on 4 December 2008
Despite what you may read elsewhere, BFTA is not a total disaster. Yes, it has very poor character development, yes it is riddled with tired stereotypes and cliches, yes its poorly edited, yes its not a patch on the first four books (I liked Fulgrim, worth the entrance fee for the opera scene alone).
The final quarter of the book shows great pacing, however, and is genuinely exciting as it races towards the sadly obvious conclusion. Good writing in this genre, I think, is measured by 'movie moments' - scenes and set pieces where you can visualise the action in your head as it would appear on the big screen, with a worthy director and unlimited budget. Mhotep's struggle with his demonic adversary is one such moment, as is Cestus' journey through psyk-induced hell, Brynngar squaring up to Balenos (sp) for the second time...its just a shame that you dont care about these characters in nearly the same way you cared about Loken, et all.
This series has really lost its way, and I do not think that this is the fault of the writers. GW, in true GW style, obviously sold a shed load of books to start with and realising they had a genuine cash-cow on their hands seem to be hell-bent on making the series last as long as possible, to make as much money as possible, and are probably putting pressure on its authors to churn out books as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. I think BFTA is a good example of this - Ben Counter is not a bad writer, as he showed admirably with Galaxy in Flames, but this feels horribly rushed. In addition, as with the awful Descent of Angels, BFTA is very much a 'filler', that really does nothing to move the story on. There needs to be a strategic rethink on the whole series, as if things continue as they are, by the time the end of the saga is reached, there will be no-one around to care.
on 2 August 2008
'Battle for the Abyss' is book 8 in the Horus Heresy saga, based on the history of Games Workshops Science Fiction table-top game, Warhammer 40,000. Set in the 30th Millennium, the saga tells the tale of the Imperium of mankind's expansion across the galaxy, and it's crumble from within, as the largest civil war in history threatens to destroy humanity forever. The saga up to this point has been hit or miss. While it has been brilliant to see this well known story told in such detail from many points of view, some of the books fail to really grab the attention of the reader or have plots that frustrate and annoy. Author, Ben Counter, did a sterling job with his first book in the saga, that closed off the opening trilogy. 'Galaxy in Flames' weaved several story lines together and opened up new ones for other authors to continue. The first trilogy made us care as we were brought along with the story through the eyes of several characters, some loyal to the Imperium, some to the rebels. And indeed as the tale continued in the excellent 'Flight of the Eisenstein' and the fantastic 'Fulgrim' we were pulled through the myriad of tales to create a sublime experience. Alas, Battle for the Abyss' fails to impress on the most basic levels.
Without creating spoilers, the Abyss of the title is the Furious Abyss, a ship forged by the Mechanicum of Mars as a giant ship with one mission in mind: To destroy the Ultramarines legion. The setting takes place just as Horus is about to invade Istavaan, roughly around the same time as 'Galaxy in Flames' is set. The Word Bearers, now hostile to the Imperium, and integral in the tainitng of Horus, have been charged with this duty. They test their new weapons Systems on a lone Ultramarine cruiser, arousing the attention of a nearby Imperial station, where members of the Ultramarine legion, are joined by Space Wolves and loyal World Eaters, along with a single member of the Thousand Sons. They battle the odds in pursuing the massive ship with the aim of destroying it before it can damage their legion.
The story seriously lacks anything to make us care. Firstly it suffers from a repetition of structure throughout the book. The Word bearers destroy a ship, they are pursued through the warp. They emerge into real space, have another battle, jump through the warp, emerge, have another battle etc. Gone are the subtle webs of plot present in any of the opening trilogy, as are any characters we really care about. Led by an honor guard of Ultramarines, whose flawless perfection make them as dull as they are to play in the table top game, they lack character and depth. Whereas in other books, we've been drawn into the real life and mindset of a marine, here there is nothing but bland duty. The most interesting character is Mhotep, a lone Brother sergeant of the Thousand Sons Legion, and his arc throughout the story is one of the few reasons I kept reading. The plot suffers from lack of feasability too. The largest most advanced ship ever created, containing a whole chapter of the Word Bearers legion is being attacked by three small cruiser with a total of roughly fifty marines on board. Those are worse odds than assaulting the Death Star. While there is nice imagery about warp travel, and particularly of the entities that dwell there, as well as a deepening understanding of the Word Bearers legion, this alone does not suffice to make this a good read.
