While I’ve been reading (and re-reading) all manner of stuff at the minute, I thought I’d talk today about a book that I read a few weeks ago, back when I was moving house and all that attendant nonsense. The Fall of Damnos is the main bulk of the Space Marines Battles: Damnos book, which follows the progress of the Ultramarines’ attempt to liberate the populace of the mining world of Damnos from the return of the Necrons.
To all intents and purposes, I should love this book. Indeed, I’ve thought of it for a long time now as the quintessential Necrons novel.
Boy, was I disappointed.
The story follows several of the Ultramarines 2nd Company, under the legendary Captain Cato Sicarius, as they struggle against the reactivated Necrons across the world. There is a token planetary defense force, but the main populace on the world are the miners who seemingly accidentally wake the slumbering Necrons. There are several battles described, but despite Sicarius’ charisma and battle prowess, it seems the Necrons have the upper hand as they attempt to reclaim their tomb world…
The narrative feels like a series of vignettes for the most part, and at one point actually came across like some kind of attempt to describe a tabletop battle. I’m not a huge fan of that sort of thing, as it often feels like the story is going nowhere as we get several descriptions of epic nothingness. Maybe I’m being too harsh…
Confusingly, one battle group of Ultramarines is referred to as the Immortals, which is around the same time we get the Necron Immortals entering the fray. Kyme even uses different words to describe these guys depending on the point of view – to the Ultramarines, they’re “larger warrior constructs” or something, whereas to the Necrons, they are of course Immortals. Necron Raiders are mentioned quite a lot, often in relation to what I assume otherwise to be Necron Warriors. While the use of Raiders might be a nice throwback to fans of 2nd Edition, I can’t say it held much appeal as a Necron fan.
Indeed, there isn’t really much here for fans of the undead space robots. There’s a mad Overlord, a scheming Cryptek, and the usual insane Flayed Ones, then the most part of the army consists of Warriors/Raiders, and Canoptek Scarabs. Monoliths make an appearance at one point, which is nice, and there may have been a Tomb Stalker mentioned for one incredibly brief moment, but otherwise it’s quite a one-dimensional foe for the brilliant Ultramarines to fight.
As for the Ultramarines themselves, they’re a weird mix of politicking folks who seem to be out for personal glory above all else. Weird, right?
Damnos dates from 2011, and feels very much like “the old” Black Library. Sure, they still put out clunkers and filler-type novels, but in the main, they definitely feel like they’ve upped their game since these days, where they were basically a game company tie-in. We may not be getting Shakespeare now, of course, but we’re getting novels that are actually enjoyable to read, and are worth reading for their own merits, and not merely because they describe the deeds of the plastic men we push around on the tabletop. The Necron lore in particular felt badly written in this one, which put me off it pretty much entirely, but even with that aside, I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to pick this one up today.