on 16 January 2014
Here Abnett takes on a very interesting concept, a missing year in the Horus Heresy timeline where he had full authority to create a series of events that would, by the time of the later Imperium, be deliberately omitted. That the events would take place on the Ultramarines homeworld of Macragge and feature Guilliman presented Abnett with an opportunity to redress the rather lacklustre portrayal of both the Ultramarines Chapter and its Primarch in his Know No Fear novel.
The book starts well with an unnerving and ghostly series of events that are in the cinematic style of portrayal at which Abnett excels. To review this book further is to reveal many spoilers so I will conclude with a non-spoiler review in the next two paragraphs and everything below those two paragraphs should be avoided for those who do not wish to know too much.
In non-spoiler summary the plot quickly relies on a xeno-created plot device that too conveniently draws the major protagonists together (with almost no concern about the use of a xeno-device). Guilliman is given more depth here but never escapes the impression created in Know No Fear that his military expertise is more theoretical than actual (he struggles in one battle, is outclassed in another and also requires vital defensive strategy input from a Space Marine of a different chapter). We do at least see some of his emotional past which makes him more well rounded, his respect for Konor and for the surrogate mother figure who still remains. We also see the insight behind Guilliman's perception that a Codex is required to create uniformity across the loyalist Chapters. It is a shame that Abnett makes such a minimal effort of making the iconic Macragge anything other than a plain vanilla Greek Revival city. Unlike the amazing world creation capabilities Abnett exhibited within his Gaunt's Ghosts, Eisenhorn and Ravenor books on worlds utterly insignificant compared to Macragge here he trades on easy terms and there are no lasting memorable characteristics.
However, the central concept of a secondary empire itself seems logically flawed - it works on the assumption that the Emperor is dead (although no evidence exists of that) and that a new Imperial leader figure is required to rally the loyalists when the more respectable alternative of simply have the Lord of Macragge rally loyalists to the Imperial cause to later determine the fate of the Emperor and then resolve what to do if the Emperor is indeed dead (by which time Guilliman would conveniently have large forces used to his command and an established power base to make the necessary successor claim) seems unexplored. The novel really begins to falter when the plot device draws a whole series of factions bent on destruction to Macragge that cause plotline snarl-up and often feels like the conclusion of Quentin Tarantino's True Romance but with more than twice the number of factions involved. One of these enemies seems to have become incredibly powerful since their last appearance in a novel (but with no reason given for this increase) and no tension exists as the character itself foresees it can not be killed in these circumstances plus there are some strange timeline issues. This all reinforces the feeling that Abnett chose complexity over clarity and plot devices over plotting. I am left with the impression that the Black Library's once greatest author has not written a high quality 40K book since Blood Pact and that much of his output since then actually detracts from his earlier works.
The ambush by the Alpha Marines on Guilliman (who somehow get to his inner sanctum wearing their helmets) made his security look sloppy and exposed Gulliman for not being as perceptive towards his Space Marines as Abnett had led us to believe in the early Horus Heresy novels. The difficulty Guilliman faces in despatching the Alpha Marines makes for a tense scene but further diminishes Guilliman when compared to the all-conquering Kurze when he arrives.
Abnett makes a strange lapse in his own created canon when Guilliman refers to the Space Wolf contingent by that name (and they are pleased with that comment) even though he is clear in Prospero Burns they expect to be addressed as the Vlka Fenryka. This reminds me of Abnett's more recent works that are littered with transgression against rules of his own making (Pariah and Salvation's Reach) that build upon an impression that he is getting sloppy with details.
There are some flashes of Abnett's creativity and they are much appreciated when seen - the names of the shuriken weapons and the hunter mentality of the White Scars that will hopefully be built upon by Chris Waight in the next Horus Heresy novel (mercifully this Chapter has been taken off Andy Hoare after his appalling Hunt For Voldorius). I also felt the Lion was well drawn and that Abnett maintained the character's essential ambiguity. A minor aside though, when Guilliman and the Lion meet there is a jarring moment when Guilliman drops his helmet which the Lion retrieves - is there a significance to this that will be later revealed (a device placed in the helmet etc?).