The main problem with Abyss, is it doesn't feel like its part of the rest of the saga; a problem that blighted the dire 'Descent of Angels'. It doesn't really connect you with what's happening in the rest of the emerging heresy. While one could say the same of Dan Abnetts excellent 'Legion' that at least pulled one through with its intricate plot and brilliant twist. Abyss feels like a stand alone book, and suffers, I feel, from bad writing.
So while we wait eagerly for this tale to unfold, leading to its final ulmtimate conclusion, Abyss is a sad let down. And its a few more months till 'Mechanicum' comes out. Im sure you will buy this book anyway, particularly if you have read the previous installments, but I've been slating my thirst for tales of heresy by reading the opening five books again.
How I wish Black Library had replaced this book with the tale of the raising of Prospero by the Space Wolves. Now thats a tale I really want to read.
on 10 September 2008
I shall keep this short and sweet, and sadly harsh. Battle for the Abyss is a very anti-climactic mess filled with annoying repetition, stereotypical, bland characters formed from the personifications of their chapter traits. The Ultramarine is regimented, the Space Wolf a drunken brawler, the World Eater does a hulk smash, and the Word Bearers chant of a directionless and uninsightful philosophy given no depth. They follow a religion whose sole creed is to be a religion.
The first half of the book wastes no time dropping you into the action, and it suprisingly backfires. We learn nothing of the goals, desires, flaws, or fears of either the heretics or the loyalists. There is a naval engagement, a scene in the warp (with gribblies) and those two events with recycle repeatedly.
The second half of the book intensifies as the enemy come closer to their master plan. I won't spoil anything for the battle scenes and combats, but the final hundred pages feature some firm hardcore action. You don't care that the characters are 2D because they're laying some serious hurt on each other.
Then comes act 3, or as I like to call it, the final 3 pages. They basically forge the notion that the book is conclusive of itself, entirely pointless, and finished with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. The Battle for the Furious Abyss is irrelevant, there is no conclusion, epilogue, meaning, sentiment, moral. Did the author find out he had one week to finish the book, and he hadn't started it? Did his ex-wife sneak into his office and write these final pages before sending it to Black Library? Did Ben Counter just hate me? I do not know, but what I will say is this book is entirely skip-able, which is never a good thing in a series. Poor start, ebbing middle, no end.
on 8 March 2013
I wasn't expecting this to be great, but sadly it still managed to disappoint me. I actually quite like the Ultramarines chapter (the xbox game Space Marine is very good) but in this novel the chapter members seemed to me both bland and generic. I couldn't get a "feel" for any of them and I had to re-read a couple of passages as I thought I'd missed something because the tone seemed off.
The plot didn't advance the series as a whole - there aren't appearances from any of the Primarchs or major characters from previous novels and I'm pretty sure I could have skipped this one without missing anything important in subsequent books.
on 3 November 2011
This is the first Horus Heresy book where I actually skim-read sections.
The first half of the book is really quite dull, strangely so considering the majority of it's an aggressive navel engagement. However as soon as the Warp starts giving them trouble and we meet the monsters it's apparent that Counter's very skilled at describing psychic elements, from denizens of the Warp, to the Warp itself.
The last third of the book, if you can disengage your sense of disbelief long enough to ignore the enormous unlikelihood of events, is actually very engaging. By this point the characters are a little more interesting since you feel you've known them for so long, an element of which comes from the fact the first half of the book drags along for so long you feel like you've been reading it for months.
The good parts of the book: The Thousand Sons character steals the story and runs off with it, frankly. I really, really wish there could have been more of him in it, as he was the most well-realised character in the entire thing. It's worth reading the book just for him if you're a Thousand Sons fan.
The bad parts of the book: The characterisation. There isn't any. Each marine, barring the Thousand Son, is a straight out stereotype of the most obvious facets of their chapter. The World Eater's a bloodthirsty barbarian. The Ultramarine is by the book (And incredibly angsty about it). The Space Wolf gets drunk and hits things. All the time. Any opportunity to show some depth to the characters is passed up in favour of...I'm not really sure. It's just completely ignored mostly.
The Word Bearers. I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to be quite this stupid and inept. I don't even like that legion and I was offended on their behalf!
The plot. Full of enormous logic holes. How do three Astartes scupper the chances of a ship full of an entire chapter's worth of their brethren plus their cadre of pet psychers? I'm not sure, but I'd be surprised if it was how they did it in this book.
