Apocalypse: Pandorax by CZ Dunn – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Pandorax

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Pandorax, the first novel in a brand new Apocalypse series by CZ Dunn, published by Black Library and set in the world of the 41st Millennium.

“A, fast paced, solid & enthralling novel. Whilst it may not be perfect, CZ Dunn produces a solid debut book that will please long-term fans and relative newcomers alike. If you like action, then Pandorax may well be exactly what you need.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

In the Pandorax System, on the death world of Pythos, an ancient secret that has laid buried for millennia has been unearthed… Ignorant of this terror, troopers of the Catachan 183rd, stranded on Pythos and under the command of Colonel ‘Death’ Strike, find themselves under attack by the forces of Chaos. Daemons in their thousands flock the sky, and none other than Warmaster Abaddon leads the attack. With the Death Guard and Black Legion arrayed against them, the Catachans appear to be doomed, until salvation arrives in the form of the entire Dark Angels Chapter, led by Master Azrael and a host of heroes. But what is the so-called ‘Damnation Cache’? What secrets does it harbour and why has it also attracted the attention of the daemon-hunting Grey Knights?

I’ve been out of touch with the gaming side of Warhammer 40,000 since shortly before the release of the sixth edition. However – it appears that they’ve released heaps of new material since then including the 6th Edition version of the Apocalypse expansion set – designed for large scale wars, often featuring whole Chapters of Space Marines as opposed to a mere few squads and heavy vehicles.  Of course, with a new Apocalypse series – there is the potential for a brand new tie-in series from Black Library, and what better to kick off procedurers with Pandorax, a novel based on the events that take place in the War Zone rulebook – Pandorax? Normally, as with Space Marine Battles series, I’d be coming into this novel knowing exactly what would happen next. I’d be fully aware of how the battle unfolds, but as I haven’t been buying Codexes lately, my reading has slipped further and further behind to an extent where I was coming into Pandorax completely fresh, preparing to be surprised by whatever this book could throw at me.

PandoraxThe biggest problem that I had with the Space Marine Battles novels was its predictability and that’s not the issue here. CZ Dunn crafts an engaging and interesting read, and gives him a promising and solid debut novel. Sure, the author has been around for ages with short stories and audio dramas, such as Malediction being a notable example. Overall, I’ve liked what Dunn can bring to the table and with Pandorax he certainly shows signs of being an author to watch out for, especially with a strong narrative hook and a well-written understanding sense of action, allowing him to engage the reader from the start and keep them hooked right the way through. Whilst yes, this novel may be virtually 90% action, making it equivalent to the latest Summer Blockbuster movie, Pandorax shies away from making the same mistakes that bogged down early Space Marine Battles novels by giving us fresh and engaging characters. Even Kaldor Draigo, who many people thought was too overpowered come his introduction with the 5th Edition Codex of the Grey Knights is made interesting in this book, as Dunn builds upon established lore to create a solid and well rounded character. Indeed, pretty much every major character is strong in Pandorax – Junior Inquisitor Tzula and Imperial Navy pilot Hagen are notable standouts – and amongst the Imperial Guard Catachans stationed on Pandorax, Colonel Strike was another fine addition. In fact, the only character who I didn’t really enjoy was Azrael, Grand Master of the Dark Angels Chapter – as with the vast amount of characters not all of them can be pulled off well and that was the case with Pandorax – Azrael ultimately suffers from being the result of one-too-many characters in one book – but I have hope that Dunn can remedy this with the Audio Drama, Trials of Azrael.

The action that you’ll find in Pandorax is among the finest that you’ll see in any book from Black Library – even something written by the likes of Dan Abnett and Aaron Dembski-Bowden. CZ Dunn employs a variety of sequences from a variety of participants, be they the lowliest Catachan Imperial Guardsman or the highest-ranking Dark Angel. I loved the many teases thrown in to the Horus Heresy series as well – so if you’re a fan of that series then Pandorax is something that’s certainly worth a look into. Whilst nothing obvious is revealed there’s certainly a few hints about where characters might have ended up. Whilst the Horus Heresy series isn’t required reading to understand what’s going on here it certainly helps provide a broader understanding.

If you’re looking for an engaging read that isn’t bogged down by being simply another bolter-porn novel in the vein of say, The Soul Drinkers series or most Space Marine Battles novels, then Pandorax is right up your street. Whilst yes, it may be another novel detailing the struggles of the Imperium against Chaos rather than exploring the lesser known elements of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, Pandorax allows for a very entertaining read. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what else CZ Dunn can bring to the table. Whilst there may be a lack of focus on all the characters and the novel may suffer with too much stuff happening at once, you should still enjoy what you see here. Certainly worth checking out.

VERDICT: 4/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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