Saturday, 21 September 2013

‘Final Duty’ – David Guymer (Black Library)

I’m probably still one Kindle away from reading full length novels electronically; I’ve tried reading them on my phone and it doesn’t work for me, not on a small screen. Short stories and stuff like that though…? Me and my phone have that one covered. The shorter the story the better and it just so happens that Black Library have released a series of 1,000 word short e-stories. I’ve read a few Warhammer 40K stories now but I’d never even heard of the Hospitallers Space Marines, let alone come across them, so my interest in ‘Final Duty’ was instantly piqued. I also wondered how much story you could fit into a thousand words, quite a bit as it happens…

Imperial Guard Lieutenant Caleb lies near death, entangled on razorwire, until he is rescued by a warrior from legend, a mighty Space Marine of the Hospitallers Chapter. Taken for treatment, he soon discovers that his rescuer may be more dangerous than the foes he originally faced…

Writing a story in only a thousand words must be quite a challenge, what with background to fit in as well as story. Guymer circumvents this by leaving out a lot of detail and going for the whole ‘this is just one battle in a whole galaxy at war’ approach. It worked for me. Not only do you get that ‘wide screen’ feel of a galaxy at war but Guymer makes room to show you just how brutal it is up close and personal.
In some ways, Caleb isn’t an ideal character to take you through the story as he is out of his mind with pain and fear. On the other hand though, Caleb is the ideal character to introduce Brother Raphel of the Hospitallers; a marine with a holy mission that will never end whilst war is being waged.
It’s not the mission you think either. I won’t say too much here, for fear of spoilers, but the ‘final reveal’ was a neat little twist for someone like me, who wasn’t familiar with this Chapter, and Guymer even provides a nice little cinematic touch to the last paragraph or two.

At 99p for the download, I don’t think fans can go too far wrong with ‘Final Duty’ and, personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing what Guymer can do with a little more room to work in. If it’s anything like this, I could well be in for a bit of a treat.

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