Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 16: “Age of Darkness”

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.

Age of Darkness by various authors

Age of Darkness is another collection of short stories in the Horus Heresy line. Like the others, it delivers a collection of stories that provide background to the various conflicts breaking out along with the occasional character piece. For this review, I’ll write briefly about each individual story before posting an overall impression at the end.

Rules of Engagement by Graham McNeill

I loved this story that pitted the Ultramarines’ commitment to their Primarch with his own, in person teaching on how to fight a battle. The Ultramarines are not nearly as boring as I thought they might be.

Liars Due by James Swallow

Lots of buildup that mostly just shows how planets outside big realms of influence might react to the heresy. A decent read with some good intrigue.

Forgotten Sons by Nick Kyme

A seriously action packed novelette about trying to sway a planet’s loyalty towards Horus or the Emperor. I liked how this shows the challenges faced by planets that could be torn apart by conflict.

The Last Remembrancer by John French

Layers of trust are wiped away in this intriguing short story about a remembrancer telling the Iron Fists about Horus. The payoff isn’t as strong as I hoped, but it’s okay.

Rebirth by Chris Wraight

The Thousand Sons are turning into my favorite of the traitor legions, and this short story just solidified that even more. It’s got enough layers in it to make it interesting throughout, and the ending, which apparently reverberates in larger WH40K lore, was great.

The Face of Treachery by Gav Thorpe

A huge battle has its tide turned by betrayal. I loved this one for both its action and the tight plotting Thorpe gave it.

Little Horus by Dan Abnett

Little Horus leads the Sons of Horus in battle and effectively springs a trap intended for Horus himself. It’s got tons of action and great plotting, as is typical of Abnett. A very good read.

The Iron Within by Rob Sanders

Big action with Titans is one of my favorite things about the Warhammer universe, and this short story delivers on that. It’s not as thoughtful as some of the others in the collection, but makes up for it in cool vistas and solid action scenes.

Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A surprisingly tight-knit scene is the core of this story, but that scene is set for a clash between Primarchs. It’s got tons of great action and certainly seems to loom larger than the short story itself.

Overall Thoughts

I greatly enjoyed Age of Darkness. Every single story included was well done, with some standouts mixed in to an overall great collection. To me, these short stories help prove a point I’ve made several times in my reviews of the series: a lot of the novels would make better short stories. Too often, there is excess fluff that keeps readers away from the action or plot. In these short stories, we don’t encounter that issue. One problem that did arise is that I was listening to this as an audiobook on Audible. I have listened to a few of the Primarchs novels as well, and they all have the same issue this collection did: the sound balancing is terrible. The readers shout, whisper, etc. and do it all to the point where I find myself constantly having to adjust the volume as I listen to it on the go. It’s quite annoying, to be honest. The readers do a good job, but all of these audiobooks could do with much, much better sound balancing, so that as a listener I’m not straining to hear one moment and then having my eardrums pummeled the next.

Age of Darkness is a great collection that should not be skipped. There’s a lot here that fills in details of previous and future conflicts, along with great character building throughout. I definitely recommend the collection.

(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.

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.

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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 14: “The First Heretic” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

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.

The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

History is a hugely important part of the Horus Heresy books, and in The First Heretic, we get some stunning insights into the background of the Word Bearers Legion. To start off, I have to say this is certainly among the best of the Horus Heresy books I’ve read so far. It doesn’t overly rely upon action to carry its story, nor does it devolve into a series of scenes with people just standing around talking to each other. It’s excellent.

The scene in which the Emperor comes and visits the Word Bearers/Ultramarines is absolutely awesome. I think it honestly raises real-world questions about deity and theology, which makes it even more interesting to me. The book constantly asks questions of what it means to be “a god” or even the “god.” While its obviously not a theological treatise, there are several scenes that poignantly ask these questions alongside questions about humanity’s need for faith and belief. As is always the case, trying to read too much into this discussion set in the Grimdark future would be a mistake, but it’s still fascinating to reflect on how these characters in the far future are still dealing with questions about faith and deity.

