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Default Sonofmalice reviews the Heresy series (one...book...at...a time)

Initial rubric for review:

I have long wanted to undertake this project, rereading and analyzing all of the Horus Heresy series that are out, but only recently have I found the time to do so. I will add reviews as I finish the books and, school and work permitting, will finish them with reasonable haste. First though I will outline my process so that anyone reading a review will understand where I am coming from.

Point 1: These books are read as if by a person with NO knowledge of Warhammer 40k whatsoever. I am approaching this as if it were simply a fantasy/sci-fi series in its own right.

Point 2: My rating system is as follows: (Edited on the advice of CKCraford)
As the ratings I had initially decided to use looked deceptively low I am changing the rating system. I have not read a HH book that wasn’t at least a 6 on my previous scale.

[1 out of 10: Abysmal-Nothing whatsoever redeeming about this work.
2 out of 10: Horrid-The only thing keeping this work from being a 1 is some random element that might strike a person’s fancy.
3 out of 10: Disappointing-Something about this work is good but is overshadowed by a host of other things that are substandard.
4 out of 10: Below average- This is almost run of the mill and nothing special but some aspect of it drags it down.
5 out of 10: Average-This is benchmark, the line in the sand. It is neither so good that it is hugely memorable nor is it so bad that it is actively repellant. It is simply neutral, nothing too good or too bad to say about it.
6 out of 10: Above average-This work has something about it that pulls it up. Could be good characters, could be good use of language, it could even be a unique plot but it elevates the work.
7 out of 10: Engaging-A work that inspires you and makes you want to read more with no obviously bad material included.
8 out of 10: Gripping-You don’t want to put this book down. The story arc is well crafted and the characters are interesting and relatable.
9 out of 10: Stellar-This is a book that you will remember whole parts of after a first reading, it sticks in your mind. At this point every character is important and lends something to the story. The story itself is multilayered and subtle.
10 out of 10: Perfection-No work is truly “perfect” but from your perspective this one is. You go back and reread it and it never loses quality. ]
Since that is the case I will change the ratings as follows.
Standalone 1-5.
1 out of 5: Worthless (equates to a 1-2 above)
2 out of 5: Average (equates to a 3-4 above)
3 out of 5: Above Average (equates to a 5-6 above)
4 out of 5: Excellent (equates to a 7-8 above)
5 out of 5: Perfect (equates to a 9-10 above)

Story as a whole 1-10.
As above.
The total rating of the book will be the sum of the two ratings divided by two out of a possible ten stars overall. Some books are great by themselves but don’t add a ton to the narrative as a whole while others are great for story but not the best by themselves. I feel this will address the earlier issue with Horus Rising more effectively and also give a better approximation of what a first time reader would think if they read it.

Point 3: I will break down characters into several groups.
1. Main Characters/Protagonists
2. Secondary Characters
3. Background Character
4. Name Drop
5. Antagonists

A main character is the focus of the story or its main narrator. How good a main character is depends on how well the advance the story and retain the interest and empathy of the reader.

Secondary characters are important though not the main focus. They will have their own adventures that tie back to the main character.

Background characters are not given many lines or thoughts and are present to facilitate the story but not add their voice to it.

Name drop characters are not present in the work but their name and prestige cast a shadow over the actions of the other characters.

Antagonists are quite obviously the personified obstacle that the protagonist must overcome.

Point 4: As I reread everything I will continually update a scale of how well I think the series is doing as a whole. This will be 0 to 100 and will move up or down according to the total picture provided.

Point 5: Everything is subjective. I have already read all of these and liked them all to some degree. I tend to mention things I don’t like more than things I do. Assume that if I don’t heap praise or scorn on everything that those things not mentioned are acceptable but not exceptional.

Point 6: Since some of these characters are written by different authors I will also rate continuity and point out things I think break it. I don’t usually mean glaring differences between books (there usually aren’t such things or if there are there is a reason) but rather characters acting, well, out of character. If space marine x is always portrayed as humble, five books later he is described as arrogant as an example.

I will answer comments on my review but please remember that this is all subjective. If you love Deliverance Lost and I don’t, for example, neither of us are wrong, we just have a difference of opinion.

Last edited by SonofMalice; 10-24-12 at 07:45 PM.
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Default Horus Rising

Review of "Horus Rising" by Dan Abnett

Main Character(s):
Garviel Loken-10th company captain, Luna Wolves Legion.

Secondary Characters:
Ignace Karkasy-Poet Remembrancer attached to the 63rd fleet.
Euphrati Keeler-Imagist Remembrancer attached to the 63rd fleet.
Mersadie Oliton-Documenter Remembrancer attached to the 63rd fleet.
Tarik Torgaddon-2nd company captain, Luna Wolves Legion.
Saul Tarvitz-Captain, Emperor's Children Legion.

Background Characters:
Horus-Primarch of the Luna Wolves.
Ezekyle Abaddon-1st company captain, Luna Wolves Legion.
Lucius-Captain, Emperor's Children Legion.
Kyril Sindermann-Iterator attached to the 63rd fleet.
Sanguinus-Primarch of the Blood Angels

Name Drops:
The Emperor-Master of Mankind.
Malcador the Sigilite.
Fulgrim-Primarch of the Emperor's Children.

Antagonists:
"Samus"-Warp Entity.
Erebus-1st chaplain, Word Bearers Legion.


Review summary:
The book's beginning, Loken's story of Horus killing the "Emperor", starts the series off well. Immediately you get a sense of the power of the Adeptus Astartes of the Luna Wolves and their commander Horus. While the full extent of their abilities is only hinted at immediately visions of massively strong and skillful warriors are evoked. For all that they are still shown, immediately, to be mortal and not unbeatable. I approved of this since with all the talk of being "immortal" and also a head higher than genebulked elite soldiers they sounded invincible. The main character Loken seems possessed of good sense and a very strong set of ethics. Clearly a professional in an army of warriors he is well presented and his humility and modesty endear him to the reader.
As the tale continues the elements of mystery and fear evoked by the Whisperhead incident and Samus is tempered with the war on Murder and the concluding contact with the interex. The book is divided into three parts and it definitely shows for while elements carry over from part to part it feels like you teleport straight from "terra" to Murder. Loken's character development is slow but good. You get a sense that he is naturally very reserved so getting to know him feels genuine. The supporting characters of the Mournival really help move this process along. The remembrancers, by contrast, largely bored me since They are used too sparingly and specifically for me to start to like them really. Ignace Karkasy is a great example of this. He appears in the first few pages, gets beaten up and then disappears for a long while only to pop up again when Loken talks to him. I would have been interested to see more from a human perspective.
The war on Murder drips with descriptions and for the first time we get to see another Astares point of view. Tarvitz feels, however, for all the world almost exactly like Loken. He has the same kind of humility, the same response to problems, the same upright code of honor. If you removed the names it would be incredibly hard to tell that it wasn't Loken. The Emperor's Children seem to be composed of Tarvitz and the most arrogant pricks in the Imperium and nothing is really done to change that in this book. You like Tarvitz not because he is amazing but because he's not a prideful idiot like Lucius or Eidolon. The megarachnids sound pretty terrifying and the challenge they pose the space marines is pretty apparent though the reason for them staying to fight seems a bit stubborn and contrived.
The last phase of the book is far the shortest of all and also the most scattered and frenetic. You meet the interex but just as you get to know them war breaks out and that's the end of that. Erebus is introduced about thirty pages from the end of the book and since his theft of the Anathema is the reason for the war it makes the end of this book kind of baffling. Horus' attempts at peace, in the face of everyone's resistance, seem out of place but by the end you have warmed to him as a character at least somewhat.

