Black Library has put out some excellent novels this year, of which I have reviewed some. But in November, their best releases were of a shorter nature. Here’s a quick round-up of four novellas and two audio dramas I think you should try out.
Fresh from her debut Honourbound, rising star of the forty-first millennium Rachel Harrison has The Way Out. released under the Warhammer Horror imprint, this audio drama is a three chapter, claustrophobic affair. originally released in digital instalments, the CD brings everything together without waiting a week between cliffhangers. As ever, the casting and music are phenomenal, but it’s Harrison’s immediate sense of writing that really shines. With a small crew stuck on an abandoned space station, The Way Out neatly subverts expectations and keeps you guessing the whole way through.
Also released through Warhammer Horror is Alec Worley’s The Watcher In The Rain. A quieter, more melancholic piece, this audio drama sees an Inquisitor and a suspect struggling through a warp=spawned endless downpour. With the sheer volume of Inquisitor material available to readers, it’s nice to see a piece that can still surprise. Bleak and chilling in equal measure, it’s a more sombre slice of Warhammer than you might expect, and the ending is just perfect.
Moving away from audio, we come to Series 2 of the novellas. I’ve only read the first four, but all are set to have something for the reader. The first, Steve Lyon’s Iron Resolve is a classic Warhammer tale. An Imperial unit, outnumbered by Orks and cut off from reinforcements. If they can survive until dawn, there might just be hope. But hope is rare in the forty-first millennium. there are not too many surprises here, but it’s an old story told well, and hits just the right beats to rank as my favourite of the four.
Next up is Danie Ware’s Wreck and Ruin. The Sisters of Battle have recently become an obsession of mine, and I’m glad to see ongoing fiction for the faction. This particular instance sees a small group of Sisters tracking down a heretic with the help of an Inquisitor. As ever, nothing is quite what it seems, and soon conspiracies are unravelled and havoc ensues. There’s a lot of plot for a novella so slight, and I’d very much like to see the characters get a novel-length treatment.
Thirdly, we have a tale of the Blackstone Fortress from Thomas Parrott. Isha’s Lament is the best piece of fiction to come from the subsetting, milking the dungeon-crawl aesthetic for all it’s worth. When a deadly plague is accidentally released, humans and eldar must work together to set things right. It’s a short, fun adventure, the slightly lighter tone a refreshing change from the general grim darkness of the setting. The equally competitive/cooperative nature of the Blackstone adventurers is also nice to see, bringing to mind Rogue Trader level shenanigans.
Finally, there is Nate Crowley’s Severed. I can’t think of another time the Necrons have really taken centre stage in a Black Library release, and on the basis of this novella, that’s a crying shame. Crowley’s undead immortals are a curious blend of shambling horde and tragic figures, with a small sprinkling of gallows humour added in for good measure. This is a novella unlike any other, and I’m glad to see Black library’s continuing experimental phase this year.
With so many new voices, and a few old, November was a cracking month. I’m hoping we see more from each of these writers in the months and years to come.