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Warhammer 40,000

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message 1: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Warhammer 40,000 is not exactly a series. It is more like a setting that is used for several different series.

For example, Death World by Steve Lyons, which I finished yesterday, is a stand-alone story, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Warhammer 40,000 presents a very dark, dystopian vision of the future. The setting is the 41st millennium (hence the name). The brutal, repressive Imperium of Man covers most of the Milky Way galaxy, but it is under constant attack from outside by various alien races, and from within by rebels, and even the occasional demonic infestation. In all the Imperium's long history, there has never been a time when the entire Imperium was at peace.

I don't even know how many titles are in the WH40K "series", but it is a very large number.

So far I have read:

Legion, Dan Abnett. This is part of the Horus Heresy series, sort of a prequel to the WH40K series, dealing with the establishment of the Imperium.

Ravenor, Ravenor Returned, and Ravenor Rogue, Dan Abnett. The main character, Gideon Ravenor, is a member of the Imperial Inquisition, whose mission is to locate and destroy "heretical" (i.e. rebellious, alien-influenced, or demonic, activity).

Soul Drinker and The Bleeding Chalice, Ben Counter. The first two volumes in the Soul Drinkers series. The Soul Drinkers are a chapter of the Imperial Space Marines, genetically altered super-soldiers. Though still loyal to The Emperor, the Soul Drinkers are forced by circumstances to take actions which cause them to be declared Rogue, enemies of the Imperium. So they spend their time fighting the actual enemies of the Imperium, and simultaneously running from the Imperial authorities.

Fifteen Hours, Mitchell Scanlon. Focusing on a single Private, fighting alien forces on a world far from his homeland, the title of the book refers to the average life expectancy of an individual soldier in battle.

Death World, Steve Lyons. A small group of elite jungle fighters are on a mission to assasinate the enemy commander, but it soon becomes apparent that their biggest threat comes not from the enemy, but from the planet itself.



message 2: by Colin (last edited May 26, 2009 03:23PM) (new)

Colin | 76 comments Last week I finished Straight Silver by Dan Abnett.

Straight Silver is a part of the Gaunt's Ghosts series, dealing with an elite military unit commanded by Colonel-Commissar Ibrahim Gaunt.

This book had some excellent combat action. During the battle sequences, I absolutely could not put this book down.

In between the action scenes, though, there wasn't much of a story line. War has been raging between the Planetary Defense Force and the rebels for years; the Ghosts are deployed to assist the PDF; the Ghosts fight the rebels for a while, the Ghosts are redeployed elsewhere; end of book. There is no resolution to the original conflict between the PDF and the rebels.

Maybe that was intentional. Maybe I'm supposed to see it from the Ghosts' point of view: they go where ever they're told to go and fight whomever they're told to fight, but never know the reasons why.

Despite the above complaint, I still liked this book, and I still recommend it. This will most likely not be the last Gaunt's Ghosts book that I read.

A word of caution, however: don't look for happy endings here. They are few and far between in the WH40K universe.


message 3: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Recently I finished Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett.

Eisenhorn is an omnibus edition of the books Xenos, Malleus, and Hereticus, plus two short stories, all of which deal with Imperial Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn. The Ravenor series of books, mentioned above, are actually a sequel to the Eisenhorn stories, and a few characters appear in both series (the plot lines of the two series are unrelated, so it doesn't matter which series you read first).

Even though the Ravenor series takes place in the WH40K universe, I wouldn't call it "Military SF"; it has a lot more in common with crime fiction, or Ludlum-style intrigue. Eisenhorn, on the other hand, has a very strong military element. While Gideon Ravenor likes to deal with problems in a low-key fashion, either alone or with a small group of Inquisition personnel, Gregor Eisenhorn seems to prefer more of an "overwhelming force" approach, and would be more likely to call in an air strike than to simply make an arrest.

Anyway, Eisenhorn had all the stuff I like about WH40K: bitter in-fighting between supposed "allies", powerful demons as antagonists, Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, even a titan.

I highly recommend this book.


message 4: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments I just finished Dawn of War by C.S. Goto.

It is the first in a series based on the computer game of the same name. But since I have never played the computer game, I did not know already know the story.

I liked the book.

The story line was very well done. It kept my interest throughout. This is not easy to do in a book based on a computer game. And while Goto is not on the same level as Abnett or David Drake when it comes to writing action scenes (Drake is not WH40K, I know, but I imagine that he is probably familiar to anyone who follows this discussion), the combat scenes were not bad and certainly not boring by any means.

One cool thing about this book was that it featured 3 different traditional WH40K enemies, in fact for much of the book it was almost a three-sided war.

I actually do not recommend this book to someone who is unfamiliar with WH40K; there are others which would serve as a better introduction to the series. This book may be a little hard to follow for someone who does not already know at least the basics of the WH40K universe.

