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One of the best in the HH series,
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This review is from: Mechanicum (The Horus Heresy) (Paperback)
I read this book in 2009, loved it, despite NOT being a great Warhammer 40K fan, and have reread it a couple of times since. At the time, I didn't bother writting a review. I was too busy reading through the whole HH series and "catching up" with all the other Warhammer 40 K books (some of which I still have to read). I was however very surprised the other day when seeing the three latest reviews posted on Amzon for this book. So I picked it up again, and decided to review it "objectively", if such a thing is possible.
The first point is that, if you compare with other books of the HH series, this one is one of the best, most probably among the top five. I read some reviews lamenting the poor characterization of some of the chracters. Granted, HH and Warhammer 40k books are better known for their action-packed, blood and gore battle scenes, rather than their descriptions of romantic landscapes or for elaborate analyses of each character's psychology. Many books do have rather "flat" characters and weak plots, with the two going often together. However, I felt that such comments was rather unfair in this case. In particular, I very much liked Lord Commander Verticorda, The Stormlord Indias Vavalerio of Legio Tempestus and Korial Zeth, Mistress of the Magma City, to name just these three. Remiare the Assassin was also rather good.
A second point sometimes made against this book is that the Adepts of the Mechanicum may "appear too human". This may need to be qualified, since, initially, they were 100% organic and do not become 100% machine. So this is about degrees - whether some of the servants of the Mechanicum should be a bit "less human" or not, although what is exactly meant by this is not entirely clear to me. One thing however is clear: whatever their closeness to the Machine-God, all of the main Mechanicum characters seem to have human passions, if not feelings, such as lust for power and knowledge, and personal ambitions. Is this so surprising? Having said that, the character and behavior of Rho-Mu 31 may have attracted this kind of criticism: here is a Mechanicum Protector who somehow develops feelings with regards to humans and seriously "deviates" from his conditioning. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible and incredible? Probably not, although I am no expert on human-machine hybrids, of course.
Third, there are, of course, the various engagements and battles, in particular those opposing the Titan Legions. This is what makes the book so fascinating, fantastic, original and so good. The double battle at the end, with the glorious and doomed charges of the Knights of Tanaris on the one hand, and that of Legio Tempestus against Legio Mortis on the other are some of the best pieces of all HH and WArhammer 40 K books. The rest, whether the character of personae xyz is sufficiently developed or not, and credible or not, tends to take second place when the Legions start to WALK and when the faction of the Fabricator General decides to take control of the whole planet and openly support the Heresy, triggeting civil war on Mars. After all, this is the bleak and war-torn universe of Warhammer 40k.
From this perspective, and because it is a great piece of military sci-fi, it is well worth five stars...