I have begun reading the Warhammer40k novels, and I started not with this one, but with another written by Dan Abnett. This is, therefore, the second novel in the Warhammer40k library that I have read. This novel is the first in the Horus Heresy series. Horus Rising was first published in 2006 and there are (as of the time of this blog post) 18 total novels in the series. This book begins as somewhat of “pre-history,” that is, it takes place in the 31st millennium. It’s a good place to gain entry into the Warhammer40k universe.
According to Wikipedia:
Horus Rising details the rise to power of Horus Lupercal, Primarch of the Luna Wolves, after the Emperor of Mankind appoints him Warmaster, overall commander of the Imperial military and in charge of the Great Crusade. Much of the focus is on the Captain of the Luna Wolves’ 10th Company, Garviel Loken, as he becomes a member of the Mournival (an advisory body to Horus), and his involvement in campaigns against non-Imperials and aliens at the close of the Great Crusade.
The main character is Captain Garviel Loken, who the reader follows in both present-time and flashback stories. The major characters of this story are not simply military soldiers – but genetically advanced, high-tech armored warriors. These legions of warriors are called Astartes. They are governed by a simple chain of command: Sergeants, Captains, Primarchs, Warmaster, and Emperor. These huge legions of “men” are on the Great Crusade, which is basically an aggressive military march across the universe to subdue and conquer any world, species, race that is not man. When this is accomplished on a world, it is called bringing the world into “compliance.” Compliance basically means being entirely subjugated to the Imperium of Man – recognizing the Emperor and his will.
Dan Abnett writes good books. I know because of the fact that this novel is science fiction and involves space warriors in the future that immediately no one feels the need to consider it literature. All science fiction is treated as somehow “other” and even classics (e.g. Asimov’s Foundation) are only given begrudging acceptance by the “literate reader.” I won’t go so far as to say that Horus Rising is great literature, but I do insist that it will be overlooked simply for the fact that it is science fiction. What I love about Dan Abnett’s Warhammer40k novels (so far), is that they manage to bring out the best elements of The Iliad and drop them into the 31st millennium.
There are, at least, a dozen well-written military science fiction novels and series that would be good to read. These include the Honor Harrington, Kris Longknife, and Starfist novels. However, unlike those, Dan Abnett’s Warhammer40k novels seem to make the warfare and the characters a lot less artificial and a lot more significant. Also, there are zero instances of sex, bad language, or foulness in Abnett’s novels. I like that. I like that to tell us a gripping tale of politico-military adventure, strife, and crusading, the author does not feel the need to include some off-beat, random sexual interlude. And even though the reader is dropped directly onto the vicious and grueling battlefield, the reader is not subjected to ridiculous dialogue, drawn-out gory scenes, or silly sound effects.
I whipped through the pages of this book. As an aside, the font is easy to read and doesn’t strain the eyes at all. However, there were times that I had to put the book down – I did not “want to see what was coming.” You know those moments in books wherein the tension is high and you can see some of the threads of the storyline culminating – and you have befriended the characters so much that you don’t want anything bad to happen to them? Yeah, I was there several times during this book.
Lastly, one of the best things Abnett is able to do, is educate the reader on future war tactics, chains of command, army structures, planetary alignments, high-tech weapons, etc. – but without actually detailing out in multiple paragraphs the encyclopedic information. The reader, at first, is a little off-kilter, but everything gradually begins to work it’s way out, until the reader is completely comfortable concerning bolters, lasguns, Warmasters, and iterators. The storytelling here is excellent, the characters are interesting and can bond with the reader, and the writing style is fun and entertaining. These are good books.