Dark Cults and Alien Mysteries: Warhammer 40,000: The Magos by Dan Abnett

Thursday, November 21st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magos Audiobook-big

I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks as I take the train into Chicago every morning. Yes, it’s a little risky to be wearing headphones in the middle of that jostling crowd, completely caught up in tales spun by skilled narrators while blithely stepping out into traffic. Someday you may read a somber obituary that claims I was splatted by a fast-moving cab. But know that I died happy.

This morning I was enjoying the new Eisenhorn “novel” by Dan Abnett, The Magos, which is really a fat collection of short stories (plus a new novel). And I was completely and utterly caught up in Toby Longworth’s brilliant narration of “The Curiosity,” the short tale of a taxonomist who finds himself in a life-and-death hunt for an alien beast in the mist-crowded hills of a backward province. I found this brief review at Track of Words that let me know there are other tales featuring Valentin Drusher, magos biologis, and that makes me happy.

First published in 2003 in Inferno! magazine, Dan Abnett’s short story “The Curiosity” offers the first glimpse of Valentin Drusher, magos biologis… Dispatched to a bleak, distant province to investigate sightings of an unknown beast that’s left a trail of corpses behind it, it’s not long before he realises this is more than just an apex predator he somehow missed. Caught up in the hunt for the beast, Drusher is out of his league and in terrible danger…

Drusher may be an amateur sleuth rather than an inquisitor, but that just makes the situation that bit more dangerous. It’s a nicely self-contained story, complete with all the descriptive scene-setting and strong, effective characterisation that you’d expect from Abnett, and the slightly baffled, eccentric Drusher is instantly engaging. In the grand scheme of 40k the stakes are small, but away from the battlefields and in context of a simple, rural community there’s more than enough drama for this to be gripping and entirely satisfying.

The Magos is available in print and on audio, but you really haven’t experienced this story until you’ve listened to Longworth’s deep, resonant (and surprising versatile) voice bring it to life — preferably while watching Chicago slide by through a rain-slicked window. Highly recommended. The audio version is 20 hours, and sells for $22.90 on Audible.


Warhammer Chronicles: The Gotrek & Felix Novels by William King and Nathan Long are Back in Print

Monday, April 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gotrek and Felix Volume 1-small Gotrek & Felix The Second Omnibus-small Gotrek & Felix The Third Omnibus-small

I became a fan of Warhammer through Relic’s Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War series of computer games, and eventually became a huge fan of their audiobooks. But people I respect have been telling me for years that their fiction is worth reading. Howard Andrew Jones in particular recommended Clint Werner’s Brunner novels and Nathan Long’s Blackhearts volumes as fine examples of modern sword & sorcery.

But the series I’ve heard the most about is the long-running Gotrek and Felix, which currently stands at no less than 17 volumes, written by William King, Nathan Long, Josh Reynolds, and David Guymer. King is the originator of the series and he wrote the first seven volumes, which I’ve heard described as “the reference series for Warhammer fantasy.”

The early editions are long out of print, and in fact the original omnibus reprints, which collected three novels each and were issued in 2003-2004, are out as print as well. They’re expensive collectors editions today. So are the second batch of reprints, published by Black Library in 2006-2013, which gathered the first 12 novels.

So I was pleased to see Games Workshop issue a third edition of this classic adventure fantasy series, and bought the first volume as soon as it became available. The second volume arrived in February. and the third is due in June. Here’s the details.

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The Fortress World and the Eye of Terror: Warhammer 40K: The Cadian Novels by Justin D. Hill

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Cadia Stands-small Cadian Honour-small

When I made the 90-minute commute to Glenview every morning (and the 90-minute drive home every evening), I got addicted to Warhammer 40K audio dramas. They made the long drive bearable. When I left that job four years ago I fell out of the habit, and haven’t kept up on the unfolding drama in my favorite dark space opera. I did hear rumors of a Thirteenth Black Crusade, the unexpected return of the loyal primarch Roboute Guilliman (in Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium series), and the catastrophic fall of the fortress world of Cadia, the last line of defense against the daemonic tide spilling out of the Eye of Terror. Man, you take your eye off the ball for a minute, and everything goes to hell.

