Legion of the Damned Paperback – Mar 27 2012
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
Head of English at a local secondary school, Rob Sanders is a freelance writer whose first fiction was published in Inferno! magazine. He lives off the beaten track in the small city of Lincoln, England.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Despite the title, the bulk of the book focuses on the Excoriators, who are a branch of the Imperial Fists Space Marine Legion of old (Legions were split into thousand-Marine Successor Chapters after the Horus Heresy). This particular bunch devotes themselves to physical mortification as a form of ritual penance: they flog, whip, and lash themselves as a form of atonement and communion with their long-lost gene-sire, Rogal Dorn. While this might seem like a sad case of masochism and self-torture, it isn't, I assure you, and clear connection is made between what the current Marines do and how Dorn himself meditated under physical duress. The main character, Captain Kersh, explicitly denounces any mortification beyond ritual observance, and the reader is given clear pictures of Marines who hurt themselves too much.
One complaint is that Kersh is something of a pretty boy who hates himself and feels super-sad over the loss of the Chapter's standard (battle-banner). He isn't pretty (clear emphasis is made on his looks, and while he's "jacked up" to begin with, a series of competitive fights make him even uglier), and the entire Chapter takes a serious blow to their morale and pride at the standard's loss: Kersh was struck blind, deaf, and dumb (no joke) by a malady that afflicts Excoriators at random, utterly paralyzing them, and the Alpha Legion (a Traitor Marine Legion) was able to steal the standard and poison the Chapter Master, and subsequently destroy any attempts to retrieve it. Other than the Chapter Master himself, Kersh was the best soldier in the entire Chapter, and such failure would crush the spirit of anyone, worst of all the best of the best. On top of that, he's openly loathed by almost every other Marine and even a couple of his own servants dislike him.
And yet, despite all that, he actually is a pretty rounded character and very easy to identify with. He feels horrid at his failure as anyone would, and wants to retrieve the standard and execute the Alpha Legion, but his sense of duty takes priority as he's promoted after winning a major contest and receives orders to meet with Imperial executives, who require him to protect a cemetery world from the aforementioned Blood Crusade (this would be perfectly the same as a real army running train on a real cemetery). Kersh has no choice but to fulfill his obligations, earning further spite from his subordinates. Worse, ever since being pulled from his coma, he sees a horrific ghost, and believes that he might be going mad as a continuing symptom of the Darkness (the curse that plagues the Chapter: it is said to show Marines what Rogal Dorn felt when the Emperor of Mankind nearly died in the Heresy, to imagine for even a second an Imperium without its true leader). I'll note here that Kersh makes a really great speech about how the Emperor was amazing but only a man, not a living god, and that people should follow his example instead of preaching his myths.
Armed with barely enough soldiers of his own and no serious defenses on the cemetery world, Kersh has the worst possible task: stop a massive army of enemies from exterminating all life on the planet when they arrive. They have killed world after world, and they'll probably succeed here too. He comes up with the only plan he can, takes some surprising but completely sensible measures to ensure there are survivors, and then gets ready for the worst.
And boy does Sanders deliver here.
The Cholercaust (the Blood Crusade) is a gargantuan army of Khorne's followers (he's the Chaos God of Blood, Skulls, and Battle). There are renegade human soldiers, Traitor Marines, and even daemons. The second of the two are actually considered by Kersh to be the more dangerous, especially former members of the World Eaters Traitor Legion, and when you see these guys explode out of the woodwork, it's easy to understand why. Countless monsters crop up and as many regular citizens go mad and kill everyone around them as a prelude to the Blood Crusade's arrival, basically the opposite of people fleeing an oncoming force, and serves to show how much destruction Khorne's followers can really spread even before they get to work with their own hands.
The entire battle is relentless. Khorne devotees don't retreat or use long-range tactics, instead charging headlong into impossible odds in search of a real fight, and the pressure they put on the Excoriators taxes the Chapter to its breaking point. The Loyalists are forced to regularly tighten their defensive perimeter, unable to withstand the onslaught, and every situation somehow goes from bad to worse. Sanders really nails the nonstop violence, the Excoriators' desperate yet resolute resistance and the Crusaders' endless thirst for slaughter.
Perhaps the idea of a novel focusing almost wholly upon the battle for a single world seems kind of self-limiting, but that is far from the case in Black Library's books. A significant amount of detail and a pretty interesting plot actually carry this book through, showing unflinching courage against insurmountable odds and delivering a stellar adventure. For anyone's who has seen the old Micheal Caine film "Zulu" (1964), this is right up your alley.
Back in my youth (when I actually played the game) the Legion of the Damned were probably my favourite chapter, simply because of the mystery of them. I was hoping that more about their history and what they were would be revealed in this book, but despite the name they only play a small (if significant) role in the events of the story.
That disappointment aside this book does a good job of reflecting the grim future of the universe. The stilted style evokes the ritualistic lifestyle of the Imperium, especially the space marines. In some ways this was a trip back to my tabletop gaming days, but I found the universe just as compelling, with some brutal military science fiction.
There isn't a great deal of depth to the characters (except for some nuances for the lead), but things move at such a pace that it doesn't matter too much. It does suffer from the faceless enemies syndrome a little, but that is to be expected from a battle on the scale of this. There were some exceptions, especially for the World Eaters - brutal champions of my favorite Chaos Gods.
Overall this is a tense and action packed story, that fits the universe well. And I now have the taste of reading more in this fiction again :-)
What's going on here? Is this the future, the past, another planet in the present? No indication I see. Maybe I'm slow and missed something, but at this point I had no freaking idea what was going on. They kept talking about the scourge, but it took many pages for me to figure out that it was some sort of title of this fallen hero. I was so lost, that I almost quit reading the book about 100 pages in. It's not the book was particularly poorly written, it's that it involved a chapter which had nothing to do with the title of the novel. I couldn't figure out what was even going on until about 200 pages in when the main character gets sent to the planet talked about in the beginning. So I mean you already know how the novel is going to end after about five pages, if that bugs you then don't buy this book, but that style doesn't bother me as long as I know that's what's happening.
So anyway, you go through the whole rest of the story trying to figure out what is actually going to happen and why the hero is seeing visions. Then you get to the very end and quite unsatisfactory appearance from the Legion. I mean what the heck? If you're going to name this book The Excoriators Get Their Rears Handed To Them, well then great, but this feels like they just used the Legion as a cheap ploy to sell more books. As it is, it's more disappointing than how The Purging of Kadillus squandered a rare use of Necrons, though it's still arguably a better written book than that one.
If you're picking only a few Space Marines battles books I'd highly suggest Rynn's World or Battle of the Fang as far superior specimens.