I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.
Mechanicum by Graham McNeill
Mechanicum is the novel of the Horus Heresy I was perhaps most looking forward to, because I love the Mechanicum. Many books related to the Mechanicum rank among my favorites in the whole Black Library. I also greatly enjoyed “The Kaban Project” (my review in link) as an earlier work in the series, so I expected to love this one. Overall, though, I thought it was okay.
The biggest problem with Mechanicum is, like most of the books in the series so far, it seems like the plot would have been better suited as a short story than as a several hundred page novel. The core of the novel is just a coup attempt on Mars that splits the Mechanicum. That’s a great seed for a story, and certainly a novel or even several, but to support that many pages, there need to be compelling characters. In this book, there are either too many or too few characters, I can’t really pin it down. None of the characters stuck with me in any way.
The worst part was the “normal” folk, an aspect that has shown up several times in the series at this point. The thing about having “normals” in the Warhammer universe is that you have to make them really compelling, because otherwise it just feels like “Why am I reading about this guy who’s working at his shop instead of the CULT PRIEST DRIVING A TITAN!?” I mean, that is why we read Warhammer books, right? As someone I know well would say, “It needs more dakka.” And yes, this book needs more dakka. Mountains of Dakka. SO MUCH more Dakka. Because there’s not enough, and there’s far too much of us learning from the people low on the totem pole and not really knowing or caring what’s happening.
I loved the parts of the book that dealt with the machine cult, and it was interesting seeing how different ideas about the same might expand into a broader conflict like the Horus Heresy. Look, there are Titans in this book, but it never felt like I felt the scale of them as I did in Titanicus, one of my favorite WH40K novels. Maybe it was just me, but the whole time I read the novel, I felt there was something just slightly off.
Mechanicum is a decent novel, but not one that I’d rank among my favorites in the Black Library. It fits well with the Horus Heresy and shows the range of the conflict, but it doesn’t feel like it ever really breaks out from its shell.
Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.
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