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.

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.

Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 5: “Fulgrim”

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.

Fulgrim

Boom. Boom. Boom! This book was awesome. It has some serious tones of dark fantasy and horror melded into the relentless metal action I have come to expect from the setting.

The plot is a story of the fall of Fulgrim, along with his Remembrancers, into the hands of Slaanesh, the Chaos god of extravagance, lust, and various evils. Fulgrim has tried to make his legions pursue perfection over all other things, and in the novel he comes to a turning point in which, while fighting some Xenos (aliens), he turns to the aliens’ means of self-perfection through genetic modification. In doing so, he corrupts the plans of the Emperor and begins a path from which he seemingly cannot turn, believing the whole time that he is perfecting his Legion.

There are some pretty gross scenes here, though, so fair warning. The violence is really over the top in parts, including sexual violence and the like. Pretty gruesome. A lot of it centers around the fall of the Remembrancers as they experience the corruption of Daemons as well. The elements of horror are really woven into the foreboding sense that I got as a reader observing how the artists and historians included in the party also fell into the clutches of the daemonic. This is a dark sci-fi novel through and through.

What makes Fulgrim great is that it demonstrates how easy a fall from moral and ethical heights is–justified by a pursuit, a dream, a vision, those who should remain most loyal to the Emperor instead continue to fall away and into the worst of corruptions. It’s an excellent entry in the series.

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(s) 4.5: “The Kaban Project” and others

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 Kaban Project The Dark King The Lightning Tower

I decided to try out some of the short fiction for fun as I continued my read-through of the Horus Heresy, and The Kaban Project was next on the list. I got a collection through interlibrary loan and read that along with the stories that were published around the same time: The Dark King and The Lightning Tower. The latter two were decent, but nothing that I though was too spectacular. Reflecting on tearing down the Imperial Palace in The Lightning Tower was cool, but I haven’t really had investment enough to care much about it like the characters did. The Dark King had the origins of Konrad Curze, and was grimdark enough to satisfy the Warhammer fan, but for all that, it didn’t blow me away. It was good, not great.

The Kaban Project, though? That blew me away. It made me reminisce about things like Dune and the Butlerian Jihad, or other great AI/robots vs. human type stories. The sinister rise of the machine intelligence, wholly unanticipated by the main character, was deliciously foreboding. It leaves me very much wanting more from the Mechanicum in this Horus Heresy setting, while also setting up some great ideas, characters, and potential conflicts going forward. It really had just about anything you could ask for in WH40K novella/short story. Definitely had me excited, because the idea of an evil AI in WH40K is a pretty terrifying and awesome prospect. I hope that at least a few novels will deal with this conflict.

The short story also made me interested in the sort of origin story of AI/Human conflict set within a Warhammer type setting. It would be fascinating to read about the first war against the AIs. Yes, it’s a theme that has become something of a trope in sci-fi, but the WH40K setting is so vast and wild that I think it would still be fresh and exhilarating.

Anyway, turns out the short stories in the Horus Heresy are worth reading, too. What are your thoughts on these works?

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, Books 1 and 2: “Horus Rising” by Dan Abnett and “False Gods” 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.

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

I read Horus Rising a year or so ago and I think I just read it at the wrong time for me. I just wasn’t really in the mood to read a novel about space marines that largely centered around them talking to each other and political intrigue. So I ended up skimming through large sections of the book and not really picking up much along the way. This time, I decided to really dig in because the hype that is surrounding the series finally coming to a conclusion made me desire to get into it at long last.

I’ll be honest, though, the second time through, I still found myself drowning a bit in a sea of names and places that I just didn’t really understand. The learning curve on this first novel is pretty high, and it seems to assume at least some prior knowledge of the universe going in. I had some, but still felt a lot of the references went right over my head. That said, the second read-through of this one gave a much better impression. I have greatly enjoyed other books by Abnett, particularly the Eisenhorn trilogy.

Here, we are introduced to Horus, the bane of humankind and a name that raises the notions of heresy for all those who know the Warhammer 40K universe. Here, he is certainly larger than life, honored by all who surround him as one who has fought the Crusade for the Emperor. But even this seems foggy after reading the book twice. There’s almost too much groundwork being laid here, so that the reader is jerked around from place to place and character to character without being able to stop long enough to focus on any one of them. Don’t get me wrong, Horus Rising is a good book. It just has way too much going on in it to feel cohesive enough of a narrative for someone who isn’t as familiar with the world as others might be. That said, if you’re discouraged, read on, because next we have…

False Gods by Graham McNeill

Okay, now this is what I’m talking about! False Gods is totally awesome. McNeill takes the worldbuilding and groundwork Dan Abnett did and runs with it, drawing out characters, ideas, and combat in page after page. The characters touched on in Horus Rising that seemed like a cacophony of names come into their own. Erebus’s insidious workings with chaos are painted in an almost reasonable light. The reader sympathizes with his apparently benevolent reasoning while also wondering about what it may mean going forward. As someone who has read some other 40K fiction, it was interesting to see how Chaos could start off as such an unknown and almost innocent thing.

Not only that, but the constant discussion of gods, the Emperor, and false gods was fascinating. As a Christian, I found it particularly interesting to see that it seemed that even in the grim dark future, humanity is seen to struggle with religion and though many main characters dismissed religion as false, others struggled to carve out meaning in a horrifying universe.

There are battles aplenty here as well, though the action is never as transcendent and awesomely metal as it is in some of the 40K novels I have read.

Seriously, this book single-handedly made me want to dive into more, so I rushed to get Galaxy in Flames and continue my read-through.

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.

Five for Friday: Gearing up for Expanded Sci-Fi/Fantasy Month!

Over at the “Little Red Reviewer,” “Redhead” has been posting a “Five for Friday” feature on five random books from her shelves to discuss and encouraging others to do so. So here, I go. Following (directly, as quoted in the link)  her rules:

The only things these books have in common are:
-they were
 on my bookshelf
-I’m interested in your thoughts on them

April 26, 2019- Gearing Up for Expanded Sci-Fi/Fantasy Month

Expanded Sci-Fi/Fantasy Month is May! The whole month, dedicate at least some of your reading to tie-in novels related to your favorite universes. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Pathfinder–you name it! This month, I’m featuring four books I’m planning to read in May alongside a nonfiction book I’m going through.

Warhammer 40K: Carcharodons: Red Tithe by Robbie MicNiven

Look, it’s about Space Marines who are themed after giant sharks, apparently with some Hawaiian vibes. What is there to dislike here? Correct Answer: Nothing. Anyone else read WH40K books?

Star Wars: The Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly

I have resolved to continue my Star Wars Expanded Universe read-through, which I left for a while as I dived down the Star Trek novel rabbit hole. I remember being really weirded out by this book when I first read it more than a decade ago, but that was as a kid. I wonder how it will hold up on a re-read. I know the EU books are pretty uneven, so we’ll see how this one turned out.

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus by Reggie L. Williams

I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he’s already shown up once on this feature. This one is about Bonhoeffer’s time in New York and, particularly, how he was influenced by Harlem churches and the Harlem Renaissance.

Firefly: Legacy Edition Book One

I know, I cheated. This one has been featured already but I finally started it and am loving reconnecting with the characters from Serenity. Definitely a tie-in I can enjoy. Admit it: you miss the show, too.

Star Trek: New Frontier – Gods Above by Peter David

The New Frontier books are what got me into Star Trek novels, and I’m itching to dive back into this excellent series. It’s like reading books that have all the best episodes of a non-existent show featured for you. They’re great. What are some of your favorite Star Trek novels?