Wednesday 28 April 2010

A Thousand Sons

Anyone visiting this Blog will, at the very least know about the epic Horus Heresy series, and I'm guessing many of you will be following it. The most recent release, Graham McNeill's
A Thousand Sons charts the fate of the eponymous Legion, familar in their 40k incarnation as sorcerous Chaos Space Marines the story goes a long way to explaining the downfall of these once noble warriors while thankfully avoiding many of the potential traps and cliches already plundered in lesser Black Library piblications.

With the Horus Heresy now numbering a dozen books, including an excellent anthology of short stories edited by the head honcho himself- Rick Priestley. The quality has been a bit patchy to say the least. As far as genre literature goes the overall quality has been good, and having my first exposure to the great Heresy aged a measly ten years of age I have found my expectations probably unfairly high. Fans, while loving their adopted material can also be the most partisan of critics and I'm sure the Black Library are more than aware of this. Personally I found the series got off to a good start, with truly epic scenes depicting the rise of Horus and the prosecution of the Emperors great bloody work- The Great Crusade, becoming Homeresque in their recounting. The low point so far I would have to say would be Mechanicum, McNeill's last outing in the series and, to be fair a difficult subject (making the reader sympathise with mechanical characters seems pretty difficult) made me approach A Thousand Sons with some trepidation.

So it is satisfying indeed that the Author has trumped the series by writing a novel that makes the reader love the main characters, undoubtedly the most human Astartes we have met yet, before plunging them into a wicked tragedy that takes the reader into a downward spiral as if a brother of the Thousand Sons legion himself. Magnus the Red, arguably the most powerful and potent of the Primarchs is a flawed gem of a character. His humility and philosophical outlook enamour the reader, while his veiled ambition and pride shows portent of his downfall, his love of knowledge and outlook for humanity leave you in no doubt that he is good. So all the more tragic the outcome, we know the fate of the legion- their transformation is skillfully written. Be it known the Emperor makes mistakes, and this book encompasses that very hubris in a skillfully written account that could be no further from the black and white good versus evil version of the 'current' 40k background, here instead find the multitude of greys that colour the human condition.

Good science fiction tells you about humanity, and Graham McNeill has put the Black Library back on track with this latest installment- top marks.