Author: Dan Abnett
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys gritty military science fiction, warhammer 40K fiction, fast paced battle scenes and depictions of intense siege warfare in a sci-fi setting.
My epic reread of the Gaunt’s Ghosts series by Dan Abnett continues with the third installment, Necropolis. Coming off a victory on Monthax, the Ghosts, along with a number of other imperial guard regiments, are redirected from the next Crusade push to help resolve an inter-hive conflict on an industrial world known as Verghast. This world’s manufacturing facilities are one of the major suppliers of war resources for Wamaster Macaroth’s forces, so when Ferrozoica attacks Vervunhive – both of these being massive cities called hives – the Warmaster deems it necessary to send in the guard units to help the imperial citizens of Vervunhive and safeguard the valuable manufacturing capabilities they possess. The Tanith First and Only get their first taste of siege warfare as the enemy sends colossal siege engines, thousands of armored tanks and endless waves of infantry at the walls of the hive city. Can they outlast the deadly onslaught and save the city, along with its millions of inhabitants, from annihilation?
This is the first five star rating I have given to a novel in this series, and it was well deserved. Abnett had clearly found his rhythm by the time he wrote this book. The imagery he evokes is quite astounding given the scale of the setting; a hive city is a colossal collection of human existence that spans out and up, with an immense spire in the center. These cities are built up over thousands of years and can reach upwards of 6-7miles high, housing countless millions of people. The action packed story sees Ghosts, along with many other imperial units, fighting on the walls and in the streets against the Chaos infected troopers of the enemy hive. Abnett delivers yet again – he is, as I have said before, a master when it comes to writing clear battle scenes and with each successive novel his skills improve. I was constantly on the edge of my seat as my favorite characters fought for their lives in the smoke clogged streets of the city.
Our main characters are all back, as devoted to the Emperor and the memory of their lost home world as ever. They will need that devotion as the siege defense proves to be their most bitter battle yet. We also get to see things from the POV of many Vervunhive citizens; the novel begins with a couple chapter solely devoted to Vervunhive and as such, we don’t see an inkling of Gaunt or his Ghosts until the war between hives is well underway. Those early chapters were some of my favorite of the book as they really helped give character to the setting and they set things up for a coupe of new main characters coming to the series. Once the devastation ends the Ghosts might have some boots to fill. On that note, one of the best things about Necropolis is that we finally have some women characters! I know it is a common complaint I have seen about the first two books in the series. I don’t know if those same complaints made it to Abnett back in the early 2000s when these we written and this was him responding or it was just coincidence, but it is nice to see the gender pool widen a bit for the series.
In my opinion, the best part of this novel, and the part that probably nudged me to add that fifth star, is that Gaunt grows so much between his arrival on the world and the ending. Reading his part in this story was an absolute blast as he finally embraces his role as a Commissar in light of the staggering level of political bullshit he has to wade through to ensure his regiment and the city make it through the war in one piece. There is no denying that up to this point, Gaunt has certainly proven his courage and valor on the battlefield and proven himself a sound commander. What shines through here, though, is his heroism in the political arena of the commissariat. It is what makes him such an interesting character – he holds the title of Colonel-Commissar and in Necropolis we finally see his heroics evolve into a form that embodies both titles, not just the former.
Overall, this was a very solid ending to the first arc of the series and I can’t wait to move ahead because the next arc is arguably my favorite. For any fans of Warhammer 40K and Gaunt’s Ghosts, this book is a must read. I cheered, I cried and I smelled the discharge of las-weapons. This novel swept me away and I didn’t reach out for support.