Friday, November 25, 2011

Sabbat Worlds - edited by Dan Abnett

So what the hell is ‘Sabbat Worlds’ I hear you ask.

Well, gather round, make yourself comfortable and I’ll tell you. No, that’s my chair.

In it’s simplest form, the Sabbat Worlds is the name given to a small corner of the Warhammer 40K that forms the backdrop for Dan Abnett’s hugely popular Gaunt’s Ghosts series of novels. As with most things, it started small, then grew and grew, acquiring its own history, legends and heroes with each instalment – there are 14 books in the series so far (well, 15 if you count Iron Star, which was printed as a limited edition short story but is now included in this anthology), and it now stands as a fully fledged and recognised corner of the universe. Until recently it’s pretty much been Dan’s personal playground, but now he’s invited a few select friends over for literary sleepover, and the result is this anthology.

The anthology features eight stories, and pole position goes to Apostle’s Creed by Graham McNeill.

Apostle’s Creed revisits a squadron of elite Thunderbolt fighter aces called the Apostles, who made their debut in Double Eagle back in 2004 (so long already? Where’s our sequel?). Graham’ story revolves around Larice Asche, a capable and experienced ace in her own right who’s still trying to find her place amidst the emotionally distant brotherhood of the Apostles.

With her Thunderbolt damaged in a savage dogfight, Larice is escorted to the nearest airbase by an army pilot, who she discovers is an ace in his own right. Impressed, she approaches the rest of the Apostles to put him forward as a candidate to join their ranks. But her peers know there’s a cruel but unavoidable truth that Larice has to face up to, one that she will have to confront sooner than she expects.

That journey is the crux of the story, and it works because Graham really does well to bring her character to life in such a relatively short time- by understanding her, we understand more of the campaign they are fighting and the nature of what she is -and will be- going through, which gives it a good emotional resonance. Not only that, he’s also recaptured the exhilarating feel of high speed, life or death dogfighting with a distinctly 40K flavour. And there’s plenty of it too, which is ace.

No comments: