Book Review: Mechanicum By Graham McNeill

November 9, 2010 by lloyd

By Graham McNeill

Book Review Mechanicum

Before I begin I would like to start by pointing out that this was my first foray into the Horus Heresy series. In hindsight it may not have been the best place to jump in, but I was drawn to it mostly due to the fact that I have always had a fascination with the Adeptus Mechanicum that has even manifested itself as plans to make a Mechanicum army. Since this was back in my early days of gaming, however, this pretty much consisted of painting a land raider red before losing interest. Mechanicum may well have succeeded in reigniting this interest, providing as it does an in depth description of the cult of Mars in the events leading up to the creation of the Dark Mechanicum. With a complexity which at first amazes, and later baffles, Graham Mcneill presents the reader with the story of treachery on the red planet.

First let’s get the bad points over with. I found this book to be unbelievably confusing at times. I’d often find myself flicking back through it to remind myself of who was what and whose name belonged to which character and what their importance was within the plot etc. The author often jumps the plot between the various central characters as the story progresses, and while this can be a useful narrative tool, the gaps between the moments when some of the characters appeared would often be so that you would have to take a few minutes reminding yourself who they were. I found that this made Mechanicum a rather slow read (of course the dose of flu and the surfing holiday didn’t exactly help me to speed my way through it). Also the text is full of examples of technological jargon which piles bafflement upon bemusement. However, this may have been the author’s intentions, showing the almost mystical way in which technology is viewed in the grim darkness of the far future, and also enforces a sense that not even the adepts of the Mechanicum fully understand what they do. Technology within the book Mechanicum can almost be viewed as being used in the same way that magic is within fantasy fiction. That which can’t readily be explained within the novel is simply explained away as being technology, in the same way as things happen by magic in fantasy. How can a structure be built within a volcano? Technology.

Having said this, in Mechanicum McNeill has succeeded in creating a thoroughly engaging plot that draws its readers in, and has created some well thought out characters, even if it is somewhat hard to remember who or what each of them is (with the possible exception of Rho-Mu 31, that’s not the kind of name you forget in a hurry). Although the plot progression is constantly split between the many characters of the story, they do begin to mesh well together and there are enough moments of action placed throughout to hold a reader’s attention. Also, the fact that most people with even a cursory knowledge of Warhammer 40k background will already have an idea of the outcome of the events does not make the book predictable. Rather, McNeill has managed to use it as one of the story’s main holding factors upon a reader’s attention, as you are held by your curiosity in how the outcome came to be.

All in all, Mechanicum proves to be a highly interesting look into how the great events of the Horus Heresy affected one of the lesser explored areas of the 40k universe. Held back as it is by its confusing structure, unnecessary detail and large amounts of jargon, the plot itself nevertheless serves to make the book an enjoyable, if somewhat hard going. I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to both fans of the Horus Heresy or others with an interest in 40k background. However, newcomers to the 40k universe might be best starting elsewhere as a lack of background knowledge could only serve to heighten confusion. It has definitely reawakened my old interest in the Adeptus Mechanicum. Now, where’s my red paint?

BoW Sam

3 / 5


+ An engaging plot
+ Explores a part of the 40k universe not often addressed


- Rather confusing at times
- Not overly suitable for those new to the fan base