The Grey Knights Omnibus

I finished The Grey Knights Omnibus, a bible-sized paperback containing three different novels about the Grey Knights, the super elite daemon-hunters among the super elite super soldiers of the Imperium, that strange Gothic/Roman/whatever you want to call it background to a table top game of plastic soldiers, that has driven massive profits for Games Workshop. Ahem.

The whole thing is quite ridiculous, although mostly entertaining. It’s also a book that is so clearly built for fifteen year old nerds (or recovering fortysomething nerds) that my wife put it down in disgust after reading half a page, which means I get to read the whole thing without her hogging it. (In one of those vagaries of the book market, buying the whole thing on paper is one tenth the price of a digital copy, which is why I’ve been lugging it around with me these past two weeks.)

Each story centres on one particular Grey Knight, a chap called Alaric (which sounds a bit to me like a genetically modified form of garlic). He fights against an exil Chaos demon (sorry, daemon, because demon can’t be copyrighted, and besides, sounds Satanic, whereas nobody ever had any problems with daemons, right?) called Gargatuloth in the first novel, in the second novel fights against an evil mechanical intelligence buried in a world made entirely of machinery, and in the third novel it all goes haywire and he gets stripped of his super solider gear and has to go fight in a daemon-infested world which defies both logic and economics (if it’s a world where everyone is a blood crazed maniac, how come there’s still a market that people go to buy stuff in?), where it seems Ben Counter got bored of writing up the standard Games Workshop universe, and made up something that feels like a weird blend of Moorcock and Robert E Howard. If you’ve never read any Moorcock or Robert E Howard, that is.

By the third book he’s also starting to phone it in. The writing is never something that would win a Booker, but a sentence like

a web of cranes and catwalks above making the place look like a machine for processing its occupants, which, of course, it was

made me throw up my hands in despair and disbelief. Making it seem like I was going crazy, which, of course, I was. More so, the first two books have lots of people in power armour firing bolters (guns that fire miniature rockets at people, because everything in Warhammer 40,000 is over the top) whereas the third book is basically men (and occasionally women, or two headed serpents) hacking at each other with swords and not wearing proper clothes, and there are no bolters, which means it’s not a proper Warhammer 40,000 book.

Or perhaps I was worn out after 700+ pages of this nonsense. But it almost persuaded me to go and buy some plastic solders and simulate a battle. Was that the point?

Ah, well, nostalgia. I remember the smell of the ink of a freshly printed White Dwarf magazine, I remember the comforting certainty that this was something important in life. It’s nice to see that, if only from afar.

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