The issue of Kurze is a major problem. Not only is he intensely unlikeable (unlike some of the other fallen Primarchs who are more tragic figures) he has now become unkillable. Coupled with being somehow semi-incorporeal (which is not explained) plus his ability to wipe out the best of the Space Marines, jump on Thunderhawks and somehow set traps and escape almost instantaneously he is now probably the most deadly Primarch. That the Lion left Kurze roaming his ship and did not send his entire resources to destroy as an act of vanity seems implausible and is really an Abnett plot device to enable Kurze to arrive at the Primarch-fest.
I certainly found 7 separate factions bent on some form of destruction on Macragge (whether against Vulkan, Guilliman or each other) to stretch credulity too far, especially as some of them seem to be able to navigate way too easily through a city in lockdown with a vast Space Marine garrison (including one who walks around in full Traitor Marine plate). Added to this plotline snarlup there are 2 offworld factions 'phoning in' their instructions as well.
It also seems very unclear how Vulkan's hammer has caused him to be in teleport travel for a year to arrive at the convenient moment when Pharos is operating. How does teleport take a year given all canon on Imperial technology shows it is warp based in which case the only safety against the warp is that it is instantaneous - a year in the warp with no Geller protection would presumably be fatal. If the method of teleport (rather than the method of activation) is a xenos-alternative as implied in Vulkan Lives then where was he going before Pharos was 'lit up' and presumably rerouted him for a year of travel through space (dodging planets and stars on the way)? It may be convenient to have Vulkan present but not at the expense of credibility.
Overall I felt Abnett wasted a good opportunity with a flawed base premise (the second Empire concept) that was worsened by too many moving parts and too many implausible events. As ever, I look forward to his return to his earlier great form but there is scant sign of it in his most recent works.
At last, some seven books after “Know No Fear”, the Horus Heresy saga seems to be moving forward, but only by half a pace, with this book being centred on the “Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar” and their Primarch Roboute Guilliman.
Unfortunately, Dan Abnett’s attempt to bring together a number of loose ends is not, in my view, entirely successful. More generally, there are a number of inconsistencies or tensions across the book, although there are also a number of good pieces and nice touches as well, and I will begin with these.
One nice and amusing touch right at the beginning are the apparitions, with references to and a quotation from “Amulet, Prince Demark”, authored by the dramaturge Shakespire. Another nice bit of context is “Magna Macragge Civitas”, the huge capital city of the planet of the same name, and of Ultramar more generally. Both the text and the map of the city show that Abnett has largely drawn his inspiration from Constantinople and the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire.
A third interesting idea was that of a mysterious alien device that acts as an alternative beacon to the Astronomican and manages to pierce through the Chaos storms and draws all sorts of refugees and loyalists to Macragge. It is in part through this device that Abnett manages to bring together a number of the loose ends that I mentioned.
Another interesting feature is that this book allows for a number of insights into Guilliman’s personality which were simply not possible (and not done) in “Know No Fear”, given the battle report format that the author had chosen for that book. So we get some idea as to how Guilliman was trained to be a ruler and a warlord by his human predecessor and by a very interesting character who plays the role of a foster mother. If the point was to show Guilliman as essentially human, and attempting to overcome “human weaknesses” (his emotions) through self-control, then I will admit that Abnett has been quite successful here, even if this is perhaps not quite what readers have become to expect from a “super-human” Primarch.
Unfortunately, this is perhaps where problems started to arise. As noted by another reviewer, the fact that a whole hit-squad of barely disguised enemy Space Marines manages to enter Guilliman’s without being challenged beggars belief. It also is somewhat at odds with the portrait of Guilliman as the ultimate tactician and strategist. Maybe this extraordinary lapse of elementary security can be explained away to some extent by one of Guilliman’s “breakdowns” since it is he who allows them in and expressly prevents his own security from doing its job. Maybe his “semi-godly” status explains why his security does not insist in running even the most elementary checks on his “visitors”, although this is not very credible.
Anyway, as a result, you are treated to a quite superb fight in a confined room between a Primarch and ten Space Marines. In fact, the book contains a somewhat “symmetrical” scene further on when another Primarch gets to fight another squad of Space Marines from another Legion. I could not help having the impression that Dan Abnett rather liked this feature and therefore decided on a repeat. One problem, however, is that this second feature, and the roaming of this second Primarch across the locked-down fortress and palace more generally, puts the Ultramarines in a rather bad light once again. Their security measures look rather inept, given the easiness with which the intruding Primarch avoids them.
