Thursday, 8 November 2012

‘The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook’ (Black Library) – Quick Thoughts on a Quick Read

You there, soldier! Don't know a las-cutter from a lascannon? Not sure which prayer to the God-Emperor will protect you from enemy artillery fire? Need to know how to survive an explosive decompression on your drop ship, or set up a crossfire ambush in a death world jungle? Better consult the handbook. The Munitorum adepts give us these things for a reason, you know...

Collected for the first time in a single kitbag volume, the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer and the Imperial Munitorum Manual provide a wealth of background on the history, tactics and ethos of the Imperial Guard.

I’ve been racking my brains on this one and I actually find myself really hard pressed to remember a book that has left me feeling more non-plussed than this one. Hang on, there was that book… No, ‘The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook’ still wins (or loses, depending on how you look at it).

It’s not that the book doesn’t do what it sets out to do, far from it. There is a wealth of information on the Imperial Guard, how it works and how the individual Guardsman should conduct himself within its ranks. There’s also some interesting background history to flesh things out; something I always like to see in a book.
I think the problem lies in that fact that ‘The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook’ does its job a little too well for the likes of me. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of Imperial Guard and Departmento Munitorum; something that I think is purely intentional on the author’s part (given the nature of the setting). This is all well and good if you’re really into the setting (I’m looking at gamers who have an Imperial Guard army for instance) but for someone who just wants a good story to get into, like me, this approach can be incredibly off-putting. ‘The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook’ is aimed well and truly at the hardcore fanbase and there’s nothing wrong with that, not if you want a book to sell well. An outcome though is that casual fans (me again) and newcomers are going to feel a little alienated and not able to engage with the book. In my case, I ended up not wanting to. You have to admire Black Library for knowing exactly whom they’re selling books to and going for it wholeheartedly. It’s a bit of a shame for the rest of us though. Oh well, it’s not like there isn’t Black Library fiction that I can be reading in the meantime.

I can see ‘The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook’ being a nice little stocking filler for the aspiring Guardsman or Commissar with a point to prove on the tabletop field of battle. For the likes of me though? Well, I really wasn’t that bothered at all.


TheSGC said...

Eh...I don't really see where you're coming from at all. What were you expecting? The title itself should've told you that it's going to be written as 'in-universe' as it possibly can be. That's the point. It's not a novel, it has no plot, it has nothing to 'read' in terms of a novel. It's a handbook, and it's supposed to be that, nothing more.

Graeme Flory said...

Funnily enough, that was kind of what I was trying to say. If you're really into WH40K then a handbook will appeal and this one is for you. If you're like me, never really going to go past the novels, then this handbook probably won't work as well (if at all).