* Prices may differ from that shown
This is a novel issued by Black Library, the first in a series chronicling the Horus Heresy. The blurb from the back states: "It is the 31st millennium. Under the benevolent leadership of the Immortal Emperor the Imperium of Man has stretched out across the galaxy. It is a golden age of discovery and conquest.
But now, on the eve of victory, the Emperor leaves the front lines, entrusting the great crusade to his favourite son, Horus. Promoted to Warmaster, can the idealistic Horus carry out the Emperor's grand plan, or will this promotion sow the seeds of heresy amongst his brothers?"
To give a little background, I am a casual Warhammer 40K gamer so I have some familiarity with the terms that Abnett employs (such as drop pods and bolters), but, up until now, I have not been interested enough to delve into the rich background to the game - so I knew little to nothing about the events this novel covers.
In my opinion, this is probably the worst possible placement for a reader of Horus Rising! If a reader tries this book with zero knowledge of the 40K universe, they can enjoy it as a commendable sci-fi novel in its own right. If they are already acquainted with the background, then this becomes a wonderful extension of what they already know. I found myself being just au fait enough to have moments where I was jarred out of the story: "Huh, Abaddon is a good guy?! Is Luna Wolves just another name for Space Wolves then?" Readers in my position need to bear in mind that this novel is set long before the events dealt with in the tabletop game.
I'll deal briefly with the parts of the novel I was not fond of (that way, we can finish the review on a high!) There are not many, in all honesty...
Personally I found the pacing of the novel to be a little 'off'. Every time I just got settled into the (usually explosive) events, the battle would end or the viewpoint switch, and it would then take a small amount of effort to immerse myself fully again. A particular example of this is when we follow Karkasy (the poet remembrancer) out onto the surface of Sixty-Three Nineteen for what seems a redundant chapter or so.
Speaking of Karkasy I became deeply confused by the fact that he seemed to die when set upon in the bar, but then we find him dealing with Loken later in the novel - this could have done with more clarity, especially since the sentence "...Ignace Karkasy was no longer pontificating. Or breathing" seems very final. Unless Abnett particularly wrote in Karkasy's character for a future novel, I'm unsure what he brings to the narrative and I think he could easily have been left out with no real loss to the overall story.
My last flaw concerns the presence of too many characters. At four hundred pages or so, it is a slimmer novel to those I am used to but it still required a Dramatis Personae so that I could keep track. Some of the characters suffered greatly from a lack of 'screen time' and were written in a very two diimensional fashion. Many minor characters were completely interchangeable because they had been so under-developed - I put forward Qruze and Marr and Kibre as examples. I like to think that, because this is the first in a long running series, these guys will feature more prominently later.
While addressing characters, let's move on to the positive elements of Horus Rising. The main characters - Loken, Abaddon, Sindermann and a number of others - were well-written, fully developed and felt real in their dialogue, motivations and actions. Which is a damn good job by Abnett considering most of his characters are super human soldiers developed so as not to suffer emotions or know fear! They were very human, for want of a better word, especially Loken who embodies the doubt and frustration of a weapon that has started to think about what he does. I confess to feeling a bit of a fangirl thrill when I saw names that are familiar from my gaming, such as Abaddon.
I enjoyed the way that Abnett described the clear differences and the burgeoning politics between the Space Marine Legions, sowing the first seeds of dissension - I though he handled the characteristics in a concise manner that helped to developed the story (Imperial Fists being exceptional at defence; Emperor's Children being overly proud and haughty), rather than dumping in all the information in an artificial manner.
Speaking of info-dumping, I found this was kept to an admirable minimum. Despite the sci-fi terms scattered through the text, Abnett never stops to explain. Instead he uses his characters for this purpose - and not in a "Let me sit you down, son, and tell you all about lasguns and the battle formations of Space Marines" manner either. He utilises Mersadie (the remembrancer attached to Loken) very effectively, since she encourages Loken to talk about his experiences which puts across a lot of what the reader needs to know in a very natural manner.
I don't think Dan Abnett will be offended by the fact that I found his writing very much "David Gemmell-esque in space", especially his battle sequences which were simply awesome and very cleanly-written. They definitely brought to life some of the gaming events I am familiar with - like Terminators striding unscathed across the field of battle, and massed bolter fire taking down hordes of enemy xenos.
On a serious note I do feel as though Abnett records some fine thoughts on the nature of war and its never-ending cycle, with sentences such as: "We will spend our lives fighting to secure this Imperium, and then I fear we will spend the rest of our days fighting to keep it intact" describing the utter futility of war.
And more comical touches? He may not have intended it so, but I found Abnett's use of the 40K game tagline amusing: "In the far future, there will be only war". Was this just popped in as a nod to the fans?
Abnett also has a soldier's sense of humour - and it would not surprise me to learn he had served in the forces. This line in particular made me chortle: "He began to wade out towards the islet, hoping that his feet wouldn't suddenly encounter some unexpected depth of submerged crater and so lend comedy to this solemn moment". I guess the thought of a massive Space Marine in power armour tripping over his own feet just tickled me.
