Review: Pandorax / Author: C.Z. Dunn / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now
There is a tendency amongst a certain sort of reader to dismiss tie-in novels out of hand, seeing them as mere advertisements for existing products, rather than works in their own right. These people should be pitied; tie-in fiction can offer excellent insights into complex shared worlds and when done well, we get a fully detailed tale that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Pandorax is certainly a novel that draws from a great many sources. It features some of the major heavy hitters from the Warhammer 40,000 universe, from the utterly ridiculous (but completely awesome) Kaldor Draigo to the awful and revolting prince of terror and darkness, Abaddon. There are also some new characters, ordinary mortals doing the best they can, and they really make this book entertaining and engaging. It’s an action-packed romp that starts with a big bang and carries on that way all the way through, filled with cinematic action scenes and just enough characterisation to keep the reader going until the next big thing.
C.Z. Dunn is a steady pair of hands at this sort of thing. His previous works include zombie splat-fest Hive of the Dead, over-the-top space opera Dark Vengeance and the strangely haunting audio drama, Malediction. Fans will be pleased to hear that Pandorax is very much more of the same. The beats can be seen a mile off, and this is not a bad thing; the steady pace makes this an easy and fun read. It’s very much a roller coaster of a novel; you know what to expect, you’re pretty sure you know how it’ll end and all of that doesn’t matter, because all you need to do is strap yourself in and have fun.
As with any roller coaster, there are some dips; for example Dunn returns, yet again, to his beloved Dark Angels, giving them a great deal of the spotlight. Sadly, the thing about Warhammer 40,000’s Space Marines is that they’re near invulnerable, unstoppable warriors, and when put in the same place as frail and tragic heroes desperately struggling for survival, they just seem a bit dull. The action scenes do a lot to make the mere notion that an ordinary person could survive this hell remarkable and engaging, and this is rather ruined by the presence of super-human killing machines running in and fixing things. It doesn’t break the pace too badly however, as very swiftly there is another cool action scene and something big and heavy explodes.
Pandorax is not for the casual fan; it’s deeply immersed in the lore of Warhammer 40,000 and is certainly one for the aficionado. However, if you know your Blood Angel from your Blood God, and your Blood Axe from your Blood Pact, then you’ll have a lot of fun with this.