Reading the Horus Heresy, Primarchs Book 3: “Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero” by Graham McNeill

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.

Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero by Graham McNeill

Magnus the Red and the Thousand Sons Legion have become one of my favorites to read about in the Horus Heresy. I’ve basically loved every time they showed up, and was excited to dive into a book about their Primarch, Magnus the Red.

The story here is largely a flashback to a time when Magnus and the Primarch of the Iron Warriors worked together to attempt to save the lives of thousands of Imperial citizens when a geological disaster strikes. Of course, the crap really hits the fan when resistance to their evacuation encounters resistance from a cultic group following an ancient deity they call the Stormlord or Shaitan.

The book is light on political intrigue, though it has some, and heavy on action. It is more thoughtful than might be expected, though, given its relatively short span. Readers get insight into the Psyker power of Magnus and his Sons, as well as additional fanning of the flames of the Heresy. Like the other Primarch novels to this point, it doesn’t feature the eponymous character as much as I’d have liked, but for this book it made sense. The Thousand Sons are so intertwined with Magnus that separating them seems wrong.

I enjoyed Magnus the Red quite a bit. It provided a fairly deep insight into the character both of the Primarch and his legion, while seeming to set things up in the space of a broader story.

(All Links to Amazon are Affilliates.)

Links

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.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is on Eclectic Theist!

I’m happy to announce that this blog, Eclectic Theist, is part of the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What does that mean? Well, it means I’m part of a team of judges that will be filtering through 30-some self-published science fiction novels, narrowing it down to some amount of novels to read, picking some semi-finalists, and ultimately helping to decide an overall winner of the best science fiction novel out of over 300 entrants! I’m thrilled to be part of this! Readers of this blog know I’m enthusiastic about indie publishing. I’m actually just enthusiastic about books in general, however they’re published. But indie publishing and self-publishing allows even more avenues for authors to get their books in the hands of readers.

I’ll be reviewing as many books from my group’s novels as I can, along with reviewing semi-finalists from other groups. I can’t wait to continue this epic journey and I hope not only to find some new great reads for me, but also to lead you to some new reads and authors as well.

For now, whet your appetite by reading all my Indie Highlight posts on science fiction over at my Science Fiction Hub!

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- “Thirdspace”

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

Thirdspace

Here we go! Time to delve the first Babylon 5 movie that takes place after the series! Wait… no it doesn’t. I was all excited to finally get to a movie that might answer some of my unanswered questions, but was somewhat disappointed to find that Thirdspace, instead, took place during the series. I am starting to wonder if any of the movies might answer my post-series questions or if I’ll have to just wait for some of the novels to do that.

Anyway, because of my initial disappointment with the timeline of the movie, I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I probably should have. The movie does answer some questions about the Vorlons, which makes it worth watching. The Vorlons made a gate to try to “contact the gods” in a way, getting to Thirdspace. But it turns out that those aliens in Thirdspace are not, shall we say, benevolent.

It turns out the Thirdspace aliens have come before and the Vorlon had to desperately fight them or risk the destruction of all life in the known universe or something. The Thirdspace aliens use telepathy to take control of a bunch of people and aliens and start a massive battle before Sheridan blows them back to where they came from with a nuke.

I have to say, I didn’t particularly enjoy the attempts at horror-like elements in the book. It’s hard to take seriously a threat that could destroy all life in the universe when we basically know it’s not actually a threat, given the series continued. That makes this story not work as well as it should, and the sense of impending doom that was attempted didn’t have the right feel to it. Maybe if I watched it all as it came out, I would have felt differently.

“Thirdspace” is a fine movie, and I enjoyed getting more background on the Vorlon, especially. It was worth the watch, but still doesn’t quite do enough to satiate my appetite for more Babylon 5.

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1974

I adore this cover art.

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I’ve also dropped a short reflection on the year’s Hugo list at the end.

Protector by Larry Niven– Grade: B+
The first book in the “Known Space” series best known for RingworldProtector features the same mix of hard science and wild speculation. Niven’s style works well for me in this book, though it delves into some implausible explanations later in the novel. I did like the truly different feel of the aliens. There was a real sense of strangeness and foreboding in parts of the book, and the works relative brevity is in its favor. The drama ramps up well. Some characters’ blunders are frustratingly predictable, but I’m not convinced that’s a strike against the novel. The characerization, though, does leave something to be desired, as none of them stuck with me long after reading the book. It’s a solid first contact story. Also, just look at that cover!

