Also: Henry Zou Bastion Wars Reading List
I know I have sung his praises before (e.g., here), but I wanted to say again: Henry Zou is my favorite Black Library author. I have great respect and admiration for Dan Abnett, of course, and I must credit William King with getting me into the hobby; Graham McNeill has written some awesome works, and what I have read from Aaron Dembski-Bowden I have also really liked. But Emperor’s Mercy by Henry Zou is probably my favorite Black Library novel, and the three novels and one short story in the Bastion Wars series has really enthralled me.
What I think really pulls me in is the sophistication present in the works. There are themes in Zou’s work that I have not seen in other 40k novels – important questions of culture, art, remembrance, colonialism/imperialism, power relationships, sexism, and more. Another thing I really appreciate is how down-to-earth much of the combat and action is (at least as compared to many other novels in the same vein): I like that Obodiah Roth is merely human, and vulnerable. I like how incredible the difference in abilities is between the Blood Gorgon Space Marines and the mere humans around them. (Note: some of these characteristics I think are also present in Matthew Farrer’s work, like the Shira Culpernia series, which I greatly enjoyed.)
Whenever I read Zou’s works, I suffer the side effect of wanting to build the armies and forces in them. I draw pictures of the Amartine Scout Recon half-tracks; I look up prices of Chaos Space Marines to be Blood Gorgons; I plan out army lists for Cantican Colonials; I consider psychic powers available to Roth’s warband, or the weapons outfits for Khalisadors. The realism and description and down-to-earth nature all pull me in to the story and its actors.
I encourage anyone interested in 40k or the Black Library to read Henry Zou’s work. It certainly seems underrated by the general community. I cannot wait to have more from Zou.
I would encourage you to read the works in the order they were published, although it is not necessarily in chronological order:
“Void Song” (in Planetkill)
Flesh and Iron