Review: Grunts, by Mary Gentle

Fantasy orcs + modern weapons = marine madness (3 stars)

Grunts begins like a typical fantasy novel, with a horde of orcs working for a necromancer as they prepare themselves for a final assault against the forces of light and good. Things take a weird turn when the greenskins find the ancient lair of a dragon filled with all kind of modern weapons, like rifles, tanks, and assault helicopters.

Along with this arsenal, orcs also acquire the attitude and language of marines, and use modern military tactics in different combat situations. The battles between the orc marines and elfs, paladins and halflings is the high point of the book, filled with one liners like “pass me another elf, this one is split”, and when a general hears he is charged with crimes against humanity he answers: “thank you.”

The reader should be warned that the book revels in it’s black humor and political incorrectness. The violence is very graphic, as are the rape jokes.

I liked the idea of Grunts, but it seemed to me like a joke stretched too far. After the initial novelty and baddass factor of ORC MARINES elapses, the reader is left with unidimensional characters whose motivations change just because the plot needs them to, wooden plots and deus ex machina moments. Out of nowhere, a race of sentient space insects shows up, out of nowhere they are defeated. It was a bit of a struggle to read all the way through.

Grunts seemed for me like a hyperactive child babbling whatever crazy idea came to her mind. At first it is charming, but soon you are staring at your watch wondering when it will end.

Guilherme Solari is a Brazilian writer and journalist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He has written about movies, literature and videogames for some of Brazil’s biggest news sites. He is the author of THE CASCAVEL CHRONICLES, a love letter to 80's action movies, as well as the cyberpunk CYBERSAMPA series.