30 Years of Warhammer 40,000 – Commentary on the choice of books

You may have spotted that Black Library have released an ebook-only collection of novels to celebrate thirty years of Warhammer 40,000. Priced at £166.80, which works out as £5.56 per book, it’s actually pretty good value overall – as long as you’re prepared to fork out that much all in one go! Pricing aside, however, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the thirty novels that are included, and have a think about how well each one fits into the collection.

I’ve split the thirty novels into three groups according to my own personal view on whether each one is a good fit. I’ve not read every single one of these so for some of them I’ve based my decision on word of mouth and overall impression. Obviously this is entirely subjective, and based purely on my own opinion – I’d love to hear what you think, so take a look and let me know in the comments below!

Definitely!

These are the books that I’m completely happy with including in the collection, books which for one reason or another – maybe they’re the best depiction I’ve read of a particular faction, or perhaps they’re just that damn good – I would have included if I’d made the list myself.

Xenos by Dan Abnett

It’s the 40k gateway drug, the book that SO MANY people talk about as the one that they would recommend to anyone wanting to start reading Black Library books. It’s a stone cold classic, and this collection would not be complete without it. No-brainer.

 

 

Yarrick: Imperial Creed by David Annandale

Okay, a little left-field perhaps, but although it’s been a while since I read this I remember really enjoying it. Yarrick is an iconic character, and Annandale did a great job, so I’m absolutely in agreement with including this one.

 

Daemon World by Ben Counter

This is one of those books that long-term fans often cite as a classic, and a highlight of Counter’s work. It’s Chaos vs Chaos on a daemon world made up of the dead – what’s not to like? As an old-school look at Chaos, it’s a welcome inclusion.

 

 

Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

While not quite a stone cold classic, this is easily one of the best in the Space Marine Battles series and probably the defining book (so far, at least) for the Black Templars. No question about it – this is a definite yes.

 

Soul Hunter by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Now this is a classic. It’s probably the book that first showed us just how interesting the Traitor Legions could be when used as protagonists, and introduced us to some of the best anti-heroes in 40k. Has to be included.

 

 

The Talon of Horus by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Where Soul Hunter showed what was possible with the Traitor Legions in 40k, this took the concept to another level, heavily influenced by the stylistic leanings of the Horus Heresy. Another book that needs to be included by virtue of just how good it is, not to mention its in-depth look at Chaos.

 

Crossfire by Matthew Farrer

After the Eisenhorn books, this is the next book that usually comes up when discussing 40k away from the battlefield. The Adeptus Arbites are a fascinating and (still) criminally under-developed set of characters, but this does a great job of showing a different side to 40k. Not your usual Black Library novel, but well worth including.

 

Ahriman: Exile by John French

I’m biased here, as this is possibly my favourite ever Black Library novel. Personal preference aside, it does for Ahriman what The Talon of Horus does for Abaddon, and is pretty much essential reading for Chaos fans.

 

Dante by Guy Haley

The Blood Angels are one of the most popular factions in 40k, and this book offers the best look yet into the details of their culture and recruitment. It’s also the first book to delve into the history of Commander Dante – and it’s excellent! Another no-brainer.

 

 

Dark Imperium by Guy Haley

Whether or not you’re a fan of the new direction 40k is going in, there’s no doubt that the first book in the ‘new’ timeline absolutely needs to be in this collection. Personally I think it’s a great read, and worthy of including on merit alone.

 

Space Wolf by William King

It’s a classic, it kickstarted many a fan’s love of Black Library, and while it’s probably not the most recognisable depiction of the Wolves these days, it’s still a great book. No contest, this has to be included.

 

 

Salamander by Nick Kyme

This is the start of one of the most popular 40k series, and while it might not be to everyone’s tastes it’s probably the defining depiction of the Salamanders, up to now at least. A definite yes.

 

Nightbringer by Graham McNeill

Another early defining work for a faction, in this case the Ultramarines. The Uriel Ventris series is always popular, and the opening book makes total sense to include in the collection. An easy choice.

