Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: I Am Slaughter - The Beast Arises Book 1

This fall, the Black Library announced a new mini-series of books in the 40k Universe's history; the Beast Arises, a 12-part series set two millenia after the Horus Heresy. Being a sucker for series and the 40k universe as a whole, I subscribed to the series, meaning I will get each book at it is released each month. With the first book having been out a month, and the next impending, let's dive into a review of Book 1, I Am Slaughter. As with my Horus Heresy reviews (which I haven't done in ages), SPOILER ALERT.

So, as I said in the introduction, the series is set about two thousand years after the Horus Heresy. Something that is presented early on and emphasized regularly is that, by in large, compared to the times of the Great Crusade, the Heresy, and the "current" 40k, the galaxy is largely at peace; there is very little opportunity for the Space Marines to test their mettle. This is so extreme that the Imperial Fists have essentially gone on a pest-control mission for some positive PR.

At first, I was pretty off-put by the juvenile nicknaming convention the Imperial Fists used, insisting on calling each other by cliche and over the top nicknames. However, after I got over rolling my eyes and got further into the book, it seemed like an excellent job by Dan Abnett to really set up how different these Space Marines are from those in the Heresy or in the 40k times; they are gung-ho and confident, desiring combat, in part because they never have been truly challenged. They are the combat-thirsty Privates, who have never seen combat but have visions of glory, while we as the readers are the jaded combat veterans who just roll our eyes at their bravado. Even the veterans of the company behave rashly when given the opportunity to dive into combat, dooming the Imperial Fists chapter to oblivion.

The most interesting portion of the relatively brief story was, for me, the politicking on Terra, particularly that of the head of the Officio Assassinorum. This is fortunate since it also seems that it will be the main thread that can be carried over. The other being simply how to reconcile the conclusion of the book, that the Imperial Fists, as a chapter, are gone, with the fluff of 40k. I've never really read in depth on the Imperial Fists lore for 40k, but this seems to be a glaring incident and a major black mark in the Chapter's history.

As a whole, I mostly enjoyed the book. That said, it seemed pretty flat and unengaging for much of it's pretty brief run. The "bolter-porn" element dominated the majority of the text, with only a limited amount of background explored through the action of the plot. That said, while I don't see it as a great standalone, Abnett has set up some interesting storylines and the state of the universe at large for the rest of the 11 books to build off of.

What did you think of the book? What are your thoughts for how the series might go?

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