Rating: 2 stars, because the characterisation is appalling, the plot is shaky, but the final 100 pages of action and the Thousand Sons character are very good.
on 4 August 2008
I own all the other books in this series and although a couple have been not quite as good as I hoped I have never regretted buying any of them. I actually own every Black Library book there is (inc the lost ones) and have followed the 40K universe for about 19 years.
I am not happy.
How this book got through any sort editorial check I don't know. It seems to have little to do with the series, misses out on explaining anything relevant to the Heresy and is more like a poorly written comic script.
I even started to wonder if I had finally grown out of Black Library Sci Fi but a quick look back at the opening book of this series and the majestic, epic proportions written of there made me realise it's not me, this is a really bad book.
The Black Library has really got to think about this as the Heresy is and always will be the backbone to 40K and to squander and muff the telling of the tale does no one any favours. Any argument that they want to appeal to the younger audience doesn't wash, as rubbish is rubbish no matter whom it's given to.
on 13 May 2014
So 1000 marines vs a handful, the 1000 marines (plus many countless thousands of human workers) have one of the largest and most powerful starships ever built by man.
Guess who wins?
There is no point to this story existing in the Horus Heresy series, it adds nothing to the background, everyone dies (spoiler alert!) there was no need for this story.
If your new to the series, you can quite comfortably skip this one without missing anything, later books based on this part of the war barely mention it and it has zero impact on the later stories as it is clearly a story that is being brushed out of later canon.
on 26 July 2012
I enjoy the Horus Heresy, the grand scale and scope really capture me. I am also an Ultramarine fan, and have read both Ultramarine trilogies by Graham McNeil, which if you're an Ultramarine fan I would recommend. On this premise I maintained a glimmer of hope, that all the faults I had read in review could be overlooked by giving an insight into a pre-heresy Ultramarine army. Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed; battle for the abyss is a stand alone story that offers little in regards to new cannon or information surrounding pre-heresy chapters. The story line is simple and uninspiring, the characters (of which only two are ultramarines) are too briefly visited and switched between and consequently never develop depth. I rarely felt attached to any members of the cast. The Traitor Marines are 2D in motivations and you will have no reason to side with there point of views, my sympathy goes out to Word Bearer fans. My main problem however is (and maybe this is were I'm wrong or biased) that I believed this to be the book that would enlighten the 40k community on the Ultramarines role in the Horus Heresy. This does not come to pass. The UM characters are bland and the most uncharismatic in the book and regularly, if not every time, have their glory stolen by a supporting cast member.
This is not a book to be read by an Ultramarine fan, in truth I wouldn't recommend it to any 40k fan as it is pointless and holds no consequence to the greater Heresy/Ultramarine/40k universe. Its only redeemable feature is that the action is very well written, but considering the amount of SM captains fighting humans or rank or file troops, I would have expected greater deeds of heroism and triumph. Smurf lovers and haters alike should avoid.
on 29 May 2013
The product is just as desribed, clean. What is more, I got the book in just one week, and I live in Turkey, thousands of miles away from the UK! I'd recommend this seller to anyone looking for cheap and clean second-hand books.
As to the book, it ends with a MAJOR cliffhanger, which is a little disappointing, and the subject matter is quite limited. We read only one battle, which is somewhat a minor conflict when compared with the whole Horus Heresy series. It's a good read, though, and I finished it just ten days.
on 9 August 2008
Let me start by saying I have never felt the need to review a book until this point. But this diatribe of a tomb has spurred me to do so. Unfortunately I am beginning to see a trend in the horus heresy books that is most distressing. Each of the new books in the series with the exceptions of those written By Dan Abnett have gradually eroded away the quality and focus of the series. This new installment is no exception to this trend. To be consise it is an inferior rewrite of the previous installment " Flight of the Eisenstein "
In short a group of marines discover heresy being commited by fellow astartes. A chase then ensues as the valiant servants of the emperor attempt to warn the forces of the loyal.
The only problem with this premise is that it has been covered in a far superior earlier installment.The writting scrapes along with a poorly described and homogeneous character list sprinked with the occaisional marine chapter stereotypes as the woefully under described universe floats by in a haze of mediocrity.
This trend must stop. I realise that the heresy's scale is quite unimaginable and daunting but these rambling sequels do not advance the epic saga of the heresy in any meaningful and constructive way.
Perhaps the writters of the black library should be made to sit around a table and actually forge a comprehensive battle plan to tackle this warp spawned monster that has obviously gotten the better of them.