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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
First & Only
Format: Paperback|Change

on 3 December 2016
My brother suggested I try Gaunt ' s Ghosts as I was looking for something a little different to read. This is my first jaunt via novels into the warhammer 40k universe and I was not disappointed,
Abnett writes a fast brutally paced novel that pulls no punches. The universe is at war and there is nothing else.
The characters in the Tanith first and only are deep and easy to connect with. In all the horror that is the warhammer 40k universe there are flashes of humor, love and loss.
The best part of the writing for me is not just the battles and in depth feel but the relationships between General Commissar Gaunt and his men and how each event shapes it from those that love and respect him to those who wish him dead.
Abnett writes an exciting and fast paced story but no detail or depth is lost. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.
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on 25 June 2017
Fantastic introduction to the series. Bought book number 2 straight away, and can't wait to see it all through. Dan Abnett proves his mastery of 40k lore with a thrilling, character driven storyline that introduces readers to a first person 'mortal' view of the ever expanding and exciting grim darkness of the far future.

Would highly recommend this to any first time 40k fan, or to anyone quite frankly who loves a fast paced, thriller novel
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on 18 November 2003
This book being the first of the series defines Gaunts Ghosts, where they came from, who they are, and why they are here.
Colonel Commissar Gaunt has been detailed to take command of volunteer regiments from the Imperial Planet Tanith. This is Taniths first and only contribution to mankinds crusades. During the process of taking command of these new men the planet is assaulted by a chaos death fleet. Gaunt has to decide whether to save as many units as he can and flee the planet or stand, fight and die at the hands of a superior force.
Gaunts Ghosts are an elite regiment of the Emperors Imperial Guard. Mankinds first line of defence against the horrors of the universe. Dan Abnetts series of books follows this unit and it's characters through their many deployments and battles during Warmaster Macaroths crusade to release the Sabbat worlds from the grip of the chaos abomination.
IMHO Dan Abnett has done a fabulous job of bringing these characters from the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000 alive and is a credit to this genre. This series of books must be read in the correct order for you to achieve the most enjoyment, buy them and I promise you wont be sorry.
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VINE VOICEon 1 May 2017
'First & Only' is the first book in the extremely popular 'Gaunt’s Ghosts' series that follows the trials and tribulations of Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt as he leads the stealth experts of the lost world of Tanith through the battlefields of the Sabbat Crusade. 'First & Only' is very much an introduction to the series that does a very good job of building the setting of the series as well as nicely developing the various characters who will have a role as the series continues. The plot of 'First & Only' itself is quite interesting seeing Gaunt and his Ghosts getting caught up in a power struggle amongst the Sabbat Crusade’s command staff, a power struggle that could lead to devastating consequences for his men and the Imperium as a hole.

It has been a while since I last read 'First & Only' and reading it again after all these years I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Dan Abnett is a very good author and does a very good job with First & Only, bringing us some very nice action scenes, both on a personal level and on a larger army level. The book also nicely demonstrates the variety of cultures that make up the various Imperial Guard regiments from the casual stealth experts of the Tanith themselves, through the arrogant superiority of the elite heavy infantry of the Jantine Patricians to the more workmanlike Vitrian Dragoons with their unique culture and equipment. Unfortunately, the prose does in this first print run of the novel that I have read does include a few errors that could have been picked up with better proof reading, such as one character being armed with a heavy stubber, only for the book to state that he was armed with an autocannon a couple of pages later. Another minor couple of problem with the book is that, while still entertaining, the plot is a little light in places and the story does seem to drag a little in the middle. These are only relatively minor problems however.

The early printing of the book that I have also includes an excerpt from the second book in the series 'Ghostmaker'.

Originally released in 1999, some of the background has moved on somewhat since the book was written but this is only a minor issue and I am sure that more recent fans should still get as much enjoyment out of the book as veterans of the hobby such as myself. Overall this was a very solid start and one that is well worth a high four to four and a half stars.
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on 5 April 2017
This is where, after read several BL novels surrounding the Space Marines and the Eldar, I really became hooked in reading 40k.