Review proper:
I liked this book but I liked the start far more than I did the conclusion. The characters are interesting but rough in many areas. I like Loken and I want him to succeed and I thought that some of the best scenes are him recounting his stories or in conference with the rest of the Mournival. Speaking of the Luna Wolves I think that the idea of lodges and the Mournival was very well used so far (at least the Mournival part) and I like the character of the legion as a whole. Not so thrilled with the humans though...
In fairness they are not as incredible as Space Marines but other than Karkasy they seem colorless to me too. I expected that from the Astartes but certainly not from normal humans. It is an odd reversal. I also immediately questioned, with the rest of the legion, the need to include them in the crusade. I understand the need from a meta perspective but I feel that their inclusion as a human element could have been as easily done (and more believably) by using Imperial Army officers, Tech-priests, Navel officers etc. People appropriate to the campaign. The remembrancers aren't even allowed to see the SM in action, merely following in their rather bloody wake. So over all I wasn't impressed with them though I acknowledge the necessity for them.
The whisperheads bothered me. It was so easily shrugged off as if this sort of thing happens all the time. Horus explains to a 100-200+ year old captain something that I would think would be VERY pertinent information as if it's just some interesting facet of the universe. This incident cost at least ten lives though, Jubal's whole squad and a fair chunk of another. A little more knowledge of the warp and a little more concern for it would have been more immersive.
I do not like the Emperor's Children, I figured that out in about five pages. They are portrayed as arrogant, haughty, and rather shortsighted. The command structure seems to be comprised of sycophants and reckless idiots and the only level headed officer is treated with disdain that borders on outright hostility. After reading all the brotherly goodness in the Luna Wolves it was a bit jarring (even Ekaddon worked his issues out with Loken) and made me immediately hope they would all die except for Tarvitz. It only gets worse when the Luna Wolves arrive and Torggadon serves up a diatribe on Eidolon. The Lord Captain had just been rescued from damn near certain death and his first act is to start a pissing contest?
Sanguinus is awesome, he and Horus fighting together is awesome x2 but I don't understand WHY. They had pulled everyone off Murder and have a big fleet of ships. Why not glass the whole planet? Doesn't seem to be valuable or strategically important. They commit their forces to months of war, war that costs even more casualties, for what reason? Because Horus wants to fight at the front again? This whole part seemed unneeded to me.
Interex seem nice, shame they are paranoid to the point of murder. The hall that houses their weapons is burned? Must be the new guys. For a species that is supposed to be so advanced and who detest killing so much they leap really fast to armed confrontation. A simple "Ok, one of our weapons was stolen, the ones we showed you, would you kindly allow us to search you?" would have avoided so much. Horus seems to REALLY want to negotiate with them even when his men are getting shot (him too for that matter).
Erebus....you sneaky snake. You just ignited a war to get a weapon that as far as I saw you had no way of knowing even existed. The interex meet the warmaster at murder, they talk in space at murder, only after weeks do they finally take them to Xenobia (really? Xeno right in the name?). Did Erebus know about this weapon before? If so how? Why is he such an amazing guy and yet perpetrating this? My knowledge of what is to come (having read all of these already) notwithstanding his actions are not so much mysterious as just strange. Not evil, just weird.

Over all it was a good book, not a GREAT book though. The problem is that the author has to create the background, he has to show you enough of the world and set enough of the rules that what follows makes sense. In that capacity it does very well, it is a good springboard for more books but not the most amazing book. Since this is building to a crescendo I rather like this aspect of it. Too much awesomeness early on would have really over egged the series.

Standalone Rating:3/5
Storyline Rating: 8/10
Total Rating:7/10-7.5/10 (Edited in accord with new rating system)
Continuity-none so far

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Originally Posted by SonofMalice View Post
Review proper:
I liked this book but I liked the start far more than I did the conclusion. The characters are interesting but rough in many areas. I like Loken and I want him to succeed and I thought that some of the best scenes are him recounting his stories or in conference with the rest of the Mournival. Speaking of the Luna Wolves I think that the idea of lodges and the Mournival was very well used so far (at least the Mournival part) and I like the character of the legion as a whole. Not so thrilled with the humans though...
In fairness they are not as incredible as Space Marines but other than Karkasy they seem colorless to me too. I expected that from the Astartes but certainly not from normal humans. It is an odd reversal. I also immediately questioned, with the rest of the legion, the need to include them in the crusade. I understand the need from a meta perspective but I feel that their inclusion as a human element could have been as easily done (and more believably) by using Imperial Army officers, Tech-priests, Navel officers etc. People appropriate to the campaign. The remembrancers aren't even allowed to see the SM in action, merely following in their rather bloody wake. So over all I wasn't impressed with them though I acknowledge the necessity for them.
The whisperheads bothered me. It was so easily shrugged off as if this sort of thing happens all the time. Horus explains to a 100-200+ year old captain something that I would think would be VERY pertinent information as if it's just some interesting facet of the universe. This incident cost at least ten lives though, Jubal's whole squad and a fair chunk of another. A little more knowledge of the warp and a little more concern for it would have been more immersive.
The warp during the 30k period is hardly explainable. And at this time, "chaos" is known only to very few who have the will to not freak out over it. In the 40k human setting, not many human beings know of daemons either. If they had knowledge they most likely would be killed in fear of spreading fear and cultism.
I do not like the Emperor's Children, I figured that out in about five pages. They are portrayed as arrogant, haughty, and rather shortsighted. The command structure seems to be comprised of sycophants and reckless idiots and the only level headed officer is treated with disdain that borders on outright hostility. After reading all the brotherly goodness in the Luna Wolves it was a bit jarring (even Ekaddon worked his issues out with Loken) and made me immediately hope they would all die except for Tarvitz. It only gets worse when the Luna Wolves arrive and Torggadon serves up a diatribe on Eidolon. The Lord Captain had just been rescued from damn near certain death and his first act is to start a pissing contest? (Wait until you read Fulgrim. But at the rate you perceive the Heresy I fear you may not enjoy it enough to go that far.)
Sanguinus is awesome, he and Horus fighting together is awesome x2 but I don't understand WHY. They had pulled everyone off Murder and have a big fleet of ships. Why not glass the whole planet? Doesn't seem to be valuable or strategically important. They commit their forces to months of war, war that costs even more casualties, for what reason? (They are finishing the Great Crusade. You should go back to the part of the book where it talks about the reasoning of the Great Crusade. If you don't want to, you should go to lexicanum.com)Because Horus wants to fight at the front again? This whole part seemed unneeded to me. (not really, he's the warmaster and has a record to uphold).
Interex seem nice, shame they are paranoid to the point of murder. The hall that houses their weapons is burned? Must be the new guys. For a species that is supposed to be so advanced and who detest killing so much they leap really fast to armed confrontation. A simple "Ok, one of our weapons was stolen, the ones we showed you, would you kindly allow us to search you?" would have avoided so much. Horus seems to REALLY want to negotiate with them even when his men are getting shot (him too for that matter). ( I don't think you are grasping the concept of Chaos. Chaos is a corrupting thing that causes thousands and millions to have warped minds and put the galaxy into anarchy. At this point in time, Chaos has very little footing in the Galaxy. Of course the Interex aren't taking the theft of a warped weapon that eventually causes the heresy so prudently.
Erebus....you sneaky snake. You just ignited a war to get a weapon that as far as I saw you had no way of knowing even existed. The interex meet the warmaster at murder, they talk in space at murder, only after weeks do they finally take them to Xenobia (really? Xeno right in the name?). Did Erebus know about this weapon before? If so how? Why is he such an amazing guy and yet perpetrating this? My knowledge of what is to come (having read all of these already) notwithstanding his actions are not so much mysterious as just strange. Not evil, just weird.

Over all it was a good book, not a GREAT book though. The problem is that the author has to create the background, he has to show you enough of the world and set enough of the rules that what follows makes sense. In that capacity it does very well, it is a good springboard for more books but not the most amazing book. Since this is building to a crescendo I rather like this aspect of it. Too much awesomeness early on would have really over egged the series.

Rating:6/10
Rating for advancing the series 8/10
Continuity-none so far
I added some comments to your review. I do appreciate you writing a review for Horus Rising because it has yet to have received a review on this website (mostly because its an older novel). However, it vexes me that you came out of this novel not understanding many important things.

For example, you ask why Horus keeps on fighting right after Murder. You might as well ask why there are space marines, and why the hell humanity is doing out in space to begin with. In truth, I'm surprised you didn't have a headache reading this.

I also am not sure of your understanding of Chaos generally speaking. You do understand that Loken and the humans he is with know nothing about daemons or chaos except for fairy tales in old books.

As a whole, I am surprised you rated this novel so low. Even if you looked at it as someone who knows little to nothing of the lore, it explains the Great Crusade, the Emperor, the Primarchs, and Horus' becoming to Warmaster. I'm talking from personal experience because I knew nothing of the Heresy, Chaos, the Great Crusade when I read this novel many years ago. If anything this novel got me to start looking for more related fluff because I wanted more information, which is the purpose of this novel. Loken I thought, was written particularly well. As you read about the other Legions, you can see Dan wrote them through perspective, which was done intentionally to make stereotypes and generalizations of the legions.