Justin D. Hill’s new Cadia series seem like the perfect place to jump back into the saga. The first novel, Cadia Stands, was published in March 2018, and the sequel Cadian Honour is scheduled for September of this year (and is already available in digital format). Here’s the description for the first volume.

The brutal war for Cadia is decided, as Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed and the armies of the Imperium fight to halt the Thirteenth Black Crusade and prevent a calamity on a galactic scale.

Under almost constant besiegement by the daemonic hosts pouring from the Eye of Terror, Cadia stands as a bulwark against tyranny and death. Its fortresses and armies have held back the hordes of Chaos for centuries, but that grim defiance is about to reach its end. As Abaddon’s Thirteenth Black Crusade batters Cadia’s defences and the armies of the Imperium flock to reinforce this crucial world, a terrible ritual long in the making comes to fruition, and the delicate balance of this brutal war shifts… From the darkness, a hero rises to lead the beleaguered defenders, Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed, but even with the armoured might of the Astra Militarum and the strength of the Adeptus Astartes at his side, it may not be enough to avert disaster and prevent the fall of Cadia. While Creed lives, there is hope. While there is breath in the body of a single defender, Cadia Stands… but for how much longer?

And here’s the description for Cadian Honour.

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Future Treasures: Warhammer Horror: The Wicked and the Damned by Josh Reynolds, David Annandale, and Phil Kelly

Monday, March 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wicked and the Damned-smallFive years ago, when I was commuting to Glenview and in the car three hours a day, I got hooked on Warhammer 40K audio books. My favorites were the Horus Heresy volumes, especially Ben Counter’s epic tale of betrayal and revenge Galaxy in Flames, but I devoured them all.

I take the train these days, and don’t keep up on the unfolding drama in the dark days of the 40th Millennium the way I used to, but I still pay attention when I can. So I was very intrigued to hear about the launch of Warhammer Horror, a new line of books and audio plays (wait… like the current line isn’t dark enough??) It arrives next month with three launch titles, the short-story anthology Maledictions, an audio drama titled Perdition’s Flame, and a collaborative novel titled The Wicked and the Damned, from three stars of the Warhammer stable. That last one is the one that really interests me, and mostly because of this description:

A chilling mosaic novel by masters of their craft.

On a misty cemetery world, three strangers are drawn together through mysterious circumstances. Each of them has a tale to tell of a narrow escape from death. Amid the toll of funerary bells and the creep and click of mortuary-servitors, the truth is confessed. But whose story can be trusted? Whose recollection is warped, even unto themselves? For these are strange stories of the uncanny, the irrational and the spine-chillingly frightening, where horrors abound and the dark depths of the human psyche is unearthed.

“A chilling portmanteau. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickling. The perfect combination of horror and Warhammer 40,000.” – Paul Kane.

Josh Reynolds wrote the popular Nightmare Men series on occult detectives here at Black Gate, David Annandale is the author of the Yarrick series and a contributor to The Beast Arises, and Phil Kelly is the man behind War of Secrets and Crisis of Faith.

The Wicked and the Damned will be published by Warhammer Horror on April 2, 2019. It is 400 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback. No word on a digital version yet. See all our previous Warhammer coverage here.


The Time of Woe is Upon Us: Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World

Sunday, February 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Chaos in the Old World-small

I was shopping for fantasy board games online last week, as one does, and I came across a user review of a recent title. It was glowing, and it said “This is my favorite new board game since Chaos in the Old World.”

That reminded me that I’d always intended to take a closer look at Fantasy Flight’s Chaos. It’s a Warhammer game, and I’ve been familiar with the setting for decades. But these days I spent most of my gaming dollars on the far-future version, Warhammer 40,000, and games like Warhammer 40k: Relic and the terrific Forbidden Stars. Now that Fantasy Flight has lost the Warhammer license though, Chaos in the Old World was out of print, and prices were probably starting to creep up. I made up my mind at that point to spend my weekly gaming dollars on a copy, provided I could find one at a reasonable price.

That turned out to be a lot easier said than done. The cheapest copies I could find at Amazon were $279. eBay wasn’t much better — new copies were selling for as much as $300 and up. I gritted my teeth and setting in for a long search.