Dembski-Bowden also gives us Cyrene, one of the more interesting non-Marine characters in the series so far. Initially, I thought she might be a one-off character from the prologue to give us a sense of how the destruction of her city impacted a civilian. However, Dembsk-Bowden developed her into a kind of martyr-saint figure who was celebrated with adulation by the people who followed the Word Bearers. Ultimately, her death at the hands of Aquillon was tragic, and one of the more heart-rending scenes in the series for me. What made the use of her as a character particularly powerful is that it helped put some perspective into the book for the broader conflict.

For example, the overarching plot of the Word Bearers trying to find their way having been denounced by the Emperor is a much more sympathetic quest when set alongside the more human aspect of how that denunciation and retribution impacted “normal” people. As a reader, I genuinely felt the Word Bearers were generally in the right throughout the book, no matter what one thinks of their underlying beliefs. The brutal, shocking act of the destruction of the crown jewel world of the Word Bearers work surely could be anticipated as setting up a major crisis of doubt for the whole Legion. As such, it is hardly unexpected that the Word Bearers end up on the side of the Heretics.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the horrible acts they took to get there were themselves good or justified–it means only that they were understabndable.  And that says quite a bit about the writing of this novel. It’s very good. It makes you sympathize with the “bad guys.” It also makes one question whether there really are any “good guys” in this grimdark future.

The First Heretic is a fantastic read, and one that will surely pay long-term dividends for 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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 13: “Nemesis” by James Swallow

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.

Nemesis by James Swallow

I admit it: I was skeptical of this book. I had seen multiple complaints that its content was pointless, or that it was largely unrelated to the wider plot of the Horus Heresy. But a Twitter friend convinced me that it was worth diving into, and that, along with my insistent desire to read entire lists and not skip books, made me dive in. And I have to say, I’m very glad I did. Nemesis is a fantastic read with a lot of cool lore and moments in it. 

The core of the book are two stories: on the one side, we see the Imperium’s development of the Officio Assassinorium, a branch of their military dedicated to assassinations; on the other side, the Word Bearers attempt to send in a Nemesis weapon to kill the Emperor himself. This is all centered around investigations from non-Space Marine characters trying to figure out what’s happening and set in the broader context of worlds pulling apart over the Heresy. There’s a lot of action in the novel, but what made it great was its world building and the context already mentioned.

The planet Dagonet is seen as a central part of its region’s response to the Heresy. They swear allegiance to Horus, causing concern on other planets nearby like Iesta Veracrux, another planet where some of the action takes place. Dagonet sided with Horus, having had historically closer ties to Horus than to the Emperor. Horus apparently liberated the planet some time ago, and is more popular even than the Emperor. This bit of world building was included in a brief conversation between people on Iesta Veracrux, but it was couched in the narrative of having refugees show up from the sister planet and fears over what it might mean for the wider region. I thought this was a great way to do the world building and also set the conflict of the Horus Heresy against a much broader backdrop. 

The story itself is exciting, even if the outcome is somewhat of a foregone conclusion. It seems obvious that the assassins from both sides will fail, but they made the buildup interesting enough and the side characters deep enough to maintain my interest throughout. I know I’ve complained about having so many “normal” person perspectives in the Horus Heresy so far, but that was largely in novels that were supposed to be centered on entire Legions of Space Marines and seemed more focused on a random person on the street than on the Astartes. Here, care was taken to make the non-superhumans the center of the plot, and with that, the technique thrived. We see “normal” people worried about what’s happening in their wider and yet narrower worlds. 

The conclusion, as Horus burns the people of Dagonet, whether they were on his side or not, is a chilling moment that shows how far he’s fallen. It also means that the worlds involved are likely not to feature much in the coming Heresy. But I don’t mind that. One-off plots in wider universes can be good if done well. Nemesis was great. 

Nemesis is a thrilling read with some fascinating plot points and some of the best world development of any of the novels so far. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to others, even though it doesn’t have a major impact on the overall Heresy, according to other readers. 

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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Primarchs Book 2: “Leman Russ- The Great Wolf” by Chris Wraight

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.

