This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Regular readers might have noticed that I haven’t actually been reviewing Warhammer 40,000 books quite as regularly as I used to. There’s various reasons for this, a major one being that I just find myself increasingly less interested in Black Library’s output. Interesting experiments like the brief, abortive gamebook like have been cut short, and the dominance of disposable Space Marine-based novels, always a significant feature of the catalogue, seems to be running entirely out of control. Dan Abnett’s output has slowed down alarmingly, and it seems like the Inquisition-based novels which had previously always had a healthy niche in the Library’s output are vanishing entirely, and the Imperial Guard output feels like it’s drying up too (though there was a mild spike this month thanks to the new Guard rules for the tabletop wargame coming out).
It wouldn’t be so bad if the books in question were more entertaining. Although I wouldn’t put any of the Space Marine books I’ve reviewed on here in the category of great literature, a few seem to have had something more going on – Imperial Fists novels like Space Marine and Sons of Dorn played around with exactly how much you can subvert the whole Space Marine deal by riffing on the wackier bits of canon like the Pain Glove, whilst Dan Abnett’s Brothers of the Snake was a nice exercise in adding a little Homeric gravitas to the formula. But I’m not seeing that ambition any more – most of the Warhammer books I’ve read recently have aspired to be nothing more than disposable page-turners, and several fall short even of that standard.
To show you what I mean, here I’ve got a brace of standalone books put out more recently, each surrounding a different descendent Chapter of the Imperial Fists (or the Fists themselves), none of which really qualifies as a “keeper” by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s see how they fare.