Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Authors of Note

If you’re considering reading any WH40K related novels, there are two authors whose works can’t be ignored. The first of these is Sandy Mitchell, who is known for his daring and delightful (never thought I’d describe them that way but it fits) stories about an Imperial Guard political officer (Commissar Cain). In such a morbid time period, where a career army officer is likely to go insane while witnessing the horrors of combat with aliens, mutant psykers and daemons, Commissar Cain plays it cool and just tries to get by. He’s a light-hearted sitcom character stuck in a dreadful world of laser guns and daemonic plague, and it’s fun to see someone like Buck Rogers make a reappearance in sci-fi. Mitchell is a fine author, but deserves most of his writing credits as his real-life persona of Alex Stewart.
The second author is the much lauded Dan Abnett. Dan is a comic book, graphic novel, and all-around sci-fi writer that’s been in the business for a long, long period of time. His main contributions to WH40K come in four sets of novels. The first is a trilogy named for the three branches of the Imperial Inquisition, of which their main character is an agent. Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn of the Ordo Xenos travels about, from world to world, uncovering evil cults, rogue psykers, and warp-infested dens of evil. Throughout the trilogy of books (Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus) we follow his career and his life (he lives to be somewhere around eight hundred years old) of chasing daemons both external and internal. The books give a great account of what it must be like to be an agent of the emperor’s Inquisition, backed with unlimited power and resources, and able to destroy a planet overrun by evil with the touch of a button.
Abnett’s second trilogy is a spin-off of the Eisenhorn series, in which the Inquisitor’s premier pupil and interrogator, Gideon Ravenor, sets off to pursue his own inquisitorial career. It’s pretty much the same stuff as the Eisenhorn books, but with a new twist here and there.
The third, and most popular of his works tell tale (now twelve novels long) of a regiment in the Imperial Guard called Gaunt’s Ghosts. The series being named after the regiment, they make a fine collection of volumes detailing the brutality of futuristic warfare seen through the eyes of the common man. Another Commissar, Ibram Gaunt, leads his men (he calls them ghosts) through book after book of the absolute worst that any human being could possibly endure.
Finally, Abnett is just beginning his foray into writing novels about the powerful and terrifying Space Marine legions. Actually they aren’t so powerful and terrifying because not a single author that’s written about them has done them justice…until Dan Abnett came along and wrote the introductory book to the Horus Heresy series (the prequels). The series is penned by multiple authors in the employ of a U.K. based publisher, a subsidiary of Games Workshop called The Black Library. Occasionally Abnett will step in to give the books a much needed shot of adrenaline, fading into the background after a while to work on other projects.

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