HoP Idol Round 4: Fall of Damnos

Here is our next entry from Lantz.

Book Review: Fall of Damnos Novel
As we push forward into the HOP Idol competition we were given the option for this week to write a book review on something game related. Luck would have it, I just finished a novel by Nick Kyme all about my favorite 40k race; Necrons. And, ya know, maybe there was some Imperial Guard, Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus in there, I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were doing. Fall of Damnos paints a mural of a war-torn world infested with intelligent atomitons that wish to extract your soul from whatever hole they can find/create. Or just kill you, they’re not picky.
Before we go any further, this is a book review. Say it with me, “Book. Review.” That statement alone should tell you I’m going to spoil anything juicy that happens within the pages of this paperback prop used to pick up chicks in a coffee shop. Alas, this is the Internet; full of genius minds that are paving the way to a brighter tomorrow. Unfortunately most of those minds are code-monkeys reading C++ and Python and not actual words. So for those who don’t understand what a book review might entail, and that number may surprise you:
Moving along, we start the adventure off with a classic love story: Guy meets girl, they work in the same mining facility for years filling their lungs with god-knows-what, zombie-robots wake up from billions of years of stasis, guy escapes the cavern with some old dude, girl gets buried in snow and the two are separated for the duration of the story. The typical Meg Ryan movie kind of situation. This opening scene sets the pace for the whole novel as there’s little downtime. Action packed describes this book well, so if you’re looking for a novel that’s as addictive as heroin, this is a good read for you and won’t bruise your arms. The last thing we’re left with is a decoded transmission sent from the Necrons: “Surrender and die.”

Before we move past the introduction, I’d like to delve a little more into the mentioned “love story.” I use quotation marks as this isn’t really much of a love story. The female in this situation’s husband has died recently and obviously she’s still getting over it. While the male counterpart of the book’s romantic angle is her friend, but obviously wants more and he’s sure to let that be known. Starting to get a good picture of this guy in your head?

“Enough about your dead husband, let’s talk about what good “friends” we are.”

After being separated, the dude is constantly mentioning her most every time we see his character, swooning over his loss like some delusional creep. While his “love interest” is often making mention of her husband and not once mentions Senior Creepo. Admittedly, aside from the pretty major character flaw of being a borderline stalker, his character is quite lovable.

Moving along past this introduction, there’s a 5-6 month gap in time. As soon as Space Marines are introduced the war between the Damnosian Imperial Guard forces and the Necrons has been waging on for some time now. With all other reinforcements weeks out, it’s up to the Ultramarines to step in and purge the evil of this world and reclaim its glory. But, ya’ know the name of the book is “Fall of Damnos”.
Had the Ultramarines known this going in they may have gone for a search and rescue kind of deal. And speaking of the boys-in-blue, there are some really big names in this one. Namely Captain of the 2nd Cato Sicarius and Chief Librarian Varro Tigurius are in the fray of this war the entire time, and mention of Calgar and Chronus are there as well.
On that note, throughout the entire novel there’s a few backstories going on with the Ultramarines. The first of which is the inevitable problem for the Emperor’s favorite childen: who’s going to replace Marneus Calgar when he steps down as Chapter Master? Note that “steps down” may or may not be a definition for “is slaughtered on an alien planet by a really good sniper.” What? It happened to Captain America, and unlike the hero of the Ultramar he dons a helmet from time-to-time. Though it’s not gone into in depth, the voting seems to be split 50/50; either Cato Sicarius or Plan B; the Captain of the 1st Company whose name you hear once and never again after the fact. This whole debacle is never followed through on and this whole storyline dwindles past the first half of the book, though it does bring up some interesting feelings on Sicarius to his soldiers.
Cato Sicarius: Leader, Warrior, Douche.
I haven’t read another novel with Mr. Sicarius in it, but with control of the Ultramarines potentially riding down his path, personal opinions of the Captain are sparked and debate between the Ultramarines on Damnos is set ablaze. You see, Cato Sicarius is kind of a douche-tuba. He’s brash and bold, but also isn’t above sacrificing his own men to make sure his plans follow through. Don’t get me wrong, more often than not his goals are reached in this novel, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that his personality often resembles that of a tampon.
The other glaring backstory is the loss of the 2nd Company’s Chaplain which occurred before the current storyline. A kind and respected soul, the loss of their Chaplain left those close to him devastated. Luckily, the new Chaplain of the 2nd would keep their spirits up and lead them into battle on positive experiences off the battlefield. Err…no, wait. The new Chaplain’s a douche-tuba as well.
The Future Of The Ultramarines.
Essentially the new guy treats his fellow warriors like dogs, wielding his self-righteousness and new position of power around like a fifty year old CEO with a tiny dangle using male-enhancement drugs for the first time. Oh yes…the future of the Ultramarines is a shimmering horizon, indeed.
So enough about the Space Marines, let’s get to the good stuff. Fairly early on we discover that the Necrons that are awakened on Damnos are not the drudging, mindless killing machines we’ve all grown to love. No, sir (or ma’am.) Within the first few chapters we see through the eyes of a Cryptek that goes by the title “The Architect”. It’s his job to wake up and repair the copious amounts of Necrons in their giant-ass tomb so they may fight to reclaim their world. Apparently when he’s within the tomb he has unimaginable power and even makes note of being able to kill off a super bad-ass Lord without much effort. The sad part is, other than using portals and teleportation at-will, we never see any of this supposed power used.

