I’ve spoken before about how it was a chance encounter with Black Library at a convention that got me into Warhammer 40,000. But what I don’t think I’ve mentioned is the actual product that got me hooked. Curiously, it wasn’t even a book. Sure, I picked up a copy of Dan Abnett’s The Founding, but what really suckered me in was an audio drama. Face of the Void, by James Swallow, to be precise. One listen, and I knew I wanted to explore this grim dark future.
For those who don’t know, an audio drama is basically a radio play. Multiple actors, sound effects, and music. The best ones are between half an hour and an hour long, and feel like having a TV show broadcast directly into your ears. Thanks to companies like Big Finish, they’re a mainstay of many UK fandoms. They were also my gateway into audiobooks, and I doubt I’d be into podcasts either if they hadn’t opened my eyes (well, ears) to the possibilities of audio.
Black Library haven’t released any audio dramas for several years now, and it seems they’re production efforts have been redirected to the animations of Warhammer TV. Nevertheless, many audio dramas remain available for download dfrom the usual providers. If you fancy a more immersive trip to the grim dark future, here are the ones I’ve listened to. I recommend them all.
Saga of the Beast (Parts 1-4), by David Annandale
Full Review Here
Blackstone Fortress: Augur of Despair, by Chris Dows
One of the stories to expand Blackstone Fortress beyond Janus Drake, this is a fun little nibble of an adventure, full of weirdness and grim determination.
Elysia #1: Scions of Elysia, by Chris Dows
Elysia #2: Renegades of Elysia, by Chris Dows
Elysia #3: Martyrs of Elysia, by Chris Dows
The Elysia trilogy takes a deep look at the Warhammer equivalent of paratroopers, framed by the question of possible traitors among their number. In terms of purely military SF, it doesn’t come much better than this.
Titan’s Bane, by Chris Dows
This story follows a group of soldiers stuck inside a stricken tank, with the claustrophobia playing into the strengths of the audio format. It also features my favourite ending to any audio drama.
Agent of the Throne #1: Blood and Lies, by John French
Agent of the Throne #2: Truth and Dreams, by John French
Agent of the Throne #3: Ashes and Oaths, by John French
A companion piece to French’s Horusian Wars series of novels, this audio spin-off is actually even stronger. It takes us deep into the murky world of Imperial agents, and spares no prisoners along the way.
Warhammer Horror: The Way Out, by Rachel Harrison
The Horror range is at its best in audio form, and The Way Out is a classic tale of messages that shouldn’t be answered, and cries for help that should have been ignored.
Blackstone Fortress: The Beast Inside, by Darius Hinks
If you want safari in space, through the twisted lens of the Blackstone Fortress, then this is the one for you. It’s a fun side adventure to go alongside Hinks novels in the same setting.
Labyrinth of Sorrows, by George Mann
This was my introduction to the Raven Guard, and it’s a good one. It’s not often that gothic horror and space marines cross paths, but in this one the combination really works.
Red & Black, by James Swallow
Full Review Here
Corsair: Face of the Void, by James Swallow
My first audio drama was this rare foray into rogue trading. It’s got a great setup, and a cast of characters I would have liked to hear more from. But even on its own, it’s still a wild ride.
Heirs of the Laughing God #1: A Deadly Wit, by Gav Thorpe
I’m not the biggest fan of the Eldar, but Thorpe knows how to write them, and this fairly short audio would make for a great introduction to the faction.
Our Martyred Lady (Parts 1-4), by Gav Thorpe
Full Review Here
Broken Saints, by Alec Worley
Originally released in three parts, this story of the Sisters of Battle gets more into the political side of the faction, contrasting the earnest faith of those who serve with the cynicism of the ones they serve.
Warhammer Horror: Perdition’s Flame, by Alec Worley
Pushing the Horror Range to new heights, this one has some of the most bloodcurdling sound effects of any audio drama. Well worth a listen if you don’t mind the pressure.
Warhammer Horror: The Watcher in the Rain, by Alec Worley
A slow and creeping Horror audio, this one is proof that not all monsters are xenos, and that some of the very worst abominations can be found in the ranks of the Imperium itself.
Warhammer Crime: Dredge Runners, by Alec Worley
Full Review Here
Necromunda: Venators, by Justin D Hill, Matt Keefe, Josh Reynolds
Three short stories from Necromunda that track the course of violence through the city, and show the lengths some will go to in order to survive.
Agents of the Imperium, by Chris Wraight, David Annandale, Ben Counter
Three short stories about Imperial Agents, this audio set proves the diverse means through which humanity achieves its dubious goals, and isn’t shy of pointing out the flaws in such a system.
With there having been no new audio dramas for several years now, and with one long-gestating Cypher audio project now released as a prose novel, it seems that the time of the Warhammer 40,000 audio drama is at an end. Nevertheless, it was a good time while it lasted, and many of these stories are still out there waiting to be rediscovered.
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