Leman Russ – The Great Wolf by Chris Wraight 

The Primarchs books so far (an admittedly small sample size) have been short, action packed reads. Leman Russ – The Great Wolf shows us some of the more interesting points of the Great Crusade, as Leman Russ and Lion El’Johnson clash over how to deal with a world, Dulan, that is in rebellion. 

Much to my relief, unlike the previous book in the Primarchs series, Rouboute Guilliman – Lord of Ultrimar, this book has the Primarch Leman Russ actually dominate much of the plot. Here, we see his reactions in the moment as push comes to shove with the Dark Angels opposing his actions on Dulan. We see him clashing with Lion El’Johnson, as well as reflecting upon this clash later. The book is basically a straight-forward action-fest with little time in between scenes to reflect on what’s happening. Here, it works better than it does at times, as the short length of the novella combined with the action made it move very swiftly while still getting peeks at the Primarch. The dialogue, when there was any, was written well enough to keep the plot moving. 

I also enjoyed the small insights into how the Space Wolves recruited and trained on Fenris. I need to go back and read my Space Wolves omnibus to get into them more. The fact that this novella inspired me to do so also shows how much I enjoyed it. It’s not fantastic, but it’s a good read with just enough lore to keep me interested.

Leman Russ – The Great Wolf is a decent read that reveals much more about its titular Primarch than did the previous book in the series. I enjoyed it well enough, but it still lacked as much character development as I was hoping for in this series. 

(All Amazon links are affiliates.)

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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 12: “A Thousand Sons” 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.

A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill

Psykers and Heresy go hand-in-hand in the Warhammer 40K universe, and picking up this book about the Thousand Sons Legion had me expecting to find astartes that were already broken and mired in Chaotic evil. I say this as someone who has really only experienced the WH40K universe piecemeal, having started years ago with the Eisenhorn Trilogy and then picking away at different reads that looked interesting, largely through omnibus editions. So it’s likely someone who is steeped in the lore of the universe will laugh at my comments. That’s okay. I’m writing this about my own journey, and I hope you’ll take it with me! All of this is to say I had no idea I’d run into Magnus the Red and Ahriman (who, so far as I know, are both pretty evil dudes in the 40K part of the universe) as such sympathetic characters. 

A Thousand Sons starts off almost as an invitation–come read, and see that the Thousand Sons tried to do what was right. It’s a great hook, and I was enthralled right away. There are multiple perspectives here, something that I have enjoyed and also that I’ve been annoyed by in turns in the Horus Heresy. Here, it works quite well, as the perspective of the Remembrancers gives not just extra insight from “normal” people (HUGE scare quotes around “normal”) but also allows more investment in the overall plot. So McNeill here creates a story with numerous interesting characters–something several of the books have lacked thus far. 

Perhaps the most interesting of all, though, are Ahriman and Magnus. The latter doesn’t have as many pages dedicated to him, but they both shine as deep characters with motives that make sense even as they descend into evil. Making evil characters that are both believable and even sympathetic is an accomplishment, and McNeill does it so well here. You understand why Magnus thinks he needs the power of Chaos/Psychic powers. You see why he chose to heal his Sons even though he ultimately misunderstood the cost. You can question the apparent overreach and reactive way that the Emperor and Space Wolves move in the book. (I know, I’m hiding from the Inquisition right now!) It gives the book a feel of discovery and foreboding that makes the Warhammer universe work so well.

A Thousand Sons is a fantastic, though not flawless, read. It certainly reinvigorated my interest in the series, and made the eponymous Legion fascinating to me.  Definitely one of the best reads in the Horus Heresy so far. 

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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Primarchs Book 1: “Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar” by David Annandale

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.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar by David Annandale

I took a break from the mainline Horus Heresy novels to dive into the Primarchs. I got the audiobook of Roboute Guilliman in a Humble Bundle and thought I’d give it a go, despite some middling reviews. I enjoyed the audiobook very much. It was well-read, and the pacing was spot on. As far as the book itself is concerned? I have mixed feelings.

