Friday, October 01, 2010

Fear the Alien - Book Review

Fear the Alien - Edited by Christian Dunn

The Imperium of Man has many enemies among the stars, but none are reviled so much as the alien. Dangerous races seek to destroy humanity wherever they turn –the brutish orks, the ravening hordes of the tyranid, the unrelenting necrons and the mysterious forces of the tau and the eldar. Across the universe, humanity and their defenders, the Space Marines, seek to eradicate these xenos threats. Yet all they can hope for is another day of survival – for to stand against the alien is to enter an unending war... Featuring stories by Dan Abnett, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Nick Kyme, Juliet McKenna, C.L. Werner and many more, Fear the Alien is an unmissable collection for fans of Warhammer 40,000 and military science fiction.
  • Gardens of Tycho by Dan Abnett
  • Fear Itself by Juliet E. McKenna
  • Prometheus Requiem by Nick Kyme, a companion story to the Tome of Fire trilogy
  • Mistress Baeda's Gift by Braden Campbell
  • Iron Inferno by C.L. Werner
  • Sanctified by Mark Clapham
  • Faces by Matt Farrer
  • Unity by James Gilmer
  • The Core by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, a companion story to the Night Lords trilogy
  • Ambition Knows No Bounds by Andy Hoare


Gardens of Tycho – Dan Abnett

The novel opens with a short story by one of the Black Library’s literary heavy weights. As you would expect from Mr Abnett the story is a good old fashioned detective story with the normal warhammer 40000 twists and characters. The novel explores a world in the aftermath of a civil war against chaotic forces. Plenty of action and interesting imagery as well some surprises. My only problem with the story, it’s not an “alien” in the normal sense of the word but in the context the novel still works and really puts you in mind of some of the Tanith stories, a great start and one that reminds us all why Mr Abnett is the standard bearer for the Black Library.
Fear Itself – Juliet E. McKenna
The guard and Tyranids go head to head in the second story in the book in defence of an imperial outpost. The story follows the trials of an imperial guard medic as he holds the men together as they hold back the alien tide. The story is well written but as always with guard the outcome and story are a little bit formulaic. The language isn’t in the same park as Mr Abnett but it does more enough than enough to get you involved with the story and makes you want to find out how the story ends.

Prometheus Requiem – Nick Kyme
Given this novel is meant as a tie in to the salamanders series Nick does an excellent job at writing a short story that holds its own. It pulls a little on the events of the previous novel but makes itself its own story by throwing enough new information and events in. as always Nicks style is fast paced and holds your attention right to the moment the last bolter shell impacts.

Mistress Baeda’s Gift – Braden Campbell
This is the first story in the book that is written truly from the alien perspective and is a story of love, loss, betrayal and anguish from the point of view of the Dark Eldar. To say too much about this story would ruin it suffice to say this one has some really humorous (though that’s possibly my sick sense of humour) moments that make it all the more entertaining and certainly don’t make it seem as alien as it possibly could or should.

Iron Inferno – C L Werner
Orks against Guard in an exciting stealthy ork infiltration. The story highlights the differences in the way humans and orks think and looks at how both sides prepare for war. The story isn’t the fastest and it isn’t the punchiest story in the novel but that slow build up and deliberately slow language make the story build up to the climax exceedingly well. A very good short story and one different from the most common portrayals of orks and guardsmen!

Sanctified – Mark Clapham
The dark elder make a second appearance in the book aboard an Imperial Navy ship. This story takes a look at their methods of infiltration and coercion as well as their ultimate downfall. It’s another very short story where when if I say more it would ruin the story. It certainly flows well and works from different angles and is a different take on the Dark Eldars approach to everything.

Faces – Matthew Farrer
A rather confusing and fluid story this book deals with the elder and their mythology through a very unexpected source. The book looks at how the harlequins take on their roles and play out the eternal myths of the Eldar in different ways. A good if somewhat highly confusing story and one that give more information on the elder, would have worked as a good tie in to the Path of the Warrior novel.

Unity – James Gilmer
Guard and Raven Guard outwit the Tau and Kroot in the next story. A nice if what slow paced story detailing their journey. The story deals well with some of the more well known background of the two xenos species and expands very well on the information on the kroot in particular. The story deals with it well but to be honest the whole story is full of stereotypes and little moments that don’t work, but somehow the story comes out as not too bad in the end.

The Core – Aaron Dembski-Brown
The second main stream tie in here deals with the Night Lords. The story looks at them raiding a space hulk for information. There are unsurprisingly appearances from the Genestealers and more surprisingly from the Salamanders. The story is well written and like the other Night Lords novels it links too shows that the Chaos Space Marines aren’t all the blood thirsty mental killers we expect – though a huge number are – and it shows how they value knowledge and skill. The Appearance of the Genestealers is almost treated incidentally and personally I think this story, whilst excellent, would have fitted better in to either a Chaos Space Marine Compilation or as part of another Night Lords novel, not in an alien story compilation. Still some good hints at the origins of Genestealers and how they interact with one another.

Ambition Knows No Bounds – Andy Hoare
This is the story of an aspiring Rogue Trader and Necrons! There’s one surprise appearance and some moments when the story just makes you think “WHAT??” but other than that it’s an interesting read and plays well upon the accepted Necron imagery and their tombs. A good story that would work well as a prequel to something bigger and better. Also looks like Andy Hoare is developing in to a bit of a Necron writer so who knows what we might see coming soon.

Overall I was pleased with the book but something in it just let it down for me, I can’t explain it and I don’t know why but for me the book only rates a 3 star on my scale. It could be that I’m expecting it from the alien point of view, it could just be I couldn’t get in to the book but to me if you like warhammer 40000 short stories it’s worth adding to the collection but if your only mildly interested don’t rush and grab it just yet.
Available from:
Fear the Alien - Christian Dunn
softback, 416pp • ISBN 9781844168941

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