The title and cover of Five Man Midget Death Squad makes for an easy purchase decision (midgets! death squad! Gatling guns and a skull!), but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Nicholas Forristal’s 2014 novel isn’t about midgets wielding machine guns as I initially expected, but a warrior tribe in the British Isles on a parallel Earth as told from a historian in the year 2201. The “midgets” of the title are a famed band of dwarves of the Tolkien tradition, who we meet along with goblins, giants, and humans. If you like the noble tribe of Orcs in Warcraft, you’ll find Forristal’s fantasy world races familiar.
Beginning with the legend of Gith of the Tundri clan we meet one-by-one those influential leaders of the dwarves recounted to the best of the chronicler’s ability from stories passed down through the generations–this is not so much the “historical truth” as a tribute to carry on the noble dwarf culture in good Old World oral tradition. Via separate vignettes about the history of the Tundri we learn about their culture, religion, and politics, Gith, the goblin race, the next great dwarven leader Kaiden, the giant Balor the Evil Eye and the deal he made with Cora the dwarf to protect all dwarves that resulted in the formation of the famed Death Squad, and lastly the contributions of Ethne and Caleb, and the story of M and the Leper Kahn.
Death Squad is full of deep world building–characters here make appearances throughout Forristal’s Chronicles of M series of novels–and his prose is similar to the writing of real-life ancient chroniclers. Early chapters read like a recollection of Herodotus, and later chapters like Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, Plutarch’s Lives, and primary writings of Augustus in his Res Gestae and Julius Caesar in his The Gallic War. Forristal has developed plenty of classic fantasyscapes here to expand into future novels.
The narrator, Charles Uhler, High Elder and Leader of the Zed Nation, provides the foreword that is reminiscent of Princess Leia’s backward look to her fellow heroes’ exploits at the beginning of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Bits and pieces remind me of Starship Troopers from a style standpoint–Forristal writes with what he calls a Q&A format in later sections serving to interview subjects and hit on high points of the legends he is recounting to the reader.
The direct interactions of the reader with the members of the Death Squad via the narrator Uhler in the Q&A are among the high points of the novel, as is the Death Squad confused as Viking steampunk cosplayers on a mission to take down a werewolf “the size of Texas” named Wulver that the group travels to Lerwick, Shetland to meet via flying ship during the annual Up Helly Aa festival. And you won’t want to miss the Tarantino-esque, magic-infused finale with the Death Squad and the Leper Kahn. His banter among the pub-frequenting Death Squad in the final chapters is quite fun.
Clones, folklore, spells, dwarves, giants and goblins, pocket universes, steampunk, and a mixture of ancient traditions and modern fighting come together to form Nicholas Forristal’s fantasy adventure Five Man Midget Death Squad. Grab a copy now here at Amazon.com. Check out the author’s website and his other books in the series here.