After thousands of years of expansion and conquest, the imperium of man is at its height. His dream for humanity nearly accomplished, the emperor hands over the reins of power to his warmaster, Horus, and heads back to Terra. But is Horus strong enough to control his fellow commanders and continue the emperor’s grand design?
Author: Dan Abnett
Publisher: The Black Library
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Horus Heresy #1
My Chosen Format: Paperback
My Rating of ‘Horus Rising’: 4 out of 5
I read the first twelve books or so in the Horus Heresy when they first came out but stopped due to moving away from the Warhammer franchise as a whole as far as my reading tastes went. But, ever since seeing Jenn at The Eternal Bookcase and Dave at Wordaholicanonymous reading and review the whole series from start to finish, it made me want to dive back in. So thanks, Jenn & Dave, for ensuring that there’s at least fifty-five books for me to pick up if my mind is drawing blanks in the future!
I remember when the Heresy first came out, Horus Rising was THE book that Black Library fans bought above all else. You were hungry and had only enough to buy food or Horus Rising? You were still hungry after you made the correct the choice. Just the way it was. For people like myself, who grew up with the books and had only heard of the primarchs as great figures that existed ten thousand years ago, never in the flesh, getting to read books where they featured as living, breathing characters was like all of your birthdays coming at once. I still get a feeling of awe when they walk into a book, so I think this series is a little extra-special for those who came to the universe before the primarchs were easily accessible.
That being said, the first time I read this book, I felt a little underwhelmed. I was expecting so much but didn’t feel it delivered. I was a bit younger then and only had eyes for action. Reading it with more adult-eyes, I enjoy the way Dan Abnett sets the stage for the authors that come after him. In Horus Rising we get to meet Horus before he fell, when he was the most loyal of the Emperor’s sons and the leader of the most devoted legion to the Imperial cause.
Oh, how times will change.
The characters in this are an equal mix of astartes and regular humans (the humans being rembrancers who are tasked with recording the deeds of the astartes expeditionary fleets as they endeavour to conquer the galaxy in the name of Terra and the Emperor of Mankind.)
It’s an odd universe to be in as we, the reader, are reading from the perspective of the Imperium of Mankind (the good guys). But, as far as good guys go, they’re pretty horrible. The expeditionary fleets are trying spread mankind throughout the stars, this means conquering planets held by alien races and warring with other humans until they accept that the Imperium’s way is the right way. If you like the colour red and the Imperium doesn’t, chances are they’re going kill you. If you’re an alien (even a harmless alien) you might as well just give up now as they’ll kill you just for the crime of being different. They also hate religion. So if you believe in any god, they’ll kill you.
But yea, good guys. Wooooo!
Abnett does an excellent job of making the characters feel like real people rather than just names on a page that you know are destined to eat a stray bolter round at some point. He shows the inner workings of the legions (specifically the Lunar Wolves) in ways that we, as readers, had never really seen up until that point. I also like how invulnerable the astartes feel as, when they inevitably come against an enemy that tears through them like a knife through butter, you can’t help but get a ‘well, this is just got interesting’ feeling.
I personally found it enjoyable to see how Horus’ character goes from fiercely loyal to where he will eventually end up (a traitor) … it’s hardly a spoiler considering the name of the series. Horus Rising is a great start in that downward spiral. Fittingly, as with all falls, this book starts where Horus is at the absolute zenith of his powers, so he has so much farther to fall and such a range of emotions to encounter until he hits rock bottom.
I do find that parts of it went a tad slow and could have been pushed through a bit quicker than they were, but for the most part the whole thing was really enjoyable. It gives us everything from the inner workings of an astartes legion to the day to day running of one of the Emperor’s expeditionary forces.
As ever, with Abnett, the combat is superb. I personally feel he outdoes himself in the latter half of the book as far as combat goes. So yea, read this book if you want to start on the first step of the long, winding road that is the Horus Heresy. Get ready for plenty of action, intrigue and traitorous machinations in the books to come.