Salvation’s Reach

Yeah, what the hell is going on with Yoncy?

It’s Halloween! Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished…

In addition to all the other exciting things that I did over the weekend I also picked up a copy of the latest Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, Salvation’s Reach. Since I’ve got nothing else to blog about right now I figured I’d share my thoughts about it in a sort of review (what? I bought it on Saturday, do you honestly think I wouldn’t have finished it by Monday? ;))

I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, but caveat lector.

Well, first up, it’s a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, which means I’m pretty much guaranteed to like it. As long as it’s by Dan Abnett and it involves vaguely-Celtic Ninja-Commandos firing off lasguns in people’s faces while making the occasional wisecrack, I’m a happy man. However there were a few things about Salvation’s Reach that meant I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some others in the series.

The first is that we’re introduced to a lot of new characters. The Tanith First is finally getting reinforcements and that means a whole lot of new blood into the regiment (including of all things a… nah, I’ll leave you to read it yourself ;)). On top of that there’s new Commissars and an unexpected arrival from the past. This is well and good, but having introduced all these new people not a lot is done with them. The actual action focuses on the tried and true characters from the other books, which (while I certainly have no objection) leaves the book feeling unfinished. Like it’s Salvation’s Reach Part One rather than a book in its own right. I have no doubt that the newcomers will get their days in the sun in future novels, but it almost feels like Dan bought all these extras on board and then couldn’t think what to do with them.

Another problem for me was that unexpected arrival from the past. The whole thing feels like a cliche. To his credit Dan hasn’t used the character for cliched things, but having them there feels kind of trite – as if he’s running out of ideas so went with a really obvious one. And accelerated aging? Deux Ex Machina anyone? But hey, nothing heinous storywise has happened with the character yet, so we’ll just have to see how the series continues.

But enough about my nit-picking. What’s good about the book you ask? Two words. SPESS MEHREENS!!

Yes, the Astartes make their first on-screen appearance in Gaunt’s Ghosts (or at least the first I can remember, which is all that counts). I haven’t read any of Dan’s work with Space Marines before, but I really like what he’s done with them. Seen from the perspective of the Imperial Guard the Space Marines assigned to the mission are intimidating, frightening, and just alien. The way they talk, the way they behave and the way they think is so different that you get much more sense of just how changed a Space Marine is from an unaltered human. The Ghosts – who in the past have exchanged jibes with Chaos Magisters and taken out corrupted Dreadnoughts using only lasguns and cacti (seriously, Sound and Fury, look it up) are scared to even approach them. They’re the godlike sons of the Emperor, and they really seem like it.

There’s nothing wildly special about the plot, but it gets the job done. The MkRedshirts are present and accounted for (any newly introduced Ghost with a name starting with “Mk” will be dead within four pages – I guarantee it), there’s action, explosions, gunfights and heroic sacrifices. Shoggy Domor (one of my favourite second stringers) even gets some lines. All the ingredients are there for a good, action-packed read. Including, of course, character deaths.

That’s the big thing in any Ghosts novel of course, who (if anyone) dies? (well apart from MkTan, MkKonnor, MkMapp, MkSal, MkGillikudie…). Well, brace yourself, there are two character deaths in this one. One expected, one out of the blue. They’re both pretty heroic and Dan grants the unexpected character some closure before they go, which is good to see since they were another of my favourites. Some nice last words too, sticking the middle finger up at the enemies of the Emperor in true Ghosts fashion. Good, albiet sad, deaths.

Finally, there’s a throwaway reference to a mystery that’s been hanging around since Necropolis. It’s a small thing, such a small thing that I wondered if it was a typo in my copy, so I can’t tell if Dan’s preparing to drop a second shoe that’s been hanging since the Ghosts were at Vervunhive, or if he’s just having a laugh at something the editors missed. He doesn’t do anything with it in this book, but I’m intrigued as to what the next novel will bring.

So, that’s it. Salvation’s Reach. More of a His Last Command than a Necropolis, but still a bloody good read. Bring on the next one Dan! 😉

(PS: Also meant to say that someone obviously handed Dan a Forgeworld catalogue. The story is littered with Forgeworld spacecraft, Forgeworld vehicles, and Forgeworld Spess Mehreen boarding armour. Get a hold of your own copy and tick them off as they come! :))

(PPS: Oh yeah, there’s also a third character death, but it’s a minor character who probably had it coming. So there.)

The Life and Times of Ibram Gaunt

Do you want to live forever? Not if I have to do this again.

I could write an entry about the various things I’ve been doing lately, but frankly they’re all rather boring (well, apart from winning a quiz night at Justin’s tennis club).  So instead I’ve compiled a timeline of Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series.

(Hey, I didn’t go to Supanova – I had to do something spectacularly nerdy with the weekend).

