Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium is an omnibus volume containing the first three Ciaphas Cain books, as well as three short stories. They’re by Sandy Mitchell. Fight or Flight is the very first Ciaphas Cain story and For the Emperor is the first book. The stories take place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe—where the term “grimdark” originated from—but Ciaphas’s stories are a more humorous take on it all—Ciaphas, despite his heroic reputation, is a self-centered near-sociopath and it’s his commentary on things that lend the comedy. Not that there isn’t a hefty bodycount in these military scif stories.
The stories are presented as Cain’s private memoirs, which have been placed under Inquisitorial seal, and the book has been annotated by said Inquisitor.
1—Fight or Flight
Fight or Flight follows the newly minted Commissar Cain on his very first mission. He has no heroic reputation yet, and has finagled his way into a post with the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery on a little backwater planet that should see little to no action. Of course, that doesn’t turn out to be the case, and the events that follow in the wake of a tyranid invasion start Ciaphas on the path to that glorious reputation. Oh yes, and this is also the story where he meets Jurgen and Jurgen’s smell.
2—For the Emperor
For the Emperor sees Ciaphas reassigned to another Valhallan unit, after some years doing other things and racking up some nightmares. This new unit is having some problems after having been created from the remnants of two previous units, namely that the factions hate each other. So now it’s up to Ciaphas to wrangle them into one cohesive unit instead of two at each others’ throats, and do it before landing on a new planet infested with Tau aliens. Of course, things aren’t that simple. There’s a plot afoot to provoke war between the two species, and an Inquisitor lurking somewhere in the shadows. And there’s something off about Jurgen, more so than just his overpowering odor.
I’m enjoying Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium, so far. The xenophobia can be a little hard to swallow at times, but Ciaphas, despite all his cynicism, is a man of his religiously (and I use the term literally here) xenophobic culture. Nevertheless, it’s a fun read.