Monday, 12 December 2011

'The Emperor's Finest' - Sandy Mitchell

When The Emperor's Finest landed on my doormat I admit to bouncing from joy. Sandy Mitchell's books about commissar Ciaphas Cain are considered a must read in my house. So far they have proven to be an excellent blend of fun and action. Thank you Black Library for sending me a copy to review.

Commissar Cain is assigned to liaise between the Reclamator space marines and the Imperial Guard. Having left both the Imperial Guards and his trusted aide Jurgen behind he is travelling with the space marines towards a planet suffering from a rebel uprising. Commissar Cain is not expecting much trouble. Mere humans are no match for the Adeptus Astartes super soldiers,  and for once he should be safe from danger. So why are his palms itching so terribly?

Just in case you have not read a Ciaphas Cain novel, I'll dedicate a few sentences to this most awesome character. He really wants nothing more than to serve for the rest of his career in a quiet backwater far away from danger, enjoying drinks and women. This is usually the opposite of what the Emperor has planned for one of his most effective servants. Instead he ends up in the thick of it all. Often, because he is very unlucky, but his mouth gets him into trouble as well. He is a very astute observer of people, and always knows what people want to hear, which along with his own desire to come across as brave and capable, he talks himself into dangerous situations before he can stop himself. He is simply an anti-hero, and a very good one. I've seen comparisons between him and Flashman, which I strongly disagree with. Flashman is a real nob, and Ciaphas Cain is, deep down, a good man. However, they do have the same knack for ending up in troublesome spots.

Once down on the planet the space marines get started on routing the rebels and Ciaphas Cain gets acquainted with the governor and his buxom daughter. She is hard to miss in her cake-like military uniform and eye catching cleavage. Apparently she holds an honorary military title and to Ciaphas Cain's horror she insists on taking it seriously. It's immediately clear the two do not see eye to eye, and it gets worse when she insits on leading a scouting mission. Ciaphas Cain really does not want to baby sit a spoilt aristocrat, and his only comfort is he is now allowed to shoot her for insubordination, should the need arise, or she annoys him enough.

The Emperor's Finest, just as all other books about Ciaphas Cain, are pieced together from the memoirs he left behind by Inquisitor Amberly Vail. It is written in first person so we get a really good insight into him as a person, which is a lot of fun. It's a very honest, almost too honest, recollection of events and his opinions on things.  He often thinks one thing, but acts in the opposite way to make himself look better, just in case someone is watching. In editing his memoirs Inquisitor Amberly Vail also leaves a lot of footnotes to further explain the story and they range from merely informational to very sarcastic and funny. At times even a little emotional. Whenever I put down a Ciaphas Cain novel I find myself looking for these footnotes in the next book. They are great!

It turns out there is more to it than a simple rebellion. It's all engineered by genestealers, which makes it a lot more dangerous. Suddenly, Ciaphas Cain is not certain of his safety even with the ceramite encased warriors between him and the aliens. Things take a turn for the worse when the Adaptus Astartes wants to chase down the source of the genestealer infection. Ciaphas Cains finds himself back in space, hunting an old space hulk. Nothing can prepare him for a much greater, and closer danger. A woman with an ulterior motive!

By now you have probably figured out that I'm a big Ciaphas Cain fanboy, and hopefully picked up on how much I enjoy the series. The Emperor's Finest does not have best plot in the series, but the humour and action more than makes up for it. The book is riddled with awesome one liners and great dialogue between the characters. Not only is it fun to read, it's also plenty of action in a claustrophobic environment packed full of monsters with more claws and teeth than brains. There is plenty of close encounters of the very deadliest kind. As usual Ciaphas Cain does not have more than his wits and trust chainsword to save himself, and the rest of the world. I declare this whole series a must read. Go on and treat yourself to the adventures of one of the very best characters in the Warhammer 40k universe.

The Emperor's Finest weighs in at 416 pages and is published by the Black Library

Recommendation: must read

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