the largest mines and hives, threatening to overrun it entirely. This time, the Orks show tactical, strategic and even psychic abilities since one of their leaders is a powerful psyker (something new, I think). There not only the usual kind of mindless and bloodthirsty brutes. In other words, the Imperials really get a good run for their money.
I very much liked some of the scenes, including the attack on the Imperial Guard camp in the middle of a sandstorm and the expedition through the desert to attack the Orks by surprise. This was largely because they show that the planet and its climate are just as hostile to the humans as the Orks themselves. Another interesting feature was the huge sand lizards, although I will stop there to avoid any spoilers.
Contrary to another reviewer on the UK site, for which this technique did not seem to work well, I also liked the way the author alternates chapters between Brannick's present and past. The former - the campaign against the Orks - always goes forward while the later goes back in time, chapter after chapter, until we learn the reason for Brannick's disgrace and flight off-world to escape his dishonour. Granted, this technique is used to enhance suspense, perhaps somewhat artificially, but the ploy - if that is what it is - did just that and worked rather well for me.
I did have a couple of grips related to the final battle, however. One is a mix-up between the names of two of the Baneblade's crew members, both of which start with the same letter. One crew member who was killed a few pages before, runs away with the rest of the surviving crew. Apart from what is clearly a typo, I also moderately appreciated one of the book's last features which I will not mention to avoid spoilers - once again. This is because I get a bit tired, at times, with Black Library authors who feel obliged to keep characters alive - however improbable their survival may seem - because they are already thinking about the next book in the series. This annoyed me a bit, although not enough to spoil the book for me.