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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The king of military sci-fi, 27 April 2012
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This review is from: Know No Fear: The Battle of Calth (The Horus Heresy) (Paperback)
Dan Abnett rocks! I got into his writing through the short stories he wrote about Gaunt's Ghosts (also set in the Warhammer 40k universe). This novel centres around the grievous betrayals of the Horus Heresy, where the galaxy-spanning empire of man is about to be torn apart as the Emperor's genetically engineered superhuman warriors, the Adeptus Astartes (or Space Marines) turn on one another with the frenzy that can only be inspired in civil war.

I have always found the Space Marines difficult to relate to. Their superhuman qualities of strength, stamina, resilience to damage and disease and their effective immortality combined with their conditioning to make them seem monomaniacal to the point of being almost alien to me. Abnett managed to draw me into their curious condition. There is one paragraph early on when one of the noble and heroic Ultramarines is confronted with a friend in unfamiliar armour and the description of how his conditioning and unconscious processing work out the most effective way of killing the figure before him and how this shocks him as he realises it is his friend and fellow Marine just took my breath away. This and other episodes brought home to me the curious relationship between the humanity and the inhumanity of the Space Marines in a way that no other piece of writing - not even Mr. Abnett's previous efforts - have managed. I empathised with them in a way that I never have before and this is what really made me care about the characters and events depicted.

Thus, what followed was not just the usual parade of Hollywood-style special effects overkills. I found that I grieved for the damage done to the ecosystem of the planet of Calth and the fate of the nameless casualties in all their millions through the anguish of those who held themselves responsible for their guardianship. I was by turns shocked by the deliberate and calculated ignominy of the traitors and inspired by the righteous indignation and fury of the wronged.

This is a wonderful piece of writing and anyone with even a passing familiarity with the setting should own this as a matter of pride.
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Location: Redditch, UK

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