What might be more troublesome for people reading this review is that your review is a complete outlier to what most people have rated this book. And I'm basing it off polls and peoples top ten or five novels. At worst I have seen this book rated an 8. I mean, it probably has the best written character in the warhammer world and is considered the best introductory novel in the series. If you don't like this one, I'm afraid you may not like the others. Or at the very least, the whole series may seem confusing to you. People have different reasons to grade books a certain way. But a six usually means the fluff in the work makes no sense or in a series, the fluff really didn't present anything new to what you already know. Which is fair if you really feel like that.

Anyhow, I'm not trying to get down on you. You may genuinely not like the lore of the Heresy Series and think its cheesy. But if you are interested, and you have read and liked the other novels in the series, I suggest you read and look at the novel again.

p.s. I'm also surprised you mentioned Samus as an antagonist. He really doesn't come off as a character worth mentioning at all. What makes "it" important in the novel is the simple fact it introduces characters to the warp.

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Always good to have feed back of course and I do appreciate the quick review .

As my ratings indicated it is above average by itself but as the start to the series as a whole and (admittedly I am breaking my rule about not thinking about the books to come) it is a gripping book. 6/10 by itself isn't bad at all, as a piece of background, which you mention, it is one of the best in the series though at 8/10. To be fair I have only three books that count as above a 9 to me so it IS a good work and as many have indicated it is part of a trilogy kind of.

The reason for the low stand alone rating is because, like Iron Man 2, it sacrifices a lot to drive the story forward. It is a great start for the series but if you read it and stopped it wouldn't be the best of the lot (to my mind that would probably be The First Heretic or a Thousand Sons).

I agree about Loken incidentally, he IS a strong character (and gets oh so much better as the series continues). I like that he is the straight man though at times he's just a tad too stiff in his bearing. Still he is dynamic and interesting. About the other legions I suppose I was taking it that since Tarvitz is the one narrating his own story that it was how the Emperor's Children actually were. I really like Saul in the next books but he does feel a lot like Loken to me, not a bad thing as I do think that he is a good straight man. The EC just don't sound all that nice, even the book mentions this with one of the Luna Wolves remarking on their haughtiness so I feel my thoughts their are at least well founded.

As to Chaos, I do get it that they don't know but from both the micro view I am affecting and the macro view of the series as a whole I NEVER understood exactly who knows what about chaos. Mortation speaks of sorcerous powers and how terrible they are, Magnus' Sons use Tutilaries, and in living memory (for some) such daemons have been summoned and yet the Luna Wolves know nothing about this? It just strains my belief a little too much. Granted that this is a question that will never be answered but I don't understand why you wouldn't tell the SMs about the dangers of Chaos. Not doing so is what brings the whole thing down any way. Pet peeve perhaps :p

Also on the subject of Chaos it DOES have a foothold (and Fulgrim is awesome btw). A lot of the stories that come up later in the series show strong chaotic evidence. The Laer as an example, the wraith singers in the next books, Mortarion's home, The world that the Alpha Legion are fighting on (that black cube and all). It is around and it was fought, they mention fighting similar things several times throughout the series.

As to Horus fighting on Murder I get his ego and I understand how the martial honor thing works but it was just shortsighted. I would see it if it were and Angron or Mortarion or even Russ but Horus is supposed to be a strategic genius of the first order. This doesn't show that. It also served no purpose. How would the effect on the story have changed if the Interex had showed up just after extracting the EC? The same discussion could have happened and the story proceeded sans battle. That was my beef with it. From a dramatic stand point it wasn't really needed. I would have liked to hear more about the Interex and less about the megarchnids. After all the Interex weapon is of such importance in the coming books that a discussion of the culture that created it should also have a lot of juicy facts. (Ok, I am a bit of a xeno lover)

Samus is an antagonist in that his power is what warped Jubal and caused several deaths, he apparently has been manipulating things at least a little so he just seemed to fit there.

