It’s no secret that I was eagerly anticipating Guy Haley’s take on the Novamarines, Death of Integrity, before its release. And now that it’s here and I’ve (finally!) finished reading it, I’m happy to report that not only has it lived up to my expectations, but it’s also managed to pique my interest in another long-overlooked Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, the appropriately named Blood Drinkers.
In truth, despite the presence of a Novamarine on the book’s spine, Death of Integrity is actually about both Chapters equally, with a healthy dose of the Adeptus Mechanicus thrown in for good measure.
And then, of course, there’s the genestealers…
I am an unashamed fan of Space Hulk – the board game, and even the new PC version from Full Control Studios (http://store.steampowered.com/app/242570/?snr=1_7_15__13). So taking as its premise the cleansing of one of these immense drifting conglomerates of interstellar junk means that Death of Integrity already had me on the hook. Throw in the Novamarines and Guy’s epic prose-style, and things can’t go wrong.
With the book that is. For its protagonists though…
I don’t want to make this a review full of spoilers because I honestly believe you should go out and enjoy this tale for yourselves. But suffice to say not everything goes according to plan – and even this, what has previously been referred to (in Games Workshop’s sometimes contradictory canon sources) as one of the Novamarines’ greatest triumphs, doesn’t end the way you think it will.
Plot-wise the story has enough surprises to sustain it for its entire length – things slow down from time to time, but hardly enough to notice. There is some foreshadowing at the beginning that I thought would lead to a major twist but didn’t; while an unexpected turn later on left me thunderstruck.
As far as characters are concerned there is a sizable cast to keep track of but the central players are (for the most part) clearly defined: Captain Galt and Veteran-Sergeant Voldo from the Novamarines; Chapter Master Caedis from the Blood Drinkers; and leading the Mechanicum forces, the insidious Lord Magos Explorator Plosk. All of them get their time to shine, making Death of Integrity as much (if not more) of an ensemble piece then, say, Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (reviewed back in April: https://ethanreilly.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/book-review-helsreach-by-aaron-dembski-bowden/) which also had a strong cast but relied heavily on the first-person narration of Grimaldus to drive the story forward.
The action is often frenetic and laced-through with many classic sci-fi tropes. I noticed echoes of both the Alien franchise (obviously, given the original Space Hulk’s debt to Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s films) and The Matrix (specifically, The Matrix Reloaded) to name two. But for all Guy’s knowledge and appreciation of the genre he stays true to the Warhammer 40000 setting throughout. The grimdark of the far-future is rendered in exquisite detail, and the ending…well, let’s just it’s not called Death of Integrity for nothing.
If I was forced to identify one negative aspect at all, it would be the editing: while the majority of the book is finely-tuned, there were sections in the later chapters that probably could have used a little more polishing – a spelling mistake here, a spacing error there. But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise stellar effort.
So how does Death of Integrity stack up against other Black Library titles then? For a while now I’ve considered Helsreach to be my barometer for a “good” W40K novel – enjoyable, dynamic, gripping, and true to the setting. With Death of Integrity Guy Haley has equalled that achievement (in my humble opinion). Others might disagree, but all I know is there was hardly a moment during the reading of this story where I wasn’t wondering what was going to happen next – and you can’t ask for much more than that.
Verdict: 4 stars (out of 5)
The Death of Integrity is available now from The Black Library: http://www.blacklibrary.com/all-products/en-the-death-of-integrity.html