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Cadian Blood (Imperial Guard)

A book by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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Not what it could have been

  • Oct 29, 2009
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The Warhammer 40000 novels are apparently a "future history" occurring many thousands of years in the future. While this is the first of the novels I have read, one surmises there is a vast Galactic Empire of human-populated planets conquered or re-conquered over millenia by a more-or-less immortal Emperor now worshipped as a deity in most of the Galaxy.

However, there is a contagion of evil which has resisted and corrupted the Empire for at least the last 10,000 years. Technology is largely archaic and static -- even military technology. "The Evil" (it is hard not to think of it without quotes) apparently had the audacity to invade Terra in the past, and is in danger of prevailing in at least one large section of space.

Cadia is one of the Empire's military planets, devoted singlemindedly to expertise in all matters military and seemingly little else, other than dying for the Emperor. Thade and almost all of his colleagues are Cadians, who seem to have dark hair and violet eyes (perhaps the genetic decendents of Elizabeth Taylor, but one does not hear about any of their women).

It was hard for me to classify this book -- is it fantasy or sci-fi? Some people would consider it a "military sci-fi", which harkens at least back to R. E. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" (book much better than movie), but because of the relentless dealing with evil as "evil" and with demons, it is easy to argue it is military fantasy.

First, the author, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, is a solid writer, by which I mean he puts together good sentences and his action sequences and plot are logical and concise. By the halfway point, one has enough of an impression to develop a fondness for the main character Lt. Thade, a decorated Cadian officer thrown into an expedition to relieve a plague-stricken planet. Unfortunately, the plague is a result of action by an enemy who is viciously and relentlessly evil. Thade has a "robot dog" which could have been more effective, but alas the dog is just a machine. This is a universe with slaves who become part of cyborgs and are lobotomized -- all in all, it was hard to generate much sympathy for the "Empire".

There are "commissars" who serve an Inquisition to root out heresy, but they are just stock characters here -- nothing makes them unique or interesting.

Co-incidentally, this problem occurs on one of the Emperor's "holy planets", where pilgrims go to worship. It's important to "save this planet" without destroying the infrastructure, but there is little thought to the surviving inhabitants.

There are some interesting and significant flaws here. Are there NO alien civilizations -- friend or foe, out there? There is little character development. Despite a lot of fairly boring background narrative, there is not a lot of discussion about the society as a whole. (This is a contrast to Frank Herbert's Dune, for example, or even "Star Wars".) One rarely reads anything of the soldiers outside of their military interaction, or more significantly, outside of combat. Little attention is paid to the scenery, except from a tactical point-of-view. There are no significant female characters. (Where do all the little soldiers come from?) The evil characters are just evil. They just want to be evil . . . and oppose the good guys. Nothing is explained about why a loyal legion would have revolted against the Emperor in antiquity and become evil just for the heck of it. There are no virtues possessed by the enemy.

There is really not much of an indication that these warriors really care about any of the "innocent" people they are sent to save. They seem to readily conclude the plague wiped out all the good people and the rest became heretics and thus deserving of death.

So, if you want to read about relentless combat with space-age weapons and body armor against overwhelming numbers of evil warlords and their (mostly ineffectual) minions, this is a good book to flip the pages. However, there is another useful comparison to Star Wars -- imagine if the Emperor had prevailed and books been written from the point of view of the Imperial Storm Troopers. This would have been that book, but it makes it rather hard to care about the characters or the outcome. The bad guys are evil, and the Emperor and Empire are bad, but served by some good men (who apparently have nothing better to do).

In conclusion, if you like the genre and military action, you may enjoy this book, but this fantasy universe was not interesting enough for me to want to tarry there.

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More Cadian Blood (Imperial Guard) reviews
review by . December 25, 2009
When the Janus 6th forces fail to infiltrate and reclaim a sacred monastery for the Emperor, the Cadian 88th Mechanised Infantry, headed by Captain Thade, head in to rescue any survivors and complete the mission. Once they infiltrate the city of Solthane, they are told to hold there until reinforcements come. Little do they know that there is a deep, dark secret lying in wait underneath the monastery in Solthane on the shrine world of Kathur.    Aaron Dembski-Bowden has created …
review by . November 18, 2009
Note: I am not a Warhammer 40K Tabletop gamer. Although I do DM D&D 3.5 and 4.0 games, and I have played both the Star Wars and D&D tabletop minis games. So, I am not unfamiliar with the setting and type of themes and gameplay the author is drawing from to write this novel. Also note, this is the first Warhammer 40k novel I have ever read, but not (by far) the first sci-fi/fantasy novel. I am well acquainted with others in the genre such as the D&D novels, the Star Wars novels, the Halo novels, …
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Ranked #1114
Ilive in a small town in East Texas, where I'm happily married, work in a intereting job, but still try to find time to indulge passions for cooking and dining, music, the arts, and reading. I mix and … more
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"...the plot for 'Cadian Blood' is one that kept me hooked with its daring strikes, harrowing reverses and last ditch stands. The underlying mystery of the plague is also played out very well, especially when the stakes suddenly get a lot higher without any explanation... If you're a fan of military sci-fi or Warhammer 40K in general then I think you'll enjoy this too. Check it out! Nine and Three Quarters out of Ten" GRAEME'S FANTASY BOOK REVIEW--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10: 1844167712
ISBN-13: 978-1844167715
Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Games Workshop
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"Not what it could have been"
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