Here, Here and Here and you'll see what I mean). Even the book that I didn't like quite as much as the others had a lot going for it. The one book I've never picked up though was the 'Eisenhorn' omnibus, the one book that everyone has said I should be reading and were surprised that I hadn't.
The reasons for this tended towards the 'Have you seen the size of it?' I can't lug that around on the tube....' end of the spectrum but there's nothing like not having a job to take that excuse away from a man. I finally decided to pick the book up a couple of weeks ago and check it out; I then kicked myself for not reading it much sooner, it's that good.
I've spent a lot of time here talking up what comes out of the Black Library, all of it for the most part very well written. I've probably even spent time telling you what you need to read first. Well, you can take that list, move everything down one place and put 'Eisenhorn' at the top. Do it right now and thank me later.
Far away from the frontlines of the forty first millennium, the ranks of the Holy Inquisition fight a constant battle to ensure that the human Imperium doesn't fall prey to the threats lurking in its midst. Heretics, aliens and daemons; all are the prey of the Inquisition who hunt them down with the utmost zeal and ruthlessness.
Chief amongst the Inquisitions number is Gregor Eisenhorn, an Inquisitor of unquestioned purity and devoted to his calling. Eisenhorn will stop at nothing to bring the enemies of mankind to justice and this will force him into some very difficult decisons. Will the demands of his calling force him into collaboration with the very forces that he has sworn to destroy? Why does the daemon Cherubael haunt his dreams...?
The 'Eisenhorn' omnibus collects the novels 'Xenos', 'Malleus' and 'Hereticus'; making it a pretty hefty looking book by anyones standards (certainly by mine anyway). At least that's what I thought until I started reading. To say that 'Eisenhorn' is very easy to get into is a real understatement; pages were turning almost without my realising it and other commitments had to be really pressing in order to get me to put the book down. Sorry life but that was just the way it went... :o) All of this is testament to Abnett's ability to assemble a plot that works superbly on a number of levels.
If you have ever wondered what the regular citizens of the Imperium do, while everyone else is off fighting, then 'Eisenhorn' is very much the book for you. Abnett paints a grim yet compelling picture of worlds whose only purpose is to provide men and machines to feed the demands of the Imperial war machine. What of those that are left behind though? Well, that's where the plot gets really interesting; dealing with people who will do whatever it takes to escape the drudgery of their daily lives, even consort with the ruinous powers. Life has got to be pretty bad to force someone into making those choices, Abnett leaves you in no doubt that life in the Imperium really can be that bad.
All of this makes for an intense plot where the stakes are always high and extreme measures are required to resolve constant threats to the galaxy. Put like that, the plot can seem a little repetitive and I'd say that it probably is. When you're in the middle of it all though it's very easy not to notice this as there is so much going on. 'Eisenhorn' is very much a grim 'James Bond in space' with cackling villains up to real evil while our hero tries to stop them. The higher the stakes the greater the spectacle and this makes for set pieces that have to be seen to be believed. I'm talking about the confrontation with the Titan in particular.
'Eisenhorn' isn't just a 'shoot em' up' action piece though. Abnett takes time to show us who Gregor Eisnhorn really is; in particular how most of the bad stuff that happens to him is through bad choices that he can't help but make. I don't want to give too much away but I'm thinking about the Titan again... Eisenhorn is a deeply flawed character (and credit to Abnett for revealing this gradually rather than all at once) but also a man who believes in his vocation and won't flinch from making those tough choices in order to get the job done. Even at the risk of his very soul. Eisenhorn is a character where you will find yourself telling him not to do certain things but you can't help but respect him for the price that he is willing to pay. Having said that, you can’t help but hate him a little bit for the price that he is willing to have certain of his friends pay…
‘I stared at him levelly. I won’t kill a man just to provide a host.’
‘You did on Miquol,’ he hissed softly.
‘What did you just say?’
‘You did on Miquol. Verveuk wasn’t dead. You sacrificed him for the good of us all. Why would you flinch from doing it again?’
Shame on me then for not reading 'Eisenhorn' a whole lot sooner. I'm already well into the 'Ravenor' omnibus though so I won't be making that mistake again. If you haven't read 'Eisenhorn' already then I'd say don't hang around. It's a masterful chunk of dark sci-fi that anyone will get a lot out of.
Ten out of Ten