Title: The Horus Heresy: False Gods
Author: Graham McNeill
Publisher: The Black Library
Release Date: 2006
Rating: One thumb up and one down, 79/100, C+, ** 1/2 out of five.
Pros: Incredible writing, great story, memorable characters are built up more, hard-hitting description
Cons: Same problem most sequels have. Too much attention to smaller details and it occasionally blocks out the story. Also inconsistently deals with characters.
Overall: It’s full of flaws but for a sequel it’s worth the money.
With False Gods, Graham McNeil has written a great second installment to the Horus Heresy series that tries too hard to outshine Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising.
The Horus Heresy is the back story of the Warhammer 40,000 universe which explains why it is the decaying, gothic, war-torn universe that it is. Taking place 10,000 years before the standard game franchise time, it is a futuristic multi-installment retelling of the epic poem Paradise Lost. It details the rise of Warmaster Horus Lupercal into power and the ensuing struggle when he and some of the most brutal Space Marine legions turn on the Imperium of Mankind.
False Gods picks up a couple of weeks after the events of Horus Rising and characters are still struggling to come to terms with their first view of Chaos. Some read up on old folklore and religious manuscripts while others distract themselves with training. The rest cope with substance abuse. The feeling of abandonment is running through the primarchs of the legions since the Emperor of Mankind returned to Terra. Meanwhile Davin needs to be re-pacified. The Luna Wolves, including Primarch/Warmaster Horus, go in and Horus is nearly killed, saved only by the arcane forces that science and the Imperium is trying to crush. Through the brush with death, Horus’s path is set.
This book isn’t bad. It’s just something that tries to focus on things that made Horus Rising as great as it was rather than focusing more on the story. It is a book so, naturally, the story should be the biggest selling point rather than the individual details. An example is just the front cover. Where Horus Rising was a little drab, it still showed some of the soldiers with their faces revealed, which added emotion to the cover art. False Gods took away that show of emotion by having a horde of Space Marines without showing any faces. Let’s face it, it is a book about war. Regardless of the style, with war you want to show some level of humanity and False Gods occasionally forgets that.
The story, when you get beyond the details, is incredible. However, the story is occasionally overshadowed by the details that make up the story. Some of the characters that were memorable in Horus Rising are built up more while equally important characters can end up downplayed to some extent. The action is frantic, as it should be in a war novel, but is occasionally overdone. While it is well-written, it is inconsistent and one of McNeill’s least affective contributions to the Warhammer 40k franchise.
On the more positive side, characters human and realistic. The storyline, when not drowned by details, is still the hard-hitting story that doesn’t have a big gap between the end of Horus Rising and the beginning of False Gods. That means there isn’t much to really catch up on, which gives some room for the story to develop. You still love the characters that you’re supposed to love and you hate the ones you’re supposed to hate. The language is quicker and more accessible than it is for Horus Rising making it easier to be pulled into the story when it’s not drowning.
Overall, even with its flaws there is still quite a bit to like about the book. If you read Horus Rising, False Gods is a definite must-read. False Gods is a good buy at a used bookstore but at mainstream bookstores it’s only on par with your normal pulp fiction. It’s worth the retail price but you might as well get it for less if you can (legally, of course).