ORDO LITERORIUM: “Ciaphas Cain: For the Emperor”

“For the Emperor” is the jump off point for Ciaphas Cain and his adventures with 597th Expedition.  The backdrop of the story takes place on a back water planet called Gravalax, where the local PDF (Planetary Defence Force) is in a stale mate with the ever cunning and insidious, Greater Good loving Tau.  Now it is up to the supremely lucky Commissar Cain and his ever faithful companion Jurgen to use the might of the Imperial Guard to tactfully yet efficiently end the Tau occupation, and better yet to find out why a truce was ever forged in the first place?

Sandy Mitchell is absolutely no stranger to the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium.  Although upon reading the first chapter of this book you would think differently.  Ciaphas Cain himself isn’t the carbon copy stoic, pragmatic unfeeling hero that we’ve all come to expect from this universe. He is actually quite the opposite, almost to the point of being an anti-hero.  Ciaphas wants nothing more than to live out his commission in peace and quiet, however anyone who is well versed in these novels knows that these two are almost impossible to find.  Despite his best efforts to avoid trouble, he’s eventually thrown into the fray.  Instead of ploughing head first into the enemy, Sandy Mitchell is consistent with Ciaphas Cain’s endearing characteristic of always looking for the quickest way out as well as the closest meat shield.  Of course no hero would be complete without a healthy dose of luck, and Mr.Cain is no stranger to this.  From Cain’s selfish “take care of No.1” attitude to an interesting relationship with a female inquisitor, Sandy Mitchell never fails to bring some sunshine and humour to an otherwise humourless universe. 

This novel sets itself outside the regular doom and gloom of Warhammer, this in itself is a potential part of its downfall.  If you prefer your 40K on the more serious side, then you might want to avoid this novel.  Perhaps even stay away from the Ciaphas Cain series all together.  The amount of humour in the novel almost crosses the line of excessive.  At some moments you’re rolling your eyes thinking “is this really necessary?”

The action in this novel is also a bit disappointing.  The expectation and knowledge of a massive Tau incursion would lead you to assume that some epic battles between Leman Russ tanks and the awesome battle suits, that the Tau are famously known for, would ensue.  Sadly this dream of destruction and rail rifle heaven doesn’t really happen.  Instead, the Tau are portrayed in more of a cultural aspect than a military presence.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it still puts a dampener on the experience of the story if wanton blood, guts and gore is what you’re looking for.

Final Thoughts

Although the humour is a bit eccentric and the novel might not be what you are used to, this is the exact reason why you should consider “For the Emperor”.  I have so much respect for Sandy Mitchell and all the other authors in the Black Library ranks that defy the stereotype, giving this pulp fiction series the depth that it deserves.  So, even though this is not your run of the mill 40K novel, it’s still a classic tale that deserves more attention from Warhammer veterans as well as the new coming initiates. 

Lexicanum Clearance Level:

Acceptable to general imperial population with minor under tones of heresy.