Having found that the Marines becoming quite similar (save for Ragnar's foray to Terra), and the Eldar too aloof and capricious to enjoy regularly, I picked up First and Only as a change of pace. Easily the best decision I've made for my reading over the past couple of years, Abnett's style had me really appreciating the pure scale of the Imperium and the plight of the lowly humans living within it. The Guard are the best of the best as opposed to downtrodden, useless hordes, with the Tanith a wild and varied section of humanity presented fantastically.

I devoured these books one after the other, hurtling through a series that I couldn't put down. Having read the rest of them since, it's been intense and gripping all the way, and at times emotionally strenuous as friends fall, though such is the way of the Guard.

I'd recommend this to anyone looking to get into 40k, and also for those that aren't. The characters are great, constantly surprising and really exciting. Dan also took the time to respond to an email I sent him, great stuff.

Men of Tanith, do you want to live forever?
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on 20 October 2009
Recently, I found myself talking to Games Workshop artist John Blanche. At the mention of Dan Abnett's name, Blanche grandly declared that 'Abnett is nobody... I will never read a Black Library novel'. He went on to explain that the Warhammer 40,000 universe was his vision and that the BL would only ruin it. At the time, I found his ludicrous pomposity and self-involvement amusing and annoying in equal measure. But now, years after first reading it, I come to review 'First and Only' and I realise the level of disservice Blanche had handed out to Abnett.

For non-40k fans, I should probably elaborate. Before Abnett's book 'First and Only' (FAO, we shall call it) the Imperial Guard, though labelled as the greatest army the universe has ever seen, were depicted as comically caricatured and bumbling. They were little more than an inept backing band for the Space Marines.
The first triumph of FAO is the dispelling illusion of this. Within a chapter of the start, the Guard are described as highly professional, sensibly dressed and serious soldiers, far from the loud and silly depictions (many of them by John Blanche) of the early 90's. Whilst he does this, Abnett smoothly clarifies the sheer scale of the Imperial Guard and by extension the Imperium. The book describes actions involving millions of infantrymen and tanks.
The second triumph of the book is the sheer humanity of the piece. In a universe that has gone insane, he nonetheless manages to create some sensible, sane characters. The characters range from cheerful to maudlin, but none of them act as if they're part of a dystopian universe - which they wouldn't, because they don't know anything else. Abnett partners the need for a grizzled, mature hero and more naive and inexperienced sympathetic characters very well. Gaunt is a forty-year old veteran of some horrendous wars, whereas his men are relatively new to soldiering and trying to find their way. Abnett has a fierce eye for detail - at one point the fearsome Gaunt is seen grumbling about his ragged socks. Off-cuff remarks about clothing and sweat really seem to bring the grime of the field home.
The Imperial hierarchy is also examined in a way that wasn't before seen. The uneasy alliance between General Dravere and Inquisitor Heldane is a perfect example of this: Dravere knows that his military and political influence are monstrous, but cannot safely try to treat an Inquisitor as anything less than an equal.
The story is fairly simple but bangs along at a thunderous pace: Gaunt and his men are seen idling and in combat, fighting both the enemy and another regiment with whom an unpleasant enmity has built up.
All in all, this book was a milestone for 40k. Leaving aside that it was the beginning of a great series of books, it also undeniably influenced the development of the 40k universe. Abnettine imagery began to creep into other sources until the Guard, and more subtly the Imperium itself had been made-over to comfort more with the powerful visions that began with this book. A new fan interested in 40k and looking at collected sources will see a crossover point where the 40k ceased to be absurd in appearance and became tough, gritty - and in a less clumsy fashion, it became more dystopian. This is a must-read for all fans, new and old.

John Blanche still does scribbles, if anyone cares.
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on 26 June 2008
When I first started reading Warhammer and 40K, I avoided this series of books like an Ork Boyz Bloodbowl Jock Strap. Not for any logical reason, other than lots of books had been published in the series and I wanted to start on smaller series of books and one-offs to see if the Warhammer universe literature was something that I wanted to get into - not that long series scare me after 80 odd Deathlands books !! So after a year or so of reading the odd Warhammer book, and luckily finding most of the set - bit battered around the edges in a local charity shop - I thought I let Gaunt Ghosts loose on my visual and imaginary senses !!

