Friday, October 11, 2013

Guest Article: Heresy in the Library Continues

There were several amongst our readers who where kind enough to inform me that Trooper's first appearance on the Blog was not only well formed, but that they wanted to see more of his work.  Having passed along the good word to the avid 40k lore enthusiast, he has given me his follow up article to be posted for your enjoyment.  It's time to delve back into Black Library's 40k series.

The Heresy in the Library Continues
Hello and well wishes, good readers of the Rites of Battle. Trooper here coming to you with “Heresy in the Library”. This is the second installment of my two part discussion where I discuss Black Library, what their putting out these days, and where I think they are going. In part one I discussed the Horus Heresy and gave my thoughts on the series and its parts. I hope you enjoyed my look at the series. And now, onto part two!

Black Library, in addition to its Horus Heresy line of books, has a staggering array of literature available that is set in the current date of the tabletop game. In the 41st Millennium there is only war…and a lot of stories.  These stories range from a dual storied book for the Adeptus Sororitas (Hammer & Anvil and Faith and Fire), the Adeptus Mechanicum ongoing trilogy (Priests of Mars and Lords of Mars), to the Imperial Guard and the Space Marines. Black Library, since it’s foundation in the 90’s, has produced books, audio dramas, comics, and short stories that have involved every major faction. Major or minor, more than a few blips in the big rulebook’s timeline have been expanded into full length novels. 

In the days before GW’s rapid expansion and the rise of 6th edition, content was steady but not nearly as expansive as it is today.  It took years for the Black Library to build up its base and produce the series that they did. For example, the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies took almost eight years to fully wrap up from publication to final omnibus, with a new Inquisitor publication, Bequin, having begun in 2012. Looking on their website alone there are daily to weekly releases of new short stories, omnibuses, and sometimes new content.  Especially with the new codices coming out for 6th edition, Black Library has made it their practice to back up the releases with re-releases of old content, omnibuses of current content, and new content. Especially cool are the “collections” pieces, detailing marine chapters, weapons, vehicles, etc.

It’s kind of nice. 

For example, Apocalypse came out a few months ago and the supplement book Damnos was released alongside the book, describing the warzone world of Damnos between the Ultramarines and the Necrons. In addition to the apocalypse rules and formations described in the book, Black Library re-released Fall of Damnos into a special collection simply titled Damnos. This edition contained Fall of Damnos and the short story Spear of Macragge. Along the same veins, Black Library released the Armageddon collection, containing the novel Helsreach and the short story Blood and Fire. Both make good companion pieces to the Apocalypse release set.  

In addition to the companion releases, Black Library has set themselves to the task of reproducing their old works, such as works on the Tanith First and Only, the old Ultramarine stuff (older readers might remember Uriel Ventris and Smurfology), and making older works that aren’t in print available on digital format. 

But some new content and republishing of older content begs a certain question: why? As readers from my previous article will note, the Horus Heresy series is currently bustling. In terms of models and printed material, the series is doing very well. By comparison, GW is releasing new models and codex updates, but Black Library is producing…well, not much.  Certainly we can blame this lack of 40k material to the popularity and priority currently being given to the Horus Heresy material. This isn’t to say that Black Library isn’t producing new works, but there doesn’t appear to be much coming out in the near future. Personally, I attribute this to most of the Black Library authors working double time to keep up to date on the Horus Heresy series. Even Nick Kyme (Tome of Fire series) has stepped in to write a full novel, rather than playing support on the Horus Heresy anthologies. 

But, despite the slowdown on novels, short stories continue to be put out. This is due to the success of the periodical Hammer and Bolter, but whether this continues to be the trend remains to be seen. Until then, there is a wealth of both good and bad novels to sink your teeth into.  The Inquisition series mentioned earlier in the article is a good read, as well as the Ciaphas Cain novels by Sandy Mitchell, although I have not finished the Cain novels. Or, if you want to jump on board the Space Marine wagon, the Space Marine Battles offer a mixed bag of awesome bolter porn to lackluster and ill formed stories.  Of excellent note are the “chaos” sides of the publications, with the Night Lords trilogy being one of the best pieces of literature to come out of the Black Library in my opinion.

It’s a mixed bag, to be honest. You can’t win them all right?

So where is the Black Library going from here? One exciting prospect is Gods of Mars, the conclusion to the new Mechanicum trilogy. There are also, no doubt, more Space Marine Battles novels on the way, with The Death of Integrity being the newest in the line. But until then the future of the Black Library appears to lie in the Horus Heresy. But, atleast with the new codex releases we should see old publications being given the new book treatment. And everyone loves the smell of new books, right? 

That’s all for me. This is Trooper signing off.          

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