Another point is that this books has a concentration of Primarchs – five of which only one is among the “Traitors” and, to some extent, it also tends to concentrate on them. The pieces showing the rather ambivalent relationship between Lion of the Dark Angels and Roboute of the Ultramarines are possibly among the better sections of this volume. However, “Vulkan’s comeback” is not fully convincing. A bit like in the previous volume of the HH series, Dan Abnett seems to have trouble in deciding – once and for all – whether “Vulkan Lives” or not.
The last scenes of the book, with a third “loyalist” Legion and its Primarch arriving, are suitably impressive and grandiose, just like the arrival of the Dark Angels. Here again, Dan Abnett tends to double up his effects.
So I liked a number of features in this volume, and I liked the way in which Dan Abnett managed to bring a number of loose ends together. Thanks to this book, we essentially end up with having three “loyalist” Legions plus elements of most other “loyalist” Legions all gathered at Macragge, all more or less ready to move to Terra’s rescue. However, it was a bit of a pity that all of these Space Marines (a thousand according to the book) never really take centre stage, with the exception of the leader of a group of Scars, whose reason for being on Macragge is somewhat unclear, and a pack of Space Wolves whose role seems to be to prevent Guilliman into becoming a second Horus.
Nevertheless, and as a number of other reviewers, I did not find the plot entirely plausible. The fact that Terra was inaccessible and the Astronomican cannot be seen anymore creates uncertainty. It does not imply that the planet has fallen and the Emperor is dead, neither does it imply the need for a new Regent of the Empire or even a “Second” Empire. More specifically, there were a number of instances (mentioned above) which stretched credulity and goodwill to breaking point.
Three stars for a book that was a bit of a “mixed bag” for me.
on 16 January 2014
Whilst not hating this book quite as much as Cypher (see review above), I do agree it is pretty flawed - which is becoming a distinct and unwelcome habit for Abnett, who used to be far and away my favourite 40K author.
The central premise of Guilliman setting up a literally named 'Second Imperium' at Macragge during the years of the Ruinstorm, because the Emperor 'might' be dead and Terra 'might' have fallen seems a bit shakey to say the least, given that Guilliman seems to have had zero reports suggesting either of those things have actually happened. Why a second Imperium is necessary, as opposed to simply a second military command to launch at the Heretics, does make the whole thing feel a little questionable. As does the xenotech pharos device, which is essentially a second Astronomican and super-teleport - a pretty convenient maguffin in other words.
Now, having said that, I did really quite like the book up until about two thirds of the way through. Yes, there are some slightly questionable breaches in Ultramarine security, and Macragge's defences, but nothing that entirely broke my suspension of disbelief. The prose is, as usual for Dan, punchy and fast moving, I liked a lot of the portrayals of the 'arrivals' (notably John Grammaticus and another 'new' Perpetual), but things in the final third or so of the book really ruined it for me.
It's difficult to be specific without spoiling the book, let's just say one of the evil Primarchs shows up, who Abnett seems to have an enormous hard-on for, as he is portrayed as being vastly more powerful than the other Primarchs who feature in this book - especially Guilliman. As an example there is a scene when Guilliman is forced to battle nine Astartes on his own, and it's a tough fight. The baddy Primarch on the other hand seems to have no such trouble killing endless groups of Astartes - many of whom are champion level guys actively hunting him, he also is shown to possess powers I've never elsewhere seen ascribed to him, and in one particularly absurd scene somehow not only manages to unnoticed set a massive booby trap despite there having been no time in the enclosed area when he was alone, but also seems magically able to trigger an instantaneous explosion centred upon himself that he escapes from - all with no explanation of exactly how he managed these feats. This character also 'knows' he is fated to die elsewhere, so therefore so do we - robbing the whole last portion of the book of any dramatic tension.
I really think the Primarch in question has been completely ruined by this book. He's become the evil version of a Gary-Stu, capable of doing literally anything he chooses, (short of successfully killing other 'named' guys), just 'because'.
