Last weekend Games Workshop rereleased Aeronautica Imperialias, their fighter combat game, and to persuade people to buy it they also reissued Dan Abnett’s novel about fighter pilots in the grimdark future. To distract myself from Blood Bowl, or the fact that I was on a plane in turbulent skies, I read it.
Although I’m very much of thr school of thought that the Games Workshop novels are a sneaky way to teach kids about the Roman Empire and existentialism, with Double Eagle Abnett clearly wanted to write a World War One fighter pilot story, but still get paid for it. There’s elements of WWII bombing in there too, and the evil Chaos antagonists are really rather German, right down to having a flying circus of vicious fighters led by an ace in a special coloured plane. OK, there’s the high tech version of Harrier jump jets doing battle with laser cannons, but you could quite easily set the same story in 1917 or 1941 and hardly miss a beat.
It’s fun though. There’s clearly doomed romances, there’s lots of wistful deaths, there’s a chap that you think will be the protagonist at the start, but turns out just to be an annoying jerk who dies alone without realising what he thinks is terribly important and special is just doing the job you have, and it’s got lots of aerial warfare. Maybe a bit too much if you read the book fast after eating three burgers and playing nine games of Blood Bowl in 48 hpurs, but that’s my lifestyle choice.
Certainly better than some of the more hit and miss Horus Heresy series. Was it the fighter planes? The doomed romance of bomber pilot and cafe waitress? The lack of demonic mentalism and total grim dark? I don’t know, but this is one of the more enjoyable books I’ve read by Abnett, along with Prospero Burns. It almost makes up for The Unremembered Empire…