Publisher: Black Library
Publication Date: 23/01/2020
In the grim darkness of the forty-first millennium, there is only war. From Commissars and Inquisitors to guardsmen and space marines, the war consumes all. Everyone has a part to play, and everyone has a story to tell . . .
I don’t read a lot of short stories. Give me a full novel any day of the week, or a novella if there’s a print copy handy. That being said, I can’t resist a big chunky short story collection when I happen to see one in the shops. And trust me, they don’t come much bigger or chunkier than Lord of the Dark Millenium. With a page count to rival Black library’s formidable omnibus editions and a tiny font size to boot, this could just be the best value for money book Games Workshop has ever stocked. Such is its size I’m genuinely not sure if there’ll be a paperback release. Seriously. You can fit most other Black Library books inside this monster. Hollow it out, glue the pages together and you’d have a perfect hidey-hole for your brandy, money or whatever it is people hide in books these days. But you won’t want to gut the book in such a way, because it’s a brilliant read.
Dan Abnett has always been one of Black Library’s most versatile and prolific writers, and this is reflected here. I don’t believe this is every short story he’s written, but there certainly are a lot of them, from a few pages in length to some that almost novellas in their own right. they also run the gamut from the depths of the Horus Heresy to the Sabbat Worlds Crusade and everything in between. The first full third of the book is devoted to the short stories linked to Abnett’s famous Gaunt’s Ghosts series, while other stories feature characters from his Inquisition novels, namely Eisenhorn and Ravenor. For fans of these series, there are welcome returns from familiar faces, providing new perspectives and glimpses at foundational moments in their early lives. The majority of these are stories I have encountered before, but to have them all gathered together in one place can never be a bad thing. I’m sure that a few hard-to-find stories have found their way into this behemoth of a collection. There are a dozen or so stories tying into Black Library’s infamous Horus Heresy too. I can’t say from experience to what extent they tie into the larger narrative, and I felt these were some of the weaker stories in the lot, but aficionados of the series may well disagree.
Not all of the shorts fall into larger series though. Some link only to each other, while others are complete standalones. These individual stories were almost entirely new to me, and offer glimpses of the Warhammer 40,000 universe rarely seen in full novels. From the ruins of Terra, which has never been more clearly our own Earth millennia in the future, to vignettes scattered across the brutal battlefields of the grim dark future. These micro-stories are among the best in the book, with Abnett even elevating space marines above their usual presentation to become gripping protagonists. There is of course some element of repetition in a collection of this size and scope, but the characters remain fresh throughout.
For those new to Warhammer 40,000, this provides plenty of ways into the massive setting. Even those familiar with it are bound to find something new within its pages.