With some tweaks I think the ideas here could have worked much better, and I think the baddy Primarch could and should have been left out entirely. I hovered between three and two stars, but ultimately I didn't like it as a whole, so have opted to give it two stars.
on 14 June 2014
I'm usually a fan of Dan Abnett, but I found myself unable to finish this one. As a previous reviewer put it, he seemed to have a real crush on the traitor primarch.
I actually found the first three quarters enjoyable enough, with an interesting portrayal of Roboute Guilliman and his thought processes. It also continued a theme touched upon previously that while superhuman, the primarches are still mortal and can make mistakes; notably when Roboute lets his guard down and is almost killed by ten impostor marines. Unfortunately, this angle was completely ruined for me as this carefully constructed fallible/human aspect is juxtaposed to the suddenly massively inflated capabilities of the traitor primarch who dominates the latter quarter of the book. The entire point is the brother primarches are largely equal with various idiosyncracies that offer certain advantages and niche talents; who would 'win' is up for constant debate both in the lore and amongst fans. As a whole their demi-god capabilities can vary somewhat from story to story, fine, but at least make their 'race' consistent within your telling. Instead, in this book we get a barely-competent Guilliman who is such a putz he drops his helmet infront of two legions of onlooking marines (demi-god of awkwardness), and KONRAD M***** *******G CURZE! YEEEEAH! (demi-god of killing dozens in a single sentence).
Just to give you an idea, after spending months alone being constantly hunted by The Lion and his legion aboard a ship with no rest, in one evening Konrad then:
- Single handedly assaults the most heavily guarded fortress on one of the most heavily guarded imperium worlds (Macragge), slaughtering his way through literally countless loyalist marines.
- Once inside then fights two loyalist primarches by himself (despite the fact one, The Lion, had previously defeated him in single combat) nearly killing them both while escaping unharmed,
- Stops his rampage briefly to empty a whisky glass then fill it with blood in order to scare an old lady (wtf)
- Kills a pack of space wolves specifically tasked to end primarches. Recurrent characters throughout the book, with their leader displaying skill even Roboute finds daunting, they turn out to be nothing more than cannon fodder to be snuffed out in a single paragraph. Faced with a similar scenario earlier Roboute is hospitalised and haunted by subsequent PTSD; a mere distraction for aaaaw yeaaah Konrad Curze.
- Who moments later rather flippantly kills another primarch, Vulcan. At this point I sighed and put the book down, so no doubt Konrad's excellent adventures continued.
Perhaps if I had no previous knowledge of the universe or any of the characters I'd find it bearable, but the fact is these characters and their backgrounds are well established. I felt like I was reading some tiresome and overly biased fanfiction. Yep, shadows, smoke, death, unstoppable, death, smoke, murder, everyones dead, I get it now, anything else going to happen? Nope. Knowing what this author is capable of, it just seems like laziness. He couldn't be bothered to think of a decent ending so instead we get about 100 pages of Curze rampaging around with little or no thought involved (for him or the author).
on 13 November 2014
The Unremembered Empire (TUE) was a thoroughly enjoyable book, but its not without its critics or flaws. It has divided the readership.
However it is a must-read for fans of the Horus Heresy series and ties up or continues at least 6 previous Horus Heresy novels/novellas: The Crimson Fist, Prince of Crows, Betrayer, Know No Fear, Vulkan Lives, Fear to Tread, with nods to Mark of Calth and Battle for the Abyss too.
It has an interesting premise: That Guilliman fears Terra has fallen, so wants to re-found "Imperium Secondus" at Macragge to rally the loyalists against Horus.
However it has a few plot holes or stretches of the imagination that ultimately spoilt it as you read through.
Below I shall list them in no real order (Spoiler warning!). Do read it, its fairly essential for whatever comes next I'm guessing, but be prepared.
1. The idea that Terra has fallen is simply assumed yet Guilliman has no proof. Maybe he's just being precautionary, but it does seem to be a leap of logic for him and his fellow Primarchs Lion El'Jonson and Sanguinius...
2. It features multiple protagonists which is cool at first, but you're left wishing they each got more exposure. For such an important "tying together" novel, it deserved more pages... Nevertheless, this is one of the great strengths of the novel - lots of your favourite characters all in one place.
