Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review - Orcs, by Stan Nicholls

Around a week or so ago, a friend of mine was in a Books-A-Million and saw a copy of Orcs, by Stan Nicholls, and in his own words "If I didn't get it for Spike, she'd kill me." ..and also in his own words was initially compelled by "the badass orc on the cover".

Yeah...I was smitten too. And that was without even reading it.

As the blurb promises, this book will change how you feel about orcs..unless of course you are like me..but then, few are. Anyhoo, this is a story of the Wolverines, an elite warband of orc fighters, who are sent on a quest by a particularly wicked half-human queen who needs a magical artifact in order to further her evilness. After an unexpected delay in returning the queen's prize, the orcs realize they have likely brought her wrath down upon themselves and soon find themselves branded as renegades. Next thing they know, they are on the run from everybody including a trio of bounty hunters, a band of human religious fanatics, and a small army of orcs who still remain loyal to the queen.

These aren't Tolkien's orcs, nor WoTC's orcs, nor Blizzard Entertainment's orcs. If you are expecting brutish thugs who kill for the sake of killing, have low Intelligence scores, and speak gratuitous Cockney, then you'll probably be disappointed. These orcs never say "WAAAAGH", nor "Zugzug", though they do freely drop some of the more choice four-letter words. After all they are still orcs.

Without giving too much away, the story's "plot" almost takes a back seat to the real story, which is in my opinion about different perspectives of race relations and intolerance. The world of Maras-Dantia is a place gripped by spreading chaos. Glaciers are quickly advancing upon civilisation and the world seems to be dying. Worse yet, the magic that once coursed through the earth in ley lines has been bled almost dry. And it would seem the humans are to blame. Of course there are many races of beings in this world, but the course of their history has pitted the elder races and their many gods against the humans and their one god. Of course not all humans are "the bad guys", and throughout the story there are plenty of situations in which various characters learn to put their differences behind them and work together. During their adventure, the Wolverines (including a dwarf sergeant) encounter gremlins, pixies, brownies, centaurs, goblins, trolls, friendly humans, bad orcs, and even a dragon or two.

The battle scenes are quite embellished; a good thing for those of you who enjoy the works of Robert "Two Guns Bob" Howard. And so are some of the vignettes concernign the bloody rituals of the wicked queen. This isn't a book for the youngsters or the faint-hearted. If you don't care for adult language and some adult content, you may want to pass this one over. I'd say it's rated M14 at the very least.

The book picture above is actually a trio of shorter novels bound into an omnibus publication. A second trio of books bound under the title "Orcs - Bad Blood" should be coming available right about now. and I for one will be on the lookout for it.


Atom Kid said...

I saw this at Barnes and Noble about a month ago and thought it looked interesting. I still haven't bought it yet though.

If you like other goblinoid races, there's a cool looking miniatures game called Terronus: Isle of the Goblins. You play Goblin characters rather than humans, it looks really cool.'Terronus%20'Isle%20of%20the%20Goblins''

Anonymous said...

I love 'ORCS', it prompted my gaming group upon a mini-campaign using Forward To Adventure! The characters were Orcs and it was brutal fun, a real 'blood and snot' campaign.. Also FtA!s Half-Mermen character template came in useful.

Spike Page said...

Thanks Atom for the suggestion..and @ Sean, I've had my mind on running an all-orcs campaign for a long time, but after reading the book have all sorts of new ideas to consider.

Badelaire said...

Sounds interesting. I have to admit that while I dearly love my GW 40K Orks, the idea of some novel that "looks at race relations from a different perspective" or some such has me wary. Still, I might pick this up some day.

I've always wanted to write a 40K novel(la) featuring Orks as the "protagonists". I think as long as one keeps the "Ork-speak" in check and treats them as something other than mindless killing / farting machines, it can be done...

Samuel Van Der Wall said...

Very cool sounding book. I've never heard of it. I completely agree with you about the cover. It almost calls for you to pick it up and be read!

Brunomac said...

Not sure that I am up for an entire book about orcs (no matter how different they are), "orc mania" these days should ensure it a decent sales run.

I may check it out when it hits the local library.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the review. I chanced upon the book in a bookstore, and have been wondering if it's worth the coin. Maybe if i request it from my local library they will buy a copy for their shelves. You know, they do that sometimes.