My thanks for the comments, half the reason I wanted to do this was to discuss such things and yours have been quite to the point. I suspect that the next review will solve the issues that you see in this one since it is a strong bridge and enhances the two other books around it. Keep challeging me good sir!
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Originally Posted by SonofMalice View Post
As to Chaos, I do get it that they don't know but from both the micro view I am affecting and the macro view of the series as a whole I NEVER understood exactly who knows what about chaos. Mortation speaks of sorcerous powers and how terrible they are, Magnus' Sons use Tutilaries, and in living memory (for some) such daemons have been summoned and yet the Luna Wolves know nothing about this? It just strains my belief a little too much. Granted that this is a question that will never be answered but I don't understand why you wouldn't tell the SMs about the dangers of Chaos. Not doing so is what brings the whole thing down any way. Pet peeve perhaps :p
But isn't this something done on purpose? Chaos has many forms, but all have so far are minor. Chaos in its stronger form has not presented itself to the Galaxy and humanity to where the Imperium knows this thing called chaos and that it should be fought against. Magnus was the exception, but that was because the Emperor was using Magnus for the Golden Throne.
Also on the subject of Chaos it DOES have a foothold (and Fulgrim is awesome btw). A lot of the stories that come up later in the series show strong chaotic evidence. The Laer as an example, the wraith singers in the next books, Mortarion's home, The world that the Alpha Legion are fighting on (that black cube and all). It is around and it was fought, they mention fighting similar things several times throughout the series.
I agree, but its so minor that to much of the Imperium non-existant. There are cases, sure, but thats why Samus was used in the novel. It was a brief case of "wtf" and the people who knew more of it just saying... don't pay attention to it. Shit happens. And this was also the purpose of the Emperor. Had the Imperium known of Chaos they would probably have to deal with cultists and traitors which would in return slow down the progress of the Great Crusade.
As to Horus fighting on Murder I get his ego and I understand how the martial honor thing works but it was just shortsighted. I would see it if it were and Angron or Mortarion or even Russ but Horus is supposed to be a strategic genius of the first order. This doesn't show that. It also served no purpose. How would the effect on the story have changed if the Interex had showed up just after extracting the EC? The same discussion could have happened and the story proceeded sans battle. That was my beef with it. From a dramatic stand point it wasn't really needed. I would have liked to hear more about the Interex and less about the megarchnids. After all the Interex weapon is of such importance in the coming books that a discussion of the culture that created it should also have a lot of juicy facts. (Ok, I am a bit of a xeno lover)
Fair enough, though with all the novels and redoings of codex's, introducing the interex would build another front to the 40k world or at least thats what I believe. I think it maybe done, but the Interex is something purely invented by Dan. And though any author could pick it up, i don't think authors like middling in other author's work.


Samus is an antagonist in that his power is what warped Jubal and caused several deaths, he apparently has been manipulating things at least a little so he just seemed to fit there.
... it was so small a part, that if I read just then first page I'd go.... where the hell is Samus in all this. Not really. He has a psychological effect in the story, but pretty much ever other character in the story has a bigger part than Samus.
My thanks for the comments, half the reason I wanted to do this was to discuss such things and yours have been quite to the point. I suspect that the next review will solve the issues that you see in this one since it is a strong bridge and enhances the two other books around it. Keep challeging me good sir!
No problem. Thanks for the review. It takes effort to go back in a series and rate books. A note though, because there are not that many reviews in the heresy about the earlier books, if I googled your review, and I know you explained you rate differently, and I saw 6-10. I'd be a bit skeptical. afterall, even though ratings aren't really grades, they do look so.
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I've been considering what you say about ratings and I suppose it begs the question "what would work better?" I did spend a lot if time trying to decide on how to rate this. On the one hand its a good book but not the best either. On the other it is one of the better intros to the series. I will probably end up having to revise my ratings to account for this. Thoughts?
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Review of “False Gods” by Graham McNeill

Main Character(s):
Garviel Loken-10th company captain, Sons of Horus Legion.
Tarik Torgaddon-2nd company captain, Sons of Horus Legion.

Secondary Characters:
Horus Lupercal-Warmaster, Primarch of the Sons of Horus Legion (Parts 1 and 2 of the book)
Ignace Karkasy-Poet Remembrancer attached to the 63rd fleet.
Euphrati Keeler-Imagist Remembrancer attached to the 63rd fleet.
Petronella Vivar-Documentarist Remembrancer, attached to the 63rd fleet.