3. The Pharos that draws everyone together is, as another reviewer notes, a macguffin. A mysterious piece of xenos-tech that magically works like a lantern on Macragge. How convenient...
4. Lion has Curze trapped on his ship and doesn't kill him? He decides to hunt him one on one with no success... Then he escapes... How thick is he?
5. Speaking of Curze, he appears to have gained invisibility powers similar to Corax? And can dodge bullets? Where did that come from?
6. Guilliman, admittedly unarmed, nearly dies against 10 Alpha Legionaries mostly armed with guns. A weakened Curze (he's just fought a Chapter Master, a massive Imperial Fist and Two Primarchs...) easily dispatches 10 armed-to-the-teeth execution squad Space Wolves... Where's the balance?
7. Guilliman's security seems lax, letting "Thiel" into his personal quarters with NO checks on them beforehand... Surely he'd have caught on to traps following Calth? Speaking of security, Polux makes him and his legion look like an idiot.
on 2 May 2014
I truly think that GW have lost the plot with this HH thing now.
I've lost count of the 'Exclusive, Limited Edition, only 1000 copies printed' novellas that are released exclusively through Black Library (frequently at extortionate prices (don't even pretend to be surprised by that) that outstrip the cost of full novels being released). The over arching plot of the HH has gone every which way but forward. Are we back at the beginning? Has Horus turned? Has the drop-site massacre happened or not?
Well, it depends on which book they're releasing (and why).
And so here we have another story from a Black Library staple (don't believe the 'About the Author' tat, they must all be millionaires many times over judging by this series alone) who has turned out some truly amazing 40k literature. Abnett has a brilliant concept and a previously unseen chance to make almost anything happen.
So he places us in Athens.
There's some sort of alien tech that is bad, but we're not quite sure how that comes into play.
SPOILER!!!!And then there are some fights, most of which Roboute loses.
Having become so frustrated with the lack of development in this series since Mechanicum that I stopped buying them, I don't think I'm even gonna bother borrowing these books any more.
on 25 November 2014
This is a fairly decent WH40K story in the Horus Heresy series. Not the best but not the worst either so at the very least you should be reasonably entertained.
My main issue with this story is it doesn't really go into any detail on the title of the book-the unremembered empire of 'Imperium Secundus.' In fact, it is barely touched upon...
Roboute (to The Lion): As the Emperor is likely dead Im thinking of starting a new Imperium.
Lion: Are you sure that's a good idea?
Roboute: By the way, there must be no record of this imminently practical precautionary measure in case it is considered heresy (for some reason that isn't touched upon).
That's the extent of the unremembered empire. This book really might as well have been called 'Assault on Macragge'
on 24 July 2014
(SPOILERS! There might be some slight spoilers ahead!) I have become a massive fan of the Horus Heresy series since being introduced to it by a friend about a year and a half ago and have devoured the books, but I have noticed a trend in (especially the later) novels of the series that this book unfortunately not only continued, but highlighted even more - and that is that the loyalists SUCK! And by suck, I mean compared to how the traitors are portrayed, they are weak, pathetic and basically canon fodder. It is a trend that is starting to make me really really irritated with the writers and their obvious bias towards the traitor legions, and it is getting just ridiculous now.
Let's forget the pathetic attempt by Guilliman in Betrayer to face Angron and Lorgar at the end of the book by barging his way through a fleet captained by a human, and manages to somehow get his fleet basically stamped out by said human (in a ship that is so banged up that every paragraph we are reminded that it is about to blow apart, but somehow never does... probably because it's a traitor ship), he lands his titans right by the battle ground so they can't even get a shot fired (!!??) and his forces just get smashed. The most brilliant military strategic mind in the galaxy?? Terrible, just terrible and unrealistic bias against the loyalists that ruins the story because of it's ridiculousness. This is ignoring the assault in the beginning of the book, which should have left the World Eaters and Word Bearers smashed... but anyway... now for this book:
1. Roboute get's surprised, in FULL ARMOUR (except the helmet but who cares about that, Curze didn't have a helmet either) by a squad of the Alpha Legion in his private quarters, and basically get's his a** kicked and almost dies. Cut to later in the book and Curze has the same encounter, but this time with space wolves (who are supposed to be way more dangerous than Alpha Legion soldiers right?? But wait I forgot, they're loyalists so obviously not), and just slaughters them all without getting a scratch?? What - the - HELL???