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Future Treasures: Warhammer 40k: The Magos by Dan Abnett

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magos Dan Abnett-smallThree years ago, as I was commuting three hours a day to a job I hated, I found a way to add a little joy to my tedious morning drive. I started listening to the Warhammer Audio Books produced by Heavy Entertainment for Black Library.

And man, what a delight they were. Not just readings, these were full-cast audio dramas, with wonderfully produced sound effects and professional voice actors like Toby Longworth, Gareth Armstrong, Jonathan Keeble, and many others. I’d pull into the parking lot with the sound of ricocheting bolter fire and space marine battle cries echoing in my ear, and it made getting out of the car and starting the long walk into work a little easier.

I enjoyed virtually all of those action-packed audio dramas, but I think my favorite was Dan Abnett’s Thorn and Talon: From the Case Files of Eisenhorn and Ravenor, an anthology of tales of the dedicated Imperial Inquisitor Eisenhorn and his apprentice Ravenor, as they came up again Chaos plots, strange warp artifacts, and more dangerous things.

That was my introduction to the tales of Inquisitor Eisenhorn. Although truthfully, if I’d just listened to my friends Howard Andrew Jones and John DeNardo, I could have saved myself a lot of time. Way back in 2009 Howard raved about Abnett’s Eisenhorn omnibus, a fat volume collecting all three novels of the Eisenhorn trilogy and a handful of shorter works:

Dan Abnett wasn’t satisfied with creating a fabulous lead character in an action-packed space opera; he sent him to fantastic places and provides a series of detective/investigative stories full of logical turns, surprises, and plenty of action.

And in his 2016 article ‘In Defense of Media Tie-Ins,” John wrote:

One of the best set of books I’ve ever read — in any genre — was the Eisenhorn trilogy by Dan Abnett. The books are set in the richly-imagined Warhammer 40K universe… Abnett is a one of the most skilled master storytellers you’ve never heard of. This is the series that I point to when anyone is quick to dismiss tie-in fiction… I don’t play the game, but that didn’t stop me from losing sleep because I couldn’t stop turning page after action-packed page, or cheering when a bad guy finally got his comeuppance.

The long-awaited fourth book in the Eisenhorn series finally arrives next month. The Magos, a fat 720-page volume, collects a dozen Eisenhorn short stories and a brand new novel. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader: The Omnibus by Andy Hoare

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Rogue Trader the Omnibus-smallFantasy Flight released the epic Rogue Trader role playing game in 2009. One of the early fruits of their Warhammer 40,000 license, Rogue Trader allowed players to play intrepid merchant princes buying and selling outside the legal boundaries of the Imperium. I became a fan immediately, and it quickly became my favorite science fiction RPG.

Fantasy Flight lost the Warhammer 40K license last year, and the game is now out of print. I thought that would be the end of the brand, so I was pleased to see Black Library put Rogue Trader: The Omnibus on their schedule for next month. It’s a compilation of three novels and two short stories by Andy Hoare. Rogue Star (2006) and Star of Damocles (2007) chart the fortunes of rogue trader Lucian Gerrit on the Imperium’s fringes, and Savage Scars (2011) picks up the tale as the White Scars battle the T’au on the planet Dal’yth. Rogue Trader: The Omnibus arrives in trade paperback on January 23.

Explore the stars and the farthest reaches of the galaxy with the complete Rogue Trader omnibus, containing the novels Rogue Star, Star of Damocles and Savage Scars.

Licensed by ancient charter, Rogue Traders explore the uncharted regions of the galaxy, seeking new worlds to exploit on behalf of the Imperium. The fortunes of Rogue Trader Lucian Gerrit and his family are in decline, and his inheritance amounts to little more than a pile of debt and misery. In a final, desperate gamble to restore his family’s former glory, Gerrit strikes a deal on a forgotten Imperial world in the Eastern Fringe, but his timing could not be worse. The alien tau are seeking to expand their empire across the Damocles Gulf, and soon Gerrit is caught in the middle of a clash between two mighty star-spanning empires, neither of which is willing to back down.

Rogue Trader: The Omnibus will be published by Games Workshop/Black Library on January 23, 2018. It is 800 pages, priced at $21 in trade paperback. Read more at the Black Library website.


How to Worldbuild a Good Sandbox: Four Rules from the Warhammer 40K Universe

Thursday, April 7th, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

Honour Guard Dan Abnett-small

Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe is one of the best sandboxes around.

