In the afterward to Vampire: The Masquerade, Mark Rein-Hagen famously wrote “creativity is hiding your sources”.
In Salvage Marines, Sean-Michael Argo did not hide his sources. He instead seemed to revel in them, and not in a good way. From the Warhammer 40K opening to the names of the system, the factory, and so on, the whole novel reads like an extended piece of attempted fan-service. One that falls far short of being enough to work.
Salvage Marines is the story of Samuel Hyst, resident of the planet Baen 6 in the dominion controlled by the evil or maybe just indifferent Grotto Corporation. Sam is one of the teeming masses in this dystopic future that is forced to pay off massive debt for existing, and when he discovers his wife is pregnant, he joins the titular Salvage Marines. Well, technically, he becomes a REAPER (Resource Exploration and Procurement Engineer Regiment) member – Salvage Marine is the nickname. It beats working with his father in the forges of Assemblage 23. In the course of the first book, Sam and company deal with mutated humans, a space hulk, mecha, and rampant corporate indifference to human life. The scope attempts to be epic, with frequent mentions of corporations spanning multiple galaxies.
If any of that seems oddly familiar, well, that’s because it is.
- Baen is a publisher of military science fiction and fantasy.
- Assemblage 23 is a futurepop / industrial band from Seattle, WA.
- The mutated humans are very reminiscent of Genestealers from Warhammer 40K.
- The entire space hulk (sometimes Space Hulk) is also very much Warhammer 40K – including the weapon types, boarding method, how hulks come to be, and so on.
- The entire feel on Sam’s homeworld of Baen 6 is, again, very Warhammer 40K.
- The prelude is, in part, lifted clean from the intro to every Warhammer 40K novel (“To be a human being in such times is to be one among countless billions…” compared to 40K’s ” To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions.”).
Some other things I have to wonder about include:
- ‘Necrospace’ – it’s never actually defined in the book. I assume it’s the dark between the stars, some form of hyperspace. Or, given the nature of this one, it’s another name for the Warp.
- Does he really mean that these corporations cover all or part of multiple galaxies? Honestly, it seemed inconsistent, so I just can’t be sure.
- Was this originally self-published? Not to knock that route, but there is a lot of…inspired…material here that makes me think he went that direction, and the eventual publisher just ran with it.
Overall, it’s not a bad book, exactly. It just isn’t really that good either. It has a great premise – one that kept me coming back to check it out for some time before I read it. I just couldn’t get past the overwhelming Warhammer 40K feel, and the names.