Book Review: Salvation's Reach / Author: Dan Abnett / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now (Hardback), October 25th (Paperback)
Gaunt’s Ghosts is perhaps Dan Abnett’s best known and most long running series, featuring the brave Commisar Gaunt and his unit of almost-heroes, The Ghosts. The world of Warhammer 40,000 is one filled with over-sized super soldiers, and one of the appeals of the series is that it details the adventures of humble Imperial Guardsmen; everyday human beings who have been thrust into the theatre of galaxy spanning warfare with no real expectation of survival. However, given that Salvation’s Reach is the thirteenth in the series, some of them have made it this far, though one of the pleasures of Abnett’s writing is that you can never tell.
Though the series has gone beyond its initial “Sharpe in space” premise, it still continues to be a tale of peril, heroism and surviving in a hostile galaxy amongst impossible odds. Salvation’s Reach is especially grim; the titular location is a heavily fortified enemy base and the odds of anyone actually getting out alive are slim. As always with these novels, it’s fun to try and work actually who will live to fight another day, and Abnett loves to tease the reader. Just because a character gets an interesting bit of backstory, or is the focus of the more domestic aspects of the 40K universe doesn’t mean they’ll survive to the end of the book. The focus on some of the mundane parts of life are especially well handled; there may only be war in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, but people still love, argue, have doubts, get drunk and go shopping. We also get a glimpse of life in the Imperial Navy, but alas, only a glimpse, which is a real shame as it’s always nice to have the big spaceships go boom. There’s a great gag at the start about the way war is done in this setting, and it’s well observed as well as quite funny.
There are plenty of twists and turns in this latest episode, and enough hope handed out to some of the heroes to make you fear for what will happen next to them. There are also some great nods to previous parts of the series, some grim foreshadowing and some lovely shout-outs to other parts of the setting. Abnett fans will probably already have this pre-ordered, and if you’ve enjoyed any of the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts books, then prepare to be delighted in this latest instalment in what is essentially a soap opera with las-rifles and war. Those new to the series should really start with the first in the series, available in a collected anthology called The Founding.