For a thousand years, the Sabbat Worlds have been lost to the Imperium, claimed by the dread powers of Chaos. Now, a mighty crusade seeks to return the sector to Imperial rule. And at the forefront of that crusade are Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only – better known as Gaunt’s Ghosts.
On the world of Verghast, a grinding war between two hive cities – one loyal to the Imperium, the other fallen to the worship of the Dark Gods – is bolstered by the forces of the Imperial Guard. But bitter rivalries and treachery threaten to derail the defence of Vervunhive, and it falls to Gaunt to take command of the Imperial forces and forge victory from an almost certain defeat.
Title: Necropolis | Author: Dan Abnett | Publisher: The Black Library | Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2 | Pub. Date: 2000 | Pages: 416 | ISBN: 9781849709576 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Publisher
The third of Dan Abnett’s Warhammer 40k Gaunt’s Ghosts series is just as action-packed and grimly entertaining as the first two. The trademark carnage and noble valour is in place, but the structure is different. Instalments 1 and 2 were episodic, effectively short story collections with a story arc that held them together. ‘Necropolis’ is a more standard novel, telling the story of the desperate battle for a city in a narrative that flows through the whole book.
This time the Ghosts are pitched against a new foe, an alien species called the Zoican. They’re also fighting alongside (and often with) a bunch of allies with less honourable intentions than our heroes. The Zoican may be new, but they’re still part of the Chaos, the standard enemies in these books. They’re dark, otherworldly and decidedly evil. It’s the interplay between the various anti-Chaos factions that’s most interesting though, with the politics and intrigue ramped all the way up this time around. Commissar Gaunt spends as much time dodging figurative knives in the back as he does literal laser blasts in the face.
There are also, refreshingly, a lot more women this time around. The previous books were decidedly male, the only exception being the Inquisitor Lilith in ‘Ghostmaker’. Abnett wisely changes that dynamic here, using the city setting to write about the lives of ordinary people, and especially women, for the first time. He introduces a strong new character, the determined gang-girl Tona. She’s feisty, foul-mouthed and great fun to read, making a nice counterpoint to the stern Ghosts. There are plenty of other female characters beyond her, including a doctor and a regiment of female warriors who the Ghosts initially turn their noses up at. As always, the action is fast and furious, the bravery unrivalled and the mix of hard military sci fi and occultism as entertaining as ever. It’s another blisteringly good read from Abnett and definitely recommended for fans of this kind of thing.
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