Nate Crowley is no stranger to unusual stories in the 41st Millennium. His Black Library tales explore desperate alliances between the Astra Militarum and the Orks and citizens on a feral world toiling to create machinery for a war they couldn’t possibly comprehend.
And then there’s the saga of Ghazghkull Thraka, as told by his loyal companion Makari, possibly the least reliable of all narrators.
Nate’s next series focuses on xenos, promising insight into the bizarre culture and motivations of the Necrons. The first book, Twice Dead King: Ruin, will be here very soon, while the second novel is also in the pipeline. We tracked down the author himself to discuss the setting and characters.
“The Twice-Dead King is a full-on epic for the Necrons,” Nate begins. “It plunges readers deep into the inner life of this gloriously tragic faction. It’s a tale of gothic, dynastic feuding with roots aeons deep and warfare on a genuinely titanic scale.”
Nate’s fresh perspective offers readers a very different view of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. He promises “familiar factions and concepts presented in a surprising new light”.
“If you’re not familiar with the Necrons beyond the fact that they’re metal skeletons who aren’t very happy, these books will – hopefully – give you a hefty insight into what they’re about,” he adds.
If you’re already a fan, you’ll recognise all the units, wargear, and esoteric technologies found on the tabletop woven into with a deeper exploration of their inner lives and culture.
“You might even get some glimpses of the faction before biotransference,” Nate confesses.
The hero of the story is Oltyx, “a Necron royal who was once heir to the throne of the mighty Ithakas Dynasty, before being cast into disgrace by his former kin and exiled to the empire’s edge”.
“Oltyx knows he’s fighting a losing battle,” Nate says. “Even if he holds the line, his dynasty is crumbling behind him. It’s a bad situation.”
That’s just the beginning. “Our protagonist eventually realises the Ork horde assailing him is not an invasion force but an exodus, driven ahead of an even more cataclysmic threat.”
“I had the time of my life creating the characters who populate this story, and they’re an eclectic bunch. Oltyx must contend with the mad Phaeron Unnas, who disowned and disgraced him, as well as Djoseras, the heir who replaced Oltyx,” Nate tells us.
“I should probably mention that Oltyx has five partitioned minds of his own, which are all partial copies of his own consciousness. He has a very strained relationship with them.”
We told you it was going to get weird.
“When writing Necrons, you can basically make them omnipotent… which can make for a pretty anticlimactic story. That’s why I chose to write about a dynasty in the terminal stages of decline – it gave me the opportunity to present Necrons almost as underdogs (although they’d never admit it), facing annihilation by an opponent with seemingly inexhaustible resources.
“The flayer curse, which can turn any Necron into a wretch consumed with an irrational obsession with flesh and blood, features very heavily in the story – and it led to some of the most harrowing scenes I’ve ever written,” he explains.
Originally, this story was intended as a single book, with two distinct halves to its plot. But a larger tale soon became apparent.
“Without wanting to spoil too much, I’d say that Ruin is the story of a kingdom’s end, and Reign is the story of a new one being founded. Reign also massively expands the spatial scope of the story – and gave me lots of room to play with gargantuan voidcraft, too.”
The question Nate asked himself when writing Twice-Dead King was “how are they coping?”
“Every single high-ranking Necron is having to come to terms with existing eternally, in a body completely alien to the one its mind evolved to sit within,” he says.
“That’s a recipe for abject madness if ever there was one, and I don’t think it’s something which, as a species, they have any idea how to cope with. It’s something every individual has to either find their own solution to or else lose their minds.”
Thanks to Nate for speaking to us a second time – we really can’t wait to get under the Necrodermis.
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