Ah Games Workshop, they love their Space Marines, their Adeptus Astartes! So it’s no surprise really that most of their publishing imprint’s (Black Library) books are about them, or feature them prominently. Space Marine Battles is a series of novels focussing on notable battles fought by the various chapters of Adeptus Astartes out in the grim darkness of the far future, and the heroes of those chapters. The series was launched in 2010 with the book Rynn’s World, which features the Crimson Fists defending their home world from a massive Ork Waaaagh (translation for non-40k fans: A massive crusade of Orks, with millions of the warmongering aliens rampaging across worlds).
Tag Archives: Games Workshop
It’s been a bit quiet in the Cantina of late for one reason and another, but I am assured that the dry spell is at an end, and to kick things off here’s my review of Mitchel Scanlon’s addition to the 41st millennium, Fifteen Hours.
Ahh Space Hulk – in my experience one of the most frustrating board games ever made (if you’re playing as the Space Marines) – your enemy has unlimited numbers of flesh-eating Giger-esque monsters to hurl at you from concealed hatches and darkened corridors, and you have a 2-in-6 chance of actually hitting them with your weapon, and even then only of you saved enough action points to actually fire your your weapon that turn, and assuming you have any ammo left…
Exactly what the title says! Today marks the 25th anniversary of Warhammer 40,000, one of Games Workshops flagship titles, and the game that – in a roundabout way – got me into science fiction in the first place.
For those of you asking “What the in the Burning Hell’s is Warhammer 40,000?” I’ll try and summarise it briefly. It’s a science fiction universe set in the 41st Millennium, where mankind has had interstellar golden ages, and dark ages, and everything in between. Then this chap known only as the Emperor pops up during Earths darkest hour, and through his amazing powers of, well, everything, unifies Earth, the Solar system, and eventually millions of other worlds out in the galaxy. Then his favoured son Horus – one of eighteen genetically engineered by the Emperor himself – turns on him when he’s corrupted by the Chaos Gods, sparking the Horus Heresy, which rips the shiny new Imperium of Man asunder with war.
The end result is that Horus dies, the people that followed him get all twisted and evil, and the Imperium becomes a very grimdark place to live. It’s besieged on all sides by aliens (such as the enigmatic Eldar, the brutal Orks, and the all-consuming Tyranids), heretics, mutants, daemons, and everything else the galaxy can throw at it.
It started as a table-top wargame back in the 80’s, but has now expanded into books, video games, board games, even a film.
It’s massively geeky at heart (assembling and painting the models, playing wargames, etc) but is so much fun and the writing that creates the universe is so masterfully written that I know people who’ve never played a game in their lives who are fanatical about the books!
I’ve no doubt that at some point I’ll write a blog where I reminisce, all misty-eyed over my twenty-year history of playing the game in various guises, and you may even get to see some of my gloriously (ahem) painted miniatures, if I’m feeling bold/generous.
But in the meantime, happy Anniversary Warhammer 40,000. Stay grimdark.
So, at the beginning of this week I finished reading the latest in Dan Abnett’s amazing Gaunt’s Ghosts saga, Salvations Reach. Here I’ll try and review it sensibly, but I can make no promises that it won’t turn into fanboy ramblings… Oh, and there will be spoilers, so don’t read any further than this if you’ve yet to read the book!
For those of you not acquainted with the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, they’re set in the universe of Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000, a grim, dark place where a dystopian human Imperium is besieged on all sides by aliens, traitors, mutants, and daemons. By all accounts not a particularly pleasant place to live. The bulk of humanities defending armed forces is made up of the Imperial Guard, human soldiers in their trillions divided into regiments and spread across the warzones of the far future. The Ghosts – officially called the Tanith 1st – hail from the forested world of Tanith, which was destroyed by a Chaos (the big nasties in the Warhammer 40,000 universe) on the very day that they were founded and started to ship off world. Rather than see the fighting men of the 1st die in a fight they couldn’t win, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt got as many as he could away from the doomed planet, and lead them as part of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade.
Salvations Reach is the fourteenth novel in the series, and sees the Ghosts receiving an influx of new recruits from Belladon (the regiment has previously received re-enforcements from Vervunhive, and was merged with the Belladon 81st Light Recon), in the form of a company colours band, and a handful of others from Vervunhive itself, including one who proves to be quite a shock to Gaunt…
They are shipping out into their first combat action in a while, and are undertaking a vital yet potentially suicidal mission to a space station – the titular Salvations Reach. The novel deals heavily with the interpersonal goings-on between the members of the regiment a lot, introducing new characters – both military and otherwise – and setting up a lot of potentially interesting situations in the future. In fact, this whole book seems to be setting us up for something else. The build-up before the Ghosts reach the station overshadows the actual mission, almost to the point that the story of the mission starts to feel a little rushed, as if there was too much story to squeeze into too short a page count.
Although the writing is as always superlative, and the story is strong – and in places heart rending, including the death of at least one much loved character – I can’t help but shake the feeling that if this were written by someone like Robert Jordan or Tolkien, this book would be the first part in a much larger one. So much is left open, foreshadowing major events that are so close and clearly-going-to-be-awesome that it’s almost painful to finish that last page and close the book. It makes me wish Salvations Reach had been released at the same time as its immediate sequel, so that the two could be read back-to-back, and the two would become part of a much more complete whole.
Whenever I read one of the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, I always compare it to my favourite in the series, Necropolis, which is an absolutely astounding book that I’ve re-read more times than I care to count. Compared to that, Salvation Reach just doesn’t seem as involved, and towards the end seems to change from having fast paced to rushed. By anyone else’s standards it’s amazing. By Mr. Abnett’s, it’s merely good.
Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever criticised one of his novels!
Ranking: 4 out of 5