Garviel Loken

Galaxy in Flames

Galaxy in Flames

Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter; Black Library

The third book in the “opening trilogy” of the Horus Heresy by Ben Counter was another fantastic read. I highly recommend the Horus Heresy series at this point – even though I have only read the first three. I definitely intend to continue reading the series. Galaxy in Flames follows after the second novel, False Gods. The first novel was written by Dan Abnett, the second by Graham McNeill. This is the first novel I have read by Ben Counter. The cover art, which is fantastic, was done by Neil Roberts.

This is an excellent read. It continues the intense, gripping storyline of the Horus Heresy, in which Warmaster Horus turns against the Emperor. Although it is just as intense as the previous two novels, I feel the first quarter of this novel was slightly off the high-mark set by the previous two novels. It is not easy to point out exactly what was “not quite as good,” but I think it is because instead of focusing on one character (Garviel Loken), Counter spreads his attention among the entire cast. This works very well, but after spending so much time in the first two books with Loken, I think I missed hanging out with Loken. The front half of this novel is slightly more superficial than the previous two books. However, this matters less and less as the novel proceeds, because the tension and drama increase enough to make up for it.

Treachery, duplicity, betrayal, and rebellion end in a fierce, violent conclusion that destroys a planet (Isstvan III).  The last stand of the loyalists, including Garviel Loken, Saul Tarvitz, and Tarik Torgaddon, is done really well. Lucius the swordsman also has a role to play that will make readers cringe and wail.

Meanwhile, the non-warriors (the iterators and scribes) scurry through the Vengeful Spirit, working to maintain their loyalty to the Emperor while trying to stay alive. Lots of Space Marines die in this novel – and lots of Space Marines are forced to choose between sides between the Warmaster and the Emperor.  Everyone else is caught in the crossfire and has to make choices that are far from easy.

I love the Horus Heresy series.  It incorporates everything I want in a space opera, science fiction, drama, war story. The characters are great, the storyline is great, the writing is well above-average and oftentimes excellent. I love the cover art for all of the novels.  Along the way, the reader explores concepts of brotherhood, loyalty, faith, and warfare.  I find myself putting the book down at points just to revel in the dramatic tension.  Tarvitz says: “Warheads?”  – and I had to put the book down and just cringe. But on page 212, Tarvitz has commandeered a Thunderhawk – but Horus has sent fighters after him. Again, put the book down, cringe and worry. Page 268, Qruze is no longer the “half-heard” and his epic heroism shows through! Put the book down and swell with pride for Qruze. For the emperor!

There are not many books that the reader can get this invested in the storyline and the characters. If I come across such books, I am so thrilled; I definitely evangelize: hey! Read this series!  I am going to continue reading along. I cannot stop with the last words of the book (Horus speaking): “Then we strike for Terra!”

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

Horus Rising

Horus RisingI 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.

5 stars