Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Tales from the Black Library – ‘The Horus Heresy’
Whether you’re an avid gamer or if you just like browsing in bookshops it’s very likely you’ve come across the Black Library collection of novels that tie in with events taken from the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes.
The tag-line for Warhammer 40,000 is that ‘In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war’, this is certainly true of a universe where humanity has reached the stars and is fighting to hold/expand its territory in the face of an onslaught of alien races and insidious creatures of chaos. You would have thought that mankind would pretty much have its hands full fighting aliens but apparently not, humanity turns on itself in galaxy spanning civil war as part of the ‘Horus Heresy’ (one of the ‘main events’ in Warhammer history).
‘The Horus Heresy’ (in which the Emperor’s own Warmaster Horus is taken over by Chaos and mounts a bid for control of the galaxy) has been a well known part of the Warhammer canon for a number of years. Now the Black Library is publishing a series of novels detailing exactly what happened. The good news is that they’re very good indeed; a high octane dose of epic battles, double crossing intrigue and malevolent alien races that require little or no background knowledge to fully appreciate. Different authors have written the first four books but there are no issues over continuity as events flow very satisfactorily from one book to the next.
Black Library heavyweight Dan Abnett opens the proceedings with ‘Horus Rising’, a tale of the Warmaster at the height of his powers but already suffering from the jealousy of his fellow Primarchs and crippling self doubt over his ability to finish the crusade that the emperor began. Betrayal is already taking place within the ranks of the Adeptus Astartes (space marines to the likes of you and me) and plans set in motion that will culminate in the events of Graham McNeill’s ‘False Gods’. Horus is laid low by a daemonic weapon and the ruinous powers of the Warp conspire to have him join their ranks. Even though we know what will ultimately happen several very tense moments make the reader think this could go either way. At the end though, the stage is set and civil war is in the offing.
The first shots are fired in anger over the course of Ben Counter’s ‘Galaxy in Flames’ and James Swallow’s ‘Flight of the Eisenstein’. Loyalist elements are culled and an entire planet laid waste while the desperate crew of a single ship struggle to reach Terra and warn the Emperor of what is happening.
Words cannot describe the sheer epic scale of this series so far. The closest I can get is comparing them to the old Hollywood epics that always seemed to take up several hours of an Easter Sunday afternoon (you know the ones I mean). The main differences are that the books contain a cast of millions, a brutal gothic atmosphere and the sort of firepower that Ben Hur could only dream of having on his chariot…
I’ll admit to being completely hooked and have the next book in the series (Graham McNeill’s ‘Fulgrim’) waiting to be read and reviewed. Whether you’re a fan of the games or just a fan of epic space battles (with the fate of mankind at stake!) I suggest you pick these books up and start reading.