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein- Grade: F
What the hell did I just read? Heinlein went off the deep end. This reads like he just wanted to write an attack on religious sexual mores, but he did so in a way that seemed to combine crudeness, disgust, and a kind of remarkably naive misogyny into one confused, awful mess. Indeed, he basically admits that the book is an attack on any kind of sexual code as he, through the main character, writes that “‘incest’ was a religious concept, not a scientific one… the last twenty years had washed away in his mind almost the last trace of his tribal taboo.” Sin is similarly chalked up not as wrongdoing or evil but as a tired, backward way of looking at the world. Yep, incest is a-ok in Heinlein’s book, or at least that of his protagonist. Not only that, but so is pedophilia and other forms of sexual exploitation by men, specifically. Those silly religious people and their ideas of not having sexual thoughts about very young minors, not sleeping with your sibling/parent, etc. Oh yeah, but let’s not forget that this is all couched in decidedly 1940s/50s concepts of male-female relations, such that it is accompanied by a not-so-subtle male-dominance matrix.  Forward thinking? not so much. Heinlein’s vision of sex in the future is that of the unfettered male, free to satisfy himself with anyone he chooses. Women are not included in this reasoning process, because they are simply the subjects of lust, expected to be willingly subservient to the sexual desires of the man, whether that man is their grandchild, brother, or adopted parent. Terrible, terrible book. I hate it.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (Winner)- Grade: B
It’s not difficult for me to understand why this is a much-beloved classic. But it also is difficult for me to love it. The book’s pacing is the main issue, as it plods along for chapters with hardly anything happening until it suddenly, like a roller coaster cresting its summit, plummets into a series of startling discoveries and action that gets jumbled together with alarming swiftness. The middle of the book is particularly subject to the problem of pace, as it is wholly occupied with lengthy descriptions of people moving from point A to point B without much characterization or plot to go along with it. The conclusion is ambiguous, but not in a bad way. Again, it’s easy for me to see how this won the award and is loved by many. The bigness of the ideas Clarke explores are always fun. But the novel itself just doesn’t make me want to love it forever. It’s fine.

The People of the Wind by Poul Anderson- Grade: C-
I think a lot of science fiction in the 60s-70s could be re-categorized into its own sub-genre of sex, with sci-fi tropes. The People of the Wind would not be easily filed into this made up category, but it teeters on the edge. I think maybe there’s an interesting subtext here about how different societies or peoples can relate with each other. Sex is used as a kind of way to open the conversation–or, more accurately, themselves–to the perceived “other.” But the prose in the novel doesn’t support this higher level reading. Anderson oscillates between matter-of-fact and seedy here, such that as a reader I never could fully buy into the notion that something else might be going on behind the scenes. The best part about the book is that it doesn’t entirely go black and white on the morality of either society. The humans or Ythrians could each be seen as morally superior here. That props up enough interest to have kept me reading. It’s an okay story that in the hands of another writer might have been great.

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold- Grade: C-
Gerrold wrote a fantastic exploration of the notion of time travel and how that might play out if one person got careless and perhaps a little wild with it. True to when it was written, however, it devolves that somewhat compelling thread into a series of explorations about sex and orgies and more sex and horse racing. What? Yeah, that’s basically how it plays out. It goes from was an initially decent yarn to a totally absurd tale about one’s self-absorption with himself. Actually, the more I think about the main plot, the more it annoys me immensely. I keep thinking I need to adjust the score down, because this book was basically just a narcissist fantasy told with time travel. It reads almost like wish-fulfillment for the most self-absorbed person alive. That said, Gerrold brings forward some genuine questions about time travel and its possibilities. It’s just not one that I can reflect on with much liking.

1974- Not a great year for the Hugo Awards, in my opinion. Each book feels as though it has missed opportunities for greatness, except, perhaps, the terrible Heinlein work. That book is total garbage, in my opinion. I could rant on about it more, but I think my brief review above is enough said. My choice for the winner probably isn’t the best book in the bunch. I think Rendezvous may be objectively the best book here, but I enjoyed reading Protector more. As always with awards, subjectivity is involved, and on other days I may have picked the Clarke novel over the Niven book. Anyway, time travel continues to be a sore spot for me. I love the idea of novels about time travel, but rarely enjoy the books I read about it. Gerrold’s book had one of the least sympathetic protagonists I’ve encountered. Poul Anderson continues to baffle me. It was possible to be great with the story he came up with, but his delivery is so off that I couldn’t appreciate it for what it was. There’s no nuance to Anderson’s writing, which is a shame, because with some nuance, People… may have been great. What did you think of these nominees?

