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. Part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this is a lighter take on the series that coined the term “Grimdark” —note that it’s still pretty damned bleak, but as these are the private memoirs of the titular Ciaphus Cain, we know at least he survives.
1—Echoes of the Tomb
This is the short story wherein Ciaphas first encounters the necrons. The tech-priests have discovered some archeotech on a deserted, dead planet that somehow has some breathable atmosphere. They shortly discover a strange machine that isn’t as dead as it should be. It’s a creepy little story, and everyone but Cain dies. It also ends rather abruptly, but I’m willing to forgive that in a short story.
2—Caves of Ice
Cain and company—the Valhallan 597th, whose founding Cain was a part of in the previous book—find themselves on an ice-world, much to the Valhallans’s joy. Orks are invading and the company is tasked with protecting a promethium refinery and its civilian inhabitants. But there’s something in the caves and tunnels beneath the refinery that’s been making miners disappear, and Cain—rather than be around when an ork weapon of mass destruction arrives at the refinery—decides to go down into the tunnels. There he finds not only a backdoor for the orks to get into the refinery and past their defenses, but he finds an enormous nest of dormant necrons—which, of course, don’t stay dormant for long.
There’s also Amberley’s comments are both fun and insightful, providing some background or other information that Cain either didn’t know or left out, or just providing some extra humor. And there’s bits of Sulla’s own biography peppered throughout to provide some context for things Cain wasn’t present for and didn’t feel the need to comment on—I enjoy the odd bit of over-flowery prose she provides, as well as Amberley’s snarking at the beginning of each interjection.
I’m continuing to enjoy Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium. I’m not usually into grimdark or military scifi, and this is both, but I do enjoy gallows humor. And it makes a huge difference, knowing that our point of view character is going to survive the encounter, even if few others get that guarantee. I look forward to getting to the last short story and book in the omnibus.