Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sabbat Worlds Anthology - Book Review

Sabbat Worlds Anthology - Abnett, McNeill, Mitchell & others
Across the Sabbat Worlds, a bitter conflict is fought, a conflict that can only end in victory or annihilation. The innumerable forces of the Arch enemy attack without mercy, and planet after planet burns with the flames of war. Yet even amidst this nightmare, the Imperial Guard stand stoic against their foes. The Phantine Air Corps battle the enemies of mankind across burning skies, while the Gereon resistance tries to break the foothold of Chaos on their beleaguered world and the legendary Gaunt’s Ghosts fight in the most violent and bloody of warzones. This anthology opens the gateway to the Sabbat Worlds like never before, featuring new stories from some of the Black Library’s best-known authors including Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, Aaron Dembski-Bowden and many more.


For those of you unaware the history behind this compilation is one of a somewhat touching nature for GW, as you may be aware Dan Abnett found out last year that he was suffering with late onset epilepsy, so not only did this cause havoc in a major way for his life but it also impacted his writing, which quite rightly took a back seat. AS an homage and nod to Dan Abnett the Black Library have put together an anthology of work dedicated to the world Dan Abnett has created, more specifically the Sabbat World’s Crusade. The book is pulled from the authors in the Black Library that Dan Abnett admires the most and feels would make some of the worthwhile contributions to the background of the Crusade.

The Sabbat Worlds Anthology was edited by Dan Abnett and there are a couple of pieces from new pieces in the book from him as well. The work by Dan comprises of two stories, the first may have originally being published as a chapbook for Games Day UK (though I can’t remember which one) and the second is a completely new story that fits between the two first novels and creates an excellent bridge and helps answer some of the questions and histories.

The book is set out nicely with a touching introduction and narrative from Dan about his life and the troubles he has faced, he also explains the rationale for the book and his input in to it. Each story is prefaced with a brief introduction to the story and the writer, explain why he admires them and why he thinks their work fits well in to the Sabbat Worlds story. Dan quite rightly picks some of the biggest names in the Black Library, Graham McNeil, Aaron Dempski-Bowden and Sandy Mitchell. As well as some of the more less well known authors, including Dan’s very own good lady who does a stellar job with her story. Dan has left the writers with one hell of a challenge and I personally think they all for the most part have done an excellent job.

Apostle’s Creed by Graham McNeill
The first story re-visits the territory of one of Dan’s greatest stand alone novels, Double Eagle, this follows one of the key characters from that book and leading members of the Phantine squadron as she adjusts to life as a member of the Apostles! Whilst Graham McNeill does an excellent job of recreating Abnetts fine work Double Eagle is far and away the seminal 40k air battle work.

McNeill does an excellent job however fitting the Apostles in to a new warzone and exploring the WWI aces attitude (think of the movie fly boys) and fitting it to the 40 universe, a crossover that works well. This short story explores what it takes to become an ace and to survive the cut throat world of combat in the 41st millennium. It also explores the human side of loss and coping and looks at how morals and attitudes change when in extreme conditions. The novel is well written and it transposes well, the combat scenes are fast paced and quite rightly use many of the terms Abnett invented for 40k air combat in their narrative. The story is a worthy follow on to Double Eagle and would have fitted well in the end of the recent reprint

The Headstone and the Hammerstone Kings by Matthew Farrer
The next story follows the cleanup of a world and the removal of the machines of the arch enemy, however the arch enemy forces have other plans. This explores a raid on a machine dump from the point of view of several visiting dignitaries. The novel gives a view of the bureaucracy and pettiness of some of the worlds politicians but soon shows that when under stressful combat some of them are much more able then they are given credit for. The book is fast paced and gets to the action quickly. The actions of the raiders are over shadowed by the presence of the machines and the manner in which they and the story are dealt with seems purposefully confusing in places, this adds to the stories flow and makes the idea of a surprise raid more tangible. Whilst the Adeptus Mechanicus are involved their part is understated and could have being pushed more, the twist at the end also means no doubt we will see a full novel or at least an appearance from the Kings in the future.

