Genre: SciFi/Warhammer 40,000
Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2
Publisher: Games Workshop (December 1, 2002)
Length: 288 pages
“When six become one – a story from many stories sums up Ghostmaker”
Ghostmaker by Dan Abnett is a prime example of both brilliance and direness that comes from Black Library, the Games Workshop publishing arm of the company. It has some of the best Gaunt stories in the series and in my opinion, though also the worst, mainly due to the format used by the author. I know, critical of the great Dan Abnett, heresy I hear you say.
What’s book two in the Gaunts Ghost’s series about; it really a collection of short stories. It helps the reader understand the actual soldiers in the Tanith First and Only, setting the tone for the future of the series. There’s some great stories here; Bragg, Cafferyn, Milo, Dordon, Rawne and Corbe all get some advancement towards their characters. Chief Medic Dordon’s springs to mind and also we get a glimpses into Major Rawne and Commissar-Colonel Gaunt’s tenuous relationship – I mean blood feud. Rawne hates Gaunt to his core, he forced the Ghost’s to abandon their world without putting up a fight. Gaunt does really take a backseat in Ghostmaker he is more on the proliferay (I may have just made that word up; I mean on the side, as a side thought), in the thoughts of the Ghost’s as their stories are told.
Dordon’s story is one of compassion and really does throw the viral belief that everyone is expandable in the Imperial Guard. Some sixty odd injured Volphene BlueBloods get left behind as the Imperial Guard retreat. He decides to stay and a rip-roaring last man standing story ensues. I enjoyed it as it was a different take on the standard take of Warhammer 40,000. There’s another in the same vein. It’s in the Horus Heresy in the anthology Tales of Heresy called The Last Church brilliant, read it! Rawne I’ve mentioned, a glorious bastard, one who does the right thing but riles at the thought of it benefiting Gaunt. He is rather delicious in that bastardised way any anti-hero is. In literacy terms, he is the false protagonist, but boy he would be the pinnacle of them all if he only followed though.
Brin Milo, a young lad, around seventeen years old was a butler (of sorts) on Tanith. He found himself helping Gaunt escape the planet tearing conflict on Tanith – Gaunt repaid him by helping him survive that conflict. He is now Gaunt’s aide. The Ghosts have never taken to him as they remind him of home, of those they have lost. Many of them dislike the boy as they question his survival over those they love. Milo’s story shows us this side of the Ghosts and also helps to evaluate the lad to one of the most popular in the series, for both the reader of those of the Tanith First and Only.
His story brings into question his uncanny trick of guessing – he is considered a latent pskyer, which is a really crap thing to be in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are classed as heretics (on the whole) and executed there and then if found wanting. Inquisitor Lilith (from Ravenor fame) interrogates Brin and questions Gaunt’s motives for having such an anomaly under his remit. The story was interesting, but it just turned into one of guile by Milo and I personally found it wanting.
Cafferyn gets a shove into the limelight at some nameless conflict. A naval beach incursion begins with Cafferyn partially drowned and deep in thought – an instant goes by, a flash of the past, He finds himself on Tanith their home planet, surrounded by the conflict occurring around, of those drowning with him. It’s a very real and at the same time surreal moment. A well-used bit of stylistic device plays out. The real meat of the story is to prepare Cafferyn for leadership in the possibly future – a hint, a push there and here. For me it was a rather nothing incident and completely out of place with the narrative previously.
As I writing this I just realised I’ve missed out ‘Mad’ Larkin’s story – now I know I mentioned that I didn’t like some of the stories, this one was hit and miss for me. He is a flippin’ loon in psychological terms – who wouldn’t be in a universe where there’s only war to look forward to. It’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day and all day! Larkin finds himself in an abandoned church during a push to remove Chaos cultists from a series of aqueduct – he ran, or did he. The answers are found when he finds himself talking to an omnipotent (well in his mind) angel, who questions Larkin’s motives for running. Dialogue is had, we’re shown just how close Larkin is to losing it. Didactic comes into play, so often when writers are using a moment of psychosis to show a character’s true nature. Larkin’s real moments are shown when he picks up his sniper rifle. As I’ve said, it was OK, I felt the story was rushed, like many others’ in Ghostmaker.
The real problem with Ghostmaker is the amount of stories going on, which caused me a lot of confusion when trying to base what is actually occurring. There are a multitude of conflicts happening, from the planets; Caligula, Monthax, some nameless beach, some nameless battle. The narrative jumps back and forth, sideways and up and down. I rather felt like I was at the axis watching the stories unfold in a rather unintelligent way. Head spinning, it was my Clockwork Orange moment; being stuck in front of those monitors.
The second book in the series is a mix bag, it’s certainly controversial with those who read the on-going series. A love/hate relationship is the norm. I personally am on that fence per se. I’m in the middle ground, which leaves me feel like I’m not committing an opinion. Oh I’ve got one, don’t try to fit so many sub-stories into a three-hundred-page novel. There.
Contributed by Stuart West.
About Stuart (In his own words):
Stuart: Well I’m a contributor towards Bookwraiths content. When it comes to writing reviews I like to think I’m sat chatting with someone rather than at them; so my style can be conversational and abrasive at times. Read at your own peril!
In the 80s I grew up with books such as; The Famous Five and Secret Seven throw in an uncle who was obsessed with comics such as; The Beano, Topper, Asterix and Obelix, Batman and The Incredible Hulk. You’ll get some idea of the adventures that I got up to.
I’m all about fiction that doesn’t hold any punches that gets stuck in and takes you on a ride where terminal velocity means your fingers are going to burn the pages as you turn them. Apply Aloe Vera where needed! Favourite current authors include (how long do you have?) Dan Abnett, Jame Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow and Anthony Ryan.
Outside of reading I’m a big fan of Rugby Union, I play and watch. I live in the United Kingdom and have two nephews to put through super heroes’ school. I’ve not told them I’m the anti-hero of the story yet.