Way back in the golden days of my youth there was a time when I commanded squads of the Emperor’s chosen warriors as they fought their way through various fields of battle, killing Orks, Tyranids, Eldar and the dreaded forces of Chaos. Then I graduated from college and no longer had the necessary time to spend constructing and painting Warhammer 40k miniatures, much less actually playing the game. I never lost my love of the game or the setting though, and recently I discovered that not long after I stopped playing a series of books started being published about one of the most pivotal moments in the future/history of 40k: The Horus Heresy.
Horus Rising is the first book in this series and focuses on Horus and his legion of Space Marines soon after the Emperor has declared Horus Warmaster and placed him in charge of finishing the job of bringing the rest of the galaxy into compliance with the Empire’s ideals. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Garviel Loken, Captain of the 10th company of the Luna Wolves Space Marines. Loken is an up and coming officer at the beginning of the book and finds himself embroiled in the middle of most of the fighting and intrigue as the story progresses.
As the first book in what was going to be a fairly large series by Black Library (the company that publishes all Warhammer 40k books) this book also bears the burden of setting up the state of the universe for the reader. This is done amazingly well and I am confident any reader coming fresh into the 40k world would be able to follow the story line with little or no difficulty. Great levels of detail are given about the state of the Imperium of Man, the location of troops, the relationship between Horus and the other Primarchs (the god-like super humans upon whom all space marines are based), and the make-up of Horus’s battle fleet. What is more, all of this context is given in a way that continues to drive the story forward, keeping the action from stalling while the author gives pages of detail.
Speaking of action this book is full of it, which is exactly what a fan of the Warhammer 40k video games or table-top games would expect. The Space Marines are every bit as powerful and impressive within Horus Rising as they are in these other settings. Almost unstoppable, the marines are the supreme fighting force we all know and love. Lose a hand in the middle of a fight? Put it in a bag and use the other one! You can always get it put back on later. In battle after battle the marines march forward with equal parts indomitable will and awe-inspiring weaponry no matter when or where they must fight.
Horus Rising takes place in on three separate planets as well as the space ships used to transport the fleet from one location to another. Each planet is a unique and interesting back-drop to the story being told and has unique challenges for Loken and the rest of the Luna Wolves to overcome. My favorite planet from the book was probably Murder, but with a name like that how could you not like it?
I really enjoyed this book and will most likely be reviewing several more in the series in the coming weeks. The only real issue I had was that there seemed to be two completely separate stories within this book with no real overarching cohesion between the two other than the main characters. Both stories were interesting but it felt a bit confusing having the two completely different stories juxtaposed within one novel. Perhaps this is just a product of being the first book in a larger series and will make more sense as the overall story of the Horus Heresy unfolds.