Right from the start of this book your thrown into the heavy hitting and extremely heavy casualty action of the Warhammer 40K world. There is no slow introduction to the characters in a `Full Metal Jacket' boot-camp like way, you just have to learn their personalities as the story goes along. Though in defence of Abnett, the second book highlights in short stories a lot more of each of the Ghosts characteristics, the fall of Tanith and construction of the Tanith First and Only regiments.

Abnett's vision of the dark human 40k world is gritty and full of deceit, double-crossing, Chaos hordes, Quasi-religious nutters (both good and bad), regimental in-fighting and hidden agendas. The gist of the story basically is about a `Vermillion' classed message that comes into the hands of Gaunt, and how Gaunt tries to keep the data crystal from the hands of the agents of Dravere, whilst fighting off the despicable Chaos armies with his newly founded and acquired regiment of tattooed, bag-piped infantry.

In my own opinion, the only real downside to an otherwise extremely entertaining book was that Abnett in the first hundred or so pages, seems to introduce about 100 different characters - though some of them only tend to last half a page or so - reminding me the book `Fifteen Hours'. The story really only concerns about a dozen characters, but many people may get confused trying to picture characters and animals with no description other than a name, or a mysterious movement. But then imagination takes over and it is easily over-looked ! I'd also like to have read more about the Iron Men / Chaos Iron man hybrid battling each other. Some of the later books in the series also have maps, and a map would have been a bonus.

I would certainly say that whilst the book entertaining and a good read, I would also say that it probably is not one of the first books you should try to read in the 40K universe. If you like the writing of Sandy Mitchell's Cain series, then you should enjoy these.

Enjoyable, and will certainly leave you looking on the shelves for `Ghostmaker'. 5 out of 5.
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on 5 December 2008
Gaunt is Colonel-Commissar, leader of the Tanith First - the first and only. With their home world destroyed in an attack that happened as the first regiment was leaving they became the last survivors of the planet, gifting them their nickname, Ghosts. With exceptional tracking and scouting skills due to the unique moving forests on their world, Gaunt's Ghosts are a formidable foe with many victories over the enemy, the forces of Chaos.

When a Vermilion level communication is intercepted by a spy network and falls into Gaunt's hands he must make a decision on how deal with the artifact mentioned within the information. With political enemies wanting the information Gaunt must trust his allies and work to complete his goal. From fighting a war on Fortis Binary and then on to Menazoid Epsilon - the world where the artifact resides - Gaunt faces numerous challenges, each requiring not only his full attention and training, but that of his Ghosts and allies too.

My first venture into the Warhammer 40,000 universe was Titanicus, also by Dan Abnett, and although I enjoyed it I found myself at a loss with all the details and history - I really didn't know what to make of it and it affected my enjoyment of the novel. First an Only was recommended to me and The Founding - an omnibus containing the first three Gaunt's Ghosts novels - soon landed on the doorstep. I'll admit that I was still a little hesitant to jump into the rich history of Warhammer and approached First and Only with a hint of scepticism - all of which was completely unfounded and I thoroughly enjoyed the novel from start to finish!

I think the most important thing to say straight away is that although this is a solid Warhammer novel, it could easily be set in any fictional universe which really helped in getting my teeth into it and enjoying the story underneath the details. When there is a setting with so much history the story can get bogged down in detail, or even info-dumping. It would be unfair to say there are no sections in First and Only like this, after all, all books have to have this to some degree to engage the reader. The difference here is that the story flows well enough to make these sections blend into the narrative.