Background Characters:
Ezekyle Abaddon-1st company captain, Luna Wolves Legion.
“Little Horus” Aximand-5th company captain, Sons of Horus Legion
Fulgrim-Primarch of the Emperor’s Children Legion
Maloghurst “The Twisted”-Equerry to Horus
Magnus the Red-Primarch of the Thousand Sons Legion

Name Drops:
Lorgar-Primarch of the Word Bearers Legion
Angron-Primarch of the World Eaters Legion

Antagonists:
Eugen Temba-Planetary Governor of Davin
Erebus-1st chaplain, Word Bearers Legion.
Horus Lupercal-Warmaster, Primarch of the Sons of Horus Legion (Parts 3 and 4 of the book)

Review Summary:
This book starts off with the addition of a new documentarist to the remembrancers, Pertronella Vivar of House Carpinus and immediately picks up where the last book left off. The Warmaster has come to the Davin system to personally crush Eugen Temba’s revolt. The book backtracks a little bit and covers the name change of the Legion from the Luna Wolves to the Sons of Horus and also we start to get more of an insight into the mind of Horus himself, how he feels as the warmaster, and his own pride (something we only saw a little of in the previous book).
After dealing with a little bit of background the characters assemble on Davin and the situation is laid out for them. Eugen Temba, once loyal to the Emperor and Horus has gone rogue. This news is delivered by Erebus and his method of delivery is calculated to fan the fires of anger and pride in Horus’ heart(s). Loken has asked Karkasy to watch this meeting and afterwards Karkasy tells him that he thinks Erebus is lying and manipulating the Warmaster for some unknown reason. That said Horus has already made up his mind to personally lead an attack on Temba. Loken and the rest of the Mournival accompany him along with a full “speartip” of astartes, Imperial Army regiments and Titans from the Legio Mortis. Overkill does not even begin to describe it.
The actual battle on the Davinite moon is not what everyone expects though. The landing is unopposed and no sign can be found of the troops that Temba had been left with. In addition there is yet another eerie voice on the voxnet reminiscent of Samus. As the landing proceeds and the space marines move further and further towards the crashed (or landed…) flagship of Temba’s they are best by what can only be described as zombies. Surprisingly these are quite resilient and only massive damage or a shot through the head successfully kills them. As this continues Horus enters the crashed ship to seek out and destroy Temba.
While the space marines hold off the unliving the warmaster fights his way through strange beasts that, while numerous, are completely outclassed by the primarch. Finally reaching the bridge he finds the traitor Temba but he has been horribly changed by some corrupting force. In his hands is the Anathema and with this powerful weapon he is almost a match for Horus. Though in the end the warmaster strikes him down he is wounded by the blade. After the death of Temba the zombies collapse for good and all seems well until Horus falls and has to be carried quickly back to the Vengeful Spirit. When he arrives the space marines brutally club their way through the assembled humans killing several.
The warmaster is treated in by the various apothecaries but none of them can either discover the exact cause of his illness nor can they heal him. Loken goes searching for the Anathema since he believes that perhaps finding the weapon will give the apothecaries a clue as to how to treat the warmaster. In the meantime the various Lodge members are called together and Erebus proposes that they take Horus to one of the Davintie houses of healing. He claims it could restore him to health. Despite Torgaddon’s objections the do and seal him inside the temple to either heal or die. When Loken returns he hears of this and immediately confronts the other Mournival members but the decision has already been made.
Horus, while in the temple, is shown visions of a potential future where the Emperor is revered as a god and his name appears nowhere in the history books or immortalized in statue. He is guided through this by Erebus who has taken the form of Hastur Sejanus to manipulate him. Erebus is trying to convince him that the Emperor aims at becoming a god and is merely using Horus and the rest of the Primarchs as stepping stones to that end. At the tipping point Magnus the Red appears and rips the illusion from Erebus exposing him. Both Magnus and Erebus try to convince the warmaster what he should do, either stay the course and remain loyal or turn away from the Emperor and make war upon him. Horus says he trusts neither of them and that he will make his own decision.
The next part follows the war with the Technocracy, an advanced human group that seems to have ancient STC (Standard Template Construct) technology that is greatly revered and sought after by the Mechanicum. This is the first instance we what Horus’ choice was. HE murders the Technocracy’s ambassador in cold blood merely to foment a war that will allow him to win support from the adepts of mars. His manner seems more aggressive and outright devious in some cases. He confers with the Newly arrived Fulgrim and there seems to be an agreement reached between them though the specifics are not spelled out. Meanwhile he orchestrates the death of death of the Imperial Army Commander Varvus, stages the suicide of Karkasy (in retaliation for Karkasy’s poems against the brutal murder of civilians by the Astartes when they were bringing Horus back from Davin), and personally murders Petronella with his own hands so that the valediction he gave her when he was close to death will never see the light of day. The book ends with Loken and Torgaddon vowing to do what they have to in order to restore their legion and with Horus outlaying the plans he has for the coming war.

