Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies – Book # 2 (of 3)
Synopsis: Having crash landed on a remote ice planet, Zelia Lor and her friends Talen, Mekki and the super-intelligent alien-ape Fleapit must do whatever they can to survive. A distress beacon offers some hope of rescue, but what else lurks in the ice and snow, watching them with hungry eyes…?
No-one can accuse the Warped Galaxies series of Warhammer Adventures of being slow-paced as Cavan Scott continues to put his young heroes through their paces. After narrowly surviving a planet-wide genocide and barely outwitting a Necron hunter, “Claws of the Genestealer” pits them against the icy elements and the unrelenting danger of the Tyranid Genestealers. The Genestealers are an iconic part of Warhammer 40K lore, most recognisable from the standalone board game Space Hulk. Reminiscent of H.R Giger’s design of the Xenomorph from Alien, these clawed beasts are unstoppable killing machines and I was curious to see how they would fit into the diluted view of Warhammer 40K represented in this series, and whether they would be sanitised or “dumbed-down” to give the children a chance at survival.
I needn’t have worried as Cavan Scott treats the Genestealers with respect and reverence they deserve and for the majority of the book, our heroes have the narrowest of escapes from their bloodthirsty foe. Scott maintains the suspense throughout the book, creating a sense of terror that feels reminiscent of the Jurassic Park series mixed with an age-appropriate rendition of Alien. The Genestealers are portrayed as the deadly threat they are, ensuring that every confrontation feels “life and death” and no-one feels untouchable. The artwork from Cole Marchetti and Magnus Norën is extremely evocative, particularly when capturing the claustrophobic atmosphere of the buried and abandoned ship. There is one extremely effective cliff-hanger towards the end of the book that made me think that one of the supporting cast was done for, and I didn’t expect the last-minute save at all. It was a great moment, and one that made me realise how much I cared for this cast of characters.
Scott’s development of the three main cast-members is brilliant, and I love the way he has created compelling relationships between them all. The rivalry between Talen and Mekki is given more spotlight in this particular novel, and it takes some unexpected turns throughout the story. Their interactions seem very believable, and they are all likeable in their own way. Ultimately, I think I prefer Talen – the awkward loner who finds it difficult to trust and open up – but Mekki is also quite enjoyable as the emotionless Martian, who may or may not be influenced by a certain Vulcan. Even Fleapit, who runs the risk of being the Jar Jar Binks comedy relief, is an intriguing character and while he has less presence in this adventure, I am very interested in finding out more about his backstory and having him interact more with the others.
Much like “Attack of the Necron”, this story is action-packed and sees our heroes reacting to life-threatening situations. While there is the hint of a wider plot, these first two novels have focused more on introducing the characters through the near-death experiences they’ve undergone. It’s an effective way to develop the characters as we get to see them at their most stressful, and they’ve forged a solid friendship in the midst of adversity. Hopefully, the next novel fleshes out some of the mythology of the series, such as why the Necron were after the Diadem that Zelia and her mother discovered on Targian. With the story moving away from the remote ice planet, it seems like we are moving into the next chapter of the storyline and I am intrigued to find out where Scott intends to take our heroes next.
Pulse-poundingly good, “Claws of the Genestealer” is a fantastic example of how to write tense survival horror for a younger audience. A thrill ride from the moment the book opens, Cavan Scott writes an action adventure that will have children begging for “just one more chapter” at bed-time, and as an adult, you’ll be happy to oblige. The Genestealers are a brilliant enemy, and this novel captures the ferocity of these apex predators, evoking memories of those classic 80s ‘unstoppable force’ movies, such as Terminator, Predator and Alien. Less so, the more modern installments. Those final chapters of the novel are breathtakingly good, pulsing along with a frenetic pace that will have readers glued to the page. These novels really are a great way to get new fans into the hobby, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Games Workshop released figures or scenarios that allowed younger players to replicate these adventures on the table-top.
Score – ★★★★ ½
Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies – “Claws of the Genestealer” 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.