Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar by David Annandale
Published in 2016
Genre: Science fiction, military fiction
“One empire had come to Thoas to crush another.”
In Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultrimar, by David Annandale, pragmatic stoicism meets the unhinged rage of insane aggression as the mighty Ultramarines seek to destroy their green-skinned foe. This is the first in a series of books following the Primarchs; a group of demigod warriors in the year 30,0000 who lead the armies of the Emperor of Mankind in his quest to take over the stars. Tales of heroism, folly, and philosophical quandaries all mix in this short, but entertaining, book.
Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultrimar takes place in the 31st millennium; 10,000 years before the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000. In this future, mankind is led by the immortal Emperor in his Great Crusade to conquer the stars and take worlds from the hands of alien races and lost fragments of humanity. To aid him in his quest, the Emperor created the Primarchs; twenty superhuman beings who would be his generals. A strange event occurs that scatters them across the galaxy and the Emperor is forced to use their genetic stock to create Space Marines; superhuman warriors who will be his armies in the coming crusade. As he expands the Imperium, the Emperor recovers his lost sons and it is these characters upon which the Primarchs series focuses.
Roboute Guilliman is the Primarch of the Ultramarines Legion. He is a pragmatic strategist who wants to reclaim and rebuild rather than simply destroy. The Ultramarines attack a greenskin held planet in order to retake the human ruins they find, and though the initial assault goes well, things soon change once the command structure breaks down due to insubordination.
Though the main story concerns the Ultramarines and their attempt to reclaim Thoas, there is a deeper subplot that runs through it. Captain Hierax is passed over for promotion and dislikes the warrior who takes it, Chapter Master Iasus. He is torn between his duty to the legion and his dislike of his leader. The characters in the story all make use of logic decision making, military or otherwise; they focus on the theoretical and the practical while using both concepts. Each chapter is preceded by excerpts from Guiliman’s writings that correspond to the events that follow.
There is very little character growth throughout the book, but it is more about Guilliman reaching a revelation and foreshadowing later events in the Horus Heresy. I would imagine it is difficult to write about an enemy that is a mindless mass and try to wring some sort of character development from them, but there is a nice juxtaposition between the way the Space Marines and the orks make war. As stated, the Ultramarines are stoic and precise, while the ork horde is compared to a sea in its wave-like movements.
I really enjoyed reading this snapshot in Roboute Guilliman’s career as the Primarchs are typically shown as secondary characters in the Horus Heresy series. There is a nice balance between the superhuman martial prowess of the character and his internal dilemma of wondering what will happen to him once all of the violence he was created to dispense is no longer needed. He contemplates his legacy as he is not fooled by his own seeming immortality, nor that of his station. Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultrimar is a promising beginning to yet another exciting series from the Black Library and I look forward to reading more.
Verdict: 3 water metaphors out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of Warhammer 40,000, those who enjoy science fiction, those who know about the Horus Heresy, fans of fiction based on tabletop miniature games, and those who don’t mind the spelling of ork.
Not recommended for: Those who don’t like fiction based on tabletop miniature games, those who are intimidated by the extensive mythology of the Warhammer 40K worlds, people who prefer a “c” when spelling “orc”, or those who will spend too much time trying to pronounce “Roboute Guilliman”.