2. Roboute and The Lion both face off against Curze in a fair fight. Due to blind luck the 2 loyalists escape, otherwise they would have been killed - BOTH of them would have been killed! By 1 traitor Primarch! They can't even touch Curze in a 2 on 1 fight?? What - the - HELL???
3. Vulkan has suddenly gone insane? And get's killed (I think multiple times!) by a HUMAN?? What - the - HELL???
At the rate it is going the loyalists are just going to be left portrayed as a pathetic bunch of idiots who any traitor can just come along and kill at will. So... so... irritated... but still gave it 2 stars cause I love the Horus Heresy in spite of it!
on 20 August 2015
I very much enjoy Dan Abnetts books,
However this one has alas disappointed me the most im sorry to say even as its still a good read with some fine points in it.
Centres around Roburte Guiliman the ultramarines primarch and his isolation and indecision during the heresy.
Strangely paints Guiliman as a giant armour plated wuss.
Good read but falls short. Read Alpha legion instead.
The storyline for me just doesn't seem to work. The title, summary and some reviews before i read it overly implies that Guilimans ambition will push him to creating a second imperium (imperium secundus) where he takes the lead.
So... i was expecting Guiliman to take the lead declare himself regent from the off, mecragge becomes a neo-terra, then conscripting other primarchs to his cause, 'follow me, im the closest thing to the emperor so ball up and get in line' and embark on his own great crusade. Then later someone say Rogal Dorn can call him in for the defence of terra and then agree to pretend afterward that his regency never happened 'stop your self-indulgence guiliman daddy needs us, get your ass to terra'.
AT NO POINT DOES THIS HAPPEN.
"is Guilliman making a bid for power to rival even the renegade Warmaster Horus?"...Not even close
What does happen is Guiliman is pulling together loyalists and making a power base via convenient xeno-tech widgit (there's almost always a widget in 40k and it does serve a good purpose here all things considered).
Then everything falls flat, Guiliman then takes the attitude that he should rule the imperium reluctantly as there isn't any other primarchs around, so when another primarch does turn up he doesn't step up himself but is looking to offload the potential regency on a different primarch and thus fannies around wondering what to do (derailing the story and completely out of character in any other canon).
The only way Abnett can move the story along (aparately) is by having Vulcan and Konrad Curze drop in for a extended action chase around macragge which is very enjoyable if slightly silly but doesn't really add to or even resolve its own side storyline let alone the main one.
And then at the end Guiliman does indeed find the right primarch to offload some responsibility on.
Other parts of the book to remark on:
Guilimans 'foster mother' is a good concept, they have a complex human-primarch relationship that Abnett brings across well. Particularly as she is the ones who pushing him to step up and man up all through the book (i was willing her to lose patience and call him a big jessie the whole way). A refreshing angle really and really lends to the story and guilimans character.
The side story of agents of the cabal, this is a fantastic concept in Abnetts other book alpha legion where xeno factions are pro-actively getting involved with the imperium and trying to effect the heresies outcome. This is great because xeno races are suspiciously neutral or left out entirely of the heresies storyline elsewhere. I was pleased to see the agent back again and more so with the apparent division within the cabal itself. Unfortunately its originality is wasted here as its been added in really just to tie up loose ends from alpha legion and join in with the already clustered Curze, Vulcan chase.
Why couldnt they be going after Guiliman or better yet pushing him to imperial independence from terra for their own ends? Its just disjointedly tacked on.
Nicely written but structurally a real shame.
on 13 September 2014
Dan Abnett is one of the star players in the Black Library stable and this book is clear evidence of his stabilizing influence on the Horus Heresy series. A solid evolution of the mythology focusing on the Ultramarines Legion and Primarch this book was a pleasing fleshing out of big characters while doing solid work driving the series story arc forward. I've enjoyed Abnett's work throughout this series and based on this offering will be buying his next outing too.