Posted on July 20, 2006 by Flames
Written by Graham MacNeill
The serpent of heresy tightens its coils in the second installment of the Horus Heresy trilogy. False Gods, by Graham MacNeill picks up the pace of this epic in the Warhammer 40,000 mythos with surprising zeal. Without missing a beat, the foundation that was laid down in Horus Rising begins to fortify into something bigger and more sinister.
The fleet of the Warmaster’s 63rd Expeditionary Force have departed the shattered system of the interex en route to Davin at the behest of First Chaplain Erebus of the Word Bearers Legion. Expecting to find a world left under control and compliance of the Imperium of Mankind, the newly christened Sons of Horus Legion instead finds treason. The occupational forces left behind by the Warmaster Horus himself have turned against the Emperor and the ideals of the Imperium’s Great Crusade, and Horus vows revenge against those he once trusted who have betrayed him.
However, as is the case in any epic work, things are not at all what they seem on the surface. Things are much more horrific and ugly when looked at from the inside, and the circumstances surrounding the Treason of Davin is no exception. Captain Loken continues to develop a jaded and cynical view of his Legion and his Primarch, while his heart and mind are twisted into a battle of allegiance that will ultimately decide his fate as both an Astartes of the Sons of Horus and as a living being in the 31st Century. The shadow plays that are acting themselves out throughout the Treason of Davin culminate in the unthinkable for all present on the dead moon save a handful; the felling of the greatest of the Primarchs to a cursed blade wielded by an unclean scion of the Warp.
Desperate to restore their beloved leader, father-figure and the sole regent of the Emperor, the Sons of Horus fall victim to their own most base natures. No risk is too extreme to bring the Warmaster back from the brink of oblivion, and consequences be damned if there is a way – ANY way – to restore what might be lost if Horus should die. While the upper echelons of the Sons of Horus embrace arcane improbability and the forgotten lore of corpse-worshipers to restore Horus, Captains Loken and Torgaddon attempt to make sense of the events surrounding the Warmaster’s fall and the coincidences that have led their brothers-in-arms to such desperate lengths.
Meanwhile, aboard the Warmaster’s flagship, a fledgling religion is taking root among those who would revere the Emperor as something more than the embodiment of the very best that humanity can possibly offer. A cult has sprung from the ashes of all of the religions that the Emperor himself has sought to destroy throughout the known galaxy; a cult that worships the Emperor of Mankind as a god and messiah.
MacNeill’s pace in False Gods is second to none. There are no lulls in the action or the intrigue that surrounds the souls of the 63rd Expeditionary. Beings of flesh and blood make decisions that will eventually result in either their eternal damnation or apotheosis, and the fate of the entirety of the human race-at-large hangs in the balance as the decisions of a living demi-god sworn to protect them from the eternal night and chill of black space are made on his deathbed.
The character development is second to none, and characters that we were introduced to in Horus Rising really start to come into their own personae: Ignace Karkasy, has-been poet, letch and drunk. Euphrati Keeler, remembrancer and saint of the Lectitio Divinatus. Kyril Sindermann, imperial scholar and commander of esoteric knowledge that might just keep Captain Loken’s eyes open to the truth inherent to the madness that surrounds him. All are painted in words that afford them a few more dimensions than they had before the book’s opening.
In short, the hardest part about spending an entire afternoon reading False Gods from cover to cover is the knowledge that the third installment of the trilogy has yet to be printed.
Reviewer: Shannon W. Hennessy