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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 8: “Battle for the Abyss” by Ben Counter

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.

Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter

The setup for Battle for the Abyss is exciting: a heretic fleet is dispatched to destroy the Ultramarines’ homeworld, and the outgunned Ultramarines must try to chase down the spearhead of the assault, the Furious Abyss and stop it before it reaches Ultramar. The Word Bearers–the heretics–continue to be the more interesting characters in the series, with their lore coming front and center at multiple key points throughout the novel. By contrast, the Ultramarines in the novel are sympathetic for being in a sort of David-and-Goliath scenario, but are otherwise not very interesting.

The action and fighting is intense throughout the book, though it’s not always clear what ends are being pursued beyond merely having more action scenes. The added complexity of daemons from the warp make for a more interesting battle, but also seem to take away from what could have been a compelling heretic-loyalist conflict. Instead of having the focus be on loyalties upheld and broken, it changes it to a three-way fight for survival alongside the other, more personal conflict.

Unfortunately, like some of the other books in the Horus Heresy, this one reads very much like a short story that overgrew the bounds of a novella and was pushed into the length of a novel. There are far too many scenes of exposition, too much standing about making decisions, and surprisingly little by way of character development given the page count. For this book to work as a novel, there needed to be much more character development of some of the main actors. As it stands, they feel mostly like cardboard cutouts set up simply to be knocked down.

Battle for the Abyss is a competent entry in the series that suffers the defects of several of the other works in the series. That said, it is also one of the more action-packed works in the series to this point, which moves it along swiftly enough. In my opinion, the problems in the book somewhat outweighed the great ideas and setup.

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– Links to all of my Warhammer-related reviews and writings 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.

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub

I’ve enjoyed reading books from the Black Library for quite a while, and I’ve been reviewing them on here almost since the site first started. I decided to gather all my Warhammer reviews into once place with this hub. I’ll be chronicling my read-through of the Horus Heresy (first time through). I will also be reviewing other works, both from Warhammer fantasy and the 40K universe.

Horus Heresy Reviews

Reading the Horus Heresy, Books 1 and 2 “Horus Rising” by Dan Abnett and “False Gods” by Graham McNeill–  The Horus Heresy starts off on strong footing with a surprisingly thoughtful pair of novels that establishes quite a bit of lore while getting main characters and threads going.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 3: “Galaxy in Flames” by Ben Counter– The Horusian faction takes action for the first time, putting rebellion into action as they work against the Emperor. Some really awesome scenes in here from an author I’ve enjoyed elsewhere.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 4: “The Flight of the Eisenstein” by James Swallow– A cool premise that gets dragged out a couple hundred pages too long. Check out why I think so in this review.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 4.5: “The Kaban Project” and Others– A few amazing short stories in this collection, especially “The Kaban Project,” which is awesome.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 5: “Fulgrim” by Graham McNeill– A dark, metal science fiction epic. It’s also surprisingly thoughtful at points. May be my favorite of the first 5+ books. See my review for why.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 6: “Descent of Angels” by Michael Scanlon– More of a science fantasy than I expected, this book reads like a Star Wars book.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 7: “Legion” by Dan Abnett– Was I confused by one of the most opaque legions? Probably. Read the review and tell me what you thought of this one.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 8: “Battle for the Abyss” by Ben Counter– Are the Ultramarines or Word Bearers more interesting in this novel in which we have an extended chase scene and a David-and-Goliath scenario?

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 9: “Mechanicum” by Graham McNeill– The mysterious tech priests enter the fray at last in this book about one of the more interesting parts of the Warhammer universe, in my opinion.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 11: “Fallen Angels” by Mike Lee– A somewhat disappointing foray into the Heresy that tries to establish some political intrigue. Ultimately, this comes at the cost of pacing.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 13: “Nemesis” by James Swallow– A surprisingly excellent side story in the Horus Heresy universe with great characters and action. 

Warhammer 40K Reviews

Microview: The “Eisenhorn” Trilogy– the books that got me into reading Warhammer fiction. I write a small review of why I enjoy them to this day.

Book Review: “Double Eagle” by Dan Abnett– Abnett is one of my favorite authors of Warhammer fiction, but I wasn’t thrilled by this one. Nevertheless, it remains a fan favorite for many. Read what problems I found with the book here.