I’m working on a sandbox Space Opera setting.

Sandbox is the tricky part; a “sandbox” is a storyworld that lets you tell (or experience — if you are a gamer) all sorts of different kinds of story. Essentially, I’m building my Discworld.

Oh, you say, just make it big with lots of different kinds of settings plus spare blank spots on the map.

Yes, that gives you lots of flexibility (though less than you’d think). However, the stories won’t be — sorry, I can’t think of a better word — branded.

I mean, the asteroid miners over here and the fight against the dark lord over there, don’t need to belong in the same universe and the reader (or player) won’t really feel as if they are revisiting the same place.

So a good sandbox is one that maximises the possible range of branded stories.

Spend time with a 12-year-old tabletop gamer and you quickly realize that — in this light — Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe is one of the best sandboxes around. You can could dump just about any Space Opera SF story into it, and it would still feel like 40K. To do Firefly, just plug in Orcs, Inquisitors and Space Marines and Imperial Guards. To do Starship Troopers tell a story about the Imperial Guard. To do Star Trek, just follow a Tau captain on their five year mission.

Less so in the Star Wars universe.

Firefly Wars would need a local civil war as backstory, since the cleanup after the prequels feels like it would involve more mass graves. Your Alliance could be the Empire, but the Empire doesn’t really feel as if it would do dark secrets — why bother hiding them? — or have secret super soldier programs– it has Stormtroopers and Sith anyway. Starship Troopers could be about the latter-day Stormtroopers, but the moral ambiguity would be lost. Star Trek…? No, not without taking a ship to a different galaxy and then it would not feel like Star Wars. It would lose its brand.

So the 40K ‘verse is a far better sandbox than the Star Wars one.  How can this be? It appears to follow four basic rules…

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New Treasures: Warhammer: Lords of the Dead

Monday, March 14th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Warhammer Lords of the Dead-smallI really enjoy these Warhammer omnibus editions. They’re a tremendous bargain, for one thing. They typically contain 2-3 full length novels, plus the assorted short story or two. I’ve collected more than a few, and while I especially enjoy the science fiction offshoot, Warhammer 40K, the straight-up Warhammer volumes have proven to be a reliable source of modern sword & sorcery, most notably the tales of Gotrek & Felix, C. L. Werner’s Brunner the Bounty Hunter, and Kim Newman’s The Vampire Genevieve.

I’m extremely interested in the new omnibus Lords of the Dead, which includes the first two novels in the End Times series: Chris Wraigh’s The Fall of Altdorf, and The Return of Nagash, by Black Gate blogger Josh Reynolds, author of our popular series on The Nightmare Men. Here’s the description.

The fate of The Old World hangs in the balance. Heroes rise and fall as they battle the Ruinous Powers in a last desperate attempt to save the mortal realm. The Gods of Chaos only want total destruction and their victory seems inevitable……

The Return of Nagash

As the forces of Chaos threaten to drown the world in madness, Mannfred von Carstein and Arkhan the Black put aside their difference and plot to resurrect the one being with the power to stand against the servants of the Ruinous Powers and restore order to the world – the Great Necromancer himself. As they set about gathering artefacts to use in their dark ritual, armies converge on Sylvania, intent on stopping them. But Arkhan and Mannfred are determined to complete their task. No matter the cost, Nagash must rise again.

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Only War for Christmas: How to Defend Warhammer for Teenage Boys

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Kurtzhau army

…telling stories, reading books, engaging with craft…

Older relative: “Well I’m not buying him  (nose wrinkle) Warhammer.”

Fellow parent: “Oh God, Warhammer. We’re trying to steer him away from that!”

Another parent: “But it’s sooo expensive.”

It’s the run up to Christmas and people want to know what older and teenage boys want, and — just like with books — the boys, the geeky ones at least, want the wrong things.

Except of course, I think these are right things and I want to yell:

There’s this thing you can get that coaches boys in applied game theory, and keeps them telling stories, reading books, engaging with craft, and gathering with friends away from a screen (sometimes even organising them). It also enables them to talk to older boys and adults as peers, and take their place in a multi-generational community… No, it’s not an educational game. No… it’s not an after school club… It’s… Warhammer!!!

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