When we fell into the world of Warhammer 40k more than a decade ago, we were immediately smitten. I love to tell people about finishing Graham McNeill’s Ultramarines Omnibus, and immediately returning to Barnes & Noble to purchase as many WH40k books as they had. I also like telling people about how ordering books from Black Library in the early ’00s was akin to throwing money over a fence and praying for results. It’s a bit better now.
I spend a lot of time trying to get my nerd friends into WH40k. The lore is richer and superior to anything George Lucas ever cooked up, and far more grisly and violent than Gene Roddenberry’s future*. Yes, the gateway to entry is a little hard, and you spend four or five books saying “Who are the Ultramarines? What’s an Inquisitor? Why the hell does that guy have six arms? Why is the six-armed guy different than the three-armed guy?” Eventually it all makes sense and it’s amazing.
The best part about WH40k is that it has something for everyone. From Imperial to Chaos legions, to giant evil bugs, blue fish space commies, CIA agents, hired guns, cyberpunk cities, and everything in between, this lore’s got everything. And now is one of the most exciting times to be a Warhammer 40k fan.
When I read about the 13th Black Crusade, Cadia falling, and Roboute Guilliman returning, my first reaction was irritation. The WH40k universe had chugged along for decades without needing to really progress the story. Why would it need to? The universe is vast beyond words. Authors could write about factions, chapters, and more plots than you can fit in an Inquisitor’s hat from here until eternity and never collide. And stuff happened! Lots of stuff! Chapters fought, secrets were revealed, plots hatched, and Chaos was evil AF. Why in the actual hell did Games Workshop need to progress the story in such a dramatic and grandiose manner? Just to throw a bone to the tabletop players? Pfffft.
I was not a happy camper, and so I resisted reading anything that took place after the 13th Crusade. That oughta teach ’em, right? But then something dawned on me. Yes there was a lot of stuff going on all over the galaxy, but it all felt rather fragmented. The universe was large, but eventually some of this stuff had to effect other stuff, right? Uriel Ventris releasing a C’tan has to have some sort of ripple in the universe, right? The events of James Swallow’s Blood Angels Omnibus definitely have some far-reaching implications, right?
The simple truth is that before the 13th Black Crusade, probably not.
We Need a Plan
With the fall of Cadia and a primarch walking the stars once more, it feels as though Black Library and Games Workshop have officially rallied the troops. The first step is that word of Cadia and Roboute needs to spread. All of Cawl’s wondrous toys and inventions need to spread, and cause reactions. The second step is that Chaos has to now seem both competent and dangerous. Not that they didn’t before, but Black Library has really stepped up their Chaos game as of late, tweaked Abaddon’s successes, and showcasing the legions more prominently. Third, they gotta clean up some of their outstanding threads, which Guy Haley, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Josh Reynolds, and Chris Wraight seem more than happy to do.
The best part is that despite there being an overarching story and plan, the universe is still wide open for authors to play in. The books that we read for the book club prove this. Stories like War of Secrets and Shroud of Night can exist alongside one another whilst still feeling as though they’re part of the major story. They are the side quests, if you will.
That’s awesome. WH40k can still appeal to such a diverse set of interests and styles, while still maintaining a cohesive vision.
WHICH EXACTLY WHAT THE EMPEROR WANTED FOR HUMANITY’S FUTURE YOU GUYS.
Droppin’ Lore Bombs and With Aplomb
For long-term fans, the lore bombs as of late have been ah-mazing. Roboute Guilliman, the man who was long suspected to be healing within his stasis field is back. OMG! Abaddon’s 13th Crusade was not his first successful crusade, it was merely his most successful crusade in a giant Xanatos Gambit™. OMG! Things are not all kosher in the Ecclesiarchy. O. M. G. Genestealers are up to NO good! WUT! Dark Angels are, well, they’re the Dark Angels. GAHHHHH!
With all these moving pieces and books releasing at a frantic pace, I feel it’s now important to point out the best thing about the WH40k universe: the writing is good. Not “it’s good for what it is” good. It’s good. As a person who read a ton of Star Wars books in high school, and has dabbled in several expanded universes I can say that Black Library’s talent pool is criminal. The descriptions are great, dialog is crisp, plots make sense, and the action is killer. As with all universes, some authors may or may not resonate with you, but that does not mean the author is untalented.
WH40k has one of the richest lores, vastest universes, exciting reveals, and strong, good writing. If you’re not reading this universe and you’re a fan of science fiction, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Get with the program. Ask me how to get started today.
*I am forever a Trekkie.