Review Proper:
The second part of a trilogy is often the hardest to put together but when it is done right it can not only shine on its own but also elevate the works that precede and follow it. This book does that. The characters that were less defined in “Horus Rising” grow in leaps and bounds in this book to become strong forces moving the story. Loken is better than ever and Torgaddon is now a main character in his own right. The remembrancers and other humans are far better utilized and each seems important to the story and the deaths (or in Keeler’s case coma) that they suffer as a result of their actions makes the story a lot more engaging. Erebus is well written as a cunning antagonist as is Temba (though of a more tragic sort). Overall the book pushes the story forward quickly but very carefully.
That being said there are a few things that stood out as flaws. I will jump right in with the big one since the others are more nitpicks. I don’t really like how Horus turns evil. Oh I love the result of it and I understand that he is being manipulated but the whole thing just doesn’t work very well for me at a gut level. The problem is that for a book and a half we see only how good Horus is, how strong, how intelligent, and on and on. He is the most beloved of the Emperor and also his chosen successor. Honor and glory literally drip off of him. All it takes is a dreamstate and an imposter showing him fanciful visions to change his loyalty.
Before people start saying that the warp is a corrupting force and that he was already twisted and weaned by the wound he suffered think about that for a second. If he chooses to be evil (or at least to turn against the Emperor he does so really fast for having known him from 200+ years and been his most favored. If not then it isn’t really his choice in the first place, he is pushed into it by the Dark Gods. In the first option he seems too ready to cast aside loyalty for no real reason other than a fancy dream and appeals to his pride. In the second he is little better than a puppet and the whole dream is irrelevant in any case. This is the crux of the issue for the entire series and, in an otherwise amazing book, it was the one part I felt was lacking.
Granted I don’t expect the writers to do a slow six books as he is shown more and more reasons to turn but I feel that having him presented as so magnificent and transcendent makes it very hard to believe he throws it all away simply on a whim. Yes it is his pride that is pricked by the treatment he receives from the Terran bureaucrats and he doesn’t want his legacy to be forgotten but as Magnus tells him there are many possible futures, this is just one that is being shown to him to manipulate him. Frankly the fact that he ignores Magnus and doesn’t instakill Erebus once he discovers who he is doesn’t seem like the Horus I had been getting to know.
This aside (and I could go on) once he turns “evil” I like where he goes with it. He immediately starts courting followers and removing or isolating rivals. He tells Russ to go kill Magnus (or at least it is VERY heavily implied that he does so), starts a war just to win over the Mechanicum, silences the few human voices that were raised against him and at his war council basically outlines (and hindsight is nice when reading this) the entire Heresy up to “Fear to Tread”. The last line is chilling even if you don’t know about Istavaan. You get a sense of finality and that he is not going to do anything by half measures. If the first book set the stage this one is a perfect cliffhanger. You know that shit is going to go down but you have to wait, like the characters themselves, until the right moment.
In summation a great read and a perfect follow up to “Horus Rising” The few criticisms I had of that last book are mostly dealt with here and the new path introduced (if a bit rockily) is very strong and compelling.

Standalone Rating: 4/5
Rating for advancing the series 9.5/10 (I’d give it a 10 for outlining most of the rest of the series but that seemed excessive)
Total Rating: 8.75-9
Continuity-97/100 (The anathema is described as flinty and silvery in Horus Rising and golden in False Gods. Yes it is the same sword, Loken recognizes it on Fulgrim’s hip and it is described as golden when wielded by Temba. A minor but important detail)
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