I had always thought that Warhammer 40,000 was all about Space Marines and the Imperial Guard, but Henry Zou showed me differently, with his novel Emperor's Mercy (see my review). Zou introduced me to the world of the Inquisition, and I loved it. I couldn't wait to take another step into this territory, and Dan Abnett, Warhammer 40,000 author extraordinaire, was the place to go, especially with his new collection, Ravenor: The Omnibus just out from the Black Library. Sadly, I was more than let down.
Ravenor is an Inquisitor of the Imperium of Man, and he, along with his squad of crack operatives, arrives at a new planet to investigate a new psychic drug, flects. Ravenor has the feeling that it is more than just a drug, but a heretical substance that must be rooted out. His squad tracks down leads, while Ravenor pulls strings behind the scenes, while at the same time we are introduced to Zael, a flect addict, who is far more than meets the eye.
Abnett plays with genres, mixing the obvious science fiction setting of Warhammer 40,000, while throwing in a mystery that Ravenor must solve, and flinging things along with thriller-like pacing and style. Pulled off well, this would have been an incredible book. Sadly, Abnett bungled them to the point that I couldn't finish the novel.
The story begins with a vast number of characters, all chasing down people, with lots of violence and action characteristic of Warhammer 40,000. However, unlike all of the other Warhammer 40,000 novels I've read, the intelligent plot that weaves the action together is absent for at least the first third of the book, with pointless chase scene, meaningless deaths, and absolutely no motive, no rationale behind what the characters do.
The lush settings available in the Warhammer 40,000 environment also work against this novel. With each change of setting we are giving excessive amounts of setting description, along with long descriptions of festivals and activities that, is a good novel, we would be shown, not told about. I came to dread each new locale change, as it meant story-halting descriptions for pages. Any momentum the story could build, it killed.
Many of the characters felt very fake. Very little depth was given to them, and while some of that may have been addressed in Abnett's Eisenhorn, as a new reader to his Inquisitor novels, they felt flat, and left me not caring much about them. Ravenor's dues ex machina ability to "ware" his teammates also meant that they survived everything, making any tension disappear.
I could not finish this novel. It did very little for me. I tried over and over, and it failed on me every chance it had. I had high hopes for this one, as I liked both the previous Inquisition novel, and the previous Abnett novel, I had read, but after this flop, I don't look forward to either more Inquisition or more Abnett with the same zeal. One day I will give this omnibus another shot, but it will be awhile.
I read a full 3/4 of this novel, and based on that, I give Ravenor, part of Ravenor: The Omnibus, the following rating: