Gazrot Goresnappa – ork warboss supreme – is dead, crushed beneath his own war machine. Nature abhors a power vacuum, and Gazrot’s followers are spoiling for a fight. After all, there can only be one warboss . . .
The setup for Warboss is actually surprisingly plausible. A ravaging horde of invaders has conquered a land, sweeping all opposition before them. Then their leader is killed abruptly, and his underlings squabble amongst themselves for power, potentially overlooking the local resistance to their presence. It’s a scenario that the successors Alexander the Great would have recognised all too well.
Historical precedent aside, however, this book could not be more Warhammer 40,000 if it tried. It is two hundred pages of orky shenanigans spilling off the pages. Pages, it must be said, that are positively dripping with green blood. Like Mike Brooks’ other Orks stories, this one is at its best when you don’t take it too seriously. There are weirdboys – ork wizards driven by their own head-popping insanity, speed-freaks – think Mad Max: Fury Road, and you won’t be far wrong, and, as always, the grots who’ve had just about enough of it all. Everyone, even the grots, are larger than life characters, drawn in bold strokes and defined by a handful of traits. In a book like this, however, simple characterisation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, what is an ork if not a simple creature?
The combination of ork simplicity, Brooks’ traditionally engaging prose, and a short page count means that Warboss is a quick and easy read. The plot is largely an excuse to see orks going at each other in gory and hilariously underhanded fashion. The role of the grots in all this ties neatly to the ideas laid out in the Red Gobbo novellas, and it’s unsurprising that Snaggi Littleftoof and his ilk get most of the good lines. It’s not quite laugh out loud funny, but it’s a highly amusing novel nonetheless. A special shoutout has to go to the naming of the chapters which, while making it easy to lose your place, is an inspired piece of narrative humour.
Standing as a counterpoint to all this are the human-PoV chapters. The orks may be having a good time, but for the humans under siege this is an existential threat. These scenes are markedly more serious, though no less violent. Brooks does a great job of driving home the squalid conditions of a hive city under siege. One moment that really gets at the scale of these cities is the hive-dweller who asks in all earnestness what a planet is. To these poor souls, the city is the totality of their existence, and now the orks have come to tear it down.
A riotous and readable delight, Warboss is yet further proof of Brooks’ versatility as an author. More than that, it’s just plain fun.
Deeper Dive: Waiting on a Hardback
traditionally in publishing, hardbacks are the first edition of a book to be released, followed several months later by a paperback release. In modern publishing, many books do not get a hardback release at all. Black Library publciations are about a 50/50 split in this regard. But they also have another format. The ludicrously overstuffed limited/special editions come equipped with decks of playing card, custom dice, jewellery, handouts, and more. Naturally, there’s a hefty price tag to accompany these extra goodies.
Some of these special editions have seen publication over a year before the traditional hardback release, and this means that the story is out in the world before a lot of readers can get their hands on it. Happily, Black Library seem to be reducing this gap, and Warboss arrived in hardcover only a few months after the special edition release. As an enthusiast rather than a collector, it’s nice to see a more affordable edition on shelves sooner rather than later.
- A Standalone Novel
- Focuses on the Orks
- This edition published in 2023
- Published by Black Library
- Grimdark SF
- 246 pages
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