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Posts Tagged ‘Warhammer 40k’

Adventures in Bookland: Deathwatch by Steve Parker

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017


This is, basically, the male equivalent of chick lit: big blokes with blasters blasting bad guys. The Warhammer 40k universe misses one trick though. Being dedicated to war – it exists, after all, to facilitate a war game – the spin-off books ignore one aspect of the 40k universe that might not be obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to actually live in it, but that is obvious to at least this visitor: it is a world of wonders. Magic, elves, orcs, space ships, demons – it’s as if all the fantasy creatures of earth’s deep past were waiting for us all along, among the stars. Admittedly, in this version of the future, they are all busily trying to exterminate us, as we are attempting to destroy them, but there you go – you can’t make an Imperium without cracking a few alien skulls. And in the cracking of alien skulls, none are better than the Space Marines. Unfortunately, in the world of 40k books, none are so boring as the Space Marines. Being engineered killing machines who know no fear, sexual desire, curiosity or anything much else apart from glory, honour and loyalty, they make poor protagonists for a 40k novel. Far better when the hero is a normal human being, such as the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, or an abnormal one, such as the Eisenhorn novels. Even better if you can get Dan Abnett to write the books too. But even Abnett failed to make the Space Marines interesting when he essayed a Space Marines novel. In that respect, Steve Parker does a better job, but I wish he’d stayed longer with the characters from the Inquisition that he introduces alongside the eponymous Deathwatch Space Marines.

Albert’s rule number 1 for 40k novels: Space Marines are cool as background characters, riding in on Storm Ravens and killing aliens and Chaos spawn, but they’re not to be used as central characters. Might as well make a tree the hero, it would be less wooden.

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: Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders

Friday, December 9th, 2016

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OK, I admit it. My guilty little literary secret is my love for books where blokes with big guns blast aliens into pools of green slime. And there’s no better universe for blasting aliens than the Warhammer 40k one: orcs, tyrannids (think Alien but hordes of them), the Tau (sort of like the Borg), necrons (metal zombies), Chaos (basically Michael Moorcock’s demons from the Elric era of his writing transplanted into outer space). And, of course, the eldar – basically elves in space but with spiky guns rather than shiny swords. In fact, the only failing of the Warhammer 40k universe is its unrelenting grimness – it’s really a world of wonders, only no one seems to have realised it yet!

One of the tropes of the universe that I particularly like is how it riffs on aspects of Tridentine Catholicism to inform the human world – for Imperium think Magisterium. Not least among the parallels is the Inquisition and, since you never expect the Space Inquisition, it has carte blanche to travel anywhere in this future, whereas other parts of the Imperium are more restricted. The Inquisitors even deal with alien species, which is just what Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak does here: he travels the webways of the eldar (a tube system to the stars, but with fewer delays and no copies of Metro blowing on the line). So if, like me, you find the Warhammer 40k universe a place of wonder rather than just an arena for blasting aliens into alien gore, then this is a particularly good effort from the Black Library. So I’ve rather contradicted what I said at the beginning: my guilty secret is guns and marvels, and you’ll find them here.

 

White Dwarf and Warhammer Visions

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Apologies in advance for the supremely geekie nature of this post, but it’s a lament for a lost magazine and this generation’s denigration of the written word over images.

Warhammer 40k

Warhammer 40k

For many years, Games Workshop (the company that produces Warhammer and Warhammer 40k games) published the magazine White Dwarf – the monthly fix for people who like to paint little plastic figures and then fight battles with them using insanely complex rules. As part of the gaming experience, Games Workshop also developed the universes these wargames inhabited, employing some extraordinarily talented writers to do so (Dan Abnett, Justin Hill, Ian Watson). Every month, White Dwarf contained the new releases, interviews and features about the worlds of Warhammer and 40k, and a battle report, an in detail look at a battle with lots of background information opening up on to the wider fictional universes. And I loved it – I just loved it. I didn’t play the games much – the rules and gameplay are too lengthy and complex for the time I have available – but I became quite immersed in the shared universe the company and its writers and game designers had created. I used to look forward each month to White Dwarf arriving through the post (I even subscribed, that’s how much I looked forward to it).

Image source: Bell of Lost Souls

Image source: Bell of Lost Souls

And then, they stopped it. Without any warning, Games Workshop stopped sending me White Dwarf, and they replaced it with Warhammer Visions, a handsomely produced, thick small mag/large book, full of gloriously reproduced photos of wondrously painted Warhammer and 40k figures. At first, I leafed through it in amazement. And then I looked through it again, looking for the writing. There’s nothing there. Well, not quite nothing, but where before you’d get a thousand-word feature, now there’s a paragraph. One paragraph. The battle report has become pages of beautiful photos and about four paragraphs.

Damn it, what’s with people today? Doesn’t anyone read any more? Are you all just staring into some little screen (which will turn you blind before you’re old, you mark my words!). Come on, Games Workshop. Give us our words back, give me my worlds back! I have an imagination – I don’t need your pictures, I can make my own, if you just give me the words to trigger them.

This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a word but a picture.