We are dropped right into the action from the first page and it takes a little while for the coherent, linear storyline to emerge. The first thirty pages or so are a breathless and, at times, bumpy ride while new characters and ranks are thrown in. I would urge everyone to muscle through this because the reward for your effort is massive. It deserves to be read by all gamers as a superb complement to the background already available - but it should also be picked up by those who haven't even heard of Warhammer 40K. It is a superior slice of pulpy sci-fi - never less than deeply enjoyable.
Based upon the Games Workshop tabletop game, Horus Rising is the first in the 'Horus Heresy' series. Currently totalling 15 books, the series is set in the far futre. Mankind has reached out into the stars and found that space is full of races who would like nothing more than to exterminate mankind. Under the leadership of the Godlike Emperor of Mankind and assisted by the Primarchs, the Space Marines have fought a long and bloody crusade to reunite lost planets of man. At the start of Horus Rising, Horus has assumed the title of Warmaster and has been given command of the Crusade as the Emperor returns to Earth for unknown reasons. This has caused a rift between the Primarchs who command the Space Marine Legions, and ultimately what will cause their downfall.
This book and the next two in the series focus primarily on the the Primarch known as Horus and his chapter. Given the title of the series you can see whats in store for him and his followers. The strength of the best books in this series lies in sowing the subtle seeds which will pan out later in the series.
Primarily a series for fans of the games, with a little bit of background knowledge, it can be quite enjoyable for even a non fan. As the series progresses, there are a couple of books which do seem to be filler, but reading them is all the more worthwhile when you get to something like Horus Rising. It's a definite page turner.
I want to start this review off by saying i'm not a huge fan of the table top game of Warhammer 40K. I did used to collect and paint the figures when i was younger but soon the novelty of it wore off. However the basic premise behind the factions, the space marines in particular, always stuck with me. So when i found a lull in books out that i wanted to read i decided to give this a try.
I was thoroughly impressed by this book and the whole over arching story. It reads something akin to a good old fashioned science fiction story with Space battles, heroic soldiers and lots of well written action. However there is also a horror and mystery element in this and the other 2 books that follow that genuinely made me want to keep reading to find out what happened.
I've now read 8 of the books in the series and Dan Abnett is by far my favourite author of all those that have contributed to the books. He has an excellent way with characters, especially creating ones that you find yourself caring about. The action is top notch and i wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of Sci Fi even if they're not familiar with the Warhammer 40K universe, after all thats what wikipedia is for right?
As a lifelong fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but something of a self-conscious reader, it took me a long time to warm up to the concept of buying and reading a novel based on the sci-fi property. However, having taken the plunge with Horus Rising, I'm glad I did - it's a well written, decently-paced and inventive space opera romp that borrows from a slew of classic sci-fi.
The usual problem with novelizations of games is that the writers seem shackled in terms of what they can and can't change; by setting this series in the "past" of the WH40k universe (roughly around the year 30,000) the writers have a bit more freedom to invent places, characters, and events. I think this is a large part of the reason that I enjoyed Horus Rising more than other entries I've read in the WH40k pantheon.
There's no denying the novel moves fairly slowly. I've yet to read any other entries in the series, but would imagine this slow pacing is endemic of the plan to string the "Horus Heresy" series out into a fairly long-running original fiction franchise. At time of writing, more than a dozen novels have been penned for the series. The trade-off in Horus Rising is that events are rendered in occasionally stunning detail.
It's definitely worth bearing in mind that if you're new to the WH40k universe you may find Horus Rising a little hard to understand. I would still recommend Horus Rising to fans of sci-fi unfamiliar with the franchise, but would attach the caveat that being a well-established IP and by all accounts fan service the author makes little effort to explain any of the universe's specific conceits.
Firstly, if you're not a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this book is not for you. A basic knowledge of the Space Marines is a must, or you will get very confused, very quickly.
Horus Rising is the first book in the Horus Heresy series, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. However, unlike a lot of the current crop of 40k books, this is set in the distant past, and addresses one of the most crucial events in its history: the splintering of the emperor of mankind's Space Marine forces into loyalist and traitor factions.
As the vast majority of Warhammer 40,000 players and fans will know, there are 2 vastly different Space Marine armies. The "good" guys, who are the marines still loyal to the emperor of mankind, and the "bad" guys, who worship at the feet of chaos, and are only interested in sowing hate, fear and destruction wherever they go.
As this book starts, there are only "good" space marines, and over the course of the Horus Heresy series you will witness the fall from grace of the traitor legions, and get to see just what caused it.
As a whole, this book is very good, with a strong narrative, a fast paced storyline, and believable characters. The combat scenes are very visceral (if it were a film, it'd be rated 15 at least), and so well written you can almost hear the gunfire as you read. One thing I particularily liked about Horus Rising is how it covers the rituals the Space marines go through before and after combat, such as prayers they may use, or ceremonies to welcome new commanders into the inner circle. To put it simply, this book is much more than just a lot of fight scenes inside a cover.
This is one of the most enjoyable 40k books I've read for a while, and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to know more about the history of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The Horus Heresy continues in book 2 of the series, False Gods.