Regicide by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The life and times of Slaydo! That is all this can be described as without giving the story away. To give you some idea of this, one of Slaydo’s bodyguards is captured and tortured by a member of the Chaos forces and is asked to recount recent events in his words. This story works well as the language is clean and concise (much like the man it portraits) and doesn’t mess about. I don’t want to give any more away as this would ruin a very interesting piece of back ground on events in the crusade.

The Iron Star by Dan Abnett
The first piece by Dan Abnett in the book and the first Ghosts piece (no one else could write about the Ghosts and I’m glad no one else tried!), this novella apparently appeared elsewhere but if don’t recall ever reading it. It explores the mind of Gaunt following an action that has left him wounded and drifting in and out of consciousness (and sanity). The story is written much like the plot, in a confused and often semi lucid style but the ideas and memories it draws on help tie the thread back to some of the older novels. It’s an extremely well written piece of in depth character analysis and develops and shows many of Gaunts facets, a great piece of writing.

Cell by Nik Vincent
Written but Dan Abnetts other half the story is set on a world occupied by the forces of chaos this story looks at the lives and actions of resistance fighters as they battle from within. The story looks at the betrayals and sacrifices made by the fighters and their contacts. The twists and turns make the story a good read and really fits in with the ethos of the crusade and the back grounds of the universe. Well written, some good moments of action and a nice flow the story is enjoyable with a satisfying twist at the end of the story.

Blueblood by Nick Kyme
After being forced to the side lines the Bluebloods are posted to a back water world to recover and recuperate (i.e. their getting pushed out of the fight) as well as work to clear the world from the remaining forces. The story looks at how the influence of the forces of darkness can be spread. Meeting some of the previous characters from the earlier Ghosts novels the story looks at their “fall from grace” and their resurgence. The combat scenes Nick writes are fast paced and well written with some excellent descriptive language.

A Good Man by Sandy Mitchell
A good short detective story this story explores the inner workings of the bureaucracy on a recovered world and the ways in which it is investigated. A short thriller that It looks at the investigation in to a missing adept on a recently recaptured and reprocessed world. The story whilst serious does on more than one occasion hint at the great comedic writing Sandy Mitchell is usually known for but this story definitely shows he can handle the mundane as easily as the humorous. A great short story and one that explores some of the very human side effects of war and one that looks at what some people will do to feel they are helping and how easily that help can become dangerous.

Of Their Lives in the Ruins of Their Cities by Dan Abnett
A new short story from Dan Abnett set between the first two books I think this explores the growing relationship between Gaunt and the men and how things were often even less peachy then the mess we see in the early Ghosts novels. Dan returns to great form with this short story and if this is anything to go by we will certainly be seeing some great novels over the next year. The book looks at Gaunt running a small mission with some of the Ghosts and him learning their field craft and ways, unfortunately the hard way. It also looks at him starting to form relationships with those Ghosts that are willing to listen and understand what he’s done and is doing. The story has some great combat and some really nice prose. As with every story or novel Dan has written (including his Durham Red work) this is amazingly readable and a great story, almost worth getting the novel just for this story alone, a great return to form.

The novel is a great compilation of stories that really fit in to the idea of the Sabbat Crusades and really help give more insight in to the whole background of the area and the battles. Each and every one of the writers does Dan and the Crusade a great service by writing some excellent short stories. Dan returns to great form with his short story and the whole novel is a great tribute to him and his work. A great read and this is a real must have for anyone, be you a ghosts fan or otherwise, this novel is great and covers a huge variety of different aspects of the 40k universe. This book quite rightly receives a solid 5 out of 5 stars and the biggest recommendation I can give to go out and buy it as soon as possible. Excellent book, superb and you need it!!!

Available from:
Sabbat Worlds Anthology - Abnett, McNeill, Mitchell & others

320pp hardback • ISBN 9781849700092

1 comment:

The Longbeard said...

This book really is a great read, (well yeh its Abnett). Just a quick note, the Iron Star was sold in limited numbers as a hard back at Games Day here in the UK last year, i was lucky enough to grab a copy then. Exelent review of a superb book, roll on a new ghosts book, or maybe this long awaited third inquisitor triliogy...

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