So here we go, a partial and even somewhat reliable timeline of important events regarding the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, compiled from various sources including the somewhat rare Sabbat Worlds Crusade background book (Yes. I own a copy. Read it and weep :))

The Original Crusade
~500.M35: Birth of Saint Sabbat.
~515.M35: Start of Sabbat’s Crusade.
~620.M35: Saint Sabbat martyred on Harkalon.

Heldane and Ravenor
~220.M41: Birth of Golesh Constantine Pheppos Heldane.
~235.M41: Heldane apprenticed to Inquisitor Commodus Voke.
240.M41: Heldane horribly scarred during investigation of House Glaw. He later (prior to 338.M41) has surgery to enhance the resulting terrifying appearance.
251.M41: Three Astartes of the Iron Snakes are sent to Formal Prime to investigate a warp incursion. Only two return to Ithaka.
278.M41: Heldane rises to the rank of full Inquisitor.
304.M41: Birth of Gideon Ravenor.
338.M41: Ravenor horrifically injured in the Thracian Atrocity and confined to a Force Chair.
386.M41: Heldane suffers terrible injuries while facing the daemonhost Cherubael. He undergoes extensive augmetic reconstruction and takes many years to recover.

Lead up to Slaydo’s Crusade and Gaunt’s Background
600.M41: Chaos attacks on the Sabbat Worlds increase notably.
~605.M41 Birth of Slaydo.
~702.M41 Birth of Ayatani Zweil.
707.M41: Birth of Tolin Dorden.
~717.M41: Birth of Hlaine Larkin. Birth of Macaroth.
~722.M41: Birth of Veynom Blenner.
724.M41: Birth of Ibram Gaunt.
732.M41: Slaydo writes A Reasoned Approach to the Reconquest of the Sabbat Territories.
735.M41: Death of Gaunt’s father on Kentaur (Gaunt aged 11).
736.M41: The 12 year old Gaunt is sent to the Schola Progenium on Ignatius Cardinal.
741.M41: The Civitas Imperialis is officially suspended across the Sabbat Worlds. The worlds are officially considered lost. Birth of Thuro of NorthCol on Verghast.745.M41: Twenty-one year old Cadet Commissar Gaunt fights separatists on Darendara with the Hyrkans under Commissar Oktar. He encounters a Psyker who makes numerous predictions about his future.
746.M41: Birth of Ban Daur
747.M41: The 23 year old Gaunt fights Orks with the Hyrkans and Oktar on Gylatus Decimus. He is promoted to full Commissar on the death of Oktar by Ork poisons.
749.M41: The 25 year old Commissar Gaunt avenges his father on Khedd 1173. Birth of Dermon Caffran. Birth of Kolding.
750.M41: Birth of Brin Milo.
752.M41: Birth of Tona Criid
752-754.M41: Slaydo rises to prominence and achieves victory in the Khulan Wars.
754.M41 – Tempest class frigate Highness Sir Armaduke is placed into reserve after suffering substantial damage in the Khulan Wars.

The Sabbat Worlds Crusade
755.M41: Slaydo is promoted to Warmaster and appointed to lead the Crusade to liberate the Sabbat Worlds.
755.M41: Commissar Gaunt and a team of Hyrkans investigate an ancient shrine on Formal Prime.
757.M41: Thirty-three year old Gaunt is assigned to the newly founded 8th Hyrkans.
759.M41: Birth of Dalin Kolea/Criid
~762.M41: On Verghast, Thuro moves from Ferrozoica Hive to NorthCol.
765.M41: The assault on Balhaut. Gaunt (aged 40) and the 8th Hyrkans bring down the Tower of the Plutocrat. Slaydo is mortally injured defeating Archon Nadzybar but promotes Gaunt to Colonel Commissar on his deathbed. Urlock Gaur assumes the position of Archon.
765.M41: Three new regiments are raised on Tanith. Gaunt is sent to take command and rescues around half of them from the planet’s destruction on the day of Founding.
765.M41: The Tanith first and Only engage in their first action on Blackshard.
765.M41: The Tanith assault Voltis City on Voltemand and are then redeployed to the ruins of Kosdorf.
765.M41: A Vermillion level message is relayed by ships scouting the Nubila Reach.
765.M41: The Tanith fight on Fortis Binary and Menazoid Epsilon, then are deployed to Bucephalon and Caligula.
767.M41: The Tanith fight Orks on Typhon 8, then Chaos on Nacedon and Ramillies 268-43.
768.M41: The Tanith take part in the assault on Sapiencia and are then deployed to Monthax. On Verghast, Thuro of NorthCol carves a frieze for the portico of the NorthCol Imperial Hospice.
769.M41: The Tanith defend Vervunhive on Verghast. House Chass commissions Thuro of NorthCol to sculpt a memorial to the victory. Many Verghastites join the Tanith First under the Act of Consolation.
770.M41: The Tanith fight on Hagia.
771.M41: The Tanith take part in the liberation of Phantine.
772.M41: The Tanith fight on Aexe Cardinal.
773.M41: Saint Sabbat is reborn on Herodor. The Tanith are redeployed at her request and fight alongside her. The Phantine Air Corps fight on Ouranberg.
~774.M41 – Captain Wilder of the Belladon 81st Recon requests a regimental Colours Band.
774.M41: A specialist team of 12 Ghosts led by 50 year old Commissar Gaunt are sent to the Chaos held world of Gereon.
~775.M41: The under-strength Tanith First and Only is merged with the Belladon 81st Recon to form the 81st/1st Recon, and the new regiment is deployed to Ancreon Sextus.
776.M41: Gaunt’s team return from Gereon and are reunited with the 81st/1st on Ancreon Sextus. Gaunt re-assumes command and the Tanith First and Only is reformed, absorbing the Belladon personnel from the 81st.
777.M41: The Tanith assist in the liberation of Gereon.
778.M41: The Tanith defend the Hinzerhaus on Jago. The Belladon Colours Band requested by Captain Wilder arrives on Ancreon Sextus. They spend the next three years trying to catch up with the Ghosts.
779.M41: The Tanith and 55 year old Gaunt arrive on Balhaut after being rotated off the front line.
779.M41: Titan Legio Invicta diverts from the Crusade to assist the Forge World of Orestes against a Chaos invasion.
780.M41: Gaunt and the Tanith battle a unit of Blood Pact infiltrators on Balhaut.
781.M41: Gaunt and the Tanith lead an attack on Salvation’s Reach. A warp translation error during their return jumps them 10 years forwards to 791.M41
~784.M41: Gaunt is ‘posthumously’ promoted to Lord Militant Commander
791.M41: The Ghosts defend Urdesh against the Sons of Sek. Gaunt is appointed Lord Executor.

