Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies – Book # 1 (of 3)
Synopsis: On the hive world of Targian, Zelia Lor helps her mother search for ancient tech, digging up treasures of the past on the wind-blown plains. They are happy. They are safe. All that changes when the Necrons attack. Without warning, a host of robotic ships appear in the skies above Targian and rip the planet apart. Separated from her mother, Zelia must escape the doomed world, her only hope a scrambled transmission promising safety at a mysterious place known only as the Emperor’s Seat. Launched in an escape pod, she crashes on an icy wasteland far, far from home. But Zelia is not alone. She is joined by a rag-tag group of survivors – the street-tough juve Talen, gadget-obsessed Martian boy Mekki and super-intelligent alien-ape, Fleapit.
I first got hooked on Warhammer 40K when I was in my early teens when a friend of mine showed me some of their Ork figurines, and before long I was collecting my own. This was an era of 16-bit consoles and dial-up internet, so the allure of Citadel paint and gluing a cast-metal figure together had little competition. Fast-forward to now, and it is easy to see why Games Workshop are making such a concerted effort to lure pre-teens away from the likes of Fortnite and Minecraft and get them hooked onto a world of tangible fantasy adventures. I’ve recently reignited my love affair with Warhammer 40K through the excellent weekly partwork collection, Warhammer Conquest, and the announcement of Warhammer 40K novels accessible to a younger audience piqued my interest as I have little awareness of the mythology surrounding the game and am somewhat intimidated by the huge tomes published by the Black Library imprint.
Cavan Scott is an author I’m familiar with, having written comics and novels for Doctor Who, Judge Dredd and Star Wars, so he knows his way around an established sci-fi franchise. He also has a knack for writing for that crucial 8-13 age range, creating stories that challenge and appeal to that demographic without “dumbing down”. The Warhammer Adventures imprint is split into two series: Realm Quest uses the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar setting, whilst Warped Galaxies is set in the war-torn far-future of Warhammer 40K. Of the two games, Warhammer 40K is naturally more brutal and aimed at an older age range, so I was curious whether Scott could create a youth-friendly adventure that doesn’t totally sanitise the franchise. With death and destruction literally pervading every page, Scott manages to capture the sheer carnage of the Warhammer 40K universe, whilst presenting it through the perspective of a plucky group of teenagers…and their hyper-intelligent ape.
Attack of the Necron is an extremely accurate reflection of the book’s contents as our heroes are constantly fighting off the seemingly invincible Necron army from the outset. Scott really captures the frenzy and fear of a Necron attack, and isn’t afraid to up the body count when he needs to, although the book shies away from gore – with the Necron preferring to vaporise their foes. Our heroes are always outnumbered and outgunned, which really heightens the tension in the book. We’re not reading about some tough and heavily armed space marines fighting genestealers in an abandoned Space Hulk, these are a group of scared children attempting to outsmart a ruthless killer. That vulnerability gives the book an edge, and makes it all the more compelling to read. The focus on children gives the novel an 80’s sci-fi feel, evoking memories of classic childhood adventure movies such as Flight of the Navigator, ET and The Goonies.
I found myself really enjoying the mix of characters, with a strong and intelligent female lead in Zelia; an emotionally distant genius in Mekki; and a brash, yet surprisingly sensitive gang member in Talen. They were all well developed, and worked well together as an ensemble. My one nit-pick would be the inclusion of Fleapit – while I enjoyed the character and the way he interacts with the children, he felt like a forced animal sidekick and didn’t seem to fit into the surroundings. That said, I’m sure that he will appeal to children and I do appreciate the attempt to include a non-human protagonist into the series. Whilst City of Lifestone focused more on setting up a series-long mystery, Attack of the Necron is relatively self-contained and deals with the immediate threat of the Necron, although there are hints of a wider conspiracy at play in the final chapter. Both books succeed in converting the grim and gritty feel of the Warhammer table top games into a children’s adventure book, creating a surprisingly enjoyable fusion of the two genres.
Attack of the Necron is a strong, self-assured debut for the Warped Galaxies series which manages to capture the frenzy and chaos of the Warhammer 40K universe for a younger audience without compromising on the fun. Cavan Scott deftly balances the brutalities of future war against the light-heartedness of a children’s adventure, creating an odd fusion that should appeal to all ages. While Fortnite and Minecraft may be tough competition, I can honestly say that reading Warhammer Adventures made me want to pick up my D6 and tape measure, and march straight into battle, so here’s hoping that it encourages its target audience do the same.
Score – ★★★★ ½
Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies – “Attack of the Necron” is currently available in paperback on Amazon, or as an eBook from Amazon Kindle. An audiobook version is available for free on Audible, if you sign up for a free 3-month trial.