Publisher: Black Library
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2020
Ere we go ladz! Da orks is coming to Hephaestos, and no humies, no matter how shiny and tek-priesty they may be can stop dem! Except dere’s a whole lot of titans down on Hephaestos, and ain’t nobody going down wivout a fight . . !
What I like about Warhammer 40,000 is the overwhelming tragedy of it all. It doesn’t matter how much light you try and bring, one day everything will fall into darkness. You might win a battle or two, but you’re going to lose the war. The T’au enslave countless species under the illusion of the Greater Good. The Imperium stagnates and grinds both enemies and its own citizens too pulp under the tank tracks of wear. The Chaos Gods devour reality itself and laugh from afar. And then you’ve got the orks. Racing brightly coloured vehicles, giggling in their mockney accents, and generally having a good time as the world explodes around (and occasionally within) them. Contrasted against the looming tragedy of humanity’s decline, the orks have always struck me as a bit… silly.
Don’t get me wrong. Silliness has a place. I’m a big fan of shows like Killjoys and Vagrant Queen, and they’re as silly as you get. But it’s never been what I want from Warhammer. The orks just felt out of place. Two recent books started to change my opinion on that. Oddly enough, both were primarily about necrons. The Infinite and the Divine and Ruin both put the orks in direct contrast to the necorns, and that made me think. Maybe that silliness is a good thing. The grim, dark future is a horrible place, and when you’re confronted by endless horror, you have three options. You can try and fight it, as the (with arguable success) the Imperium does. You can give up and wallow in misery with necrons. Or you can cut loose and revel in the madness. After all, if you’re going to die in pain, why not make that short life as enjoyable as you can? And that’s where the orks come in.
Mike Brooks is a very good writer. Most of his work that I’ve read has been fairly serious, but Brutal Kunnin shows what he can do with a bit of humour. And it turns out that what he can do with a bit of humour is write the funniest Warhammer book ever. \this book is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, and that is such a are thing I can’t remember when I last found one. The comedy works not only because the orks are inherently ridiculous, but because the orks are having as much fun as the reader. They have short, violent lives, after all. Who can begrudge them a bit of entertainment? Not me. While all comedy writing is hard, I have to give Brooks special praise for writing orkish dialogue in a way that is readable. A lot of the time, accents are difficult to parse, but the orks’s lingo is as straightforward as everything else about them. I wouldn’t want this in every book, or even every Warhammer 40,000 book. But it absolutely works, and the world is a better place for having this book in it.
Way back in the early days, Warhammer was much more openly comedic. I mean, one of the most famous orks of all time was named after Margaret Thatcher, and if that’s not satire, i don’t now what is. Over time, the storyetlling has started to take itself a bit more seriously, and I think that is a very good thing. It’s certainly resulted in more stories that I enjoy reading. But sometimes it’s good to revisit the past. And for all it’s inventiveness and originality, Brutal Kunnin might just be, in a very circular way, the most traditional Warhammer 40,000 book in a long, long while.
Read this book, and you’ll come away with a grin on your face. And if that’s not true, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you is just a borin’ humie.