January 2010 416 pp
Mass Market Paperback
Military Science Fiction, many people rightly say, was given birth with Robert A. Heinlein’s landmark novel Starship Troopers. In recent years, one of the most popular franchises in Science Fiction is the Warhammer 40,000 published by Black Library. With Chris Roberson’s highly charged Sons of Dorn, one might say the two converge.
The novel begins in the midst of a chaotic battle, with Roberson flipping the POV between three characters on opposite sides of a militaristic conflict. He smartly puts the reader in the heads of these three warriors – Jean-Robur du Queste, Zatori Zan, and Taloc s’Tonan. What is even more clever and tricksy is how Roberson allows the readers to see those characters through the eyes of each of the other characters. While jarring at first, it was effective in providing the mindset for du Queste, Zan, and s’Tonan.
This planet has little knowledge of the Imperium and considers the Space Marines legendary, almost gods of old with a heavy air of myth surrounding them. When the Space Marines land in the middle of this triple-headed war, everything stops. In short, it is a great dramatic entrance. The Space Marines are on a recruitment drive, looking to increase their ranks. The three enemies, Zan, du Queste, and s’Tonan, must now put aside their differences and become brothers, Sons of Dorn and Space Marines.
Though not told in the first person, Roberson emulates Starship Troopers in that Sons of Dorn follows the three recruits and former enemies through the training, through indoctrination, though the Pain Glove, through the history to their graduation as Space Marines the Adeptus Astartes. In this respect, the storyline is familiar, but it allows Roberson to flesh out the mythology of the Astartes, while also fleshing out the three recruits.
Along with the indoctrination of the three recruits, the novel also follows the story of Taelos, the captain and primary authority figure throughout the novel. His story is something of a redemption story, but nicely parallels the growth of s’Tonan, Zan, and du Queste.
As a relative newcomer to the world of Warhammer 40K in general and the Space Marines in specific, the novel provided an enjoyable, narrative look at what it takes to be the best of the best in the Emperor’s Imperium. Roberson also hints at one of the other large storylines in the vast, dark future of Warhammer – Horus Heresy.
Sons of Dorn is a very readable quick-paced novel. I’ve read a good handful of Roberson’s novels, so I was looking forward to finding out how well he would play in the Warhammer 40K sandbox. His pacing and general storytelling abilities are on display here, providing for an enjoyable novel. I’d be happy to read more of Roberson’s take on the Warhammer universe.
© 2010 Rob H. Bedford