This was something of a venture for me – I’ve tried reading some of the Black Library material in the past without a barometer, and found them pretty shallow. This was the exception that opened my eyes to the 40K universe proper.
It is by no means a fantastic text, but I was overwhelmed by the deft approach that author Dan Abnett adopts to populate a seemingly lifeless universe with characters that draw you in, and genuinely engender feelings towards. The concept of this first book in the Horus Heresy series is purely an introduction to future tragedy, and to that end, makes all the right moves in allowing you to sympathise with the main characters and their followers. I’ve always looked on the soldiery of 40K to be automatons and clones – but Abnett invests a great deal of time in showing you the human qualities of these supermen. They are indoctrinated servants, but also make choices within their roles that affect the world around them, just as regular individuals would.
There is an obvious care and devotion to the source material at work here, as Abnett captures the sterility and service-oriented atmosphere of Warhammer future with aplomb. The aesthetic attention to detail is clear throughout the novel; and there is a clear theme of service and duty that resonates at every caste level in the text. Abnett isn’t one to bury the lea, even within a chapter, as he allows his characters to mature and develop at their own pace – it often makes the reader…this reader wonder how to feel about certain characters very early on – but that is how such judgement and affiliation works in real life too.
At the very core, Horus Rising succeeds as a story about soldiers in space. It isn’t without flaws – such as the dense terminologies that reference a prior knowledge with Warhammer 40K that would have helped me immensely, but as to that – hey didn’t stop me enjoying the text either. I could have done without the excessively (and repetitively frequent) adulation prefacing the arrival of the Primarchs in their every scene, but this was really my only substantial demerit towards the book. What it did do successfully was encourage me to read the next in the series. I recommend this to any fan of the hobby game without reservation – and to those willing to give it a chance, you might find there is a depth here worth your time.