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The First and Only by Dan Abnett

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The First and Only by Dan Abnett
Black Library (Games Workshop), 2000, 288pp.

As I posted here, Black Library, publishers of the Warhammer and Warhammer40k novels, has ventured into the realm of ebooks. As part of their promotional campaign for this new venture, they gave away a different ebook each week for five weeks. One of those was the first of the “Gaunt’s Ghosts” series by fan favorite Dan Abnett, The First and Only.

The ‘First and Only’ of the title is the Tanith First and Only division of the Imperial Guard. They are led by Ibrahim Gaunt and are involved in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, an ambitious mission by the Empire of Man to bring peace and defeat the forces of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds of the 41st millennium. The First and Only got their unique moniker because the world of Tanith was destroyed by the forces of Chaos shortly after the Imperium called for a regiment to be created. Under Gaunt’s command, the First and Only has earned the nickname the Ghosts and has become a respected force in the Imperial Guard.

The novel itself, instead of giving us the origin story of the Ghosts, instead follows one of their early adventures. The Ghosts have just won Fortis Binary back from the forces of Chaos and are celebrating when Gaunt is given an encrypted message crystal. Gaunt manages to decipher the message and realizes that an ancient artifact on Menazoid Epsilon is about to be captured by Chaos. The Ghosts, with help both willing and unwilling, make their way to Menazoid Epsilon to make sure the artifact doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

As one would expect with a Warhammer40k novel, the action is pretty non-stop, from one exciting scene to the next. On top of that, though, is excellent character development. This novel was author Dan Abnett’s first published novel (although he had done comic book writing prior, along with some short stories), but even this early in his career, Abnett shows he is able to balance action and characterization for a powerful novel and a fun read.

If you haven’t read any Warhammer40k novels, don’t let the shared-universe environment scare you away. The Warhammer40k universe is populated by general ideas, but authors create their own characters and have a fairly broad ability to create worlds and situations to put those characters in that are not limited by what one would find in, say, the Star Trek or Star Wars universes. Starting a novel, you never know which characters will make it to the end. The more Black Library novels I read, the more I am glad I took the plunge into this shared universe.

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