Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gorilla Review - Horus Rising - Book One Of The Horus Heresy

The Res Gestae:
For those of you who don't know, Warhammer 40,000 is a SciFi game, set in the 41st millennium and featuring the wars between the various factions (11 or so) vying for domination. The game uses miniature figurines of warriors, creatures and vehicles and are produced by Games Workshop. Games Workshop also produces collectible game cards.

In about 2005, the richness of the fictional Warhammer 41st millennium universe started to expand when the Black Library (a section of BL Publishing which, as you might imagine, is a division of Games Workshop Ltd) authors began to in-fill the history leading up to Warhammer 40,000.

According to the Imperium's history, by the 25th millennium man had dispersed outward through the universe inhabiting a huge number of widely dispersed planets. Travel to these far-flung worlds was accomplished through the "warp", a dimensionally distorted space analogous to a worm-hole. The scientific advances necessary to make these voyages were made during the "Age of Technology" beginning in the 15th millennium and ending in the 25th millennium. During the Age of Technology, mutants, called Navigators, were created by means of gene engineering to assist in passage making though the warp. Once started, the spread of mankind throughout the universe was very rapid.

At the height of this diaspora the warp filled with disturbances and became unusable for some five thousands years. Isolated from its satellite worlds, Terra, descended into anarchy and entered its "Age of Strife."

When the warp finally cleared, the earth was under the rule of a single emperor referred to as "The Immortal Emperor of Man" or "The Emperor of Mankind." The Emperor's true name is unknown. He was born in the 8th millennium AD, somewhere in Anatolia to normal human parents. The basis of the Emperor's immortality isn't clear, but his involvement in human affairs becomes known when he emerges as a warlord of the techno-barbarian warriors and unifies the planet earth in the 30th millennium.

The unification of earth and the clearing of the warp appear to have coincided. After consolidating his control over Terra, the Emperor launched the Great Crusade in which he and his cohorts would return to the far flung worlds and consolidate all of the human race under his solitary leadership whether they wanted it or not. Xenos would be annihilated.

Using his own genes, the Emperor engineered 20 of his offspring into superhuman beings called Primarchs. Each Primarch, in turn, used their own genes to create the legions (their own offspring) they would command. The Emperor was cast as the savior of the human race, whose only purpose was to serve and protect.

The 20 Genetically Engineered Primarchs:
1. Alpharius Omegon - Primarch of the Alpha Legion.
2. Angron - Primarch of World Eaters.
3. Corax - Primarch of Raven Guard.
4. Ferrus Manus - Primarch of the Iron Hands.
5. Fulgrim - Primarch of the Emperor's Children.
6. Horus - Warmaster, Commander In Chief of the Emperor's legions, and Primarch of the Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus.
7. Jaghatai Khan - Primarch of the White Scars.
8. Konrad Curze - Primarch of the Night Lords.
9. Leman Russ - Primarch of the the Space Wolves.
10. Lion El'Jonson - Primarch of the Dark Angels.
11. Logar - Primarch of the Word Bearers.
12. Magnus The Red - Primarch of the Thousand Sons.
13. Mortarion - Primarch of the Death Guard.
14. Perturabo - Primarch of the Iron Warriors.
15. Roboute Guilliman - Primarch of the Ultramarines.
16. Rogal Dorn - Primarch of the Imperial Fists.
17. Sanguinius - Primarch of the Blood Angels.
18. Vulkan - Primarch of the Salamanders.
19. Unknown - Information missing from the history.
20. Unknown - Information missing from the history.

The Great Crusade:
The objective of the Great Crusade was to "liberate" the human race by bringing it to the truth. Which meant bringing each of the settled worlds of the universe into the Imperium so that the vast mass of humanity could reach its full potential and enjoy its birthright (dominion over the universe).

One aspect of the Imperium's "truth" was its complete secularism. The Imperium denied the existence of God and the supernatural. According to the Imperium, there was nothing that could not be defined and/or explained in full by science and nature. Belief systems which taught the existence of demons, gods, spirits and supernatural forces were perceived to be patent frauds used for the sole purpose of subjugating humans.

After two hundred years of total war the Emperor promoted his offspring Horus to the position of Warmaster or Commander In Chief of the Emperor's legions. After making this appointment the Emperor returned to Terra ostensibly to administer his now massive Imperium.

The Horus Heresy:
It is the events following the appointment of Horus as Warmaster which are documented in the Black Library books. Each book is a chapter in the story leading up to Warhammer 40,000. The chapters (listed in order of occurrence) written to date are:

1. Horus Rising, (The seeds of heresy are sewn) by Dan Abnett
2. False Gods, (The heresy takes root) by Graham McNeill
3. Galaxy In Flames, (The heresy revealed) by Ben Counter
4. The Flight of The Eisenstein, (The heresy unfolds) by James Swallow
5. Fulgrim, ( Visions of treachery) by Graham McNeill
6. Descent of Angels, (Loyalty and honour) by Mitchel Scanlon
7. Legion, (Secrets and lies) by Dan Abnett

Horus Rising, by Dan Abnett
Horus Rising opens in the 203rd year of the Great Crusade. Horus had been appointed Warmaster a year earlier after his victory over the Greenskins at Ullanor.

