Review: The Last Ditch / Author: Sandy Mitchell / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now
The Ciaphas Cain series is a unique thing in the Warhammer 40,000 franchise – a light-hearted look at an incredibly grim and gritty setting. This isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of action and violence, it’s just that the lead character has a skewed take on the world which is both refreshing and amusing. Those who have read George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series may find the format familiar; Cain is a sarcastic coward and liar, and the most unreliable of narrators. This is the charm of the books, and The Last Ditch is more of the same.
In this latest instalment, Cain and his long-suffering sidekick Jurgen stumble from peril to peril. Cain has to deal with the insect/dinosaur-like-aliens the Tyranids as well as a horde of Orks, and this allows Mitchell to send up some movie classics along the way. Cain is as fun as ever, and though the wit and energy is still as strong as it has been throughout this fairly popular novel series, The Last Ditch is a slightly darker tale; the sense of silly fun is not as consistent as you may expect if you’ve read the previous books.
Fans will be pleased to know that some of the heroes from previous books return, including Mari Magot. The Last Ditch does suffer from being one part of a long-running series. Some of the gags have been done over and over again, and Mitchell does tend to over-egg both his jokes and his descriptive text. Those who have been waiting for the paperback format to come out should be pleased with this instalment. Those looking for Flashman in space should start with the first book, For the Emperor.