DOUBLE EAGLE / AUTHOR: DAN ABLETT / PUBLISHER: BLACK LIBRARY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
With the re-release of the air combat game Aeronautica Imperialis, it should come as no surprise that Games Workshop's novel factory, The Black Library, have also re-released Double Eagle, the only Warhammer 40,000 novel that deals exclusively with the Imperial Navy fighter pilots. Or to put it another way, Double Eagle is Top Gun, but set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Set during the Sabbat World’s Crusade, we follow the adventures of the Phatine Air Corps, a regiment of soldiers dedicated to supporting the ground troops of the Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard). They’re a typically odd bunch; hailing from a world rich in fuel and pollution, with a population who lives above the cloud-line because the ground is toxic hell hole. They’re a planet full of pilots who have been thrust in a massive interstellar war.
The action takes place on Enothis, a world critical to the war effort. The hellish forces of chaos have superior vehicles and supernatural might on their side. All our plucky pilots have are their faith and an awful lot of pluck. The various aces are engaging and quite familiar. For example, Vander Marquall is your typical vain but talented pilot who lets his lack of confidence get the better of him, and August Kaminsky is the wise old mentor type. Other characters include the caring but tough widow, the talented cadet who’s being held back because of their family and the pilot who’s “seen to much bloodshed.” Though the cast are mostly a pick and mix selection from any World War Two-inspired RAF drama, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.
This is a Dan Abnett book, so it’s filled with well written ‘soap-style’ personal drama and amazing action scenes. Dan is a cinematic writer and each bit of aerial combat is a joy to read. You get a real feel for what it’s like to strap into an ancient (but super-advanced) plane and take on impossible odds. Because the book has such a broad cast of characters, you’re never entirely sure who’s going to make it to the end and this makes it all the more thrilling. Abnett wants you to care about each las-bolt and bullet hole and keeps you reading to the end.
It’s an interesting twist on the usual Warhammer fare, as most of the books focus on super-humans. Double Eagle is much more down to Earth, despite being set in the sky. Dogfighting fun and a perfect choice for a thrilling holiday read.