The Luna Wolves Legion (The 63rd Expedition force) and their Primarch, Horus. translated by accident into a system of 9 planets. At the edge of the system they encountered a gathering of warships. The Emperor first demanded of their intent and unsatisfied with their response he demanded fealty and explained he was the savior of mankind and that it was his purpose to reunite all humans where ever they might be located.

The Emperor's envoys were murdered out of hand and as a result the Luna Wolves Legion of Astarte warriors dressed in Mark IV power armor plate, attacked and decimated the resistence.
At the time of the attack, Garviel Loken, a Captain of the 10th Company of the Luna Wolves was leading the First Squad, Tenth Company of the genetically enhanced Imperial Astartes and was racing against troops led by the First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon for the privilege of capturing the false emperor in his own palace on the world designated as sixty-three nineteen.

Loken wins the race with Abaddon and catches up to the false emperor in the tallest of the palace towers. In the few minutes Loken had with the false emperor, the man argued that if their philosophies were so far apart the Astartes could have simply left them alone instead of making war on their human brothers.

The statement causes the first crack in the Crusade's harsh policy of fealty or submission. The wedge in the crack are the implied concepts of coexistence and tolerance. Loken is eventually bothered enough to bring the matter to his friend Sindermann, an iterator, who is adept at repeating and explaining the Imperium's philosophy. The iterators are the apologists of the Imperium.

About three months after the battle for the High City, Tarik Torgaddon, Captain of the Luna Wolves' 2nd Company, carries an invitation to Loken to join the Mournival. According to the tradition of the Luna Wolves, four of the captains are chosen to act as an informal group or Mournival to watch over the moral health of the legion and to shape its philosophy. Loken's appointment The members of the Mournival are First Captain, Ezekyle Abaddon, 2nd Company Captain Tarik Torgaddon, 5th Company Captain Horus Aximand, and 10th Company Captain Garviel Loken.

After his appointment to the Mournival, Loken commits his 10th Company to the suppression of resurgents on planet sixty-three nineteen in a forbidding mountainous area called the Whisperheads.

Deep within the recesses of the mountains Loken and the iterator, Sindermann, encounter the disembodied voice of something called Samus. Samus possesses the mind of Loken's brother Astartes, Jubal, and Loken is forced to kill his friend.

The experience is shattering for Loken because it seems to be direct evidence of possession by a demon or evil spirt. This is a troublesome contradiction of the precepts of the Imperium which disclaims anything spiritual. Even the iterator, Sindermann is at a loss. The First Captain, Abaddon, tries to explain the incident as the result of a deadly virus that robbed Jubal of his mind. Loken is uncomfortable with the explanation.

Eventually Horus himself meets with Loken and shares a dark secret. There are dimensionally distorted entities within the warp who at times reach out and affect the living. Horus explains that even the Immortal Emperor doesn't fully understand the warp and a complete understanding of the warp is one of the tasks the Emperor has set himself.

The sixty third expedition is distracted from its Crusade by the distress calls of the Blood Angels legion which has landed on a planet later named, Murder. Horus and his Luna Wolves take up positions above the planet and following the edicts of the Immortal Emperor they wage war on the non-human inhabitants they have named megarachnid. The megarachnid are giant intelligent armored spiders. They are fearless implacable enemies. After six months of total war the Astartes are joined above the planet by the warships of the interex.

The interex are human and they have advanced to a high level. Cut off from the rest of humanity the interex have learned to coexist with alien races and do not wage war unless forced to. The interex had been responsible for imprisoning the megaarachnid on Murder and depriving them of interstellar travel. The interex had placed beacons around Murder warning travelers that it was a prison planet. Horus views the Imperium's inability to understand these beacons as a serious mistake. He is rapidly coming to the belief that the Imperium's mandate wage war and destroy all xenos must be less blind and more context driven.

Horus' new thinking causes him to attempt diplomacy with the interex rather than the standard fealty or subjugation approach. In the end, we learn the interex are concerned that Horus and his Astartes warriors have been possessed by what they call the evil of Kaos (the interex version of the warp).

The interex's suspicions seem to be confirmed when a very deadly knife called an anathame is stolen from their Hall of Devices museum. The anathame is supposedly made of a sentient metal crafted by an ancient alien race called the kinebrach. When the blade is dedicated to a specific target it becomes the complete nemesis of the person or being targeted. (Again there is seeming evidence of a spirit world.)

To the interex the theft is evidence of the Imperium's infection by Kaos. Horus believes the interex to be mistaken about the theft and unsuccessfully tries to avoid hostilities. In the end Horus is forced to declare war on the interex.

Unknown to all but the reader, Erebus, First Chaplain of the Word Bearers Legion was the thief who stole the anathame. We are left wondering if Kaos is involved, how if at all the mounting evidence contradicting the Imperium's teachings will affect Horus, and who the intended victim of the anathame might be.

The answers will have to wait until we read, False Gods, by Graham McNeill.

The world of the Imperium is truly rich with detail. The writing is some of the best we read, and the oddly British feel of the text only adds to its beauty. We give Horus Rising a whole two thumbs up and recommend it highly.

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