Gamertell Review: The Horus Heresy: Nemesis by James Swallow

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Nemesis Horus Heresy book cover

Title: Nemesis (aka The Horus Heresy: Nemesis)
Authors(Editor): James Swallow
Publisher: The Black Library
Release Date: August 2010
Price: $8.99
Rating: Two thumbs sideways, 75/100, C, ** 1/2 out of five.
Pros: Good to see the perspectives, brings the story forward further into the future, further development of some of the long-standing characters, plays more on the behind the scenes aspects of war, more of a Tom Clancy/Robert Ludlum style espionage story that anything else in the franchise
Cons: It should be a lot more engaging, inconsistencies in the portrayal of regular humans, imagery could be used better and in a far more economical way
Overall: It is worth reading if you’ve been reading the series from the start. If you haven’t been reading the series from the start, there are better books in the series.

It was bound to happen that the Horus Heresy series would have a book that almost exclusively focused on the behind-the-scenes aspect of war. Nemesis is that book.

The question is whether or not it actually lives up to the work that the majority of the series had laid out. To put it simply, it does but it could be so much better.

Going for the Kill

Assassins? Politics? Spies? Murder and intrigue? Awesome!

Right from the start, the book sets itself apart from other books in the Horus Heresy series by throwing you into one of the more recent failed attempts on the Archtraitor, Warmaster Horus Lupercal. This is one of the few times in the book that the imagery actually shines. You follow an assassin as he lands his ship on a now dead world due to exteriminatus. He’s headed there because Horus and some of the higher-ups in the legions that joined him are planning where to head next. So right from the start, it tries to show you that the writer is trying to engage you as quickly as possible.

This book takes place a couple of years after the start of rebellion so you get to witness the fraying of the Imperium that can be quite obvious in non-Horus Heresy Warhammer 40,000 stories. As for the general storyline, it is very much like a Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum style storyline. There’s the covert ops for either assassinations or intelligence as well as counter-ops. It’s a pretty taut storyline that if you find a way to really keep your imagination invested in the story. That’s where the hard part is.


The book has moments where it is engaging – the opening scene, for example – however, it always seems to shift back to mundane. That causes the level of reader engagement to become inconsistent. Horus Heresy is a franchise that exclusively follows the Imperium of Mankind as it split and eventually reunited to be besieged by mutant, alien, daemon and human alike. This means that human characters do have to come across as human. Some of them don’t really come across more as machine than just human.

One of the biggest problems with the book is the use of imagery. Some of it just gets overly developed. Sure, over-developed imagery isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a book. However, there should’ve been far more economical writing in the descriptions of what you’re supposed to see. It just seems like half of the imagery and events end up being downplayed for the sake of the other half of the imagery and events. Then again, James Swallow tends to shift between being a fairly economical and proficient writer and not really knowing when to stop description and let the mind of the reader take over with finishing off an image.

Almost Fell

If you can’t find away to stay invested in it, the book isn’t as enjoyable as it could be or should be. It’s not bad, it’s just that the stylistic issues of the story make it an average book with a great story, as strange as that might sound. It works but almost falls apart under what’s being done with the story.

Bottom Line: Read it if you’ve read any of the other books in the series. If you haven’t read the earlier books, read them first because that would at least help keep your mind on the story.

Site [Nemesis] Read [Horus Heresy @ Gamertell]

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  • Bob Maten

    I think it is a good book, and not so expensive.