Saturday, April 4, 2009
Dan Abnett's Horus Rising
I'm actually a little behind on my book reviews, I've yet to weigh in on another Abnett book, Eisenhorn, but more on that later, for now I'll look at Horus Rising.
You've gotta be a fan of 40k, first and foremost. Whereas the Eisenhorn novel I mentioned could be appreciated by a wider fan base, this sci-fi tale is fairly insular and requires a good deal of prerequisite familiarity with the setting. Rogue Trader laid the groundwork of the period, the time of the Horus Heresy, when the mighty Space Marines tore Earth asunder in betrayal and brutal civil war, and although the tale was simple, little else was known. The Emperor of mankind was betrayed by his first 'son' who had become tainted by chaos. Good was to win out, but at a heavy cost, with evil retreating to the shadows of the Warp. It wasn't until the amazing illustrations and even more fluff and back story to come out in the Lost and the Damned sourcebook that the bigger picture of the Heresy took shape. Now, this new series of books of the Heresy itself, a bold endeavor, takes us through many chapters of the entire affair from before the beginning to (presumably) the bitter end.
To a fault, there are a host of characters, almost too many to keep up with throughout the book. At one point you have to just let go, enjoy the ride, and if someone's name pops up later on try to remember where they were mentioned previously. Aptly so, the concentration of characters and events revolve around the Luna Wolves, the chapter of space marines led by the primarch Horus himself. I expected a lot of military space marine action, but was pleasantly surprised that the book didn't rely on it. There were battles, and plenty of descriptive combats that were a joy to read, but the book itself looked at the behind-the-scenes life of the chapter, their captains, and their troopers. It also went into depth on the political machinations of the Imperium and just how a great, century-spanning crusade to reclaim the stars is undertaken by those working on the front lines.
A handful of other marine chapters make their appearance in the book as well, with many "ah ha!" moments along the way, especially in dealing with the primarchs. Not just primarchs either, Abaddon, well before his own turn to chaos has a significant role as one of Horus' captains. Being a Dark Angel player, I know it was always kinda cool when their own primarch, the Lion, was mentioned too, even if briefly. Garviel Loken, captain of the Lunar Wolves tenth company is clearly the protagonist of the book, and it is through his eyes and evolution that we are given all of these glimpses of life and turmoil amidst the stars. An interesting element to the book lies in the contingent of artists, poets, and teachers sent along with the fleet. These Remembrancers are there at the behest of Earth to document the progress of humanity's great crusade.
Unequivocally, the Lunar Wolves, Horus, Loken, et al are the good guys, tromping around the galaxy bringing their bolter justice and level-headed thinking to those wayward planets and systems needing to be reminded of their place in humanity's master plan. Along the way there are flair ups, or red flags, that could be interpreted as possible signs of the pending betrayal you know is coming, but nothing too damning. The characters are handled realistically in their superhuman forms and the development of them, Loken in particular, is refreshing.
It is a fairly long book, I'm a quick reader, but it still took me some time start to finish, in the end however it was well worth it. If you're looking to pick up an action packed, testosterone infused 'battle' book, this is definitely not it. Consequently, if you're looking for a little more information on the Heresy, I would say this is also not the book for you, although it does start you off on that path. If you are however looking for a little bit of all the above, as well as plopping down for the long haul and absorbing this series, then this first book of many will find you well.