Later Events
812.M41: Death of Major August Kaminsky of the Phantine Air Corps
829.M41: Thuro of NorthCol records his memoirs. The remains of Vervunhive have been completely demolished.
999.M41: Necron Overlord Trazyn the Infinite releases captured Imperial forces – Including Tanith snipers – from his Tesseract Labyrinths to aid in the defence of Cadia

From this timeline it’s possible to construct a chronological reading order for the series – by which I mean reading all the various fragments of stories (particularly in First and Only and Ghostmaker which were largely pieced together from previously published short stories) in the order that they happened. It would be madness to read the series this way for the first time, but it could be fun for a re-reading. So, here we go…

1: The Fissure (optional prequel)
2: First and Only – Manzipor
3: First and Only – Ignatius Cardinal
4: First and Only – Darendara (Part 1)
5: First and Only – Darendara (Part 2)
6: First and Only – Gylatus Decimus
7: First and Only – Khedd 1173
8: A Ghost Return
9: Blood Pact – Epilogue
10: Ghostmaker – Ghostmaker
11: Ghostmaker – A Blooding
12: Of their Lives in the Ruins of their Cities
13:  First and Only – Nubila Reach
14: First and Only – Fortis Binary
15: First and Only – Cracia City, Pyrites
16: First and Only – The Empyrean
17: First and Only – Menazoid Epsilon
18: Ghostmaker – The Angel of Bucephalon
19: Ghostmaker – The Hollows of Hell
20: Ghostmaker – That Hideous Strength
21: Ghostmaker – Permafrost
22: Ghostmaker – Blood Oath
23: Ghostmaker – Sound and Fury
24: Ghostmaker – A Simple Plan
25: Ghostmaker – Witch Hunt
26: Ghostmaker – All connecting text between chapters
27: Ghostmaker – Some Dark and Secret Purpose
28: Necropolis
29: In Remembrance
30: Honour Guard
31: The Guns of Tanith
32: Straight Silver
33: Sabbat Martyr
34: Double Eagle (optional)

35: Apostle’s Creed (optional)
36: Traitor General
37: His Last Command
38: The Armour of Contempt
39: Only in Death
40: The Iron Star
41: Titanicus (optional)

42: Blood Pact (Except Epilogue)
43: Salvation’s Reach
44: Family
45: You Never Know
46: Viduity
47: Ghosts and Bad Shadows
48: Killbox
49: The Warmaster
50: Anarch

There. That should keep you busy for a while 🙂

Edit March 2014: Updated the timeline with some info on the background of Inquisitors Heldane and Ravenor (author of Gaunt’s beloved Spheres of Longing). Added Salvation’s Reach to the timeline and reading list.

Edit July 2015: Updated the timeline to include stories from the Sabbat Crusade Anthology.

Edit March 2017: Added details of Thuro of NorthCol

Edit December 2017: Added Tanith involvement in the Fall of Cadia

Edit February 2019: Added The Warmaster, Killbox, Anarch, Double Eagle and Apostle’s Creed

Edit June 2019: Added a few details concerning the Highness Sir Amaduke and the regiment’s Colours Band.