Sunday, May 3, 2009

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

Horus Rising is the first book of the Horus Heresy series published by Black Library. The series chronicles what is potentially the most important event in the history of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. Having never read a Warhammer 40,000 novel before, this was an interesting start. Many of the readers who pick up this book will be familiar with the universe, and will know the events of this series. However, as a first timer, the book was full of tension and excitement. While the series title gives away a bit of what might happen to the character Horus, the rest was certainly interesting.

In the 31st millennium, the universe is full of war as the Imperium seeks to reunite all of the worlds and all of the disparate groups of man together once again, be choice or by force. When these planets choose not to join willingly, the space marines are sent in to change their minds.

The novel follows Loken, a superhuman space marine who fights to unify the universe. He gradually builds a closer relationship to Horus, named Warmaster by the Emperor, and leader of all of the Imperium's might military arm. Loken shows early success, and, after the loss of an officer in the first couple of pages, is given a "promotion" of sorts, moved up into Horus' advisor board. As the novel progresses, the innocent flamboyance of Horus is revealed to hide a very calculating and deeply intelligent man who is slowly moving away from the side of good.

The only setback (and it is minor) is a very sudden scene and character jump midway through the novel, that was a little off-putting at first, but worked well when tied back into the lead story of Loken. I very much look forward to seeing the rest of his story.

Ostensibly part of an unofficial trilogy (the other two books being False Gods by Graham McNeill and Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter), making up the first three books of the Horus Heresy and all following the character of Loken, this novel does a very effective job of pulling you in and making you relate to Loken. As the voice of reason, Loken can be a very reassuring lead character. Abnett certainly mixes in high levels of action, but the book is framed with an enthralling story that is about far more than just fighting.

I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer depth and maturity of this tie-in novel shows a vast universe in which a host of powerful stories could be written. I went in unsure as to the story-telling ability of an author and a work set in a universe based upon a table top miniatures game, but it flew past all of my preconceived notions. This book was a wonderful start to what I hope is a long relationship with the fictional works of Warhammer 40,000.


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