Monday, 30 January 2012

Know No Fear - The first ever review???



Well as my first proper post for Claws and Fists I thought I would review Know No Fear, the latest Horus Heresy book.  I picked this up at the Throne of Skulls Tournament which I didn’t attend but Andy and Mick did.  As I live about 10 minutes walk away I thought I’d go down, cheerlead for a bit (not that they needed it as you can see from the previous posts) and pick up the book.  By 3pm I was about 280 pages in.  I finished it off after the Ice Hockey game that evening (Nottingham Panthers 6 - Coventry Blaze 1).  As possibly one of the first people in the world to finish I thought I would honour that fact by reviewing it.  Just a quick warning this review will contain spoilers so consider yourself fairly warned – this particularly goes out to you Mick….

Still reading? Ok….

First of all this book is an action epic.  It grabbed my attention and did not let go of it.  Not only did it grab my attention but it made me reflect on the Horus Heresy series as a whole now that we are 19 books in and Dan Abnett manages to weave the works of the other Heresy novels into this seamlessly (Samus is here!)

Bit of background first Know No Fear is set in the opening years of the Heresy in particular the pre-emptive attack by the Word Bearers on the largest of the Loyalist Legions the Ultramarines, at Calth.  The Istvaan V massacre has been a fairly recent event but most importantly, due to Horus’ cryptic orders, the XIII Legion and its Primarch Robute Guilliman are unaware of this.  The book itself however covers the best part of 25 years… I’ll leave you to ponder that

The first part of the book is set before the Ultramarines even open fire on the Word Bearers and is split between Space and Planetside through multiple viewpoints and this works well.  You see through Guillimans perspective, a Contemptor-Dreadnought, multiple Ultramarines including a Sergeant marked for censure (Loving the touches on this Mr Abnett), and these show insight into the workings of the XIII Legion and its allies.  It also shows why the Ultramarines are one of, possibly the greatest Legion in the Imperium.  

Theoretical.  
Practical.

Now I will admit although I am a bit of a Space Marine fanboy I’ve never really liked the Ultramarines.  They’ve just always seemed a bit boring to me.  The Ultramarine books by Graham McNeil were great namely because for the first 4 books Uriel Ventris didn’t operate like the traditional view of an Ultramarine and then the mystery about the Newborn and large-scale warfare of the latest one distracted me from the hidebound way of the codex.  When I heard that Dan Abnett was writing Know No Fear, although I really like his work; Gaunts Ghosts, Ravenor, Eisenhorn, Legion, Horus Rising, Brothers of the Snake (think his 40k books are mostly covered there… Where’s my Bequin novels Dan!!!), I was a bit apprehensive because I was a bit disappointed with Prospero Burns.  To me Graham McNeil was the master of the boys in blue and Abnett seemed to go slightly off track with his depiction of the Space Wolves, although again on reflection is does make the Wolves better than Vikings in Space.  If any of those august individuals happen to read this let me say now an unreservedly I now owe you an apology for this apprehension.

I will be making a 2nd Founding Ultramarines Chapter at some point and using Calth as a reason why.  Most importantly because Abnett made me like Guilliman and that dear reader is impressive... 

When I read this novel it immediately occurred to me not only do I know what happens I know some specifics after it.  The Age of Darkness collection has a book which is set after Calth and this occurred to me before I even brought it.  Guilliman is Holmes-esque in his attention to detail and Dan has made the book so elegant that you can almost see the thoughts whirring behind him (Maybe I’ve been watching too much Sherlock but it does seem like that to me).  It also continues to build up Guilliman as the Emperors true successor and as the architect of the Imperium and not just as the man who wrote the Codex Astartes.  Abnett does this with great aplomb and continues to build on groundwork laid out by Aaron Debenski-Bowden in First Heretic, Aurellian and Savage Weapons and McNeil in Rules of Engagement (Imperium Secundus anyone) while opening up new threads which I hope other Heresy Authors will pick up and run with.  If you’re reading this ADB where have you guys sent Angron then!  I imagine Butchers Nails will tell us…

It was always a curiosity to me how the Word Bearers managed to ambush the Ultramarines as it has been established in the fluff for a long time that they did.  The Ultramarines were supposed to be led by arguably the greatest military mind in the Imperium yet they were ambushed and almost wiped out within 24 hours Guilliman and his Legion manage to turn it around and turn a massacre no-win scenario into a stalemate which allows the Imperium to eventually endure and recover from the wounds received in the Heresy. 

Highlights of particular note for me were as follows and I will try to leave them semi-cryptic:
  • Raptorus Rex (Fire Hawks starfort????)
  • A unexpected cameo appearance from someone in Legion (The wording of this is in itself is a subtle clue, serious kudos if you pick up on it or correct me if its wrong)
  • So he refuses my call for a ceasefire but I tell him to go and screw himself, he calls immediately.
  • Samus is here!
  • Vacuum? I don’t need a helmet, I’m a mother-funking Primarch, Bastard!
  • Oll Persson = Ollanius Pious - smart money?
  • Kor Phaeron - Darth Sidious
  • Why Ultramarine Veteran Sergeants have red helmets

As a conclusion this novel does now finally put a close on the prequels to the Heresy.  Its been a long journey but now we can get onto the road to the Siege of the Emperors Palace.   I think this has been coming for a while but it really does put Dan Abnett back on top of the pile of Black Library Authors.  A few years ago there was a joke going around that there was going to be a knife fight for the Siege of Terra between Abnett and McNeil in the Warhammer World carpark.  I think ADB can obviously be added into the fray now but I don’t want Dan to write it, I want him to write the aftermath and Guillimans ascendancy.

Next Heresy Book review I imagine will be our favourite most dysfunctional family.....

The Primarchs!

Smokey D

2 comments:

  1. Nice review Dave. One minor gripe - its not possible to watch too much Sherlock! Fake body with a Sherlock mask?

    Well then Mick, we await your review with bated breath...

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  2. I'm not going to review it myself becuase I agree mostly with what Dave put. The book is broken down into either 4 or 5 smaller books and while the first 4 (or 3) were excellent I felt like the last one was very very rushed. With the size of the heresy and as Dave says we may only now finally be at the end of the beggining why didn't they make this into 2 seperate books. 1 of the introduction and the attack on Calth and the rest on the purging of Word Bearer forces and the impact which is strongly overlooked.
    I did love teh inclusion of bits from Abnett's other books, I did spot the legion reference as well as the Horus Rising but my favourite was Guilliman's musing over Nikea which of course is a reference to Prospero Burns.

    My biggest gripe however was that he introduced too many characters and didn't spend enough time on any, was a Contemptor dreadnought purely put in because GW have recently released the model becuase he had absolutely no part to play in the actual story.

    I will read this book again at a more lesiurely pace and perhaps after another read like Prospero Burns I will appreciate it more, certainly a better outing for the Son's of Ultramar than Counter's work on Battle for the Abyss but it isn't a patch on Abnett's best Horus Rising nor on First Heretic or Flight of the Eisenstein for me.

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