Friday, September 16, 2011
Black Library Review: Fear the Alien
Posted by Michael Ovsenik
As most readers know, Black Library is the literature company connected to Games Workshop. In recent years they have been putting out a ton of novels based on the games that GW creates. Most people would agree that it is not at the classic sci-fi or fantasy level, but the books are fun to read nonetheless.
I have been reading the Horus Heresy series for a while (I think I am 6 books in, and they already have 21 including a few in the works). The series is huge and daunting so I decided to take a side trip and read Fear The Alien. This is a compilation of short stories by many well-known Black Library authors.
I must say it is nice reading about things other than super powered Space Marines. And the Marines that are in the stories actually don't win every single battle! As a player of a Xenos army it is nice to see your fluff highlighted.
I purchased it at Games Day (last copy!) and got it signed by Nick Kyme and CL Werner. Both really nice dudes. I also was able to purchase a book about some flaming Space Marines (last copy!) for Geneguard and got that signed by Nick Kyme as well.
I'll list each story and then say what I thought of it. I won't spoil anything.
Gardens of Tycho by Dan Abnett
Very well written story. The characters are interesting and you learn about different parts of the Imperium than you'd ever learn anywhere else (Magos Biologis). It is a detective story set in the 40k universe, which I thought was really cool - how would a detective traverse the innumerable red sets of red tape put up by the imperium?
Fear Itself by Juliet E. McKenna
I loved this one. It is about an IG unit holding out against a tide of Tyranids invading the planet. Lots of hopelessness but it is conveyed in a different way than most 40k stories. The descriptions of the Tyranids were amazing. Extremely visceral. The imagery made it so I could picture everything in my head. Spoiler alert: lots of dudes die! This was my favorite story.
Prometheus Requiem by Nick Kyme
This is a Salamanders story about terminators boarding a Space Hulk. The story is very foreboding with the alien presence on board. The genestealers are described very well, and the fights are obviously close quarters with terminators owning face. This is part of a larger Salamanders meta-story that Black Library does.
Mistress Baeda's Gift by Braden Campbell
This is a Dark Eldar story that mainly deals with Dark Eldar society and how it works. I've never been a real fan of Dark Eldar - they're a little too BDSM for my liking. The story was full of slavery, some BDSM, and some battles. Overall I did like it, and it really didn't go over the top too often.
Iron Inferno by C.L. Werner
Orks vs Imperial Guard! I really loved how C.L. characterized the Orks and actually wrote from the Ork point of view. The battle scenes were great and the Imperial Guard were described really well. I wasn't expecting to like the Ork stories as much.
Sanctified by Mark Clapham
A story about another character you might not have ever read about: a tech priest. The entire story takes place on a cruiser in space. The author does well to describe the cruiser and place the setting in your mind. Dark Eldar are the antagonist in this story.
Faces by Matt Farrer
I have to say I meant to read all the stories in the book but I got into this one and I just couldn't continue. The abstract method of telling the story really was tough to read when I was tired from a business trip in an airport. Geneguard didn't finish this one either. It is too bad, I think it had some good ideas.
Unity by James Gilmer
A Tau story set after a battle between the Tau and the local PDF. A guardsman and a Raven Guard space marine are forced to group together and fight. I found this one especially interesting since we're running a Deathwatch campaign right now and I have to constantly talk from the viewpoint of a normal human talking to Space Marines.
The Core by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Night Lords star in this story of a space hulk being torn apart for salvage. The author also speaks from the point of view of supply slaves for the Night Lords. I thought this one was pretty cool, especially the viewpoint of the Raptors. More genestealers!
Ambition Knows No Bounds by Andy Hoare
This one was a great way to end the book. A rogue trader finds a planet that she wants to plunder and investigates. It is pretty clear from the start that it is a Necron tomb world. The rogue trader group has to fight Necrons going through and the descriptions of the alien robots are very interesting.
Overall I'd give this short story collection a 4 out of 5. I would have rated it a 3 a few weeks ago because the eBook wasn't available, but it has been made available just recently. Props to the Black Library for bringing so many books into eBook format.
If you're a fan of a Xenos army or just tired of reading about power armor you should read this book!