Fulgrim

Fulgrim

Fulgrim – Graham McNeill; Black Library

Fulgrim by Graham McNeill is the fifth novel in the Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy series.  It’s also the largest of the first five – running just over 500 pages.  It was published in 2007 and the cover artist was, again, Neil Roberts.  McNeill is the author of the second Horus Heresy novel as well as a few others in the Warhammer 40k collection.

The Warhammer 40k universe is one of my favorites. I am an absolute sucker for science fiction, fantasy, and battles of good versus evil. I like vast armies, huge dramatic storylines, and futuristic settings. A lot of “classy” readers probably would disdain most of Warhammer 40k because it isn’t great literature and is usually derivative of any number of archetypes in the genre.  However, I just love the universe and the characters and the stories.  It’s fun and interesting.  And yes, it is melodramatic.  And yes, in some books the writing is somewhat more juvenile or action-descriptive.  But it’s so much dang fun!

I’m obviously a science fiction fanatic.  And I love reading the classics of science fiction – good, quality, heady stuff for sure.  But really nothing is so deliciously engrossing as a Horus Heresy novel.  I am a big proponent of readers enjoying the books they are reading. If I am reading for entertainment, I want to be entertained.  There is also plenty of room for thought-provoking or challenging. Alter the paradigms, show the parallax, explore conceptual edifices – but let me still have my fun!

Fulgrim is not the best of the first five Horus Heresy novels. I do think in some places the story stalls and the characters chase their tails a bit.  In other words, yeah, this novel could have been whittled down to, say, 420 pages.   And while some novels desperately need to be chopped and halved, since this is Warhammer 40k and I am insanely in love with it, I do not really mind the stuffing.  The first two books of the series were awesome. Without a doubt.  Books four and five kind of circle back around to the events in book three – showing us the events from a different perspective, involving different characters, etc.  Some readers might not like this re-telling of events.  However, in both books, the storyline does move forward.  In Fulgrim, the last quarter of the book deals with the situation on Isstvan V – where the primarchs and their legions engaged in knowing, violent combat over the purpose and goal of the Great Crusade.

In the first half of the novel, the reader learns about the Primarch Fulgrim.  I like learning about each of the primarchs, though Fulgrim himself is not one I’m a real fan of.  He is so prissy and fancy.  He is still a formidable warrior, but his obsession with the concept of perfection and the appearance of his legion is obnoxious.  In other words, it’s easy to hate him and easy to see how he was pulled into the Horus Heresy. There are several neat things that the author does to this character to demonstrate the changes in him and how it affects the Emperor’s Children (his legion of space marines).  Most of them are interesting and reasonable grounding for the character’s actions.  Some are just a little flat or perhaps they are a little too obvious.

Fulgrim – the book and the character – develops from the author’s usage of concepts of aesthetics.  Art appreciation, perfection in art, working to create art, etc. Some of this might seem a bit silly to readers who want warfare in the distant future, but actually I was impressed that the author chose to utilize this stuff.  For example, I really do encourage any fans of the series to read William Blake’s The Book of Urizen either before or after reading Fulgrim.  It’s interesting and contextualizes. It’s also kind of fun to see Blake-ian concepts utilized in pulp science fiction!  I haven’t read The Book of Urizen since…. 1997?…. so I am actually looking forward to just flipping through that again.

Of note, Fulgrim contains some of the more “graphic” scenes in the series so far.  There are not any “bad words,” but the imagery can be a bit intense.  So, if you are really drawn into the book and have a good imagination, the latter half of the book has some scenes dealing with xenos/chaos forces that might be a bit ugly to imagine. The descriptions, though, do border slightly on the purple prose sort of structure in places.  It is not necessarily there for shock value – it does play into the plotline.  Either way, be advised to expect this. I liked elements of this section and disliked elements, as well. For example, there is something both really cool and really silly about the concept of auditory chaos, discordance, and atonal effects being used by/on space marines.

Overall, four stars – because I am a Warhammer 40k fan addict. Three stars if you are judging based on everything else. (Again, my blog, my prerogative!)

4 stars

False Gods

False Gods

False Gods by Graham McNeill; Black Library

After having read and completely loved the first book in The Horus Heresy series (Horus Rising), I was really excited to get into the second book.  Horus Rising was fantastic and in this blog I gave it five stars. I do not give out five stars for novels very often.  Horus Rising was written by Dan Abnett, whom I am starting to really love. This book, False Gods, was written by Graham McNeill. So, even though I was anxious to dive into this book, I had all the usual concerns one would have:  oh, sequels are not as good, and oh, it’s a different author and he won’t be able to write as well, etc.

False Gods was released not too long after Horus Rising. I think they were probably published at the same time and just released a bit apart on purpose.  False Gods was released in June of 2006.  The third book was released in October 2006.  Obviously, these first releases were kept close as a sort of beginning trilogy.

At first, I felt okay with McNeill’s efforts. Then, I got a little nervous as I felt that the novel was wandering and sputtering slightly – so, of course, I panicked. But, as I read on, all the little threads started to tie together. The meandering tributaries joined up and we hopped into a roaring river.  Rest assured, McNeill is as capable and skilled as he needs to be to have written this novel.  Dan Abnett’s novel was excellent and so is this novel.

Even though I am a Warhammer/40k fan, I can truthfully state that anyone unfamiliar with that universe can hop right in to the Horus Heresy novels. They can and they should – this is science fiction war-drama that is probably the best ever written. I honestly cannot think of a reason why a reader would avoid or hesitate to read this series. This is a mighty recommendation I am giving and I, myself, cannot wait to get my paws on the third book.  The cover for False Gods was done by Philip Sibbering.

False Gods continues where Horus Rising left off, more or less. There are several points in the novel where I had to stop, close the book, and just worry and fret about the characters. Or sometimes sniff my nose at some of the sad or touching parts. When Horus hollers at Maloghurst, I felt the intensity. When Horus honors Maggard, I felt his pride and joy. As Loken despaired when Horus fell, I felt the panic and confusion. Finally, when Angron tore through the planet – I felt how horrific and terrible he is. So, judging by reader reaction, I am quite certain this book deserves high marks.  As far as the storyline, I was pleased. We have been following the exploits, in the main, of Loken and this seems to work well. Finally, things come to a head regarding the purpose and utility of remembrancers. The results of Erebus’ actions are continued from the previous novel and they form the backbone of the story in this novel.

But Horus. What can be said about Horus? And what can be said about the Emperor? I don’t know who’s side to be on. I can’t believe Horus! But then, how am I so certain about the Emperor, when I have never met him and know nothing about him, save what Erebus has said?   Like I said, it is imperative to get book three as fast as possible. If you buy book one, you should probably get the next two so you can keep right on reading along. The reader gets their money’s worth and the paperbacks are handsome enough to be on a shelf decently and properly. The font, used in most texts from Black Library, is easy to read and clear.

5 stars

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