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“The Godless World Trilogy” by Brian Ruckley- An Underappreciated Masterpiece

I love getting recommendations for reading from friends. A book-loving friend of mine recommended the Godless World Trilogy by Brian Ruckley as top-notch fantasy. I grabbed the trilogy on the recommendation and over the course of the next several months read through this fantasy trilogy. Let me tell you, dear readers, I want to pass along that recommendation to you. This trilogy is fantastic fantasy. I’ve kept this post as vague as possible related to spoilers because I want to encourage you to read the series yourself without losing out on some of the twists.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the series is its prose. The introduction to the first book is a masterful set up as we watch a band of exiled people trudging away from their homelands as they are harassed by enemies chasing them away. It instantly set up a kind of empathy towards these people that is used in some rather surprising ways throughout the series. Time and again, Ruckley’s craft of writing is worth admiring. The introduction to the third book features details about watching for approaching enemies by observing how nature reacts. It’s such a subtle, natural scene that tethers the fantasy book into a sense of realism that few fantasy series end up capturing. Ruckley does this time and again, using the shifting of birds, the movement of plants, and other natural clues to viscerally lead the reader into the world of the books. 

What of the main plot, though? We follow a number of people as conflict breaks out across their land. The gods have left the people, and some wish to usher in their return. Unfortunately, this leads to conflict as some peoples’ means to bring the gods back is decidedly less peaceful than that of others. What we get is, on its face, a rather traditional fantasy setting with most of the expected heroic tropes. And, the series largely is that but with such grandness in its telling and elegance of writing that even the times where it may fall into cliché are worth the time spent reading them. And the series doesn’t stay mired in the mundane tropes of epic fantasy. There is plenty that happens that takes twists in unexpected directions. And the earliest parts of the series loom in unexpected ways towards the end. 

If you’re looking for a serious epic fantasy that is incredibly well-written, I highly recommend the Goddless World Trilogy to you. I’m planning a re-read of the series once I’ve gotten through at least some of the rest of my TBR pile, myself. That’s how much I enjoyed it. I think you will, too.

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Voices” by John Vornholt

Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.

Voices by John Vornholt

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure initially if I would be buying all the Babylon 5 novels or if I’d just try to read the ones that are officially considered “canon.” I figured I may as well get them all, because I loved the series so much. Voices is part of the first batch of Babylon 5 novels that was released, and only a few of these first 9 novels are considered “canon.” Voices is not one of those novels. I’m not one who gets all tied up in insisting upon only canon matters (I enjoyed the hell out of a lot of the now-“Legends” Star Wars novels and reviewed… a lot of them). But I want the in-universe books to make sense and be fun.

Voices did each of those… at times. The core of the plot is that some bomb goes off as Alfred Bester, the awful telepath we know and love to hate from the series, is planning a convention on Mars. Instead, because of this bombing, the convention of telepaths gets moved at the last second to Babylon 5, much to the chagrin of Girabaldi and Ivanova in particular. This is set in the time when Talia Winters was still on station, so she gets caught up in the mess, especially when another bomb goes off–this time on B5.

The first half of the novel is honestly great. It reads just like another episode of Babylon 5 set within that time period. You can truly see the characters on screen doing everything described, and it makes sense. I especially loved Girabaldi being flustered at having the whole Psi Corps convention dumped into his lap for security. It was spot-on for the handling of him as a character.

The second half of the novel is, however, not great. Suddenly, characters go off in ways that are totally different from what you’d expect from their established personas. Talia Winters, in particular, loses much of her mystique and calm characterization. Girabaldi becomes much more whiney and less decisive than it seems he should be. Even the Psi Corps people seem to lose their way, acting strangely complacent towards station security at times, and going absolutely wild at other points. The plot goes a bit off the rails as well, as we get several larger threats introduced and dismissed seemingly with ease.

