Horus Rising


When author/editor Mark Charan Newton got involved in the tie-in fiction vs genre fiction debate, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and give a work from Black Library a shot. And since Newton seemed to imply that Dan Abnett was one of the best writers they had, I asked him to send me what he considered to be the author's best novels. One was an omnibus comprised of three books, and I was reticent to start something that big for fear of losing interest. The other was the opening chapter in The Horus Heresy sequence, Horus Rising. I've been told that this is probably one of the best and most entertaining sequences of books in the entire Warhammer 40,000 universe. The premise, that of a galactic civil war threatening to bring about the extinction of mankind, piqued my interest.

Here's the blurb:

It is the 31st millennium. The forces of humanity have reached the stars. Under the benevolent leadership of the Immortal Emperor and his superhuman sons, the primarchs, 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 the Emperor’s grand plan? Worse still, this promotion has sown discontent amongst his brothers. How long before this escalates into all–out mutiny? Horus Rising is the first chapter in the epic tale of the Horus Heresy, a galactic civil war that threatened to bring about the extinction of humanity.

I'm not sure if it's the case with any other Black Library series, but what makes The Horus Heresy so accessible is the fact that it takes place about 10,000 years prior to most Warhammer 40,000 work. While I'm persuaded that being a newbie means that I likely missed a few nuances and foreshadowing, it by no means influenced my reading experience in any way. Hence, if like me you have always been curious about the Warhammer 40,000 universe but didn't have a clue where the hell to begin, or could not make heads or tails of the continuity, then Horus Rising is the perfect starting point for you. The Horus Heresy recounts a tale of epic proportions which will have grave repercussions in the future of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, yet you can read it as a stand-alone series without a glitch. At least thus far. . .

My biggest fear when I began reading Horus Rising was that it would be a seemingly endless sequence of genetically enhanced warriors blowing shit up. After all, the story begins with a little summary telling readers that the vast armies of the Emperor of Earth have conquered the galaxy during the Great Crusade. Myriad alien races have been smashed by the Emperor's elite soldiers and wiped from the face of history, as the Great Crusade seeks to reunite the disparate stands of mankind under the rule of the Emperor. Understandably, given the tone of this series, yes there are battle scenes and plenty of action. And yet, Dan Abnett imbues this violent tale with much more depth than meets the eye. Beyond the blood and the gore, the author explores a number of themes, chief among them loyalty, duty, brotherhood, faith, and even philosophy.

It's difficult to assess the quality of the worldbuilding based on Horus Rising alone, as I have no prior knowledge of the universe and this novel drops us in the middle of a pivotal moment that will rock the foundations of the Great Crusade. I can only hope that subsequent installments will shine some light on Old Night and past eras during which events on Terra engendered the consolidation by the one who would become Emperor, and which in turn led to the galaxy-spanning Great Crusade. Having said that, Abnett nevertheless offers a number of glimpses that, once more, demonstrates that there is much more to what will become known as the Horus Heresy than meets the eye.

Speaking of Dan Abnett, I particularly enjoyed his writing style. His narrative flows well, and he sets a crisp pace when the plotlines demand it. Yet he creates a good balance by slowing down the rhythm when storytelling must take over, and the man is gifted when it comes to dialogue. Moreover, I was impressed by how he was a master of battle sequences, and still could create ambiguous three-dimensional characters forced to deal with moral dilemmas in these uncertain times. Since The Horus Heresy is a group effort being written by a number of authors, it remains to be seen if the rest of the gang can write as well as Dan Abnett. But one thing is for sure: I'll be sampling more Abnett works in the future.

The most satisfying aspect of this novel was the characterization. Given the premise, I was expecting a number of faceless warriors with no personality, with very few characters rising above the rest. I couldn't have been more wrong. Of course, not every character stands out. But there are quite a few that show a lot of depth and personality. Chief among them is Garviel Loken, principal POV character. Additional well-defined characters include the other members of the Mournival, Aximand, Abaddon, and Torgaddon. The presence and POVs of civilians such as the Primary iterator, Kyril Sindermann, and various remembrancers allow readers to see the events unfold from a totally different perspective. And though Horus Rising weighs in at only 412 pages, there is a surprising amount of character development and growth throughout it pages. The seeds of heresy are sown. . .

