November 17, 2010 by lloyd
By Dan Abnett
For my latest review, Beasts of War set me the task of finding out what would be the best book to act as an introduction for someone new to the background of the 40k universe. With the huge selection of the Black Library before me, I decided that the best place to start would be, as it were, at the beginning. Enter Horus Rising, first book in the successful Horus Heresy series, and written by one of the giants of the Black Library, Dan Abnett, who also wrote the Gaunt’s Ghosts series and the screenplay for the recent Ultramarines movie. Horus Rising more than lives up to the expectations one would hold of Dan Abnett, and serves as a perfect spring board for a new fan to launch themselves into the grim dark of the far future, and contains what has become possibly my favourite opening of any Games Workshop publication; “I was there when Horus killed the emperor.”
Set near the beginning of Horus’ time as Warmaster of the Imperial forces, the book acts as an introductory to the characters and events which led up to the infamous events of the Horus Heresy. Even though it deals with events which took place a long time before those occurring in the current setting of the table top game, Horus Rising is still, in my opinion, the perfect place for anyone new to the background to start off, as it introduces us to the things which have shaped the 40k universe. With his fantastically diverse range of characters, Abnett has provided the reader with practically every view, attitude and ideal which is held within the Imperium. One might believe that because the events are only concerned with humanity in this book, the image a new hobbyist might be left with would be a rather constrained one. However, Abnett has succeeded in displaying the sheer vastness of the 40k universe through the conversations of the various characters, which nod towards the different races available, such as Orks and Eldar, as well as the vastness of the Imperial army itself. This can eave even those who might have thought they already knew the background fairly well burning with a curiosity and desire to dig deeper into the hobby’s background. I myself, despite having been a devotee of Fantasy and 40k since primary school, found myself delving deeper into the background via the internet whenever I wasn’t actually reading the book itself.
Veterans of 40k need not worry, however, as this is by no means merely aimed at newbies. Abnett has loaded the story with guest appearances from characters which should be familiar to any established fan of 40k. Examples range from Ezekyle Abaddon, more commonly known as Abaddon the despoiler, to Captain Lucius of the Emperor’s Children (Lucius the Eternal), not to mention three of the legendary Primarchs. And it is not just in the legendary characters that the book holds its appeal. In Horus Rising Abnett presents his readers with a fresh look at the familiar figures of the Adeptus Astartes, displaying the varying attitudes of the different Chapters and their attitudes towards one another and their duty as space marines. Possibly Abnett’s greatest success is in managing to make 10ft tall gene enhanced warriors relatable, displaying to us their moments of grief and even humour. Veterans will also enjoy picking up on hints of the events to come which are scattered throughout the text, such as Horus pondering on whether the Emperor’s decree regarding tolerance is wrong.
All in all, Horus Rising can be considered to be a masterpiece of Dan Abnett’s abilities as a writer. The plot is well constructed and progresses steadily, with moments of action seamlessly merged into the main stream of events. The characters themselves are superbly presented and extremely diverse in their natures and attitudes, and easy to relate to. Horus Rising is a brilliant exploration into the events which helped to shape the world of 40k, and in reviewing it I have decided to break my Golden Rule. I try to avoid giving anything a full 5/5, but I believe that this book truly deserves it.
+ Brilliant plot and characters
+ A perfect starting point for those new to 40k
- Incredibly hard to think of bad points.
- More an introduction than a plot driven piece, but this should not be taken as a bad point as that is essentially what it’s supposed to be.