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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Review (In Brief): Deliverance Lost

Hey there everybody! I've been busy doing a lot of painting for my new World Eaters- I will be posting an update this week, I do believe. However, I've also been doing some reading, and I just finished Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe. So where does this fit in regarding the Horus Heresy series? Let's find out in my brief review:

Deliverance Lost takes place at the tail end of the Istvaan drop site massacres. Corax and the last few remaining Raven Guard have been desperately holding out, but there is nowhere to go. They are being whittled down by the Traitor Legions. Corax and the Raven Guard resign themselves to their fate, prepared to make the Traitors pay dearly. However, Raven Guard ships arrive fresh from Deliverance (violating their orders to guard the home world) and rescue the remnants of the Raven Guard. Corax, severely strained and conflicted over the decimation of his Legion, decides to go to Terra and inform the Emperor about Istvaan. He also wants to rebuild his legion quickly, and he comes up with a plan: He wants to use the Emperor's techniques to replicate Marines more quickly- thereby replenishing his Legion and then taking the fight back to Horus.

It is an interesting proposition, but Corax faces some problems. First, the Emperor will need to be convinced to give Corax the secrets of Gene Seed creation (something that is so secret, so dangerous that no one can be trusted with that much power). Second, even if he does gain access- can Corax actually make it happen- the process will be difficult to master, it is that far advanced- and what are the moral implications of making this many Marines so quickly? However, there is a third (and even bigger) problem- members of the Alpha Legion have infiltrated the Raven Guard! Their mission is to steal the Emperor's "gene-tech" and consign the Raven Guard to extinction!

(Minor Spoilers follow)

 This was a very good addition to the Horus Heresy series, though there were some issues with the book. So let's look at the good and the bad:

The Good:

First, the book feels like an epic. From the battlefields of Istvaan to the secrets of the Emperor's palace, to the intrigue of the Alpha Legion's infiltration, to the final battles- the book feels epic. Some stories like Nemesis and Flight of the Eisenstein are smaller in scale (one group or one particular battle), while others have this grander, more long term scope  (Know No Fear, First Heretic). Deliverance Lost handles the epic quite well. You always get the sense that these are huge events, and there's a lot at stake here. That makes it a page turner, which is good, particularly for a book this size (almost 500 pages!).

Second, it was great to get to know a legion that I was not entirely familiar with. Thorpe really gets into the methods, personalities, and history of the Raven Guard and their Primarch, Corax. The flashbacks to Corax's liberation of Deliverance and his victory over the corrupt tech-guilds were fascinating and added depth and meaning to the overall story- as events from the past contributed directly to the tribulations currently facing Corax and the legion. Also, Corax's desperation to rebuild and get back into the fight are both realistic and relatable. There is so much at stake for the galaxy, and Corax believes if he takes a big risk and breaks a few rules, he might be able to stun Horus with a shattering defeat. Noble aims, to be sure, but fraught with peril.

Finally, the Alpha Legion gets to continue their story from the superb Legion. For a good chunk of the book, it is (naturally) difficult to fathom the true goal of the Alpha Legion and its twin Primarchs (I always loved that twist in Legion). However, the methods by which several Alpha Legionaires infiltrate and blend in with the Raven Guard is a thrill to read- what is their plan? Will they be discovered? Can they pull off their "heist"?  Thorpe does a great job of obscuring just how many have infiltrated, and each one calls himself "Alpharius" (a great conceit, and another nod to Legion). Thorpe lays the seeds of how the Alpha Legion will function from here on out (causing a revolt just to steal something, making deals with the Dark Mechanicum/Chaos Cults/rebels). Thorpe also shows how the Alpha Legion's true goals will get "corrupted beyond all recognition"in the future, as Alpharius/Omegon don't share all their plans or knowledge with their soldiers- think on that, and you'll see just how far down they go on that slippery path- they want to save humanity, but... Haha! That's all I'll say about that.

The Bad:

First, the book sometimes drags. Now, that will happen with any epic sized book. However, there are too many dead spots, and sometimes I just wished the book would move faster. You always want to know what happens next, but there are pieces that I just wish had been shortened. The parts on Terra, in particular, slowed down the proceedings (though the Emperor's appearance was top notch). Also, the end seemed to drag (the assault on the Perfect Fortress), as the plot had really been resolved by then- this was more anti-climax than anything else. The book was at its best at being a thriller- can the Raven Guard discover the Alpha Legion's plot? If Thorpe kept that squarely in focus, the book would have been stronger.

Second, the "discoveries" of the gene-tech weren't as "wowing" as I hoped. Now, I know that they have to keep it obscure, as that is the allure for the Emperor. However, the book revealed next to nothing special about the Emperor's work (though his "museum" is amusing, and his "plans" for his Primarchs after the Crusade raise a lot of interesting questions). It seems that the Emperor used other DNA sources to augment the gene seed. An interesting revelation, but I also feel that there MUST be more to it- First Heretic hints at such.

Third, the book relies a lot on two outside stories- a short story from one of the anthologies and "Raven's Flight", an audio drama. If you are not familiar with those, there are parts of the book that will go over your head- Branne and his Therion Cohort (AKA- Imperial Guard regiments), which play important parts in this book. While I don't mind different books/media being interrelated (its fun, actually to make the connections), in the case of Deliverance Lost it isn't just a "connection", there are substantial plot points that the author doesn't catch you up on. Therefore, if you haven't read/heard them, you are out of luck, which sucks. Indeed, you don't really HAVE to have read Legion to get it- it helps, but you don't have to. All I would have asked is a little reminder...

Finally, Corax himself is an issue at times. I loved the character- he has been through hell and back, he is determined, stubborn, but dedicated to doing right. You can sympathize with him in a meaningful way that is sometimes lacking in other HH novels. However, I have always understood that Corax was always taciturn, quiet, and suspicious. According to the Index Astartes books, Corax didn't trust several of the Primarchs, and said so. He was wise, but not boastful. He read people well, but he himself did not relate well to others. He is cold and distant. Yet, here he is presented as being very, very passionate. He is also very, very verbose (not at all taciturn). Finally, though he is wise in figuring out the gene-tech, he is absolutely blind to the Alpha Legion's activities. For someone so perceptive and suspicious, he doesn't even actually "figure it out". Is that a credit to the Alpha Legion, or just a shame that the protagonist doesn't ever actually solve the mystery?

At any rate, I liked the book, though it is not in the ranks of my favorite Horus Heresy novels. It is a solid read (a big epic, with a spy thriller thrown in). There are some issues, but overall the book is fun- the shenanigans of the Alpha Legion alone make it worth the price of admission. I give this
book 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

I have a few more HH books to read to be fully caught up (Fear to Tread, The Outcast Dead). I will get Angel Exterminatus when it is out in paperback ($30 is just too much to spend on the hardcover), and I am stoked to get my mitts on Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Betrayer.
Until we meet again...

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