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Why You Should Read Victoria Hayward’s ‘Deathworlder’

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Deathworlder is Suicide Squad in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future as it Faces Unspeakable Horrors

Victoria Hayward’s ‘Deathworlder’ is epically apocalyptic. Violently charged in a universe filled with only grim darkness. It’s a witness to the end of a world violently under siege by an alien force you cannot reason with. Instead, a plague that is nigh unstoppable.

Deathworlder follows the exploits of Major Wulf Khan, a tough and experienced Major of the 903rd Catachan ‘Night Shrikes’. Major Khan is given an impossible task: to lead a elite squad of misfit soldiers across the surface of the planet Lazulai which is under siege by the Tyranids. Their mission is to retrieve a piece of archeotech that may doom or deliver not just Lazulai itself but the entire system of planets that surrounds.

In their journey, this crack shot group of elite soldiers is joined by an Adeptus Mechanicus priest, a Cadian officer and his Cultist prisoner. Giving rise to Hayward’s opportunity to flesh out the lore of Catachan and Cadian regiments, their preconceived stereotypes which is due to no short order of dozens of Warhammer codexes and how a Tyranid invasion can not only doom a world but also misshapen it. Victoria Haywards spends as much time exploring the interpersonal relationship of Major Khan’s squad as she does the effect a ‘Nid invasion has on the environment of a planet. From the halfway point of Deathworlder there’s this idea of cosmic de-evolution as the planet begins to die the closer Wulf’s squad gets to their objective.

The Tyranid invasion of Lazulai is personified like a cancer spreading rapidly across a mildly healthy organ. There are moments of body horror and unspeakable mutations which feel equal parts inspired Lovecraft as much as the Warhammer 40,000 texts. However, Hayward finds a way to navigate the landscape of Warhammer gobbledegookery and explore the relationships between the members of the squad which really serves to humanise them to the reader and each other. Beliefs are questioned, creeds are tested and the tension between squad members hit boiling points with a variety of emotionally charged flavours.

Deathworlder has all the makings of a death-squad journeying into the unknown as they face an un-beatable scenario. This book is Suicide Squad in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future as it faces unspeakable horrors. Until the turn of the last page you have no idea which chess piece is going to make it to the end but you can be sure - Hayward removes them with the exact level of fervor and gusto you’d expect from a universe that has truly gone to shit. There are delectable moments of savagery contained within but it’s the softer moments that break up the violence with humanism that is so intensely relatable. Playing the game is no longer enough. Deathworlder elevates the Warhammer 40K universe.

Buy 'Deathworlder' by Victoria Hayward


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