By Frans Snackers
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding. Dan Abnett. Games Workshop, 2006. 768 pp.
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding is a thrilling Science-fiction omnibus, which from the get go carries the reader off to the dystopian future of Warhammer 40.000, where there is nothing but war. Dan Abnett, whose Warhammer novels had already sold over a million copies in 2008, is a seasoned writer of novels and comics, and he certainly puts his talent on display in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. In the series we follow Colonel-Commissar Ibrahim Gaunt, as he leads his men, the Ghosts of Tanith, on a campaign against all that stands against the Imperium of man they are protecting, and the politics involved in doing so.
The Founding is an omnibus, containing the first three novels of the Gaunt’s Ghosts series: First and Only, Ghostmaker, and Necropolis. The first two novels comprise of several short stories, which were put together in a non-chronological order, and serve as an introduction to the regiment and its characters, and the doom their home planet has befallen. Necropolis is the first book with an encompassing story arc, which takes the regiment and the reader to the planet of Verghast, where the Hive City of Vervunhive lies under siege of the evil forces of Chaos.
The quick pace that is used throughout the stories is perhaps what makes these books so good. Never does Abnett linger too long, nor does he rush certain parts to get to the good stuff. Abnett sketches a great scene which leaves little to the imagination, but does so using relatively few words. He also paints a convincing picture of the dystopian setting by reminding the reader numerous times how little a human life is worth, and in what horrid circumstances they are happy to live in, not to mention the atrocities that are being executed by not only the evil enemy, but also the good guys. For example in the first book, a conflict between Gaunt and a commanding officer of another regiment leads to the death of an entire platoon of the Tanith regiment.
However, readers that are not initiated into the universe of Warhammer 40.000 might find the lack of explanation of the background, setting and technology of the universe quite frustrating. Abnett has clearly written the books for readers that are well endowed with knowledge of the complex setting, and that presumption works against readers that will have to look up every term they do not know. However, on the flipside, this approach does work splendidly for readers that are part of his target audience, who would only get bored by being explained terms that they are familiar with.
If a war-epic set in a dystopian future where the worth human life is next to nothing is something you might be interested in, then look no further. Dan Abnett writes an intelligently thrilling series which only gets better the more you let yourself be immerged into them.