Tough choices, made even tougher by the stringent criteria. I’ve tried my best not to skew too heavily to recent titles, but this exercise has confirmed, to me at least, that BL’s output is better than ever.
Chaos Child, Ian Watson
My first ever 40k book. When read in sequence with the rest of the trilogy it’s still pretty odd, but when read in isolation and one isn’t completely aware of the setting, it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Cemented my love for the setting, the fact that Imperial Fists are masochists, Inquisitors always end up going rogue and that digilasers are an essential use of a wargear slot being both dearly *and* cool. OT, but I bought most of the Dark Future books on the same day, they remain equally formative for me.
Eisenhorn Catches a Train, Dan Abnett
Can’t remember which part of the trilogy he does this in, but it’s my favourite of the three and I think I prefer this title anyway. Took Inquisitors and 40k away from the frontlines and made me consider what life in the Imperium might actually be like. The mundanity of many of Gregor’s problems in this book and the very real damage his presence does to the lives of those around him, as well as showing the man away from the rosette are what elevates this book from the rest of the series. For my Dan choice, I very nearly chose Saturnine instead though.
Lord of the Night, Simon Spurrier
This lets me choose a non-ADB Night Lords book for starters, but is totally worth it on it’s own merits. Despite reading this after the Talos trilogy and all of the Heresy to date (in either 2015 or 2016), this book still managed to feel fresh and surprise me with its take on traitor marines. We get gritty underhive too, which is always welcome.
Dark Apostle, Antony Reynolds
For bleak Chaos stories, I could also have gone for Storm of Iron or Siege of Castellax, but this one really has everything I want from Chaos Marines. Self-destructive politicking, insidious Chaos corruption and horrible architecture. Unlike the other two titles I mention, I’ve not recently reread this, so my memories could be overly nostalgic, but it edges ahead for my memories of the denouement.
A Thousand Sons, Graham McNeil
It seems that my favourite titles by my favourite authors aren’t their entries in the Heresy. Odd, that. The anthology restrictions hamstring me in the Heresy, I could easily pick Shattered Legions of Mark of Calth, and I’d also argue that Swallow’s Liar’s Due is as good as anything else in the series, short or not. Anyway, this has great early Crusade detail, non-Astartes plotlines, expansion of pivotal events in the form of the Council of Nickea and some dark Legion secrets- what more could one want from the Heresy?
Baneblade, Guy Hayley
I LIKE TANKS. THIS IS GOOD TANKS.
Talon of Horus, Aaron Dembski Bowden
This one still feels really special; from the very first page the reader feels like they’re receiving privileged information. It shows the forces in the Eye at their dysfunctional best and is full of so many incredible scenes. Even if (heaven forbid) it remains at just two books, the audacity of this series is to be admired, and as such has got to be considered essential.
Rites of Passage, Mike Brooks
I’ve banged on at great length why this personally is a significant book for me (TL;DR
- yay! Gays in 40k!) elsewhere, but even if I judge it beyond that this is one of my favourite 40k books- again we’ve got scope beyond the battlefield, but we have a refreshingly different protagonist, lovely world building, a distinctive authorial voice and mundane hurdles to be overcome.
Valdor, Chris Wraight
To be honest, it could be any of his 40k books. But I like how political this one is, both with and without the capital P. Chris’ takes on Terra are always amazing, and he sets the tone for the pre-Crusade Imperium perfectly. So much of 40k is the nature of repeated failures and this book sows these seeds brilliantly.
Mark of Faith, Rachel Harrison
It’s really well written, has nice grown-up philosophical themes and good action scenes, but more than that has the most emotionally-affecting single line in all of BL’s back catalogue. Every time I think about it, I’m haunted.
The First Wall, Konrad Curze, Cadia Stands, Fire Caste, Primogenitor and For the Emperor are all unlucky not to have made the cut...
Edited by aa.logan, 27 April 2020 - 11:50 PM.