Bookworm Speaks!- Dead Sky, Black Sun
Dead Sky, Black Sun
by Graham McNeill
Acquired: Barnes and Noble Booksellers
Series: Ultramarines (Book 3)
Paperback: 416 Pages
Publisher: Games Workshop
Format: Ultramarines Omnibus
The Story: Book three in Black Library's iconic Ultramarines series returns
The Ultramarines are the epitome of a Space Marine Chapter. Warriors without peer, their name is a byword for discipline and honor, and their heroic deeds are legendary.
Exiled from the Ultramarines Chapter, former captain Uriel Ventris and his battle-brother Pasanius embark upon a deadly quest into the heart of darkness – the daemon world of Medrengard. There, they must destroy a facility creating new warriors for the Traitor Legions – but Warsmith Honsou and his Iron Warriors stand in their way. Can the Ultramarines complete their mission and redeem their honour, or will they join the ranks of the lost and the damned?
The Review: First off, that title.
“Dead Sky, Black Sun” those words even by themselves would evoke feelings of dread. Together even more so. It perfectly shows the world that Uriel and Pasanius are trapped in and the sense of forlornness that makes up the world.
The main character of this book though, is not Uriel or Honsou but the planet Medrengard. The world building in this book is phenomenal. The author expertly crafts a world that feels in every sense of the word: “Unnatural.”
Emotion and setting oozes off of every page. The utter despair and hopelessness that permeates every aspect of Medrengard. While Uriel and Pasanius are the protagonists and we all know they will prevail in the end, one can’t help but think that they are just spitting at the sky. The planet continues its diabolical work and regards the Ultramarines and other outcasts as little more than fleas on the hide of an indifferent beast. Nothing grows there. Nothing green at least. It is world built out of demonic factories and industrial waste. Monsters and mutants make their home there and the most valuable resource is the flesh of human beings.
This is where two Ultramarines will make their stand.
To make a good story, one way is to take a character and put them in a scenario that is completely out of their element. That is precisely what the author does here. Uriel and Pasanius have both been taught from childhood about the evils of chaos and the hell that is the eye of terror. Stories only go so far though, to come face to face with it is quite another. The planet on which they tread, the manner of which they had arrived there and the impossibility of their task, challenges them at every corner and the reader can feel their stress and misery. They are upon the very antithesis of Macragge.
The people they meet don’t help either. No spoilers but the Iron Warriors are deliciously ruthless and evil, even to each other. Bookworm wanted them all to die in an explosion, even though he knew Honsou gets his own book from the shelves of the Black Library.
There are other characters they meet are interesting as well. Again, no spoilers, but there are two main groups other than the Iron Warriors and both of them require Uriel to drastically rethink his previous stances on such matters.
It is difficult to find anything particularly wrong with this novel. In Bookworm’s view…this particular volume is required reading for the Warhammer 40K universe, if not for the story, for understanding the nature of the totalitarian nature of the Imperium of Man.
The thing about Warhammer 40k that makes it stand out from other science-fiction franchises is that the reader find themselves rooting for the far future equivalent of the Shutzstaffel because they really are the closest things to “good guys” in this future. The enemies they fight are so insidious and so devastating that they cannot afford to give a single inch because, really, an inch is all the enemy needs or else the wretched life of Medrengard or worse will be the fate of mankind.
So yes…living under a regime that would make Joseph Stalin flinch may be horrible but under that there is at least the hope of living a decent life but under the thumb of Chaos…there is no hope. That’s why it must be fought with every ounce of courage the defenders of Mankind can muster.
If there are a few flaws, the one that springs readily to mind is how the various minions of chaos that fight alongside Warsmith Honsou are a bit interchangeable in regards to their personalities. When reading this volume, Bookworm did have to go back and check to see which one had died again.
Some could make the argument there is an event that occurs at the end of the story that could come across as a ‘deus ex machina” however, considering that this is science fantasy and Warhammer 40k, deus ex machinas are a fairly common occurrence, and in this particular instance, it is communicated in a believable matter.
Final Verdict: Dead Sky, Black Sun is one of the best stories in the Ultramarines Saga on one of the best in all of Warhammer 40K. It is Uriel Ventris’ ultimate test and will determine his future for the next phase of the saga.
Five Iron Warriors out of Five