Thursday, 28 January 2010

Amanda reviews: False Gods

Amanda of Floor to Ceiling Books offers her insights into the second book in the Horus Heresy series. Originally a few brief paragraphs in 1988's Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness about some guy called General Horus falling ill , Graham McNeill continues to expand and embellish the Heresy saga. Here's what Amanda made of this installment.

False Gods by Graham McNeill

The Horus Heresy sequence is extremely interesting in that each book is written by a different author - in the first book Dan Abnett laid out the foundation for the tale that Graham McNeill continues. Part of the fun in reading this book came from seeing how McNeill handled the characters introduced by Abnett, and how his writing style differed.

I would say that McNeill is definitely more utilitarian in his style - at times Abnett became almost poetic in his descriptions, whereas McNeill eschews that for a more militaristic and straightforward approach.

This book is also more introspective. There are less rampant battle scenes (although that is not to say there aren't moments of excitement and tension), and the action moves into a more political arena. Horus reaches the moment of his decision, and we see the actions of all the protagonists as they decide whether to stand with their Warmaster. Of course, anyone who has played the actual game of Warhammer 40K knows the way that this novel has to end, but McNeill does a very good job of keeping me interested on the journey.

There are faults though - and one of them is not of McNeill's making. The edition of this book that I read was riddled with errors and needed another scan by human eyes to pick up all those mistakes e.g. 'their' instead of 'there'; "...it was poor a vintage" rather than "it was a poor vintage". This might be considered nit-picking, but enough errors will jar you out of a novel. I didn't appreciate McNeill making up words either - 'spanging', I felt, was unnecessary. Bullets ricochet, they do not spang...

An illustration of the concept of SPANG

I also felt that the period in the latter half of the book when Horus is struggling from his wound caused the pacing to go all awry. Up until that point we had been proceeding forward at a brisk pace, but I became mired in the dream sequences and struggled to get through without skim reading. I suspect that Abnett might have handled these in a better fashion.

My favourite characters were Loken and Torgaddon, as in this first book. Their very human reactions - the doubt, the pain, the anger - lend gravity to events. It was an unremittingly dark book, very grim, and even Torgaddon (the joker of the bunch) couldn't come out with much comedy relief to lighten the tone.

It almost sounds as though I didn't enjoy it, but I did - very much so. I found it more thought-provoking than the first book, especially with the discussion on the nature of Gods and religion. I especially liked the quote from Karkasy: "No, my dear, ignorance and fear create the gods, enthusiasm and deceit adorn them, and human weakness worships them."

All in all, a strong addition to the Horus Heresy books, with a cliff hanger of an ending that guarantees I'll be heading out to get hold of the next!

Thanks missy. Check out her other book reviews and thoughts at Floor to Ceiling Books. She reads books like other people breathe air.

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Posted by Curis at 8:04 pm

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