REVIEW SUMMARY: A military SF book that delivers on action with marginal characters.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A set of new Imperial Fist recruits work their way to becoming scouts and are then thrown against the forces of Chaos.
PROS: Well paced action, a chance to view the inner workings of a space marine chapter
CONS: Somewhat annoying characters in the scouts
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining book, but I struggled with some of the characters and their behavior.
The premise of this story is the transformation of three boys who are recruited as scouts (somewhat against their will) into the Imperial Fist Space Marine chapter. As events unfold, we follow these young men as they are genetically altered to become space marines. It offers some insight into the process and describes some differences that are unique to the Imperial Fists.
This insight and visibility into the life of the Imperial Fists really was why I love reading books in the Warhammer 40K universe. There are so many options available to authors in extending the canon that they can explore differences between individual space marine chapters. Sons of Dorn is no exception in that I knew the Imperial Fists had a reputation for defense works, but they also pride themselves on sword mastery. Furthermore, the traditions of the chapter are detailed much more here than I have seen in other books. That attention to detail helps make the marines much more than simple death-dealing supermen, which is not a bad thing for a space marine.
The action was well paced and it demonstrates the appeal of this type of science fiction. There are elements where this stuff is closer a melding of fantasy and science fiction elements in the weapon choices, but I cared little for that when it came down to being a few marines against a horde of rampaging enemies.
The main issue that I had with the story was the process by which a human is transformed into a space marine; one which replaces the psyche and wipes clean their past. That was somewhat implied by the repeated use of conditioning of both the physical body and the mind. By the end of the story, the three main scout characters (Zatori, du Queste and Taloc) could not remember why they had animosity towards one another, just that there was something they didn’t like. These three had battled nearly insurmountable odds and survived together yet still wanted to fight each other? It was at this point that I felt that it was just not how this was intended to play out. I was hoping that they would actually come to blows just to resolve this useless tension since it detracted from a serious threat that stood in front of them.
In the end, I felt the book was a good read, but not a great one. The three main characters were just plain annoying, and while Captain Taelos and the veteran sergeants were enjoyable characters, I could not get past the scouts. If the book spent more time on the Captain and his internal struggles then this might have been a different review. If you can look past this, then I think you will be well rewarded by this entry in the Warhammer 40K universe.