After reading Dan Abnett's Horus Rising, I was very excited to try a new novel from Black Library's series of Warhammer 40,000 novels. Instead of continuing directly on in the Horus Heresy series (I find that I stick with series better if I spread them out; plunging into them gets me through three or four and then no more) I moved to the Warhammer 40,000 universe proper. Assault on Black Reach: The Novel by Nick Kyme fit the college student budget at an even $5.00, so I jumped on this opportunity to re-enter the universe, this time through a stand alone novel.
However, this book has a deceptive feature. While labeled a novel, it is barely one, if it is one at all. At roughly 125 pages, this feels more like a novella. This is not a bad thing necessarily, as many novels could be shortened to novella length to great benefit. In a truly odd juxtaposition, I couldn't help but feel this book would have been better off at twice the length. I'll explain why momentarily.
Assault on Black Reach: The Novel is a novelization of a boxed set from Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000 miniatures game, thus the subtitle to differentiate the two. The novel follows a group of Ultramarines as they arrive on Black Reach, hoping to save the people on the planet from invading orks. The ratio of marines to orks is astronomical, and the set up is for an all out slaughter. The captain of the company seems very much interested in his own personal glory, and drops into the very middle of the battlefield, surrounded by friendly fire, endangering his troops. Some among the company take grief with this, and this animosity is something to explore as the story progresses.
After an initial assault, the space marines head off to find the leader of the ork horde, hoping that by killing the leader the horde will fall into disarray. This search and ensuing series of battles makes up the bulk of this short novel.
Assault on Black Reach: The Novel succeeds in writing a story to fit well into the contents of a new set for their game, but beyond that not much else is of note. The book reads like nothing more than a battle report given some fictional trappings. If the book had been longer, there could have been far more character development, but as it is, there is little. Each character is pretty stock and forgettable, but the potential for personality conflict was certainly there.
This could have been an interesting foray into the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and a very good jumping on place for new readers, but it fell short of that mark for me. There just didn't feel like there was much to it. The seeds of a great story were present, and I wish that they had been acted upon. The book picked up towards the end, but it simply left me unsatisfied. As a follow up read to Dan Abnett's novel, it left me wondering why it wasn't as good as it could have been.