What I was left with, then, was a feeling of disappointment. The promising beginning of the book didn’t get the expected payoff. I did enjoy spending more time with the characters I’d come to know and love, but then they started to act in unbelievable ways. There’s also a few gaffes, such as saying the surface of Mars is 200-300 degrees when the temperature on Mars rarely even approaches 0 from below. It’s not a huge deal–Babylon 5 is space opera and not hard science fiction–but it was enough of a blip that it distracted me. Thanks to The Babylon File (volume 1), I read that Vornholt said that the novel “could have benefited from a few more days of research” (383). It probably could have also benefited from a bit more editing to jettison several unnecessary threats and focus on the main plot.

Voices is an okay work of tie-in fiction, but it violates one of the cardinal rulse of such fiction: it loses the feel of the on-screen characters readers have come to love. I’d be curious to know what other Babylon 5 fans thought of the book.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates.)

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Hugo Award Nominations for Long Form Dramatic Presentation 2020: “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

For the first time ever, I’m a Hugo voter (you can be, too!). I am trying to work my way through the mass of nominations in order to feel fully informed as a voter. I have young kids and I don’t watch movies often, so I hadn’t watched any of the nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. So, here goes nothing! Time to watch a bunch of movies.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)

Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t like gatekeeping on fandom. I think it’s an awful waste of time and energy. So I’m not going to debate whether or not this movie counts as speculative fiction. It’s got at least one scene that seems to undeniably make it such, and it has a Hugo nomination, so here we are.

What a wild ride! Will Ferrell probably touches some people the wrong way, but I love his overly earnest, expressive characters. Here, he plays a man who has dreamed his whole life of winning Eurovision, something I have to admit I’d never even heard of before it started popping up all over my Twitter feed in May 2021. The Eurovision Song Contest is some kind of international competition for an original song. It’s also, so far as my Very Extensive Research (not very extensive and based exclusively on a couple image searches and Tweets) can tell, known for extravagant outfits and presentations.

This movie is fun, exciting, and full of great music. It’s got Dan Stevens (playing Russian singer Alexander Lemtov), who really should be lead in a lot more roles because that guy is talented. What a voice! The plot follows Lars (Ferrell), the bumbling idiot, and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), a woman in love with the Eurovision-obsessed Lars, as they manage to get through the contest on technicalities and explosions–yes, explosions. Oh, and murder(s). As they advance, they meet other singers and realize how outclassed they are, even as their erotic tension increases. Alexander tries to lure Sigrid away, seeing her talent for what it is even as Lars sees himself as the star. The culmination of everything leads to Lars realizing that his life with Sigrit is more important than Eurovision, and they return home bigger stars than they could’ve imagined.

Can we talk about how fun the original music is for this movie? “Volcano Man” is an absolute banger. I desperately want a “full version” with a completed music video (eg. 3+ minutes). Other songs are fabulous, too, such as the innuendo laden “JaJa Ding Dong” or Dan Stevens belting out “Lion of Love.”

“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is the first of this year’s Hugo-nominated movies I’ve watched. As it stands, it would certainly get my vote over “No Award.” It’s a fun, often hilarious movie with more heart than one might expect. I loved it, but I could see a more serious spec-fiction movie unseating it for my vote this year.

Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Dragon Prince Trilogy: Melanie Rawn’s Cunning Political Fantasy Epic

My story of discovering Melanie Rawn started decades ago with a bookmark. My mom would always go to this Hallmark that was a franchise. The owner apparently thought it would be a good idea to have a bookstore at the back of what was a large Hallmark space. And, apparently, the owner had a taste for sci-fi/fantasy books because that was one of the biggest sections in the store. I loved it. We’d stay in the store for hours. My mom would look at cards for hours, picking out the just-right card for some occasion, while I roamed the long corridor of sci-fi fantasy books. That greeting card shop is where I discovered Ben Bova’s Grand Tour books, where I found a book that remained my favorite for some time–The Blood Jaguar, and where I’d spend my early teenage years looking at heavy metal magazines. Yeah, it was an awesome Hallmark.

Anyway, one day, I bought a bookmark at the store that showed this mysterious orange dragon standing regally on a rock. I bought it for the same reason kids buy any bookmark: it looked cool. I used it for years, then misplaced it, but then found it again during a move. I was looking at it one day, having possessed it for more than ten years, when I noticed that it was based on the cover for a book: The Star Scroll. On a whim, I looked up the book online and discovered it was the second book in a trilogy with pretty fantastic reviews. I searched for the author, Melanie Rawn, and saw several posts about how she was a forgotten major voice in epic fantasy. I saw the first book, Dragon Prince, was just $2.99 on Kindle and snagged it. I read it late at night in bed, just a few pages at a time, and was overcome by this fascinating world Rawn had created. Then, I got my mother-in-law to start reading the books, and she loved them, too. So here we are, with me hoping to get you hooked on them, too. I’ll try to keep the spoilers mild.

