Book Review: Ultramarines - The Second Omnibus / Writer: Graham McNeil / Publisher: Games Workshop / Release Date: Out Now
An omnibus is always a bit of a challenge when you have to review it; after all, you’re not just talking about one book, but many. Though this provides a nice way to get the series as a whole, some tales benefit from allowing the reader to rest between novels. This is especially a problem with action heavy tales featuring super humans doing amazing things; such stories are fun, but consume too much in one sitting and your head may spin. A lot like too much ice cream. This is a collection to take your time with and, unlike ice cream, won’t melt.
As you may be able to surmise from the title, Ultramarines: The Second Omnibus, is a book filled with tales of Ultramarines. These are Warhammer 40,000’s flagship heroes; huge noble warriors, clad in blue power armour. Dark Age style crusaders in space, but with a mix of Spartan warrior culture and an obsession with being the best warriors in the galaxy.
The three full novels in this collection are worth a look, if you’re a fan of the 40K setting and Ultramarines in particular. Killing Ground is a spooky tale of heroism, superstition and violence; all things McNeil is particularly good at. The pace is a little slow at points, but the two main protagonists, Uriel and Pasanius, are likeable in a genetically altered killing machine sort of way. The next novel, Courage and Honour, follows on firmly from the first and racks up the pace. This is a violence filled tale of big men with big guns shooting things of all sizes. It is a tale deeply rooted in the concept of noble knights in space, and when things aren’t being shot at or hit with chainsaw swords, we get a glimpse at the culture of Ultramarines. The last full novel is Chapter’s Due, which picks up the pace even further and becomes a break neck tale of galactic warfare. Sinister villains and very big things blow up. It’s a touch darker than the last two, but then it has to be as a lot of things die in it. Taken together, it’s a ripping journey of action, adventure and a lot of violence.
The omnibus also features the short story Eye of Vengeance. We reviewed the audio version of this tale (here) and it works much better as an audio than it does in black and white. Mostly because it’s a tale of big, heavy objects crashing into things and going boom. Still, it pads the Omnibus out nicely and it’s quite fun.
The last part of the Omnibus is a bit of an odd choice; Black Bone Road is a comic strip, reprinted from the Black Library’s now long defunct anthology magazine, Inferno. It is pretty content free, as far as these things go; Space Marines turn up and stop an occult menace by hitting it repeatedly. Sadly, the size of the comic strip art doesn’t really fit on the page (it’s been resized for the novel format), and that makes it cramped and not easy to read. Though I’d love to see more comic books with Ultramarines in them, this is not a top example.
Overall, Ultramarines:The Second Omnibus is more of the same for the fans; there’s nothing wrong with the content, but by the time you’ve gone through the first Omnibus you’ll have already made your mind as to if you want more or not. For £13, you do get quite a lot of story, and those who like these peculiar boys in blue will love it.