Upcoming: THE BEAST ARISES Series (Black Library)

Yesterday, Black Library announced their next big event/series: The Beast Arises. Beginning in December, the series will see twelve novels released in twelve months, and is set 1,500 years after the end of the Horus Heresy (the epic, hugely successful series currently ongoing). It will chart the rise (and return?) of the orks as force in the WH40k universe. The first five novels have been unveiled…

AbnettD-BA1-IAmSlaughterI AM SLAUGHTER by Dan Abnett (December 2015)

As the greatest Ork Waaagh! ever seen threatens to engulf the galaxy, the Imperial Fists make their last stand

It is the thirty-second millennium and the Imperium is at peace. The Traitor Legions of Chaos are but a distant memory and the many alien races that have long plagued mankind are held in check by the Space Marines. When a mission to exterminate one such xenos breed on the world of Ardamantua draws in more of their forces, the Imperial Fists abandon the walls of Terra for the first time in more than a thousand years. And when another, greater, foe strikes, even the heroic sons of Rogal Dorn may be powerless against it. The Beast Arises… and it is mighty.

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SandersR-BA-PredatorPreyPREDATOR PREY by Rob Sanders

After centuries of peace, the Imperium is thrown into panic as human worlds everywhere are menaced by orks.

After centuries of peace, the Imperium is thrown into panic as human worlds everywhere are menaced by orks. In a relentless tide of slaughter, ork attack moons destroy planet after planet with gravity weapons of unstoppable power. On Terra, the High Lords are paralysed by the scale of the threat, and fail to take any effective action. With entire Space Marine Chapters missing, or known to have been wiped out, does anyone have the will and the power to rise to the Imperium’s defence?

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ThorpeG-BA-EmperorExpectsTHE EMPEROR EXPECTS by Gav Thorpe

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair. The High Lords become desperate to prove that victory is possible, no matter the cost. A massive Navy fleet is assembled – their mission to make a definitive strike against the orks at Port Sanctus, an area of enemy-held space. But when the Imperial armada arrives, they find themselves outclassed and outmanoeuvred – can human courage and faith possibly prevail against such terrible odds?

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AnnandaleD-BA-LastWallTHE LAST WALL by David Annandale

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wrecking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra.

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wrecking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra. As its malevolent presence gazes down at the Imperial Palace, terrified citizens run riot in the streets. In a last-ditch attempt to destroy the attack moon, a proletarian crusade is launched. Thousands of ships large and small head to the moon carrying billions of citizens, all eager to take the fight to the enemy. It seems the attack has a chance of success as the invasion force lands safely, but the orks have yet to spring their trap…

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HaleyG-BA05-ThroneworldTHRONEWORLD by Guy Haley

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space.The Adeptus Astartes, armed with the knowledge of how to defeat the greenskins, must now travel back to Terra through a galaxy teaming with orks.

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space. To make matters even worse, eldar strike at the heart of the Imperial Palace, forcing humanity’s defenders to fight on two fronts at once. Though it seems nothing can stop the orks – neither brute force, science, nor faith – an unlikely alliance in the furthest reaches of space uncovers the first clue how to defeat the greenskins. The Adeptus Astartes now face an almost impossible task – taking news of this discovery back to Terra through a galaxy teaming with orks.

[For some reason, the cover available through Amazon — the only place so far where I could find an image to include here — has L.J. Goulding as the author, but the listing itself identifies Haley as the author, as does Black Library’s website.]

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I’m quite looking forward to giving this series a try. It’s also nice to know that there will be a finite, clearly-defined number of novels — the Heresy series, while I’m thoroughly enjoying it, is just becoming so vast… Anyone else interested in reading this series?

Well I’ll Be Damned — My 16yr Old Self…

Gubbinz-1999I stumbled across a pair of articles today that have brought a rush of memories back to me: my first two “published”… well, “articles” — the quotation marks are entirely appropriate, as you will see below. The articles are on tUGS.

When I was a teenager, I was quite fond of Games Workshop’s games — especially those that didn’t require much financial investment (NecromundaBlood Bowl, and GorkaMorka). Partly this interest in the “smaller” games was lucky, because I also didn’t have anyone to play the games with, thanks to constantly changing country and attending a school whose denizens were oh-so-obsessed with “cool”. (Yup, I was that kind of geek.) Nor, for that matter, could I afford the ever-increasing prices.

Anyway, in my enthusiastic teen years, I submitted two articles of “rules” for GorkaMorka, the Mad Max-style tabletop game of ork warfare. Both of them were accepted and published in Gubbinz, a compilation of extra rules and whatnot. Up until today, I had completely forgotten about them.

So, with a certain amount of nostalgia and slight embarrassment, here are my two, insignificant contributions to Games Workshop’s back-back-list of games: Rokkit Paks and Rebel Grot Pogo Stikks. (The posts contain download links for PDFs of what I cobbled together.)

