With the Book Cover Smackdown from a few weeks back, I had noticed that many folks thought that the Salamander cover was an illustration of a robot. Actually, it’s a space marine — not one of those namby pamby space marines found in other books or games, but a 7 foot tall, genetically modified, power-armor-wearing, huge-gun-wielding Space Marine.
So imagine my dismay when I see there is a certain amount of disdain associated with this being a Warhammer 40K novel. These books get lumped together with other media tie-in books in many book stores. This means near the back of the ever-shrinking science fiction and fantasy sections with the Star Wars and Star Trek books. For some readers of this genre, these books carry a stigma. These books do not deserve that sort of treatment; and I’m not just saying that because I enjoy reading them.
Here are 5 reasons why you might like them, too:
(Note: This list focuses upon the Warhammer 40K novels since I find myself reading more science fiction these days, but the Warhammer book line shares many of these same points.)
- Excellent World Building – Warhammer and Warhammer 40K books continue to build upon the worlds originally created by Games Workshop for their miniature games. Now before anybody runs off and screams “MEDIA TIE-IN, see its a MEDIA TIE-IN”, these games had a wealth of information to be used to help define a world within which the game was set. This information was spoon-fed to us gamers through color text in the rule books and short stories in magazines. With books, these authors get to expand and grow the worlds that were only broad brush strokes before. Many gamers familiar with the worlds can drop character names and names of worlds, but it is only in the books that these names reach their full potential.
- It’s Space Opera… – These books feature grand heroes wielding fantastic technology in a universe that is very dark and foreboding. They feature travel via warp conduits on ships that are akin to flying cities with ramparts and bastions throughout. They have malevolent entities that feed upon the weak, and protectors who take it as mandate to fight against this evil. All of this and more is what makes space opera such a fun read, and that’s what’s in these books. They are not written as hard science fiction, but they do have consistency throughout. There are fantastical elements and many will call this space fantasy, but is that not an component of a space opera? I think so.
- …And It’s Military Science Fiction – Not only do these books give you all the wonderful Space Opera elements listed above, but almost all involve a battle of some kind, and these take place both on planet surfaces and in space. I do realize that does not necessarily imply there are military science fiction elements, but many of the characters (including the aforementioned non-namby-pamby Space Marine) are part of a huge human military force. These forces range from the standard grunt in the trenches to heroes leading troops in battles throughout the galaxy.
- Excellent Authors – Yes, it is a simple but strong reason why folks should be reading these books. Dan Abnett writes some of the best military science fiction (see point 3 above) and has been recommended by many others. Starting with one of his books is only beginning to touch the wealth of talent that Black Library has writing for them. I have personally read books by Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, James Swallow, and Ben Counter. Now, add to that the talents of Chris Roberson and newcomer Henry Zou and you have a great stable of writers to entertain you.
- They’re really good reads – I have been working my way through the Horus Heresy series of books. This series starts with a book named (obviously) The Horus Heresy by Mr. Abnett. This is then followed by False Gods by Graham McNeill and Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter. They tell a story of a pivotal event in this universe (Horus turning against the Emperor of Men). It had been touched on before in the games, but it is finally explored from a point of view not seen in the books or games prior to this series. These books are well written and tell a story about Horus before his turn, and show the universe in a different light. These books were written by three different writers and they are tied so amazingly well together. That just barely scratches the surface of what is available.
I hope this short list will help others explore what these books offer. Take a chance, and you will be rewarded.