Publisher: Black Library
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2020
Welcome to the grim darkness of the forty-first millennium. A time when humanity is besieged by xenos, and eaten away from within by heresy. Where battles rage on countless worlds, stars burn with anger, and the future promises only war . . .
As you can probably tell from that little red triangle on the front cover, Nexus + Other Stories is intended to be a gateway into Black Library (and Warhammer Lore in general) for new readers. It doesn’t begin with the usual sombre statement of intent, but instead a not directed at the reader. It’s welcoming, which is a nice touch. Any franchise thrives on new lifeblood, and with how staggeringly complex some parts of Warhammer can be (does the term Horus Heresy ring any bells?), having an obvious entry point is a smart idea. Just as the starter kits get people into the modelling side of the hobby, so Nexus + Other Stories will get people into the fiction of the game. As such is has a much broader scope than a lot of Black Library’s recent anthologies. In fact, there’s a story for pretty much every faction and army in the game. How much you enjoy these stories depends entirely on your feelings towards those factions.
Space Marines have always been the poster boys of Warhammer 40,000, so it’s natural that they get the lion’s share of the pages here. The opening novella from which the collection takes its name runs us through a gruelling fight between necrons and Ultramarines. It’s the first of two Thomas Parrott stories in here, the second one telling of the Dark Angels. There’s also stories about Blood Angels, Space Wolves, and a Deathwtach squad. Now, if my race through Black Library’s offerings in 2021 has taught me anything, it’s that Space Marines and I do not get along. The stories themselves are fine, but I do find the Marines as a concept to be quite bland. They’re superhuman warriors who are loyal to the God-Emperor. And that’s about it. I get that this isn’t the place to be playing with bigger ideas, but a little variety could have gone a long way.
The other Imperium offerings are much stronger. Rachel Harrison’s ‘The Darkling Hours’ is a story following Severina Raine and the Antari Rifles, characters who deserve so much more than the single novel we’ve got so far. ‘Lightning Run’ by Peter McLean is yet another piece of evidence that Warhammer needs more Imperial navy stories, and Dan Abnett’s ‘Missing in Action’ is a typically stellar piece of Inquisition fiction. There’s nothing mind-blowing about any of these stories, but they’re all solid offering and strong examples of what a new reader can expect from Black Library.
Then we come to the xenos, who I dare say have received more love from Black Library in the past two years than they have in the preceding twenty. Mike Brook’s twisted comedy ‘Where Dere’s Da Warp Dere’s A Way’ breaks through the more serious stories around it with a big orky grin, and makes me even more intrigued to start Brutal Kunnin. Rob Rath (of The Infinite and the Divine fame) dabbles with necrons once again in ‘War in the Museum,’ continuing to build his weird and surprisingly deep corner of the grim, dark future. I’ve been meaning to get to Phil Kelly’s Farsight novels for a while now, and his entry here ‘Redemption on Dal’yth’ suitably whet my appetite for a longer offering. Alas, still no tyranid PoV story.
And that’s the whole point. All of these stories are mere teasers. Little nibble to build up an appetite. At the end of each story are a pair of recommendations on where you should go next, either a novel with the same characters where appropriate, or a novel about the same faction when the story stands alone. A lot of them are among the more popular Black Library offerings, but then Gaunt’s Ghosts is a good place for military SF fans in general. I’d already read a fair few of the suggested reads, but there are some recommendations I’m keen to follow up on. There’s also a handy checklist of some of the major series to start.
Being an introduction to Warhammer 40,000, some of the stories here do come across as a little too neat, a little too cookie-cutter clean compared to the novels Black Library have been putting out recently. But as a starting point, Nexus + Other Stories does exactly what it sets out to do.