Warhammer (Fantasy) Reviews

==Pending==

Posts About Warhammer Novels

This category includes links to my other site, where I have a few posts discussing issues like worldview in Warhammer novels and what they might have to teach us and make us think.

A World of Darkness and War- “Eisenhorn” by Dan Abnett– I reflect on the grimdark world of Warhammer and what themes there we might see in our own world.

Horus Heresy: “Horus Rising” and “False Gods” – the False Gods of statism and totalitarianism– total allegiance to the state and totalitarianism are two major dangers discussed in the early parts of the Horus Heresy. I talk about how we can turn the state into a false god.

Other Links

Sci-Fi Hub– Check out this page for links to all my science fiction related posts, along with hubs for other things like Star Wars and Babylon 5.

SDG.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 7: “Legion” 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.

Legion by Dan Abnett

Okay, this book was weird. For the first third or so I had basically no idea what was happening. The next third was me convincing myself I thought I knew what was happening. The final third revealed some pretty awesome stuff. Altogether, I’m not sure how I feel about it.

As I read through the first part of the book, I found myself constantly checking to make sure this actually was a Horus Heresy novel. It did not read like one. And maybe that’s the main difficulty I had with Legion. It doesn’t feel like Warhammer. It reads more like a future detective thriller of some kind, but one that is mired in huge amounts of world building, most of which don’t make much sense. Abnett, it seems, is trying to trick readers into thinking they know what’s happening when they don’t. It’s a unique way to approach the novel, but it left me feeling confused and a bit chagrined–do I maybe not know enough of the lore going in to understand this series? (Other readers have assured me that’s not the case and that it will all make sense, mostly.)

When the big reveal finally happens (and yes, this is a pretty major spoiler), it is awesome. To have two primarchs for the legion, as well as the way they had to face the stark choice of rebellion against the Emperor or stagnant death over a huge amount of time, was thrilling. I wonder, though, how the Xenos managed to convince them. We see them showing the Primarchs, but I’m not sure I as a reader got enough to convince me that the Xenos could be trusted with this either/or reveal. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we’re meant to wonder whether the choice was made was made too hastily or on too little information. I don’t know, because whether intentionally or not, the book leaves this, like many other aspects of the plot, in a cloud of fog.

I also start to worry here whether this is going to be how too many of the Horus Heresy novels play out. So far, this is the third book that read kind of slowly and without huge interest until a major twist made everything seem cooler than it was slogging through at the beginning. I hope the rest of the novels engage front-to-back. That said, Legion was a good read, I don’t deny that. Something about its tone just didn’t sit with me. The epic reveal at the end was awesome, though.

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 6: “Descent of Angels” by Michael Scanlon

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.

Descent of Angels by Michael Scanlon

I went into reading Descent of Angels not quite knowing what to expect. In one group I’m in, opinions ranged from saying it was among the worst books in the whole WH40K universe to having it as the favorite book in the Horus Heresy series. Reviews on Goodreads put it just over 3/5, reflecting a generally mixed opinion as well. My own opinion is that the book could have easily been a short story instead of a novel.

In Descent of Angels, we meet Zahariel, a man from Caliban, a planet that is kind of Middle Ages in technology and thought. The book is set decades before the Horus Heresy begins and also introduces the Primarch of the Dark Angels legion. The first half has some background story for Caliban, developing the world somewhat as well as the traditions in which Zahariel is raised. The second half integrates Caliban into the Imperium and sees Zahariel going off to join the Dark Angels and fight for the Emperor.

The problems with the novel mostly fall around the way it is written. It just doesn’t have the same feel as other Warhammer 40K or Horus Heresy novels, in my opinion. There’s action, yes, but it all feels kind of strange and almost alien to the main plot, which is basically a coming-of-age story that unites sci-fi/fantasy worlds together. The whole thing reads more like a Star Wars novel than a Warhammer one, and that threw me off for basically the entirety of the novel. Moreover, there are numerous sections of info-dumps where the reader sifts through tens of pages of information before getting to any additional action or character development. Truly, this could have been presented as a short story telling us about Caliban’s integration into the Imperium, and it would have been much improved.

Descent of Angels is a disappointing work in the series. I’ll be interested to see if it truly becomes important later in the series. For now, I would have to say I’m not planning to re-read it. What did you think of the novel?

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.