And so, after twenty-four days of brand new short stories and audio dramas from Black Library, the 2014 Advent Calendar ended on a high note with a new World Eaters novel. Just to recap, at the start of December I decided that I was going to take the plunge and go for the Advent Calendar subscription, and each day I would read or listen to the new release before posting a short review of my thoughts. For anyone who hasn’t read my reviews of these new releases, follow this link to my original Advent Calendar post and you will find subsequent links through to the review of each day’s release. For anyone who has read the reviews, here are a few further thoughts about the Advent Calendar overall.
First of all, the Advent Calendar 2014 in numbers :
- 25 days of new fiction : 24 days of short stories and audio dramas, plus one novel.
- Of which :
- 7 were audio dramas.
- 13 were 1,000-or-so word short stories.
- 9 were full-length short stories.
- You may have noticed that those numbers total 29, not 24. This is because on the 8th December there were 6 short stories released, not one!
- Of the 29 releases, 6 were in the Horus Heresy series, while the remaining were 40k stories.
Elsewhere online I read various comments from people who were concerned about the cost of the subscription, querying (with good reason) why the 2014 Advent Calendar would cost £65 when the previous years’ cost £25 (2013) and £20. I would imagine that as the month unfolded those people found their question answered, with the range of differently-priced stories that were made available, but for clarity’s sake I’ve done a quick breakdown of costs.
- 2014 subscription : £65
- Total cost if bought individually : £77.70
- £67.71 for the first 24 releases, plus £9.99 for the final day’s novel
- Cost of the audio dramas alone : £34.93 (now available as a standalone collection for £29.99)
- Cost of the short stories alone : £32.78 (now available as a standalone collection for £29.49)
- Cost of audio drama collection + short story collection + Khârn novel = £69.47
As you can see, the value overall for the subscription was pretty good – a saving of £12.70 against the total price, and even saving £4.47 against the subsequent price of the collections. I would add a caveat however, that this is based on an enjoyment of all 40k and Heresy storylines and character arcs – personally I enjoy reading about all of the different factions, races and so on, and have a wide interest across the different series. If, however, you are only interested in specific series/story arcs etc. then the subjective value of the subscription will obviously be different. As usual however, Black Library have done a good job of catering to different tastes not only through offering a wide range of stories (including multiple formats) but also packaging them up in different ways.
Now, I’ve already reviewed each of the releases, and I stand by the comments I made in those reviews. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I thought it would be fun to pick out my personal favourites from within the audios and short stories, as well as a few highlights for different reasons.
It was a difficult decision, but ultimately my favourite of the seven audio dramas was Brethren by Phil Kelly. This was easily the shortest of the seven, at just 9 minutes long, but it was just such a perfect little story that made great use of the audio format. The dialogue between the two Space Marine sergeants was wonderfully typical of 40k, not least in a particular comment from one of them that “these upstart tau must learn their place – not trespassing in the Imperium, but in the grave”!
A close second was Fabius Bile : Repairer of Ruin by Josh Reynolds, simply for the brilliant depiction of Fabius Bile in full mad scientist mode. I really, really hope we get some more of him!
Again it was a toss-up between two, but in the end the story that I enjoyed the most was Honour and Wrath by David Annandale. One of the six Blood Angels stories released on the 8th December, it looks at the Angels from human eyes and paints them as utterly terrifying. It’s typical of Annandale’s writing, full of darkness and fear, but it’s also incredibly satisfying. It’s only short, as all of the micro-shorts are, but it’s absolutely spot on.
Forgotten by Dan Abnett deserves a special mention as well. A Ghosts ghost story, it’s absolutely delightful and once again very satisfying.
Notable mentions should also go to :
- Both of Guy Haley’s stories (The Final Compliance of Sixty-Three Fourteen and Wraithflight), one for being a perfectly-formed Heresy story that reminds us it’s not all about Space Marines, and the other for bravely showing the tyranids through eldar eyes, and making them even more scary than usual.
- Enyalius, In Memoriam by Josh Reynolds for its black humour and for showing a fresh side to 40k-era World Eaters.
- Last Step Backwards by Justin D. Hill for a great depiction of Ursarkar Creed and a classic Guard story.
- Ahriman : Gates of Ruin by John French simply for giving us more Ahriman, which can only be a good thing.
- Brotherhood of the Moon by Chris Wraight for a delightful look back at the aftermath of Scars and another reminder of just how good his White Scars are.
- The Watcher by CZ Dunn for the biggest unanswered question out of the whole lot of them.
That’s not to say that the other stories don’t deserve mention. Personally I was pleased with the standard of every single story, and while some were perhaps more satisfying than others the Advent Calendar as a whole was an incredibly enjoyable experience. I’ve not yet mentioned the novel – Khârn : Eater of Worlds – largely because I wrote a longer review for this one, with more detail on what I thought. Suffice to say it was great fun and I was thoroughly impressed, although I’m still a bit unsure about how short it is. That’s the only area I would have a concern in, value-wise – I wouldn’t be too happy paying £9.99 for the ebook of such a short novel. Value notwithstanding, it’s definitely a good read.
Thanks should go to Black Library and all of the authors for a selection of great stories here – let’s hope the 2015 Advent Calendar is as good. It’s got high standards to meet.
Oh, and lastly…I’m still not sure about the whole necrons and Blood Angels thing. I don’t envy LJ Goulding writing The Word of the Silent King and trying to find a suitable balance for those characters, but despite the strange topic I think he did pretty well.