All in all, Dan Abnett's Horus Rising exceeded my expectations and made me want to discover what happens next! An interesting and intelligent blend of action and multilayered storytelling, Horus Rising should please a lot of science fiction fans out there.

At least where this title is concerned, tie-in fiction can indeed stand against most science fiction/space opera offerings found on the market today. Whether or not the rest of The Horus Heresy can live up to the expectations created by its opening chapter remains to be seen. But Dan Abnett got me; hook, bait, and sinker!

Give Horus Rising a shot. I have a feeling that most of you won't be disappointed.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

13 commentaires:

Dawfydd said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed Horus Rising Pat. The Horus Heresy sequence has shaped up to be something quite special over the last few years, even if it's taking the slow-burn approach. And it is very, very accesible :)

If you want more light shed on the period prior to the Great Crusade then you may be a tad disapointed, but there are some tanitalising glimpses in the anthology collection Tales of Heresy and Mechanicum.

I do haev to say though, despite the fact I am familar with the Warhammer & 40K universes, I've found that the majority of the Black Library's range is surprisingly accesible. You are onto a winner with Abnett though, but I would heartily reccomend Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain books as a change of pace....

Jonas said...

for more abnett i would recommend starting on the Gaunt's ghosts series - the best I have read from him

Allan said...

I ordered this on boxing day with a christmas gift card, looking forward to giving it a try

crackberrybooks said...

"My biggest fear when I began reading Horus Rising was that it would be a seemingly endless sequence of genetically enhanced warriors blowing shit up". LOL, I love the fact that it's not just me thinking this :) I've dithered over this one, but you've convinced me to give it a go and add it to the neverending list.

Colin said...

I bought Gaunts Ghosts to dip a toe into this world. I think I'll dig it.

Jebus said...

I too have been seeing these on the shelves and wondering if I should get into them. I have a mate who is a Games Workshop store manager and he's been crowing about the novels for years, maybe it's time I check 'em out.

Pierre said...

While I also enjoyed Horus Rising, the sequel (not written by Dan Abnett) was so painful I had to stop reading after 30-40 pages.

I amm familiar with the universe and a fan of it, but find that outside of Dan's work there is very little to read in the collection. I would also recommend Dan's Gaunt series although I think his best work might be the Eisenhorn series (sort of Raymond Chandlerish).

Anonymous said...

First of all, I've said it before, but if you like Abnett's writting(and enjoy comic books) you need to pick up Marvel's Gaurdians of the Galaxy, Nova, etc.

That being said, I'm sure Abnett does some great work in the Warhammer 40k universe but I have a hard time getting into a book series that other writers have access to.

Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Star Wars, etc have all suffered from sub par writers. I'm sure this universe is no different.

Matt R said...

Good review to read. Abnett always manages to create interesting charcaters.

If you liked Abnett's Horus Rising I would recommend finishing the opening trilogy (Horus Rising, False Gods, and Galaxy in Flames). These three books follow Loken's story. The Heresy books jump around after the first three and tell different stories that are not direct continuations of the overall story.

Peter said...

This book was my introduction to Dan and have since read anything that BL has published from him. When Legion appeared I had already knocked off Ravenor and Eisenhorn so was looking forward to it. That has easily become my favourite HH title.

He has a magical ability to subtly create environments that really come alive in the story. I have not found this anyone else in the genre.

Horus Rising and Dan got me from a casual reader of the occasional BL to someone that now takes what they do seriously.

Anonymous said...

LOL...I, too, dithered over taking the plunge into the Warhammer 40K books as I've never played the game. I picked up Horus Rising about the same time as Pat and I'm glad I did. Going to see how far I can continue into the Horus Heresy series before moving on to Eisenhorn, Gaunt, etc...

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