Reviews of “Deathwing” (1990) and related work

“Deathwing” (1990)

Bryan Ansell (writer), William King (writer).

Read in the eponymous short fiction anthology.

Quasi-Native American Dark Angels return to the world from whence they were recruited and find their childhood tribal culture destroyed.

I bought the book at Helges håla, the local game shop in Växjö, in 2001. The shop existed from 1995 to 2014. Noting my thoughts on the contents to get rid of the book in 2018, the store sticker on the back brought back fond memories of my early contact with 40K, mediated by Janne and Pia Helge. This particular story is not among the fondest.

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“Devil’s Marauders” (1990)

William King (writer).

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“Lacrymata” (1990)

Storm Constantine (writer).

Gothic-Romantic horror. The two elite psychics seem insufficiently marked by their necessarily extreme life experiences.

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“Monastery of Death” (1990)

Charles Stross (writer).

In the 16 years that passed between my first and second readings of this story I had forgotten that Charlie Stross once wrote for 40K. He tries to bring his usual unsentimental hard-SF acumen to the setting here, but stops at the suggestion, in the very last lines, that an order of monks on a feudal backwater world maintains a relatively intact “STC source”. There is none of the dizzying quality of uncontrolled development that made Stross’s later work famous.

References here: Singularity Sky (2003).

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“Seed of Doubt” (1990)

Neil McIntosh (writer).

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“The Alien Beast Within” (1990)

Ian Watson (writer).

Through surgery, a Callidus assassin is disguised as a Genestealer hybrid.

It’s got some interesting asides but the premise is stupid and the protagonist’s body is more sexualized than what is good for the story.

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“Warped Stars” (1990)

Ian Watson (writer).

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“Pestilence” (2001)

Dan Abnett (writer).

An Imperial recollector interviews the survivor of a Chaos incursion for clues when the same threat returns.

Despite not appearing in the relatively early first edition of the Deathwing anthology, this is the finest illustration of Games Workshop’s early vision of 40K that I have seen in a short story. It hits all the right notes: full of colour and character like the contemporary fantasy version of Warhammer, yet suitably grimdark, deftly combining personal and impersonal scales. I do not know when it first appeared in Inferno! before being published in the second edition of Deathwing.

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“Suffer Not the Unclean to Live” (2001)

Gav Thorpe (writer).

Thankfully, this particular story contradicts the general pattern of space opera by taking an interest in the downtrodden masses. I do not know when it first appeared in Inferno! before being published in the second edition of Deathwing.

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“Unforgiven” (2001)

Graham McNeill (writer).

Space opera with a lot of action. I do not know when it first appeared in Inferno! before being published in the second edition of Deathwing.

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Damnatus: The Enemy Within (2008) IMDb

Seen in 2014.

40K fan film. Terribly dull and largely unnecessary action sequences, but a more intelligent script than I had feared, and better special effects.

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Astartes (2018) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

This review refers to the first run, 2018–2020.

A one-man fan film project, made with exacting care, sincerity and ingenuity.

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