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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Abnett’

Adventures in Bookland: Honour Guard by Dan Abnett

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when laid up with illness, nothing cheers the soul more than reading about men with big blasters shooting evil enemies into a bloody pulp. So, there I was, so ill with flu that for three days I couldn’t even read, but lay curled up in a ball that alternately sweated and shivered. When I eventually recovered enough to reach for a book I had no doubt what I wanted: Abnett!

It’s one of life’s great discoveries that a writer for hire – as Abnett is, plying his trade within the invented universes of Warhammer 40k, Tomb Raider, Dr Who and whichever other franchise willing to pay him – can still be a supreme craftsman and, frankly, a far better writer than the vast majority of authors writing the stuff of their dreams. (In fact, on the couple of occasions I’ve read Abnett’s original works, I’ve not found them as good as his work in pre-existing universes.) Honour Guard is no exception and, as I slowly recuperated, I settled once again into the dystopia of the 41st millennium – and thoroughly enjoyed myself. As I mentioned at the start of this review, there really is nothing more cheering than reading about blokes with bolters blasting the forces of vile Chaos into steaming piles of flesh and bone.

 

Adventures in Bookland: Ghostmaker by Dan Abnett

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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This, the second book in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, is where Dan Abnett thinks himself completely into the world of Warhammer 40k. It’s almost like a series of Impressionist paintings, or like flicking through the sketchbook of a master draftsman, as he approaches characters, places and situations within the context of the 40k universe, learning its language and creating its stories. As such, it doesn’t have the narrative coherence, the sheer I can’t-stop-turning-the-pages drive of something like the Eisenhorn books, or other Ghosts novels, but it’s richer, in particular for the way it shows an imagination as special as Abnett’s firing into overdrive.

Adventures in Bookland: Xenos by Dan Abnett

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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There are so many wonderful books out there, I seldom go back and reread a book I’ve read before. Why bother, when new worlds and new ideas are waiting to be explored? But, with Xenos, I’ve done just that: gone back and reread a book I first read six or seven years ago.

And it was great.

Xenos was the very first novel I read set in the Warhammer 40k universe. If you don’t know it, it’s a universe set up explicitly so that wargamers moving little plastic figures, often exquisitely painted, can play war games set in the far future. Given that the people playing the games are wargamers, you might surmise that the universe 38,000 years from now is not a particularly peaceful place. You’d be right. It is, however, a universe stuffed full of wonders. It turns out that all those goblins and elves and monsters that filled our fairy tales and folk stories were real – it’s just that we got the location wrong. They weren’t on earth, they were waiting for us out among the stars. In fact, that’s my only real criticism of the intricate universe that Games Workshop (the company behind Warhammer 40K) has created: with such a cast of creatures, there should be a bit of room for wonder in among the blasters and exploding alien heads.

But, no matter, for Dan Abnett manages to instil some of this wonder while remaining true to the dystopian roots of 40k and, at the same time, writing an amazingly involving adventure story. Indeed, so taken with the whole universe was I when I first read this that I immediately dived in, reading reams of the stuff, until I came to the same sort of realisation about Warhammer 40k books that I came to with fantasy and Tolkien. Back when I first read The Lord of the Rings it was actually the first fantasy novel I’d ever read. And I was completely blown away. So, I dived in, only to all but drown in Shannaras and Covenants and Belgeriads. I emerged, somewhat the worse for wear, to claim the hard-won knowledge that, with fantasy, I’d started at the summit and was busy working my way down. It turns out that, with Warhammer 40k and Dan Abnett, I’d done the same thing: I’d started at the top with Abnett and had been working my way downhill after him.

But, to return to the summit, it was a relief to reclimb the mountain to find the view from the top as exotic and brutal and breathtaking as the first time I’d found myself there. Thank you, Dan Abnett, and thank you, Gregor Eisenhorn. The Imperium is well served with both of you in its service!

 

 

Adventures in Bookland: Fiefdom by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Fiefdom

Fiefdom

OK, if dogs could talk, what would they say? It’s easy with cats: they, of course, can talk, but they’re obviously not going to have conversations with the servile class. But dogs, what would they say?

At first thought, I’d have said, ‘Bone!’ or ‘Walks!’, with great enthusiasm. But that is to do down dogs – and besides, that’s pretty much what they always say when they can talk (or, in the wonderful film Up!, ‘Squirrel!’). You know, that’s too easy. Sure, some would go for the monosyllabic whuff of enthusiasm, but others would be more considered, more thoughtful, more mellow: they’d drop their head to one side, loll their tongues and say, ‘Bones, walks, sleep, huh, huh, master, love.’

Yes, I set off this review trying to make a case for literary dogs and I don’t seem to have made it to my destination. Neither does the Dan man (the world’s hardest working author): the protagonists of Fiefdom are dog soldiers, genetically modified to protect mankind and then, finding themselves the only survivors of an Ice Age, living on in the U-Bahn tunnels under Berlin. But, being dogs, once, their vocabulary proves rather limited, and though the book has all the Dandroid’s usual narrative drive, there’s a limit to how many times you can hear a dog soldier saying, ‘Tougher and tough’ before it begins to pall a little. Still, for a blood-soaked light tube train read (particularly appropriate given its U-Bahn setting), it rattles along as quickly as the new rolling stock on the Metropolitan line.

Book review: The Definitive Guardians of the Galaxy

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
The Definitive Guardians of the Galaxy

The Definitive Guardians of the Galaxy

A generally well produced journey through the archives of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I grew up in the 70s reading Marvel Comics, with Jim Starlin’s Warlock series a particular favourite, but I seem to have missed the Guardians then. It’s interesting to see how they’ve evolved, through the various sub universes of Marvel space, into the team of today. The earliest work (1960s) has a freshness of line that is lovely to see, and while the storyline seems a little naive a half century later, it’s still refreshing in its imaginative sweep. This imagination is really allowed to let rip in the Rocket Raccoon story set in Halfworld, a planetary lunatic asylum where intelligent animals look after the insane and two toy barons – a mole and a lizard, fight it out with killer clowns and assassin bunnies. The writer had some serious fun with the premise.

Moving more up to date, Dan Abnett’s take features his trademark ability to chop up timelines in such a way that characters are illuminated and sly jokes slipped in, all while maintaining narrative tension. A star comes off for the very sloppy proofreading in the prose character histories at the end of the book, where each Guardian is named and profiled.