If, however, you've already read some WH40K (and liked it), then I do recommend this book.


message 5: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Today I finished Dead Sky, Black Sun , by Graham McNeill.

It was a cool book.

This book is part of the Ultramarines series. "Ultramarines" is a play on words, because the Ultramarines come from the planet Ultramar, but they are also Imperial Space Marines.

Like the Soul Drinkers mentioned above, the Space Marines are genetically altered super-soldiers. They have been genetically altered to such an extent that it is debatable whether or not they are human anymore. For example, their ribs are fused to form a solid shield around their vital organs, they have an extra heart, and their blood clots almost instantly. Plus a whole lot more.

Anyway, this book has two Ultramarines driven from their chapter in disgrace for failing to follow regulations. But rather than simply banished, they are given a quest; if they can fulfill the quest and make it back alive, on their own with no help from the chapter, they will have their honor restored and will be accepted back in the Ultramarines. As you can expect, the quest turns out to be quite difficult.

I liked this book, and I recommend it, but I do have a word of caution: this book was gruesome, gross, and grotesque. It almost seemed like the author was going out of his way to make it so. Lots of time spent on graphic descriptions of decapitated corpses, lakes of blood, and entrails strewn all over the place. If this sort of thing bothers you, then this is not a good book for you.


message 6: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments I just finished Nick Kyme's Salamander (Warhammer 40,000).

This was an awesome book.

This book, which is the first volume of the Tome of Fire trilogy, features the Salamanders chapter of the Imperial Space Marines.

In the previous post concerning the Ultramarines, I said that it was debatable whether or not the Space Marines are still human. In this book, there is no debate: a sharp distinction is made between humans and Astartes (Space Marines).

One feature of the Salamanders chapter is that they see themselves primarily as defenders of humanity. In their view, other chapters have lost sight of this and focus too much on "smiting the foes of The Emperor" and trample anything that gets in their way (regardless of how the other chapters actually feel, that is how the Salamanders view the other chapters). At one crucial point in this book, a Salamander is forced to chose between accomplishing his mission, and saving the life of an innocent bystander.

Regardless, the Salamanders are still fearsome warriors, capable of doing their fair share of "smiting".

Like most Space Marine chapters, the Salamanders have an almost religious reverence for their Primarch (chapter founder). The Salamanders' Primarch disappeared centuries ago, and his ultimate fate is still unknown. In this book, a clue as to his possible fate is discovered, and a company is sent to investigate. Along the way, the company meets Orks, Chaos Space Marines, and some unexpected allies.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am definitely going to read the next volume in the trilogy.


message 7: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Graham McNeill's False Gods (Warhammer 40,000) , which I finished last night, is part of the Horus Heresy series, taking place about 10,000 years prior to the "main" WH40K timeline.

Most of the overall storyline of the Horus Heresy is already known to anyone who reads much WH40K. It is essentially the ancient history/mythology behind the other WH40K stories. Similar in many ways to the way that one can derive some of the story of The Silmarillion from reading The Lord of the Rings.

The "Horus Heresy" refers to a rebellion against the Emperor led by Horus, the commander of all Imperial military forces. By the time of the main WH40K stories, the Emperor is worshiped as a god, so a rebellion against him would be considered "heresy". In the Forty-First Millenium (the main WH40K time period), the Imperial cult is well-established; it is the official religion of the Imperium, and no other religion is tolerated. But in the Thirty-First Millenium (the Horus Heresy time period), the Emperor is still alive, and he is actively trying to suppress all religion, equating any sort of belief in the supernatural with primitive superstition. The Imperial cult already exists, but it is very small, and its members are viewed as dangerous lunatics by the majority of people.

This book deals with the events which cause Horus to decide to turn against the Emperor, with the very last scene of the book having him announce his intentions to his staff.

This book does not have nearly as much combat action as I have come to expect from WH40K (it still has a lot compared to almost any other series, however). I didn't really mind this, since the non-action scenes still managed to hold my interest quite well.

One of the things that surprised my was the portrayal of Horus: even though I knew Horus was going to turn traitor in the end, I expected the author to try to make Horus into a likable character. Instead, I found Horus to be totally full of himself, and pretty much a jerk. Also, surprising to me, Horus is not the main character. Most of the book is seen from the viewpoint of an Astartes named Loken, who is initially utterly loyal to Horus, but by the end has decided that his loyalty to the Emperor takes precedence over his loyalty to Horus.

And it turns out that Horus is not the true villain. Even though he believes himself (with some justification) to be superior to everyone around him, he still allows himself to be manipulated by the true architects of the rebellion.

I liked this book, and I recommend it to fans of military science fiction (not just to fans of WH40K).


message 8: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Last night I finished Firedrake (Warhammer 40,000) , by Nick Kyme. This is the second volume of the Tome of Fire trilogy.

