Hi everyone. As my last book review went down so well I figured I will make a bit of a habit of these things. I’ve read quite a bit of 40k fiction in my time so at least I can make posts on a semi regular basis. They will also help keep my mind ticking over whilst I work on bigger topics (which are coming soon).
So, for a while I’m going to focus on the Horus Heresy series, with occasional breaks for regular 40k books (probably when I get round to reading something that catches my eye). No rules as such other than they must be worth reading because they add to the 40k universe in some way. Be it a different style, new expansions of the background or just a refinement of elements that work. I just don’t want to highlight mediocrity. After all, we all only have a finite time on this earth, so we don’t want to be stumbling across the next C.S. Goto and I certainly don’t want to be reading that kind of drek either. So no frigging bolter porn, unless it’s really, really good bolter porn.
HH wise, even though I’m reading the books as fast as I can I’m still about 2/3 years behind the publishing schedule. But thats ok. The first actually decent HH novel doesn’t start until about 7 books in anyway* [Thems fighting words. – Ed.]. The book in question? Legion by Dan Abnett.
The story itself concerns regular army grunts of the Imperial Army undergoing a rather unsuccessful Compliance Action on a planet called Nurth, where the occupants are using magic to aid their fight. Caught up in the machinations of the Alpha Legion, are Hurtado Bronzi, Peto Soneka and Rukhsana Saiid, who amidst all the devastation and betrayals are trying to find out just what exactly why the Alpha Legion are really on Nurth.
In turn, the Alpha Legion have been drawn to the planet by the enigmatic John Grammaticus, a being who has lived long enough to remember meeting the Emperor himself, and the Cabal, a shadowy network of races all conspiring to destroy the ‘Primordial Annihilator’ (Chaos is a much more catchy name don’t you think?) using humanity as its tool to do that.
It sounds very confusing and on my first read through it was. Subsequent readings have made given me a bit more clarity, but as benefits the shadowy 20th Legion, the truth of what is going on behind the scenes is only ever really inferred and is covered in many half-truths.
As is the case with a lot of the early Horus Heresy books, the action is mostly contextualized from the view of humans in the Imperial Army rather than from the view-point of the Astartes. Whilst I would normally complain about this, I think its fitting considering the legion being examined. It’s obvious a lot of thought has been put into this and that Abnett is trying to keep to the spirit of the universe, so even as we are reading the truth of what is now legend in the 41st millennium, the reader is finding there are still many unexplained mysteries and hidden depths to explore.
I did find most of the third act on Eolith a little redundant (beyond the reveal) and found myself a little puzzled as to why the Alpha Legion took an entire Imperial fleet with them other than the mechanical story element of needing access to certain characters later. But my quibbles are more with Abnett’s style of writing, which always seems quite detached and cold to me.
Still, those are minor quibbles. Legion explores the Horus Heresy and the Imperium from the perspective of outsiders to it, or else those who are starting to realise the Emperor’s claims about the universe aren’t quite as true as he may want them to think they are.
Dan Abnett as always delivers a solid, if not exactly gripping, tale with enough twists and reveals to keep you guessing until the next book on the Alpha Legion. In John Grammaticus I found a very likeable character, his world weary visage slowly peeling back to reveal someone, who, whilst not necessarily on our side, is still recognizably human and very relatable.
As a bonus, for those of us who want glimpses of the Rouge Trader and 2nd edition 40K background to appear again, John’s descriptions of the Emperor will bring welcome tidings indeed.
It’s a recommended read from me.
*I’m going to pop back to Fulgrim one day as it has a kernel of a good idea about Slannesh, but I’ve heard it gets squandered later on in the series by sending Slannesh back to being the domain of just ‘naughty bum sex’, so I shall give it a pass until I can read those stories and decide for myself.