BOOK REVIEW: Da Gobbo’s Revenge, by Mike Brooks

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  • A standalone novella
  • An Orks novella
  • Published by Black Library in 2021
  • A grimdark comedy
  • 107 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fingwit doesn’t expect much from his miserable existence. As a grot, his purpose is to be bullied by the orks he serves. To live and die by their whims. But then chance drops an opportunity into his hands, and Fingwit finds that, just this once, a grot can change the future . . .

Black Library puts out a lot of very different stories under the Warhammer 40,000 label. From military SF and science fantasy, to pulp adventures and sweeping tragedies. The past few years have seen the beginning of dedicated horror and crime off-shoots. Mike Brooks’ earlier Ork offering was an outright comedy. Da Gobbo’s Revenge follows in those humorous footsteps, but also brings something new to the table. I haven’t checked the entire back catalogue, but this is likely the first Christmas special Black Library have ever released.

Christmas specials come up a fair bit in the worlds of speculative storytelling, but it’s usually in TV series where they have an episode broadcast in the festive season. Warehouse 13 had some great Christmas specials, and Space Above & Beyond got in on the action too. Even Star Trek managed to work in a reference here and there. (Looking at you, Christmas tree ornament Voyager!) But for a book? That’s a bit rarer. True, the word Christmas never appears in Da Gobbo’s Revenge, but these grots are essentially twisted versions of worker elves, and they serve an ork known for his claws, who wears a lot of red. Draw your own conclusions. But what truly brings that festive spirit home is that, twisted and violent though it may be, the message this novella delivers is the gift of optimism. This once, the little guy wins. This once, there’s a shred of hope in this grim, dark future.

Like Brutal Kunnin – to which there is a connection – Da Gobbo’s Revenge is funny at times, side-splittingly hilarious at others. It’s pure fun of the mayhem variety, and Fingwit the grot makes for a truly memorable underdog. Brooks’ enthusiasm for all things ork rolls off the pages, and the writing is as punchy as its protagonists. The most remarkable thing for me is Brooks’ grasp of orkish dialogue. Only one word in ten is grammatically correct, and everything else is phonetic. The orkish accent feels like it should be awkward to read on the page, but it is not. In fact, this is one of the most compulsively readable books I’ve encountered in a long, long while. The short length helps with that, of course, and you’ll likely finish it in a single setting. If not, you’ll probably want to try. Fingwit’s struggles make for engrossing reading.

Da Gobbo’s Revenge isn’t the sort of book that will give you trouble over weighty philosophy or leave you with questions about the nature of the human condition. It does something better: It tells a rollicking good story. This is the sort of violent fun that only orks could get away with having, and has fully converted me to the way of the greenskins. I don’t know if Brooks or Black Library have more orks in the pipeline, but I hope they do. The world needs their enthusiasm. If not their cavalier attitude towards common decency and hygiene. But you can’t win ’em all.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus, by Isaac Asimov
Mars, by Ben Bova
Cold Welcome, by Elizabeth Moon

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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