My expectations going into a book about a Primarch are pretty straightforward: I expect to learn about the Primarch. Yet, I was surprised to find that Roboute Guilliman only resides in the background of the story, barely showing up, and when he does show up, it’s largely in his writings that introduce each chapter. So if the goal of the Primarchs series is to clue readers into the Primarchs, I’d say this book failed. And, given what the series seems to be advertised as–it’s literally titled “Primarchs”–I can’t help but assume that’s what the goal of the series is. 

But–and this is a big but–the book is actually quite enjoyable. It’s not very long, and the pacing is quick enough that it never feels bogged down, which is the problem I’ve had with several of the books in the main Horus Heresy series. The main thread of the plot finds the Ultramarines fighting over a planet with the Orks, basically trying to see if there’s anything worth recovering there. What surprised me (though readers who know a lot of the lore of Warhammer 40K may not find it a surprise) was the intense focus both on specifics of strategy and on the notion that cultures are worth recovering/restoring. The former is largely found through the few times Guilliman is featured in the book: as chapter introductions with excerpts from his writings. These open windows into the thought process of a Primarch who may not be the best strategist but is certainly one who values gaining the victory in an efficient, rather than glorious, way. The latter–the question of recovering/conserving cultures–had a twist at the end wherein it turns out the Ultramarines felt the culture they’d discovered wasn’t that worth learning about after all. Except that it held a warning for the Imperium, that a culture based upon war seems destined to fail. 

The action in the book doesn’t let up. I enjoyed the amount of action we had, with very little downtime. It made each character moment and conversation seem more valuable to the reader. The characters themselves were fine. They seemed to fit into tropes of Space Marines without being overly absurd or very deep. I noted before it Annandale avoids the pacing issues that have dogged several books in the Horus Heresy series, and I thought this felt fresh because of that.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar is a pretty fun installment in the Horus Heresy, but I don’t understand why it is considered a “Primarchs” book. It barely features the titular hero. As an Ultramarines book? It’s pretty fun. As a Primarchs book? I was disappointed. A good read, but don’t expect to learn much about Guilliman. Scoring the book was quite difficult, and I settled on a middling score myself when I rated it:  3/5 due to it not really living up to expectations, but still being a fun read. 

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.

 

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 11: “Fallen Angels” by Mike Lee

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.

Fallen Angels by Mike Lee

I found Fallen Angels to be a bit difficult to really get into. Part of that might be my own life circumstances, dealing with personal loss, but I also think the book is just kind of slow. That statement is surprising, given that there is a bit of action here, but what I mean is it feels like all the action is little more than a WWI kind of slogfest where nothing really gets resolved despite 400 pages of reading. 

I guess I’m in the minority on this one, because looking through reviews by others, it seems everyone liked the scenes on Caliban more than those scenes on Diamat. But Diamat seemed to actually have resolution. Lion El’Jonson is somewhat one dimensional, but he at least knows what he wants, which seems to be greater power and influence. The fighting on Diamat is intense, and seems much more goal-oriented than the action on Caliban, which is shrouded in mystery and betrayal. I’m starting to think my expectations for the Horus Heresy might just be wrong, to be honest. Time and again, we’re offered perspectives of those outside the Space Marines as main perspectives that give us the ‘normal’ person’s view of events. Time and again, the central plot is much more about political intrigue than about action. My expectations were much more about having a ton of huge battles and betrayals, etc. Those happen, but not on the scale or at the rate I thought they would. Perhaps later books have more. Perhaps my tastes for Warhammer fiction are too simple, though I got into the universe through Eisenhorn. I’ll try to adjust expectations going forward.

The cover of this one is pretty awesome. I think some of the action does approach the level I enjoy, again, mostly on Diamat. The ambiguity of the endings of both plot threads–Lion basically handing Titans over to the traitors and the rise of some dark power on Caliban–makes it a good ending. And that’s something basically every book has had so far–some twist at the end that really makes the whole book worth getting through, even if it was not your favorite. But for now, what I feel is another book where the payoff is yet to come. In a series as long as the Horus Heresy, that makes it hard, because so many books have middle book syndrome. 

Fallen Angels is an okay installment in the Horus Heresy. I liked the history of the Dark Angels being revealed more deeply, but I felt like the payoff wasn’t all there. 

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.

 

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 9: “Mechanicum”

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.

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.