Friday, October 11, 2013

Battle for the Abyss (Horus Heresy Book 8) Review

Back to the Horus Heresy Series, I recently finished up Battle for the Abyss. After Legion, I had a bit of a book hangover and took a couple breaks in the reading of this novel. Not because it was bad by any stretch, but it was certainly a good bit more direct and so, there was a bit less suspense I felt. As I mentioned in my Galaxy in Flames review, I've been a Ben Counter fan since Soul Drinker; I think he does an excellent job of developer characters through action and not having to divide the two. You get to learn about a character as the plot progresses swiftly, without stopping for a lot of background. At the same time, while the plot progresses quickly, the characters don't end up as boring, static action heroes.

As a summary, this book focuses on a Word Bearer ship, built in secret, that is being deployed to essentially destroy Macragge. A small group of Ultramarines, along with some assorted Space Wolves and World Eaters, waiting at a waypost for transport, discover that the at first mysterious ship has destroyed an Ultramarine cruiser and conscript a nearby fleet to pursue the offending vessel. A single Thousand Son joins the group, with the implication that he has foreseen the importance of the voyage.

While entertaining to read, the book falls a bit short compared to its predecessors in terms of laying open some mysteries and background about the Legions involved. That is not to say the characters do not display elements of their Legion, giving some insight, because they do. In particular, the World Eater character has one of the more revelatory moments while infiltrating the Word Bearer ship. However, the little bits and pieces of Legion character (like the feud between the Space Wolf and Thousand Son) do not add up to the grand scope of preceding books that showed characters interacting with or revealing histories and aspects of their legion.

As a result, this book felt less like a Horus Heresy story than just a story set in the Horus Heresy. While the ship, the Furious Abyss is mentioned as being important elsewhere, the implications of the story becomes peripheral and unimportant to the action. While this style worked in Galaxy in Flames because that was the action was the climax of the trilogy and the battles being fought were of apparent importance, it is less clear in this book. The potential damage should the Word Bearers succeed is referenced regularly, but in part because we know their plan to destroy the Ultramarines must fail, the true moment of importance is at the very beginning, when the revelation that Space Marine has turned on Space Marine is made.

Finally, a difficulty this book had was that the non-Astartes characters are not fleshed out in any true form. Of all the preceding novels in the series, only Descent of Angels similarly shared the lack of an outsider perspective. While there are a couple non-Astartes characters, the reader is rarely allowed to see behind their eyes. That's not to say strong human characters are necessary for the story to be good (I would argue that Flight of the Eisenstein and Fulgrim were both short on their viewpoint, but strong nonetheless), but they certainly can help.

While I've been fairly negative, that's not to say I didn't enjoy the book. The story was certainly good and entertaining, with a swift pace. I think in the end, my issue is that there didn't seem to be something that would resonate or stick with me; there wasn't an important revelation or pivotal point of the Horus Heresy included. While it might be referenced in later novels, and important in that regard, it was mostly just a fun story, and I've come to expect a bit more from the Horus Heresy novels.