Gaunt is the main character in First and Only, commanding the Tanith First, although there are also many supporting characters from the higher ranks of this legion. Gaunt is a great character - a leader that cares for his men and doesn't consider them cannon fodder like many others. He is also a great tactician and while working with his men and allies some great scenes come about. Major Rawne is another character that has a good depth to him compared to the rest. With his hatred of Gaunt it instantly makes him a character that you keep in the front of your mind and wonder if he'll do anything he shouldn't. All in all the character dynamics work very well within this sort of military setting and are one of the highlights of the novel.

The story was also very enjoyable and I couldn't really find many faults with it. The progression and events are well executed and the descriptiveness brings it all to life exceedingly well. Set into a few main sections we focus first on the battle at Fortis Binary which introduces us to the setting and characters. It also gives some of the best scenes of the novel during the final assault on the Chaos base. From there it's a steady journey that brings Gaunt and his men to Menazoid Epsilon and the final attack and journey to the story's conclusion. Mixed in with all of this we get some flashbacks of Gaunt's earlier life, revealing precious bits of information piece by piece that keep on making those pages turn to get the full story.

One of the only weaknesses that I could see was this dispersal of information. Some of it, like Gaunt's flashbacks, were set out well enough and contributed to the feeling of suspense within the story, always making you guess at what exactly he knew from his past. Other parts, specifically the whole Vermilion artifact, are alluded to so vaguely that you never really know what it's going to be until the big revelation at the climax. I guess it's that fine balance between giving enough information to keep the reader hooked and guessing to giving a little too much that would ruin the ending. It's really only a minor niggle in what is otherwise a superbly told story.

All in all I can say that First and Only is the exact entry point into the Warhammer 40,000 universe that I was after. Not only has it been an enjoyable novel, but it's given me a reason to follow through with the rest of them in the omnibus - and beyond! Abnett is a great storyteller and the combat and war scenes he conjures are amongst the best I've read. This series is going to be a mainstay on my reading list and with 11 out there at the moment I'll have more than enough to keep me happy!
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on 3 April 2000
Dan Abnett is the Sven Hassel of the sci-fi world! A colourful and descriptive writer who paints a grim and bloody picture of a universe thrown into turmoil. This is the first book in what promises to be a long series. From the start the reader is thrown into well written and choreographed battle scenes fought on a variety of weird and wonderful planets in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe by the men of the Imperial Guard. Unlike past Warhammer books the Guardsmen are not portrayed as men without feeling or fear, Abnett's characters are very human and often struggle with themselves to overcome their own fears and emotions, complex people who one minute show kindness and consideration and the next coldly and ruthlessly kill everything around them. Plus they're not the invulnerable and 'never-get-killed' characters to often conjoured up by other authors - these guys die in droves! The story line jumps back and forward somewhat between the past and the present but the author uses this technique well to let the reader see how current events were influenced by past and sometimes obscure happenings. If you like your books packed with battles and you don't mind seeing your heroes mangled, maimed or killed in interesting and hellish ways then this book is a must. If you're a Warhammer 40K fan then you'd do well to read this. I've been playing Warhammer 40K for years and this book has given me a whole new perspective of both the Warhammer World and the game itself. Keep 'em coming Dan!
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on 16 December 2006
Recommended to me by a friend, I was a little sceptical at first as I never actually read a book based on the Warhammer 40k universe apart from a couple of codex's used for the tabletop game, certainly not a full blown novel.

This book introduces Gaunt's Ghosts, the nickname for an Imperial Guard regiment. No time is wasted diving right into the exciting action, but don't let it fool you into thinking it's not plot driven as it did me. The plot is astounding and has everything you could ever want in a war novel, including betrayal, conspiracies, rivalries, and of course battles. I have to applaud the way in which each plot element is introduced in a creative way.

As much as I enjoy reading about the exploits of the regiment, I also appreciate the wealth of background information on the unit and key characters involved, not to mention on Gaunt himself. Even if you know little about the Warhammer 40k universe you will be able to recognize his daring tactical abilities and how he regards his fellow men with admiration and respect, unlike the typical commissar.

This was without a doubt one of the best books I've ever read, so much so I had to order numerous others in the series immediately. I can only hope you find it as thrilling as I did!
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