Review: Treacheries of the Space Marines / Editor: Christian Z Dunn / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now
Anthologies are always difficult beasts to review; nine stories by nine different authors, each with their own merits and flaws. Treacheries of the Space Marines does have a common theme, however. It’s about the main villains of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, the Chaos Space Marines. These are ancient super-soldiers who have traded their souls to the forces of hell (or something very similar) without a trace of regret. The protagonists of these stories are all monsters, each devoted to the utter debasement and fall of the human race, and because this is a Warhammer book, the villains are mostly big, loud and grim.
In many ways, Treacheries of the Space Marines is a horror anthology, out in time for Halloween; each of the nine tales contains something that could be described as scary and the editor has clearly decided to go for a different sort of scary in each tale. For example, David Annandale’s story of creeping madness, The Carrion Anthem, is a tale of music gone wrong and is the kind of creeping horror story fans of H.P. Lovecraft would enjoy. It’s a finely paced piece filled with hope, despair, decay and the collapse of the soul. Anthony Reynolds provides a similar, but less ethereal take on the idea with Vox Dominus, which owes a lot to the classic ghost ship stories of the last century, but with a suitably 40K twist.
Meanwhile, Sarah Cawkwell’s Bitter End is a more visceral, splatter-fueled sort of affair. Not only does it feature everybody’s favourite giant killer space pirate, Huron Blackheart, it unleashes a horde of mutant space pirates onto a nunnery. (This is, of course, a world where the nuns are armed with very big guns and powered armour, so it’s more exciting than it sounds.) It’s a loud tale of murder, mayhem and treachery and put me in mind of the better sort of Troma movie. Another example is Matthew Farrer’s The Masters, Bidding; which reminded me strongly of the old Amicus portmanteau movies. We get a collection of very short tales as monstrous beings bid for bag of souls. It’s a fun little tale, with the sort of classic horror vibe that you need to make this sort of collection enjoyable.
The only tale that feels out of place is Aaron Dembski Bowden’s Throne of Lies; it’s a great story, and it’s a nice companion piece to other stories Bowden has written. Fans of his Night Lords series will love it, and though it’s one of the strongest tales in the collection, it feels out of place.
Overall, this is a good collection, but it is very much more of the same. Horror fans and wargaming geeks with a twisted bent who are looking for a quick fix should check it out.