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Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review (In Brief): Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett

Hello there once again, my fans of Chaos. I'm here with another review. I'd been mulling it over for a bit, and decided to do a brief overview of The Eisenhorn Trilogy, by Dan Abnett. So, away we go...

Talk about being late to the party...

I must confess, I have not been the die-hard follower of Dan Abnett. I know, for many GW fans, this is heresy! I should be put to the torch for my witchery. But first, let me explain. I have read a few of his stuff. Legion, for example, is an OK book with a great twist ("I am Alpharius") and a great ending (which leaves the Alpha Legion where they should be- completely ambiguous). I've also red Titanicus, which, while it had moments, wasn't quite that well thought out as far as story pacing and characterization. Then, there's Horus Rising- a great story and great start to the Heresy Series, but I feel that it only puts a few things in place- true, it could be said of any massive epic starter- but still- it is not a complete work, and others have gone both bigger and smaller than this in this series (Big and Great is A Thousand Sons, while Small but Excellent is Nemesis). In the end, I didn't put much stock in Abnett- I perfer McNeill or Dembski-Bowden. Just a feeling; an opinion; a taste.

But, I can admit when I'm wrong. And I was wrong here. My wife decided to pick up a few books for me as a present before our honeymoon. Yes- she is very understanding toward her nerd-husband. And I'm lucky like that. In any event, She bought me both Ravenor AND Gaunts Ghosts The Lost Omnibus. I was greatful, but I also realized that both were sequels/continuations... So, as a completest, I'd have to go back and get their predecessors. I decided to start with Eisenhorn... oh boy.... I had no idea... Holy Cow! What a read! What a story!

Yes, it turned out that Eisenhorn was an incredible journey of a story. An epic with a strong, magnetic protagonist and a sense of scope and scale that have been rarely equaled in the 40K books I've read. Yep- it was that damn good. I loved the 1st person perspective here- it made Gregor totally human and relate-able. You got to know him. Like him. This perspective was unique, and gave great story-telling opportunities.

The other characters were also well-drawn. I loved Aemos and Bequin. I also got a kick out of Nayl. And poor Goodwyn Fischig (hehe!). You could see how they were a part of a team- the Inquisitorial Henchmen. Speaking of, the book was a great look into the workings of the Inquisition (which is quite inconsistent, as most human institutions are, I suppose), as well as "regular" Imperial society. The action pieces are great, as is the pacing overall. The stories move quite fast.

The only real complaint I have about the three stories is that the climaxes get resolved a little too quickly. Xenos isn't too bad here, but both Malleus and Hereticus get the "final confrontations" over and done with in a damn hurry. For example, Eisenhorn's bout with Quixos is really, really quick. I'm all for sudden violence and harsh, abrupt vanquishing, but man! He barely fights him and then poof! over and done. Ah well! It can't be perfect, can it.

Despite that detail, the truth is this is a great story, very well told. The best praise I can offer this book is that, even though I knew what direction Gregor Eisenhorn was inadvertently headed in, I hoped against hope that Abnett would "save him" from the lure of radicalism. I KNEW it, and yet I didn't want it to happen- surely Eisenhorn can get out of it! Alas... Now, that is a powerful example of storytelling when you know the end and desperately want to change it for the good of the protagonists (something that, say, the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy didn't manage until it was too late in Episode III, but I digress).

If you haven't, you should read the Eisenhorn Omnibus. It's an incredible, panoramic story, and cliche though it sounds, once you pick it up you'll be hard pressed to put it down. I give it 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos- my highest recommendation.

Now, on to Ravenor!

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