 

 

Priests of Mars by Graham McNeill

The Adeptus Mechanicus might have had a facelift since this was published, but as an exploration of the faction there’s little else that you would want to include other than this. You can’t have 40k without the AdMech, so this needs to be part of the collection.

 

Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill

Another absolute classic, this almost doesn’t need any justification. Perennial fan favourite, arguably the genesis of McNeill’s Ultramarines series…this deserves to be on every 40k fan’s bookshelf.

 

 

For the Emperor by Sandy Mitchell

40k doesn’t generally do humour, but Ciaphas Cain is a welcome exception to that rule. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but for an alternative view of 40k this is an obvious inclusion in the collection – it’s just so much fun, and a refreshing change!

 

Fifteen Hours by Mitchel Scanlon

There aren’t many 40k books that hit home as hard as this one does just how bleak and dangerous the 41st millennium is. It’s not the longest of books, but it does what it does very well indeed.

 

 

Faith and Fire by James Swallow

I’ve not read this, but you can’t have a celebration of 40k without the Sisters of Battle, and there aren’t many books where they’re the protagonists. Hopefully it’s worthy of inclusion by merit and not just by virtue of rarity!

 

Space Marine by Ian Watson

Here’s where it pretty much begins for 40k. It’s bonkers, it’s really quite far removed from what 40k is like today, but if you dig beneath the surface it’s got everything you’d expect from a 40k novel. This one has to be one of the must-haves for this collection.

 

 

Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight

The modern representation of the Space Wolves to balance William King’s Space Wolf, this is a great story in its own right but does a fantastic job of digging into the chapter’s character. Spot on.

 

 

Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne by Chris Wraight

Inquisitors. Custodes. Terra. Enough said, right? It’s a modern classic, one of the best books to come out of Black Library in a long time, and a very welcome return to Inquisition stories of old.

 

 

Maybe…

These are the books that are cool, but I’m not entirely convinced about them being included. There’s nothing here that I’m outright against, but for each one there’s at least something that makes me wonder if maybe they’re not the right choice…or at least not the choice I would have made.

 Double Eagle by Dan Abnett

It’s a great book, and it’s cool to see the Aeronautica in action, but it’s definitely a bit of a niche one. I’ve included it under maybe simply because while plenty of people love this, I’m not 100% sure it should be included over some other more mass-appeal titles.

 

Necropolis by Dan Abnett

Again, a really great book…but it’s book three in the series! I hear a lot of people talking about this being their favourite Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, which I suspect is why it’s included, but it just feels a bit weird not going with book one…

 

 

Warlord: Fury of the God Machine by David Annandale

I’ve not read this one. It’s under maybe because of that, and because while there should definitely be a Titan novel on the list, I’m not sure if this is the right one – maybe Titanicus by Dan Abnett instead?

 

 

Path of the Renegade by Andy Chambers

This is another I haven’t read, but I’ve heard good things about it and this series overall is one of the few to properly look at the dark eldar, so overall I think it’s probably a worthy inclusion. If anyone’s got any other suggestions for dark eldar books, I’d love to hear them…

 

 

Farsight: Crisis of Faith by Phil Kelly

There should definitely be a T’au-focused book in the collection, for sure. I’ve not read this one so can’t say for certain whether it’s the right one to include, especially as it seems to focus on an older Farsight…but I’m not sure what else to suggest either. Let me know if you’ve got any ideas…

 

Gunheads by Steve Parker

This is a good book, no doubt – but I wonder if it’s the best representation of Steve Parker’s work. I think maybe Deathwatch would have been a better one to include from Steve, especially as that’s a faction which isn’t represented anywhere else in the collection. Interesting fact about Gunheads: the German edition is called Operation Donnerschlag, which translates roughly as Operation Thunderclap. Awesome…

 

Jain Zar: The Storm of Silence by Gav Thorpe

Another one I’ve not read, but it just feels a bit weird to include this and not Asurmen: Hand of Asuryan. Ok, so it’s not like they’re books 1 and 2 in a sequence, but logic suggests it’s maybe best to start with the first Phoenix Lord…no?

