Friday, September 25, 2009

The Horus Heresy: False Gods and Galaxy in Flames

I finished reading the final two books in the first trilogy of the Horus Heresy series yesterday: False Gods by Graham McNeill and Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter.  I want to discuss these books, along with Horus Rising, all as one giant tale.  That's really what it is, and frankly, it doesn't do the story justice to discuss any single book alone.

Let's also agree that I burn through books far to fast for my own good.  Fast enough that I've gone ahead and picked up the next 4 books in the series.  But let's get back to the first three books.

False Gods is exactly what it should be, a good second book.  It shows how Horus became corrupted, how he came about making the choice.  It also gives us the clear rift that forms among the members of the Mournival.  Loken is still our main character here, but several of the remembrancers also take center stage.

Galaxy in Flames continues after False Gods, showing us the battle of Istvaan III, as well as the ultimate betrayal of Horus as well as setting us up for the next series of books.

I have to admit, despite knowing how everything turns out, I couldn't help but wonder that maybe, just maybe, things might turn out differently.  The justification for why he turns is sound enough, but evil enough, that it hurts to see the brother Astartes turn on one another.  You can't help but wonder if they are all so loyal to Horus.  The battle between Horus Aximand (Little Horus) and Torgaddon, as short as it was, exemplified the reality of the battle, and I wish it had been featured more.  Abbadon's thoughts on the matter, however, were perfect, and demonstrated there, in five simple words, what the traitor legions would essentially become.

One thing that I found interesting was the use of the words "traitor" and "loyalist" in GoF.  Both sides were using the terms, and it really helped nail the point home that the truth was, both sides believed they were doing what was truly right.  This really makes the entire thing that much more tragic.  Sure, Abbadon might be showing signs of being corrupted, but I don't believe he was the norm.

Of course, looking back on False Gods, I can't help but be amazed that Horus would listen to Erebus even after Magnus comes in and reveals him for lying.  That, I think, demonstrated clearly that while Horus was deceived in some ways, it was his choice in the end, and he made it.

And I think that's the important point here.  Despite all the tragedy and despite all the second guessing, the traitor marines knew what they were doing.  On the surface, they might think what they are doing is right, and that might suit them for a time, but deep down inside, they know what they are doing is wrong.  But they still made that choice.

Galaxy in Flames ended well.  I didn't enjoy the ending, for reasons that I'll avoid discussing because it will give away things that I shouldn't.  But I didn't enjoy it because it happened the way it should have happened.  It's Warhammer 40k after all.

The Flight of the Eisenstein is next, which I'm excited about.  Death Guard!  Captain Garro's short but awesome storyline in the previous books got me all excited.  I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my love of the Death Guard itself.

I would like to add that a lot of the fun with these books is thinking about recreating some of the armies.  It's so much more fun when you can build an army and have a story behind it.  Now I know why there are so many pre-heresy fanatics out there.

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