Review: The Last Wall by David Annandale

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/08/2016
With an ork attack moon in orbit over Terra itself, desperate measures are required: a proletarian crusade that will overwhelm the orks with the Imperium's most abundant resource: its common people.

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wreaking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra. As its malevolent presence gazes down at the Imperial Palace, terrified citizens run riot in the streets. In a last-ditch attempt to destroy the attack moon, a proletarian crusade is launched. Thousands of ships large and small head to the moon carrying billions of citizens, all eager to take the fight to the enemy. It seems the attack has a chance of success as the invasion force lands safely, but the orks have yet to spring their trap...
The Last Wall is my favorite in the series yet. It thus continues the upwards tendency of the series in my eyes. It also ramps up the stakes even further, which leaves us with a truly horrifying situation at the end of the first third of the series.
Now I see these Orks as terrifying for real.

The Story:
"With an ork attack moon in orbit over Terra itself, desperate measures are required: a proletarian crusade that will overwhelm the orks with the Imperium's most abundant resource: its common people.

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wreaking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra. As its malevolent presence gazes down at the Imperial Palace, terrified citizens run riot in the streets. In a last-ditch attempt to destroy the attack moon, a proletarian crusade is launched. Thousands of ships large and small head to the moon carrying billions of citizens, all eager to take the fight to the enemy. It seems the attack has a chance of success as the invasion force lands safely, but the orks have yet to spring their trap..."

The Review
The end of the previous book left us with one of the Ork attack moons above Holy Terra - and that is what The Last Wall primarily deals with. While there are scenes with the sons of Dorn at Phall once more, and also some unexpected rivals, almost the entirety of the novel is set on Terra, or within the Sol System. That does not necessarily mean that there aren't plenty of plotlines to follow.

Right in chapter one, we get confronted with the Adeptus Arbites attempting to control the rioting masses of Terra's population. All hell broke loose when the attack moon arrived, and much revolves around this herd mentality here. This raging mass of humanity is the key to the plot on multiple levels.
The High Lords, in their sheer arrogance, incompetence and ignorance decide to send a "Proletarian Crusade" to the ork death star - shipping the countless masses of Terra's population to the enemy in the hopes of overwhelming them in their base and bringing down the moon. They feed the despair of the people they are supposed to govern and protect, and stoke the fires of fanaticism of crusaders.

David Annandale is, for all intents and purposes, Black Library's specialist when it comes to stories revolving around questions of faith and fanaticism. I have gone into detail about that before, so I shan't repeat my praise yet again. TLW presents its own angle on the theme, which I felt were very well executed. The sheer madness and overwhelming sense of purpose of the crusaders is palpable throughout - reading the book, I could see the heaving masses of humanity ebb and flow across the surface of the attack moon, assemble in loading bays and scream in the streets of their home planet.
Annandale managed to create a horrifying, mind-numbing picture of dread and despair, directed into weaponized barbarity and disregard for the individual person. This made the eventual twists towards the ending even more stunning, and I loved the way things played out.

The Last Wall, more than any other installment so far, subverts our expectations of the orks. It draws upon the familiar while adding new layers that make them feel far more alien and mortifying than we are used to. And it does so not just through showing us what acts of violence and brutality they are capable of, but also their restraint, tactical expertise and newfound search for diplomacy.

If anything, this entry turns the roles of mankind and the Beast's waaagh on their heads. In the end, we are left wondering which side is really uncivilized and barbaric, and which developed and able to operate in somewhat good faith. The depravities man is willing to commit to are laid bare, not only via the High Lords' and Inquisition's schemes and petty rivalries, but also through the way they channel the regular, powerless citizens through chains of faith and righteousness.
All the while, the orks don't have to lift a finger while Terra tears itself apart.

On the matter of the scions of Rogal Dorn, we don't have much progression in terms of volume. The Astartes are still gathering their forces at Phall and deliberating their course of action. Thankfully, this plotline picks up right where it left off in The Emperor Expects, so we don't miss out on anything I'd have liked to see come off it.
Captain Koorland is finally settling down in his role as the last Imperial Fist, and the underlying rivalries between the various successor Chapters were a highlight to me. Still, I would have wished for more on this side of the overall story. It is hardly the author's fault, though, as this is simply how the series was laid out. The Fists' time will come.

Back on Terra, the Inquisition's internal strife is entering its next stage, as events between Wienand and Veritus escalate further, and draw in more actors. I don't want to spoil this succession of chases, assassination attempts and the wider Inquisition's reactions to it all, so I'll just say that I am thrilled to find out where this is all going next. I expect some big moves from the =][= in the upcoming volumes.

At the end of the day, though, things are rapidly spinning out of control. As if the arrival of the attack moon in the last book wasn't enough already, I feel like the end of TLW has even greater repercussions. The stakes have never been higher, and neither has my excitement for the series, thanks to this highly impressive fourth installment.

The Last Wall on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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