While this book was not quite as exciting as the first volume, Salamander, I definitely liked it.

This book did a good job of expanding on the personalities of the characters introduced in the first book, while adding a few new ones.

As explained above, the Salamanders chapter of Space Marines take their role of guardians of humanity very seriously, and they are called upon to do exactly that in this book, when a small group of Salamanders and human soldiers become isolated from their units and are attacked by hostile aliens.

Some series can be read in any order. That's not the case here; you do not want to read this book unless you have already read Salamander. Also, this book ends in a cliff-hanger, so don't read this unless you plan on reading the next volume.

The bottom line: I liked this book, and I am going to read the third installment of the trilogy, when it is available. I recommend this book to anyone who likes Military SF.


message 9: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments I just finished Fulgrim (Warhammer 40,000) , by Graham McNeill.

Fulgrim is part of the Horus Heresy series, telling the story of the Emperor's Children Space Marines legion, and their Primarch Fulgrim. This book relates the story of how the Emperor's Children legion unwittingly allowed themselves to become tainted by the forces of Chaos, aligning themselves with Horus against the Emperor before finally descending into madness and depraved hedonism.

Unlike the portrayal of Horus in False Gods, Fulgim is presented as, if not exactly a likable character, at least not as a complete ***hole. Throughout the book I found myself wishing that Fulgrim would snap out of his blindness and recognize what was going on (even though I already knew that wouldn't happen). At the end of the book, when Fulgrim's ultimate fate is revealed, I actually felt sorry for him.

The bottom line here is that I liked this book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes their science fiction with generous helpings of gratuitious violence.

OK. It's not really gratuitious, since part of the plot involves the Emperor's Children becoming more and more violent, and starting to enjoy the violence just for its own sake.


message 10: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Dan Abnett's Titanicus is, not surprisingly, a story concerning the Titan Legions of the Mechanicus.

One of the interesting features of this book is that it provides a rare look at the internal workings of the Adeptus Mechanicus, also known as the tech-priests, who are "sort of" part of the Imperium and "sort of" not.

However, as with anything by Abnett, the main attraction is the mind-blowing action scenes.

Titans (for those of you who are not WH40K fans) are enormous, skyscraper-sized war vehicles in the shape of vaguely humanoid robots. Remember the walking war machines from the second Matrix movie? Think of that on steroids, then multiply it by about a thousand. With firepower capable of levelling whole cities (which happens in this book) and with starship-style deflector shields, the titans are essentially invincible to anything but another titan.

This book also features the skitarii, who are the foot-soldiers for the Mechanicus, cybernetically augmented to become human weapons.

Picture whole fleets of titans engaging each other, while entire armies of skitarii fight to the death around them, and you will see why the battle scenes in this book are so exciting.

I really liked this book, and I recommend it to any Military SF fan.


message 11: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Just finished Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium . This book, which was awesome, is an omnibus of the novels For The Emperor, Caves of Ice, and The Traitor's Hand, plus two short stories, all having to do with the exploits of Ciaphas Cain, Imperial Commissar. As a commissar, Cain is attached to an infantry regiment of the Imperial Guard. Officially, his job is maintaining order and discipline within the ranks, and ensuring the soldiers' loyalty to the Imperium. Unofficially, his priorities are to stay alive, stay away from the fighting as much as possible, and ensure as comfortable a life for himself as possible.

At least, that's the plan. But invariably his attempts at avoiding combat land him in the thick of the hardest fighting, leading to him developing a reputation as one of the greatest fighting men in the entire Guard. A reputation which he uses more than once to his own advantage, but which also causes him to be given the most dangerous and difficult missions, his superiors being completely fooled by his "heroic" status.

This book is a bit more light-hearted than most WH40K (if any book involving chain swords can be considered light-hearted), at times bordering on actual comedy.

Never the less it still had plenty of satisfying battle scenes, and it definitely fits the established norms of WH40K fiction.

I really liked this book, and I recommend it to any fan of Military SF.


message 12: by Colin (new)

Colin | 76 comments Last night I finished Nocturne , by Nick Kyme, the third installment of the Tome of Fire series.

Like the second volume, Firedrake, this one relies heavily on previous events in the series, so you don't want to read this book unless you have read the first two. In fact, I found myself becoming a little confused at times just because it's been so long since I read the last one.

I really liked the whole trilogy, but this book is probably the best of the three. This was a really great book.

Once again, the Salamanders chapter is called upon to be the defenders of humanity when their home world, Nocturne, is invaded by a coalition of hostile aliens, rebel Space Marines, and Chaos demons.

One interesting thing about this book was that the world of Nocturne was presented as more than just "the place where the Salamanders come from", but rather as a whole world, with its own population and culture.

I really liked this book, and I strongly recommend it, with the caveat that you have to read the first two volumes before you read this one.


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