Crime and mystery stories have always had a special fascination for readers. I’m no exception to this and count characters like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Lovejoy among my favourite characters.
It was recently announced that the publishing arm of Games Workshop, Black Library, will begin publishing a new series of books and audio dramas concentrating on crime in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The melding of this mature and well developed setting with noir-type crime fiction is a long overdue idea.
If you are unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40,000 (W40K) setting it began in 1987 as war-game for miniature figures. Set in the forty-first millennium man has expanded through the galaxy and has encountered several extremely hostile races. In order to protect humanity super soldiers, known as Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines), were created to fight the endless wars protecting the Emperor and the Imperium. In the years since the game first appeared the background and history of the setting has grown and developed into a rich setting with as much depth and subtlety as Star Trek, Star Wars, or Doctor Who.
Much of the setting has been fleshed out over the years first in short stories published in Games Workshop’s own magazine, White Dwarf, and later in novels that have covered a wider scope of the setting. The prime focus of these books though has always been war. While these novels have often been well written and very entertaining there has been little reference to events beyond the battlefields.
Previously, Black Library moved into a new arena with their Warhammer Horror series. W40K and horror are perfectly matched. Now there is another equally perfect pairing with the pairing of W40K and crime.
In the W40K setting, much of humanity lives on hive worlds where huge populations live in immense, towering centres called Hive Cities. When you consider that each hive city contains ten to one hundred billion people each living in them you can imagine the pollution and poverty that afflicts a disproportionate number of citizens. Crime would be an entirely viable means of advancing your situation.
I have always been a fan of science fiction/crime stories. Books like The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, The City and The City by China Miéville, Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds and many others are interesting looks at the future of crime. I expect the Warhammer Crime series to do the same but darker and more violent.
The first two titles to be released will be Bloodlines by Chris Wraight:
In the immense city of Varangantua, life is cheap but mistakes are expensive. When Probator Agusto Zidarov of the city’s enforcers is charged with locating the missing scion of a wealthy family, he knows full well that the chances of finding him alive are slight. The people demanding answers, though, are powerful and ruthless, and he is soon immersed in a world of criminal cartels and corporate warfare where even an enforcer’s survival is far from guaranteed. As he follows the evidence deeper into the city’s dark underbelly, he discovers secrets that have been kept hidden by powerful hands. As the net closes in on both him and his quarry, he is forced to confront just what measures some people are willing to take in order to stay alive…
Along with Dredge Runners by Alec Worley:
Baggit is a fast-talking ratling sniper with a greedy eye and loose morals. Clodde is an ogryn, a brute with a core of decency and a desire for a better life. Two abhuman deserters turned thieves, at large in the monolithic city of Varangantua where only the tough or the ruthless survive. Having landed in debt to a savage crime lord, Baggit and Clodde end up in the crosshairs of the meanest, most puritanical sanctioner in the city. Caught between two powerful enemies, and with innocent lives at stake, the unlikely companions must think fast and hustle hard before death points a las-pistol in their direction…
I haven’t read much fiction set in the W40K universe lately but this new line of books and audio dramas has piqued my interest once more and I expect to be immersed into a grim dark future where crime is the only law.