 GorkaMorka

“Stormseer” by David Annandale (Black Library)

AnnandaleD-SMB-StormseerWhite Scars vs. Orks, with a dash of Eldar…

The green-skinned hordes of the Overfiend of the Octavius system have long been a thorn in the Imperium’s side – and now, with human worlds caught in the crossfire between the orks and eldar, that thorn will be removed. Temur Khan and his brotherhood descend upon Lepidus Prime to cleanse it of the green taint. The swift and brutal hammer to the Imperial Guard’s anvil, the White Scars strike hard and fast – but when the orks reveal a super-weapon, it may take more than just power to win the day?

I’m a big fan of Annandale’s Black Library fiction, and Stormseer is a great example of just why I think he’s so good. This is the first of three novellas in the Space Marine Battles series, all of which are connected to the same campaign. Fast and furious, excellently written and well-paced, this is an excellent novella. A must-read for fans of the White Scars and Warhammer 40,000 in general.

The story starts off with an excellent battle scene, which is a perfect example of the White Scars’ rather headlong approach to warfare. The action on the battlefront is only half the story, however, and we alternate between there and a lone Stormseer’s mission behind enemy lines. Accompanied by some scouts, and driven by a vague psychic vision, he infiltrates and investigates an ork manufacturing plant, joined by some mysterious Eldar. What they find explains the orks’ mysterious ability to be everywhere on the battlefield.

The story was less battle-heavy than I was expecting, but of course Annandale does not skimp on the action, which is well-presented and described (without going over the top). He does an excellent job of providing a proper story, rather than just an excuse to kill some orks in ever more brutal fashion (or “bolter-porn”, as it’s known).

There’s some mystery, and also allusion to what else is going on elsewhere in the wider campaign, with a mention of the Salamanders and Raven Guard (who, I assume, are the stars of the other two novellas). Despite the brief length, Annandale’s characters are well-rounded and believable (as super-humans and aliens go). His prose is fluid and well-constructed.

David Annandale is one of Black Library’s best new(ish) authors. If you haven’t read any of his stuff yet, you really should. Stormseer is a great place to start.

Review: BROTHERHOOD OF THE STORM by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-HH-BrotherhoodOfTheStormA White Scars Horus Heresy Novella

As word of Horus’s treachery spreads to fully half of the Legiones Astartes, Terra looks to the remaining loyalist Space Marines to defend the Imperium. One group, however, remains curiously silent in spite of apparent efforts from both sides to contact them – the noble Vth Legion, Jaghatai Khan’s fearsome White Scars. In the ork-held territory of Chondax, a bitter war has been raging since the Triumph at Ullanor, and only now do the sons of Chogoris return their gaze to the heavens…

Originally published as a limited edition, Black Library has finally released Brotherhood of the Storm for a wider audience, in both hardcover and eBook. It’s well timed, as the characters within feature prominently in the latest full-length Horus Heresy novel, Scars. And, happily, this does not disappoint – Wraight has really upped his game with his Heresy fiction. While this novella was not quite as good as Scars, it was still a cracking story, filled with a good balance of furious action and away-from-the-battlefront context and character development. Continue reading

“Armageddon” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)

DembskiBowden-ArmageddonTwo Space Marine Battles stories from one of Black Library’s best young talents.

++ Grimaldus…

They lied to us about the Mannheim Gap. They sent us there to die. You know of whom I speak. We cannot outrun the echoes of Khattar. We pay the price now for our virtue in the past. The Celestial Lions will never leave this world. A handful of us remain, but we know the truth. We died at the Mannheim Gap. We died the day the sun rose over the scrap-iron bodies of alien gods. ++

++ Message for Black Templars Reclusiarch Merek Grimaldus, From Celestial Lions Deathspeaker Julkhara ++

Armageddon collects Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s early Space Marine Battles novel, Helsreach, and a new novella set shortly after the events of that novel, Blood And Fire. Both are quite different, and as a long-time fan of the author’s it is interesting to compare them – in terms of style, confidence, and story construction. (Though, fear not, this review is not a piece of academic literary criticism.) Overall, I think this collection is very strong, and while the novella is much better than the novel, both are highly recommended for fans of the author, the series, and science-fiction in general.

I’m going to address each part of the omnibus separately, before providing a brief summation at the end.

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DembskiBowden-HelsreachHELSREACH

When the world of Armageddon is attacked by orks, the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter are amongst those sent to liberate it. Chaplain Grimaldus and a band of Black Templars are charged with the defence of Hive Helsreach from the xenos invaders in one of the many battlezones. But as the orks numbers grow and the Space Marines dwindle, Grimaldus faces a desperate last stand in an Imperial temple. Determined to sell their lives dearly, will the Black Templars hold on long enough to be reinforced, or will their sacrifice ultimately be in vain?

