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 Ferretbrain readers will have noted that I have been binging on Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tie-in novels lately. Hot on the heels of consuming The Founding, I turned my attention to Relentless, the debut novel of Richard Williams. Whereas Dan Abnett’s signature series focuses on the Imperial Guard, Williams takes as his subject the Imperial Navy, who fly all the pretty Imperial battleships across the Warhammer 40,000 universe in search of filthy xeno scum to kill. While at first I was worried that Williams would end up writing something that resembled a Star Trek novelisation that just happened to be set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Williams instead takes as his primary inspiration Hornblower-like stories of Naval adventure and intrigue, and then cranks all the dials up to 11 in order to make the story suitably over-the-top for the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The story is set primarily onboard the Imperial Navy ship Relentless, tasked with patrolling a frontier region of the Imperium of Mankind. Despite having a glorious history, the ship’s officers have become decadent and corrupt – not in an insiduous secretly-worshipping-Chaos way, but in a more realistic lining-their-own-pockets way. Contriving to avoid getting involved in actual wars, the officers of the Relentless spend their time holding up merchant ships and seizing a certain proportion of their goods as “contraband”; in other words, they’ve taken to piracy so that they can live the high life, and have completely neglected their role as peacekeepers.