The Black Library is rereleasing Dan Abnett’s Double Eagle, and I couldn’t be happier. My tattered, dog-eared version is so very dear to my heart but I want to buy the hardcover version because it’s shiny. And Double Eagle is my favorite book in the entire Black Library catalog. Bold statement, I know. If you’ve read Double Eagle you’re either nodding your head or wondering why that book. Well, it’s sort of complicated.
Overhyping a Recommendation
Back in 2002 a friend shared a book with me. She knew I loved to read fantasy and this book was her favorite book. She loved the characters, she loved the story. This book, she told me quite seriously, changed her life. If you ever hear me use the phrase “it won’t change your life,” on the podcast, now you understand.
With praise like that, I went into the book with great expectations. Imagine my dismay when I did not like the book. I didn’t like the characters, the story or any part of it. I didn’t just not like it, I hated it. I stumbled through very awkward conversations with her asking me how much I was loving it and me politely responding in vague terms. “I like the parts where … stuff happens?” “The characters are very character-ful.”
For years I would snerk to myself knowing that this cheesy fantasy romance novel changed someone’s life. I mean, c’mon. The book was, in my opinion, objectively bad, and I couldn’t understand how this book could be so dear to anyone.
The only cure for the blues is the reds
Flash forward to 2007 when I was having one of those days. I was pregnant with my daughter and having the worst case of morning sickness. It wasn’t morning sickness, it was all-day sickness. Due to a medical issue, I had permanently lost the vision in my left eye. My husband had some type of norovirus-esque bug. We had one bathroom in our apartment so we were dueling for puking rights. The entire weight of the world was on my shoulders and I was in a really bad head space.
I picked up Double Eagle by Dan Abnett. It was the only book at that point in the WH40k catalog I hadn’t read because I was skeptical. “Oh, boy, Top Gun in space,” I joked. I started reading aloud to my husband to take our minds off things around lunchtime. We read the book in one sitting.
It’s not Top Gun in space, it’s the Red Baron in space AND THAT IS AWESOME. It has a strong female lead, fantastic action, and an amazing villain. The book reads like a roller coaster going down hill. We were literally cheering as we tore through the pages. Jagdea remains one of my favorite characters of all time. As I closed the book I had this sense of weight lifted from my shoulders and a profound realization that things were going to be OK.
This book changed my life.
Epiphany in Unlikely Places
A militaristic sci-fi novel based off a tabletop game changed my life in a small but meaningful way. A couple years later I reread the book wondering if I would have the same reaction and I did, but in a different way. I reconnected to the characters again and reaffirmed my love, but I also had an epiphany: Double Eagle was the right book at the right time for me. And then I wondered, was that romantic fantasy book the right book at the right time for my friend? Had I harshly judged a book and the reader not understanding how she came to the story? For a moment, I better understood another human being, all because of the Red Baron in Space™.
When people ask what my favorite, must-read book is in the Black Library catalog, I always say Double Eagle, but I try to be nonchalant about it. “Yeah, it’s a fun book,” I say, so as not to over inflate one’s expectations. After all, I cannot guarantee it’s going to change your life big or small. I can guarantee you’ll have fun with it. It’s Dan Abnett’s action writing at its best, and it has some really badass scenes in it.
And if you decide to read it based off my recommendation you might, for a minute, better understand another human being. Which is kind of cool for a WH40k book.