Helsreach is a very strong addition to the Space Marine Battles series. It is a novel that is both excellent, yet also slightly disappointing. It is an excellent example of military science-fiction, with intense and fast-paced battle and action scenes, strong characters, and a tightly written plot.

Given the series parameters (which is far more combat-oriented), though, I felt that Helsreach doesn’t really give the author the space or time to do what he’s best at: getting into the heads of his characters, exploring the light and dark of conflict, and the psychological impacts of warfare at any length. This is a pity, as I think he approached these themes brilliantly in the Knight Lords trilogy and also his Horus Heresy novels. Helsreach remains a strong novel, however, and I think he certainly fulfills the brief of the series. There are still some very good observations sprinkled throughout. For example, the PR benefits of certain tactics and well-timed speeches, and also when the strategic council discusses the morale-boosting benefit of having the Black Templars assembling in formation before sallying forth, pict-feeds beaming the imagery around the embattled/besieged planet. (Noam Chomsky and John Pilger would have been proud of these observations…)

Despite the slightly diminished focus on character development, there are shades of Dembski-Bowden’s skills evident throughout. I can pick out quite easily the scenes that some early reviewers didn’t like, as they do break up the action and slow down the novel just a smidge. I welcomed these quieter moments, though. For example, Grimaldus’s face-to-face with the princeps majoris of Invigilata, Zarha. It was an interesting scene, he in his imposing armour, her floating in an amniotic tank, on the bridge of a vast war machine. Though even this scene was too short, truncated by the need to get to the conflict.

It was nice to see some brief cameos from familiar characters (Commissar Yarrick, for example, most recently immortalised by David Annandale in his truly excellent novella, Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha). There were also a higher-than-normal number of strong or highly-ranked female characters for a WH40k novel, which is another nice touch.

Above all, though, there are fierce Space Marines of the Black Templar chapter – one I don’t know a great deal about. I must, say, though, that they do seem a rather dour and ferocious lot. Makes for interesting reading. There are also orks. Lots and lots of orks. As I said earlier, there are plenty of solid action scenes, and the author manages to resist the more florid impulses and tendencies of many of his fellow BL stable-mates, keeping descriptions sparse-yet-evocative. A couple of them were still a shade over-long for my tastes.

Ultimately, this is a very good novel of science fictional warfare on a pretty massive scale (So. Many. Orks.), and if that’s what floats your boat, Helsreach should suit your taste very well. However, having read everything else Aaron Dembski-Bowden has written for Black Library, I must admit to preferring his other, less constrained and more nuanced fiction. He’s still my favourite Black Library author, but this is by no means my favourite of his books.

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DembskiBowden-Blood&FireBLOOD AND FIRE

In the aftermath of the war for Hive Helsreach, Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus receives a unexpected distress call from an old ally. The Celestial Lions Space Marines are being targeted by the Inquisition and have been brought to the brink of extinction. Will they regroup and rebuild, or will they choose to go out in a final blaze of glory? That is what Grimaldus must decide…

In contrast to Helsreach, Blood And Fire is far more reminiscent of Dembski-Bowden’s post-Helsreach fiction. It’s less about cramming in as much bolter porn as humanly possible, and more about exploring the characters involved, their temperaments and motivations. We get to know Grimaldus more (always a good thing, as he’s a really interesting character). The story builds to a fantastic, intense battle. There are a couple of elements of the story that I thought weren’t as well rounded-off as I would have liked (the role of the Inquisition, for example), which could suggest that there is either more to come from Grimaldus – or, less charitably, that this should have been longer (which would have been no bad thing). As with Helsreach, this is a very strong addition to the series.

If you have any interest in the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, then I would certainly recommend this book. Both stories give us an excellent glimpse into how the Astartes and their Imperial Guard allies make war together, and also just how deadly a scourge the orks can be, when rallied under the banner of a gifted warboss. Intense, brutal, yet also deftly written, this is very fine military science-fiction.

Also by Aaron Dembski-Bowden: Cadian Blood, Throne of Lies (audio), Shadow Knight, Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver, Void Stalker, The Emperor’s Gift, The First Heretic (Horus Heresy), Butcher’s Nails (Horus Heresy), Betrayer (Horus Heresy), Savage Weapons (Horus Heresy)

Space Marine Battles Series: Rynn’s World, Helsreach & Blood And Fire, The Hunt for Voldorius, The Purging of Kadillus, Fall of Damnos, Battle of the Fang, The Gildar Rift, Legion of the Damned, Architect of Fate (anthology), Bloodspire (audio), Wrath of Iron, Deathwolf (audio), Flesh of Cretacia, The Siege of Castellax, Steel Blood (short), The Death of Antagonis