Through his thoughts and spoken word we learn much of the new Necrons, namely about what they do and do not know of their past. Now, if you’ve read up on your Necron history you’ll remember that the Necrons were once one of the original fleshy-humanoid races of the universe, in constant conflict with The Old Ones. While in a losing fight overall, they struck a deal with the C’tan; the original creators of the universe. After losing a fiddle contest to them, the C’tan enslaved the Necrontyr and turned them into the roboty goodness we see in the 41st Millennium. The thing of it is, The Architect remembers all of this, as do most of the less-than-mindless ranks of the Necrons. So if you’re following so far, here’s a recap:
Necrons before this book:
Necrons after this book:
Though the caveat to all of this is while some do remember their past, all are doomed to forget, lose sanity as their memories of mortality and their i7 CPU fight for control and eventually end up mindless zombie-bots anyway. But wait! There’s another option!
Apparently the Necron Destroyers were not enslaved in the manner they are currently in, the whole hovering Necron thing was developed by the Necrons long ago and the process of getting a hover-butt involves having your legs ripped off in a violent fashion leaving your dignity in shambles…much like your legs. So what does becoming a flying Necron get you? Well you get a neato weaponized arm (side note: your arm is ripped off in a violent fashion as well,) and that whole insanity thing? Yeah, it means you’ve already got it.
“My Favorite Color Is Banana!”
Apparently introducing unintended hardware to the Necron anatomy is what Necrons infected with some sort of virus do in their free time. The
virus in question takes over the mind and causes some Necrons to aspire for floaty death bringing. Obviously this insanity doesn’t make the Destroyers and Heavy Destroyers “go rogue”, it’s more of the way a Space Marine Dreadnought slowly becomes less man and more machine in their brain-region as time goes on.
So to recap on a Necron’s lifespan:

Throughout the Necron’s side of the story, we are introduced to several powerful characters of the green and metal variety. From a Flayed One hellbent on finding himself some skin to wrap his body in to become fleshy once more, to an extremely powerful psyker that could have single-handedly taken out Tigurius had some unforeseen circumstances not intervened.

As for the battles between Necron and Space Marine; they are without question epic in proportion and entertainment value. We’re constantly brought never-before-seen Necron units throughout the duration of the novel that are supposedly sneak peeks of the new units in the Codex: Necrons (the Yes-You’ve-Been-Waiting-A-Decade-For-This Edition:) from new Lords including the aforementioned Flayed One and Psyker Lord, a new Monolith-like vehicle and flying skimmers that are made of wet paper based on the novel’s representation.
Now that you know the meat of the situation, how does it conclude? Where do all the main characters end up? Who wins and who loses, and at what cost?
Yeah, I really don’t know. No one knows, in fact. No one but the author that has kept this hidden away in the depths of his mind. You see, this book just stops; your only warning being the waning amount of pages in your right hand. Up until the last few pages this book is exciting in every sense of the word, and then you’re left there with all of this excitement and suspense holding you in place with nothing to show for it but a sense of emptiness.
Note: A Cold Shower Is Quite Helpful
At the end of the book Sicarius is taken out by a Necron Lord and for all intents and purposes is dead; this is even stated by one of the main characters. This to me was fantastic, not that I was routing for Sicarius’ demise, but the fact that a huge character for the Ultramarines, one that is even playable in Codex: Space Marines, is killed off changing the future of not only the fluff/novels, but the tabletop game as well. But he isn’t killed off…get that cold shower started ladies and gents. In the last pages of this novel it’s noted that Sicarius isn’t actually dead, just in critical condition and that he’ll eventually make a recovery given some time…yeah. Yet this is only the beginning of the disappointment.
That whole kind-of love story that started up at the beginning of the novel? Nothing really comes of that. Both characters are pivotal to the Space Marine’s successes here and there and they both end up in the same place at the end of the novel, but nothing is really summed up. And speaking of things not being summed up, at the end the Ultramarines seem confident that with incoming reinforcements they can overcome the Necron forces on the planet of Damnos; ya’ know, the planet that is noted as “falling” on the cover. Then we transition to the Necrons in the very last couple of pages where we witness a literal endless supply of Necrons that have yet to be awakened deep in their tomb. The Cryptek that we follow throughout the novel states an ominous confidence that they won’t fail to exterminate the planet.
I’m not kidding; that’s the actual ending to the book. Space Marines say they won’t fail, Necrons say they won’t fail, curtains. Now, as I’ve said, I loved about 95% of this book. The descriptions of sci-fi warfare Nick Khyme has at his fingertips are phenomenal. Yet when I picture the tail end of this book as he’s writing it I am left only to assume that he got infected with a horrible case of bear-ate-my-fingers and hurried through the last couple of chapters typing with his nose.

Now you may be asking, couldn’t there be a sequel? I’d say it’s possible. I haven’t seen any plans for another novel as a continuation, but should the reinforcements for the Space Marines arrive in time we could have a sequel. The reasoning I have for not believing another book will be born is that Damnos has one Imperial city left. One. With less than twenty Space Marines left and a handful of human infantry, the Imperium of Damnos is hurting. The Necrons aren’t hurting by any means and aren’t on a time-table. Even so, if reinforcements make it there in time, I don’t see much of a different story than what we’ve already read. And what of the characters we’ve already gotten to know and love? Right now their odds don’t look good.

If Damnos Was A Vegas Game, I’d Bet On Green

I suppose my real problem with this novel is, aside from feeling like I read a novel with a missing conclusion, the book is called Fall of Damnos, yet we aren’t there for the months of its collapse and aren’t spared the kindness of a real ending. I feel cheap and dirty; like sleeping with a really hot chick with an IQ comparable to butter. Sure it was fun, but when it’s over there’s not much to do but close it up and walk away.

Classy.

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