Horus Rising by Dan Abnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"When xenos threaten the existence of humanity - who you gonna call?"
Mangasm in print right here!!
What a opening Horus Rising has. I recall reading it for the first time many years ago and thinking "surly the end can't be the beginning of the novel." I was so confused. How wrong I was, we're now thirty novels into the series, with no sign of it ending. It's not just that juxtapose - the beginning has impact - it's forceful. It'll grab you and take you on a ride at terminal velocity. Best grab the sick bag!
Dan Abnett introduces us to the Luna Wolves, Space Marines from the planet Cathonia. You could argue that Horus Rising becomes overawed by a type of celebrity-showcasing of a who's-who of the 30K universe. It really doesn't though. What really makes this book stand out are the foundations laid. There is great emphasis placed on a shared-brotherhood, a camaraderie we see lacking in current 40K novels (in my opinion), along the lines of honour and a resolute secularism. There's intelligent prose to be found here, it's not all about being a superhuman with unmatched strength and stamina - there's also a philosophy of being. Loken is certainly searching for this throughout.
That being said, there's bolter-porn to be found here also, from the outset in fact. Do not fear, this isn't a philosophical treatise to bore you to death. It's a novel about conquest, that being the crusade that the Emperor has tasked/burdened the Astrates and humanity with (let's be honest, it's a big world out there). What really was a joy to read was the foes arranged against the Space Marines. You'd think it would be Orks or Elder, no no. Dan Abnett comes up with some of his own races. The Megarachnid are a biological being, they breed and consume, they seem to be a earlier existence of the Tyranids. There is also the Interex, former colonists from Terra who have found themselves devoid of contact with their human brothers due to the Age of Strife (warpstorms stopping space travel).
Characters really make a novel, this being no expectation. Dan Abnett has created some of the best characters in both 30/40K to date. We're introduced to the concept of 'The Mournvial' who are akin to a advisory council to Horus. Made up of 'worthy' captains of merit, such as Abaddon, the first captain, Aximand, Loken and Torgaddon. They rather remind me of the A-Team. Abaddon as Hannibal, who comes across as a brilliant tactician, if a little hot headed. Torgaddon as the wise-cracking comedy relief, who becomes staunch friends with Garvial. Aximand is much more the level-headed member, so I guess that would make him Face. That leaves Garvial Loken, a individual who is the dissenting voice. He offers his own views, which help him to fit his role as devil's advocate within the Mournvial - he certainly isn't BA Baracus, but then I could see him saying "crazy fool" for my own amusement. He's too much of a starch arse for that.
There are some fantastic side characters of note. Eidelon, commander of The Emperor's Children, arrogant, aloof and altogether what I would call 'a tool.' Saul Tarvitz and Lucius are a wonderful foil, one being a pragmatist and shall we say grounded captain and the other hot-headed and cock-sure. They really complement each other. Although the Space Marines are the centre stage, the more human characters that populate "Horus Rising" are just as interesting. A primary iterator Sindermann and the remembrancer Euphrati Keeler are both interesting and very well written. Obviously Abnett uses them to give effective contrast to the Astrates. Did I mention First Chaplain Erebus of the Word Bearers? No, fuck him then!
It's obviously worth mentioning Horus *sarcasm*. He is charismatic, a leader. He is both humble and aloof - without appearing so. The Primarch uses such tools as the Mournvial to maintain, if you like, a neutral perspective, especially when engaging with military personnel. This is shown throughout the book and works fairly well, but at times did make me think that a leader should speak his mind at all times.
Horus Rising is one of those benchmark books, not just in Black Library's arsenal, but in the whole science fiction genre. It's Grimdark, space opera and an apologetic war mixed all into one bag.The series as a whole is getting more and more exposure, it's a New York bestseller. It's one of the best novels in the series, being the first, this is no small feat. Give it ago, even if you aren't a fan of Warhammer 40K, this series stands on its own. What do you have to lose? Do it, do it NOW.
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