The Dragon Prince Trilogy

At its core, this trilogy is a story of political intrigue in a fantasy setting. The first book, Dragon Prince, centers on a young prince as he solidifies his power during a festival in which leaders from all over the continent have gathered. Essentially, it’s a time for matchmaking and Prince-making. There’s no king, and the different princedoms exist in relative peace. But behind the scenes, there are wars of words and power plays that are constant. Rawn weaves an incredibly intricate plot. Moreover, she’s an absolute master of characterization. These people all feel completely genuine. They have real motivations. They’re flawed. They make huge mistakes. They even do vile, repulsive things when they’re truly good people. But that’s like the real world, right? Good people still sin. Good people still make mistakes. And, occasionally, a circumstance turns a good person into a monster.

Anyway, in Dragon Prince I encountered some of the most exciting political machinations I’d read in a book. There are parties where the characters are all trying to pair off and determine how the power might shift. There’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever read: a horse race with several layers of drama overshadowing the main event. It’s just fantastic, thrilling writing front to back. But it’s thrilling in the sense that you want certain characters to succeed and others to fail. You, as a reader, feel their successes with them. You bemoan their mistakes. Yes, there’s action in the book, but it’s largely a few major climaxes in the midst of what is largely many people working to accomplish goals through intrigue. There’s also Sunrunning–a fascinating magical system that depends upon the light of the sun to work.

Having read the first book, I moved on to the book that inspired me to buy the whole set: The Star Scroll. The cover actually has a person with the dragon, which was different from the bookmark which featured only the dragon. Anyway, the second book has quite a bit about a certain Star Scroll and some forbidden magic that I don’t want to spoil. The characterization is once more excellent. Rawn truly makes it seem as though the characters are real people with real motivations that go beyond the normal fantasy tropes. The magic system continues to be fascinating, though I think there’s untapped potential that gets more fully realized in the concluding book.

Finally, the trilogy wraps up with Sunrunner’s Fire, which has one of the most epic fantasy duels I’ve ever read. This brings the series to including two of the most memorable moments I’ve read in fantasy. I won’t spoil it at all, but wow, this is a superbly written scene. And, again, Rawn brings the characters to life. One thing that impressed me in this is the diversity of experiences, along with how she writes different generations in compelling and genuine ways. Rawn is a true master, and we need to acknowledge that! The series ends with an open thread, but thankfully the next trilogy is already complete. I’ll be moving on to that one next.

Content warnings: the books do have scenes featuring sex, including sexual violence. There is also warfare, murder, and abuse. I would not recommend this for children at all.

Links

Vintage Sci-Fi– Click the link and scroll down to read vintage sci-fi posts! I love hearing about your own responses and favorites!

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Check out all my posts on reading through the Hugo Award winners and nominees. Tons of sci-fi fantasy discussion throughout.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

 

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 15: “Prospero Burns” by Dan Abnett

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.

Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett

I have rarely been so baffled by the disconnect between a book’s description and its contents as I have with Prospero Burns. The official Black Library (the publisher) description of the book reads:

The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons’ home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero.

Read it because
Vlka Fenryka! The Space Wolves charge into the Horus Heresy as their part in the events leading to the fall of the Thousand Sons is revealed. Spies, intrigue, plenty of action and a glimpse at Terra in the early days of the Great Crusade make this an unmissable read.

One could be forgiven, I think, for believing the book would primarily focus on the Space Wolves trying to capture Magnus the Red and/or burning Prospero (as the title and the first paragraph imply. What the book is actually about, though, is a remembrancer who gets sent to the Space Wolves and their interactions with him. So the last sentence of the “Read it because” is closer to reality, though the “plenty of action” is a bit of a stretch.

I’ll admit it, this had me both confused and frustrated. I kept flipping to the description, wondering if I was reading the wrong book–maybe some bug had crossed over my book with a different one when I got it on Kindle. But that’s not it–it’s just that the book is nowhere close to its description. And that’s annoying. I understand we’d already seen Prospero in A Thousand Sons and that this book was intended to be read alongside that earlier work, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t expecting to see the Space Wolves’ side of the conflict, because I trusted the publisher to provide an accurate vision of what the contents might be.

As for the actual contents of the book–it’s decent. Abnett is a great writer, as we’ve seen time and again throughout the Warhammer universe. The switching of perspectives is sometimes fairly abrupt and makes the book difficult to follow at times. Abnett certainly makes the Space Wolves quite interesting, though, as he notes time and again that they’re not just generic space Vikings; they’re the Emperor’s executioner. But the whole first 90% of the book is basically summarized in that point along with (here are spoilers for the ending, in case you’re worried about that) the revelation that our remembrancer was, in fact, planted by the Thousand Sons as a spy, and that the Space Wolves knew about it the whole time but didn’t really care if their rivals knew what their plans were.

This means, that, like many of the books in the Horus Heresy so far, Prospero Burns would have made a much better short story or novella than it does a 450 page novel. 400 of those pages could have been condensed into about 50, all while getting the same point across. Abnett’s writing mercifully carries those 400 pages along so that they never quite descend into total triviality, but it also leaves you with a sense of regret at the end. Is that it? one might ask. Did I really just read 400 pages of the same point repeated through an unreliable narrator just to get about 15 pages of action at the very end of the book? The answer is, unfortunately, yes. The payoff here simply does not align with the investment of time and energy.

I’ve seen the point that readers already experienced the fall of Prospero in A Thousand Sons, but this is hardly relevant. (It’s also somewhat untrue–we only experienced glimpses of this fall so far, which makes the lack of a book that is one massive conflict a bit disappointing.) This book was advertised as–hell, even titled as–the fall of Prospero from the perspective of the Space Wolves. It manifestly is not that. That, plus the fact that the actual contents we get are dragged from a short story’s plot into a lengthy novel’s duration makes this a pretty disappointing entry to the Horus Heresy. If I hadn’t had my expectations completely set up to fail going in, I definitely would have enjoyed this one more. As it stands, I’m left feeling bittersweet about what might have been.

Prospero Burns ends my streak of 5-star reads in the Horus Heresy. I’d almost say it’s skippable but it does at least give some insight into the Space Wolves that makes them more interesting as rivals (presumably) throughout the rest of the series.

(All Amazon Links are Affiliates)

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– Links to all of my Warhammer-related reviews and writings, including those on the Horus Heresy, 40K, and Warhammer Fantasy (pending) can be found here. 

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Watching Babylon 5 For the First Time: “In the Beginning” – the TV movie

Hello Darkness, my old friend.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

In the Beginning

The first scene opens, and we see an older Mollari! This instantly makes me hopeful that this movie may answer some of my left over questions from the series. In particular, I want to know about the Shadow ally and whether Mollari ever escapes it. And he tells a story to two young Centauri children, which of course features a younger… Mollari! Time to sit back and enjoy this ride! 

What a ride it is! We get an enormous amount of backstory for the whole series. I was thrilled to see that we might be getting insight into the Earth-Minbari War. We see Mollari chastising the humans for their audacity to confront the Minbari. We witness Delenn’s discussion with the Gray Council. The outbreak of the Earth-Minbari War is a major part of the movie. And it gives us a lot of background into what our favorite characters were doing way back when. Including Ivanova! And G’Kar! Seeing G’Kar as an arms dealer is excellent. He’s doing it to help his people, of course, as it seems he’s done everything. And Dr. Franklin, already an expert on alien biology, apparently, gets arrested for refusing to use his knowledge to help kill Minbari. 

One of the best scenes is when Mollari is voicing over the near-end of the war: “In the end, they didn’t run out of courage–they ran out of time.” The scenes going past during this voice over are well-done and beautiful at times. Most of the rest of the scenes are things we already know with a bit of expansion. 

Mollari intersperses comments throughout. At one point,  we witness his condemnation of the arrogance of humans, then we see him blaming himself for the war. But the format made me worry that I wouldn’t be getting any answers to my most pressing question after all: what happens to Mollari after the series!?

The end gives us a quick peek at an earlier point in the series, in which we saw old Mollari confronting our heroes–Delenn and Sheridan. Mollari toasts them as he apparently gets into a drunken stupor to placate the Shadow Keeper. And that’s the end! we don’t find out more here! But it’s a tantalizing look. I wonder if I’ll have to wait to go through the books before I find the main answer I’m looking for. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.