Publisher: Black Library
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2021
The armies of the Astra Militarum and the might of the Space Marines may be the vanguard of humanity, but not all threats can be defeated by superior force. Some dangers are more insidious, and to combat them the Imperium requires Inquisitors . . .
Inferno! started life as a magazine of short stories earlier in the life cycle of Warhammer, and was resurrected a few years ago as a series of anthologies. Unlike most Black Library anthologies, Inferno! covers all aspects of Warhammer, both Age of Sigmar and 40,000. It’s something of a proving ground for newer authors, as well as a spotlight on the shorter fiction of some of Black Library’s heavy hitters. That resurrection now has six volumes, and has spawned a seventh in the form of this anthology. The Inferno! Presents label suggests this will be the start of a new series, each highlighting one particular aspect of Black Library’s expansive universes. As you’ve probably guessed, this one is about Inquisitors. And it’s probably the best anthology Black Library have put out in years.
There’s a real mix of authors in this one, from familiar faces to newcomers. And while Dan Abnett’s name might be the biggest on the cover, the real draw is the authors you haven’t heard of. Because by now we all know Abnett, and ‘Lepidopteraphobia’ is as brilliant a story as you’d expect. David Annandale makes an appearance too, with a short story that ties into the events of Ephrael Stern: The Heretic Saint, while up-and-comer Robert Rath puts the legendary Inquisitor Greyfax front and centre in a story with more than a few links to his novel The Infinite and the Divine. But the true joy of anthologies is not the stories you know you’ll enjoy, but the ones that take you by surprise. the ones that introduce you to a new author and send them straight onto your must-read list.
One of these new authors is Noah Van Nguyen, who I first encountered in Broken City. His entry here – ‘The Last Crucible’ – is even stronger than the first, and if any of these stories inspires a full-length novel, I hope it’s his. Also returning from the bleak world of Warhammer Crime is Victoria Hayward. ‘The Carbis Incident’ is one of the more horrifying entries in this anthology, and one of the strongest as a result. In his debut for Black Library Rich McCormack proves that we definitely need more Imperial Navy stories, while Rob Young and Tom Toner both bring stories that prove humanity is far from a beacon of light in the grim darkness of the far future.
The most surprising aspect of this anthology is just how fresh each story feels. I’ve written countless times about how anthologies built around a single idea run the risk of repetition, but the first Inferno! Presents doesn’t suffer from that at all. There’s an odd moment of predictability in a few of the entries, but that’s the result of a lifetime spent reading stories rather than a narrative fault with the individual stories. Yes, there are certain tropes that come with being an Inquisitor in the forty-first millennium, but each of these stories delivers something unique, fulfilling or subverting expectations according to the author in question. Honestly, this is a rare anthology where I enjoyed all of the stories, and that’s something as rare as a trustworthy xenos.
If Inferno! Presents The Inquisition is anything to go by, then in both pool of writers and editorial choices, the future of Black Library is in very safe hands.