On Monthax, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his Tanith First-and-Only await the order to advance into the sweltering jungle and drive the alien eldar from the world. As battle approaches, Gaunt walks the lines, raising his men’s spirits and remembering their most heroic deeds – and the tragedies that have dogged Gaunt’s Ghosts from the day of their founding on lost Tanith. The day that Gaunt became known as the Ghostmaker. This edition includes the additional short story ‘Of Their Lives in the Ruins of Their Cities’, where a deadly ambush in enemy territory forces the fractious Ghosts to rally around Gaunt and save his life – and their own existence.
Title: Ghostmaker | Author: Dan Abnett | Publisher: The Black Library | Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2 | Pub. Date: 2000 | Pages: 320 | ISBN: 9780671784102 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Publisher
‘Ghostmaker’ is the second of Dan Abnett’s Grant’s Ghosts books set in the Warhammer 40k universe. You can read my review of the first book, ‘First and Only’, here on SF&S. The good news is twofold, ‘Ghostmaker’ is just as good as its predecessor and it works as a standalone book. In case you’re not familiar with it, Warhammer is a fantasy tabletop war game, 40k is the SF variant. Originally launched in the 1980s by British gaming company Games Workshop, the games have continued to be incredibly successful and have spawned video games and numerous books and comics.
Like the first book, this is told in a series of long sections about the battles the Ghosts (a battalion of tough as nails space marines from a doomed planet) fight in the ongoing war against the Chaos. Again, there is a story arc that runs through the book, this time focussing very much on the origins of the Ghosts and in particular Commissar Gaunt’s relationship with one of his generals, Rawne, and his young assistant Milo. The book also introduces the series’ first female character, the psychic Inquisitor Lilith, who is investigating suspected witchcraft amongst Gaunt’s men. The flashbacks to the Ghosts’ origins on their home planet of Tanith work well. They allow Abnett to flesh out the back story, whilst also reminding existing readers or educating new ones on some of the key events from the first book.
‘Ghostmaker’ continues with the solid worldbuilding of the first book. It gives some of the individual Ghosts more of a role, and there’s a great section on the sniper Mad Larkin. It’s the rivalry between Gaunt and Rawne that takes centre stage though. There’s a real tension between Gaunt twin roles as a charismatic, caring commander and as the man who robbed the Ghosts of the chance to fight alongside their loved ones.
Aside from that it’s more of the same, but that same is great. Bloody skirmishes on weird alien worlds, bravery against impossible odds and interstellar sorcery. It all adds up to a furiously enjoyable pulp sci fi adventure. Pacy, imaginative and completely engaging. I can’t wait to read the next one.
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