Monday, August 1, 2011

Reading Richard Williams' "Imperial Glory"

Richard Williams' Imperial Glory (Games Workshop Limited 2011)satisfies with its strong character development and slam-bang action sequences; however, the ride is rough and sometimes bumpy because of a disjointed plot structure that could have been easily remedied by focusing on a linear story-line at the beginning. An easy fix would have entailed either deleting late-development Ork-POV chapters or moving them to the beginning of the book. Nevertheless, because of the characters' roundness and depth and the thorough world-building, the plot flaws are soon forgotten or excused. Overall, Imperial Glory is a worthy entry into Black Library's Imperial Guard canon.

The novel chronicles the final battle of the last regiment of the Brimlock Dragoons and three of its members: Major Stanhope, a drug-addled survivor of his entire regiment's decimation, Lieutenant Carson, a swash-buckling duelist, and Private Blank, a man with no memory and no history. In addition, as with most Imperial Guard novels, there is a dozen secondary characters, comprised of the usual suspects: ambitious generals, cowardly officers, sergeants and medicaes. And, because this is a 40K novel, there are commissars, ogryns, Navy Pilots, orks, and cool equipment galore.

The structure of the novel seems to allude to Cy Enfield's brilliant military film Zulu(1964); Zulu chronicled the battle of Rorke's Drift (Ork's Rift), where the defense of the mission station of Rorke's Drift, under the command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, immediately followed the British Army's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. The allusion is furthered through the description of the Voor populace, Afrikaner-like farmers, who have colonized the planet and established a feeble toe-hold. An Ork spacecraft crash lands in the jungle and new orks arise from the spores of the dead creating the exciting force.

The 11th Brimlock is sent in to destroy the orks and remain on the planet, because, once a planet has been infected by ork spores, the threat of contagion is forever present. The pacification proceeds apace but a wild card enters the fray late and complicates the end game. It is this late complication and a flashback to a year before that throws off the rhythm of the novel; however, Williams overcomes the structural stumble and powerfully concludes the novel.

Williams is a strong writer who focuses on character but who also writes thrilling action sequences. His description of the rise of the orks from the crash of their spacecraft and the Imperial Guard's effort to squelch it is evocative and convincing.

For further reviews of Richard Williams' work see my review of his Reiksguard here:



    To be perfectly honest I found the ending and indeed, the second half of the book unsatisfying in the extreme. The main annoyance I had was how flippantly central characters were being killed off, alive and kicking one minute ork-meat the next.

    Also, the fact that every single character died, and SO MUCH was left unsaid (why was Blanks mind-wiped? Did he kill Choppa like he hinted? Did the Crusade send more Regiments to clean up the Orks? What happened to Frn'k? What the hell was that staff Choppa carried? He wasn't a Weirdboy...)

    Since this was a standalone book these questions should have been answered in full, and at least SOME of the characters should have survived to have a fricking happy ending.

    And no, "the colours escaped" is NOT a happy ending....

    1. IIRC Blanks was one of the stormtroopers sent in to kill the renegade IG leader, he says so to Stanhope (sp) in the last chapter. And I think Mouse escaped at least.

      But yeah that's all I got, pretty much agree with you on your other points.