Warhammer and Warhammer 40K form one of the most widely followed and highly venerated fantasy/sci-fi universes out there. Now, as Reuters report, Amazon are handing the keys to a TV franchise to superstar actor and supernerd Henry Cavill, who will reportedly be given the right to artistic direction that he sorely missed in Netflix’s The Witcher adaptation. While the miniature scene and video games may be the most famous realizations of the 40K lore, there is in fact a huge literary scene accompanying the fandom which takes quite some digging to fully explore.

Starting at the start

Warhammer 40K is usually approached from the angle of mankind, and the imperium they own that spans the stars. Core to this lore is the near-mythical and yet very real figure of The Emperor, a 10,000 plus year old God who exists within his golden throne. Once mobile, the events that led to the current situation are charted through the Horus Heresy – one of the most written about events in 40K lore. The Horus Heresy book series encapsulates everything from stories of the war it concerns itself through to the creation of the various iconic Space Marines chapters. The Horus Heresy is so endearing and popular that a re-released variant of the tabletop game was released in 2012 to fanfare; it has remained popular to today and has continued to entice new games.

True scale

One of the most exciting things about 40K is the pure scale. From the size of the Tyranid swarm, to the population of the imperial Hive Worlds, to the individual numbers of Orcs currently inhabiting the swarm. At the heart of it all is the Astra Militarum – Imperial Guard – who Grimdark Magazine finds are one of the most fundamental and interesting concepts in the lore. Gaunt’s Ghost by Dan Abnett is a great place to start in this regard, and offers a great opportunity to look at the 40K universe as a whole and start to comprehend the scale of the stories – and its violence.

Looking to the weird

One of the harder concepts to comprehend in 40K is the Immaterium – or ‘the Warp’. An alternative dimension of pure energy, it enables spaceflight within the lore, but is also where some of the darkest concepts of the universe are held – including the Dark Gods and all of the most terrifying beasts of Chaos. Grimdark Magazine once again recommended literature to explore this – most importantly, Night Lords by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, which centers on one of the most twisted and Warp-related legions in all of chaos.

Purging the weird

Alongside the brutality of the Space Marines and the slog of the Imperial Guard is The Inquisition. Destined to root out signs of Chaos, alongside the malcontent forces that also threaten the Imperium, the Inquisitors work outside of legal norms and have a huge remit to tackle their foes. One of the most essential books in the Inquisition meta is Eisenhorn, which follows one of the detectives of the Inquisition, and is a phenomenal introduction into the X-Men like world of inquisitors versus Chaos, according to PC Gamer.

Something different

Much of 40K revolves around the gigantic war between the Imperium and Chaos. Adjacent, important, but less focused on are the other races – the Tau, the Necron, Tyranids and Orkz. For many, the Egyptian-like history of the Necron and the quasi-Japanese, part-Indian warrior culture of the Tau are quite alluring, given their general exotic nature. For this, there are two great books, again according to PC Gamer. Fire Caste follows a war against the Tau from the perspective of the Imperial Guard. The Infinite and the Divine follows the ancient necron, providing a non-human-perspective and giving life to one of the most well-loved and storied side-acts in the 40K universe.

Through these series you can get a good concept of the key events in 40K, the scale of the universe, and the impact of the Warp. The only problem with 40K literature is just how compelling it is. Each initial book is a gateway into a wormhole that can consume geeks and nerds better than perhaps any other fandom – and the content is always being expanded on. With the most recent 40K content update bringing in Space Dwarves once again, there’s a lot to enjoy and a lot to really start diving in within the 40K fandom – the literature providing that impetus with great ability.