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Mr. B. Blakemore "Lion El'Jonson" (UK)

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Battle for the Abyss (The Horus Heresy)
Battle for the Abyss (The Horus Heresy)
by Ben Counter
Edition: Paperback

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Squandered potential, 9 Aug. 2008
While I do not totally agree with some of the other reviews I've read here concerning Battle for The Abyss, I do fall into the general consensus that this is not a very engaging read at all. I have read all of the Horus Heresy titles so far and with the exception of Dan Abnett's Horus Rising and Legion (the latter being almost certainly the finest in the series so far), the rest of them have been either ok (Flight Of The Eisenstein)or boring and poorly edited (Fulgrim).

There is little need here for me to provide a synopsis as others have elaborated on that very well. What I will say is that I found the premise of the story actually quite promising. It's basically a cat and mouse thriller in which a smaller heavily damaged, incredibly outclassed vessel comprising a crew that is fractured, and slowly imploding under pressure, are hunting - and in turn being hunted- by a 'super-cruiser' designed right under the noses of the Imperium, with a specific mission to strike out against it's largest Legion. I really liked this as the seed for a plot, though other don't seem to have found it quite so inspiring. It all seems a bit like a 'cold war' adventure and indeed the opening which involves the Word Bearer's commander rallying his elite bunch of zealots while the immense vessel is slowly revealed behind them bought to mind the opening of The Hunt For The Red October - at least visually. There was a lot of potential in that and introducing the Mechanicum at this stage begins to build some element of conspiracy deep in the heart of the Imperium. Good basis for tension and to gradually expand the growing conflict within the wider context.

The problem is the story doesn't work with this well at all. The central characters are simply not interesting - and guess what - I genuinely don't think a lot of the other authors of this series have been able to do much better. Almost every space marine central character I have read about is based on the same old, contrived and boring template(s). They lack any sense of individuality that could set them apart and the tendency to lean towards these stereotypes is waring painfully thin. Thankfully this book did not include any of the Primarchs who with the exception of Alpharius/ Omegon and Horus have been a failure. No one seems to know how to make these living gods carry any serious presence at all and that has frustrated the hell out of me. But as I say, Battle for The Abyss does not suffer in this regard, thankfully.

There are some interesting figures like the Thousand Sons character who is not painted in such a 2D fashion but actually appears to have shades of grey about him (whose side is he on? what does he know? etc). The problem is that even this isn't stretched and expanded upon to engage the reader. The Spacewolves character is written in purely to serve as some sort of 'Klingon' addition and a means to creating and illustrating tension between the two Legions. But we know that Space wolves are at best suspicious and antagonistic of Thousand Sons. The dynamics are well sketched out and have been within 40K cannon for a long time so why the hell are we being fed stuff we already know? - throw us something we don't expect by introducing interesting and complex characters which build on or perhaps conflict with expectations. I always felt that hinting at a possible love affair between Luther and the Lion was a chance perhaps terribly missed in Descent of Angels. Some people would be shocked with that suggestion, but that's precisely why it would have been a great idea. What better way to begin constructing distinct and unique characters for the Primarchs than to make one of them a closet homosexual? Can anyone recall anything particularly about Mortarion for instance? I know I can't - he was a dull, uninspiring character. This lack of imagination and the guts to smash walls down extends from Primarchs to all the other characters we've been introduced to.

Here we are again, and what has been revealed? - Naff all!You have to build in personalities and relationships to distinguish between various characters which will create a unique and engaging space for them, not pull out the same old tired templates.

The conditions of warp travel are intriguing and the perils therein are given some expansion in this tale and that did create some element claustrophobia and tension, but this is by no means taken as far as it could go. The fact that the protagonists include a group of World Eaters who WE KNOW at this point belong UNKOWINGLY to a traitor legion has promise. Who are they really fighting for?, will the leader be persuaded by the steady realisation that his own brethren are sided against the Empire? How could he not know this? If he doesn't, what character arc does he embark upon when coming to learn about it? Good meat to chew on methinks, but instead the author simply skips this and squanders good potential. Why?

As far as I can see, this book is but a demonstration of the real tragedy of the Horus Heresy so far. What these books should have been was a great opportunity to finally create a legend - a sci-fi fable which could stand out in the genre and also produce a backbone for Black Library literature. The opportunity was great and yet it's been a disappointing experience for the most part. Where is the ambition? If all 40K fans were expected to digest was a tired, complacent and uncompelling series of books which reveal nothing, build on nothing and simply reinforce the widely accepted view that sci-fi adventure literature is facile nonsense fit for no one but immature teenagers and geeky middle aged men unable to deal with real emotional complexity and layered plots, then why the hell did anyone bother in the first place?!

A tragic waste and a great shame. Oh well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2008 4:47 PM BST

Price: £9.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An album of gothic monoliths., 17 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Velocifero (Audio CD)
Ok, I've had this album now since it's release a fortnight ago. Initially I'd been very excited about it because I jumped on the whole Ladytron thing at Witching Hour, and that left a big impression on me. On the first listen the songs don't really seem all that interesting and you feel yourself wondering why they chose to make it so long (again!). 'Runaway' and 'Season of illusion' stood out but for much of the latter half I simply switched off, and on one occasion, fell asleep. For almost a week after that I didn't feel the urge to listen to it again but recently I gave it another chance, and it has been slowly working it's way under my skin ever since. Seriously, this is a very good album. It's not astounding, but then when I think about it Witching Hour is hardly flawless either (being arguably a track or two, too long). It lacks anything soft and affecting like Beauty*2 as well which means that the whole experience of the album is very oppressive indeed. But what this album does have is BIG gothic-synth anthems - really good one's too like 'Burning Up', 'They gave You A Heart, They Gave You A Name' (probably the best track), 'Lovers', 'Deep Blue'. I think the album was intended to be the equivalent of a blunt instrument hammering into the psyche and frankly, I prefer Ladytron when they do that.

I can see a lot of my friends who enjoy their EBM liking some of this too. So on reflection, I think if you like Depeche Mode at their stadium stomping best, then you may very well like the direction Ladytron are taking. It's not subtle and there are other interesting avenues to take in Electronic Pop of course, but perhaps for those of us who occasionally like a bit of black nail varnish with our night out, there's something to stamp our feet to here.

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