Ghostmaker by Dan Abnett is the first Warhammer or Warhammer 40k tie-in novel that I have read.
When I was a teenager I was an enthusiastic player of Warhammer and to a lesser extent Warty Thou as we we called Warhammer 40K. The Black Library books have now become a publishing force in their own right that is just part of the massive Warhammer franchise. It really is impressive to see what the Games Workshop guys have done over the last 20 or so years. I do still yearn for those youthful days when White Dwarf was a bit more accessible and not just a Games Workshop mag – you could have all sorts of articles in there once upon a time, as long as they were RPG related.
Ghostmaker by Dan Abnett follows the fortunes of Gaunt’s Ghosts or the Tanith First and Only regiment that he commands. The book takes us from their unfortunate formation (there were supposed to be three regiments, but when Gaunt gave the order to abandon their home planet, most of the troops were lost), through a number of battle encounters with the forces of Chaos. Chaos seems to be the main enemy nowadays, although I do remember Space Orks used to play quite a big role, but perhaps not now?
The plot is fairly episodic with each chapter based on a separate engagement, but there are threads running through it – for instance the resentment felt by one of the characters, Major Rawne, towards the hard-faced Gaunt, who he hates for letting Tanith be destroyed. But I do get the impression that the book works almost like a comic strip (where Abnett) has his routes, with each chapter forming almost a separate story. I have also read that the book is made up of a collection of short stories from Inferno! magazine, which would explain things.
Between each chapter the story swings back to the planet Monthax where the Tanith First and Only are currently based, each of these interludes serves to introduce the next story in effect. However, we do eventually end up with the last fifth of the book telling us what happened to the regiment on Monthax. It’s quite a good ending to the book – a good way to bring some of the characters together.
The book is perhaps a bit too geared towards war and battles for my liking – it can be unrelenting, and sometimes this just becomes a bit of a blur as you read – one section could be much like another. However, it is well written, gritty and page-turning stuff. I can see myself trying one or two more of these books. Especially if they are less episodic than this one.