Friday, February 18, 2011

Historical Review: Abnett's "Traitor General"

In 1967, Alistair MacLean published "Where Eagles Dare." The book was made into a film with Richard Burton and a young Clint Eastwood in 1968. The plot involves an elite force of British and American Commandos who go behind enemy lines to rescue a United States general captured while enroute to Crete to meet with Russian counterparts. The story is replete with secrets and betrayals plus wholesale mayhem.

As a young man in 1968, I was enamored with the film and even today I will happily re-watch it. What does this have to do with "Traitor General," you may ask? Just this, the plot of the Maclean Book and Abnett's book have the same plot. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. The two works may have the same skeleton but Abnett makes the material definitely his own.

In "Traitor General" Gaunt and twelve of his "Ghosts" drop onto a planet controlled by the enemy. This planet, Gereon, an agri-planet within the Sabbat system is brilliantly and I would say beautifully rendered through Abnett's almost perfect prose. In addition, Abnett looks behind the curtain and begins to develop the Chaos world. In a recent interview, Abnett shows that he has been contemplating the workings of the forces of Chaos carefully. He has puzzled out the irrefutable conclusion that in order to function, it (the Chaos worlds)needs organizations, bureaucracies, and technologies. In this novel he illustrates the working of the world and the mind of the people trapped there and living there.

I cannot praise this novel enough for its execution and its depth. Abnett creates believable characters throughout. It doesn't matter if the character is a Ghost, a Chaos Space Marine, or a partisan; they are all roundly and soundly developed.

Finally, no one writes about the mechanical and technical aspects of modern war better than Abnett. I could smell the oil on the barrel of the las-guns while I was reading the novel.

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