 

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight

This is a great book…but there are already two Space Wolves novels included, and I wonder if it might have been better to focus on a different Space Marine chapter rather than duplicating the Wolves.

 

 

Really?

Just the one book here, which I really don’t think should have made the cut.

Shadowsword by Guy Haley

Ok, so I haven’t read this one…but I just don’t understand why it’s included and not Baneblade, given that this is a sequel! Even more than Necropolis or Jain Zar, surely the first book would make more sense to include? I’ve no doubt it’s an excellent book, but I don’t agree with its inclusion.

***

So those are my thoughts on what is included in the collection, including just the one that I really don’t agree with. Here are a few suggestions for what might have been included in favour of some of the maybes – bearing in mind I’d straight-up advocate including Baneblade in place of Shadowsword.

Titanicus by Dan Abnett

I mentioned this before, but if you’re going to include a book on Titans – and you absolutely should – then it’s hard to think of a better one than this.

 

 

Deathwatch by Steve Parker

Again, I mentioned this one earlier. Along with a couple of short stories this provides a really interesting look at the Deathwatch along with just a great story, and is well worth checking out.

 

Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders

Sanders seems a glaring omission in this collection, and this book seems like the obvious choice as it deals with one of the iconic mysteries of 40k. I think it’s a real shame that this wasn’t included…

 

 

Death of Integrity by Guy Haley

A couple of Space Marine Battles books are in the collection, but I’d have been tempted to replace Battle of the Fang with this, as not only is it brilliantly written, but it looks at a couple of cool, lesser-known chapters. I feel that would have been a nice inclusion alongside all the big names.

 

Warden of the Blade by David Annandale

No Grey Knights books? That’s crazy – I think I would have gone with this as a second inclusion for Annandale, rather than Warlord. They’re an iconic chapter, and this gives a modern, dark depiction of a fascinating aspect to the Grey Knights.

 

 

Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe

Maybe more than Grey Knights even, how can there be no Dark Angels books included? This one is an oldie and a goodie, and remains remarkably powerful despite its age – it also provides a nice little hook into the Heresy, along with Gav’s other Dark Angels stories.

 

 

Lastly, I think there’s one thing I’d really have liked to see included – a reprint of one of the old-school short story anthologies.

Something like Words of Blood or Intro the Maelstrom, or even the epic Let the Galaxy Burn. To me, short stories are a fundamental part of 40k – so many of my favourite aspects of the setting have been explored to incredible effect in short stories, and so I think it would have been great to include at least one in this collection.

In fact, even one of the …of the Space Marines anthologies would have been cool, as they’re all still available whereas the anthologies I mentioned first are all out of print.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. What do you think of the books that are included here? Which ones do you think are total no-brainers, and which of your favourites have been missed out? Let me know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter…

One comment

  1. A fantastic offer if you were lucky enough to be just starting out with Black Library and hadn’t read too much. Great selection of books and a great price when you break it down.

    I applaud Black Library for putting this together.

    Have to agree on some of your comments Michael – How can Titanicus not be in this collection ? It’s a definitive Titan book with an incredible level of detail, lore and characterisation. The only reason I can think for not including it would be that I reckon it could be slightly inaccessible to newer readers due to the terminology and heavy reliance on existing knowledge. I loved it but wouldn’t recommend it to my mate if he wanted to read a 40K book …. at least until he’d read a fair bit in the setting.

    I’d also agree on Death of Integrity . Great book. Terminators, space hulks, inter imperium tensions. Classic 40K.

    And Angels of Darkness. Also deserves to be included IMHO. A very well plotted book, that is different to a lot of the more action heavy titles and really stands up today.

    Of the books you haven’t read, Path of the Renegade is a worthy inclusion I feel. The whole Dark Eldar trilogy was a great read, so different than Imperium based novels. Great world building, imagery, characters and scheming !

    cheers

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