Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tales of Heresy

(For those of you that don't know, Warhammer 40,000 is a game universe in which I play and hobby. It is probably the single most developed game 'universe' in terms of fluff in the industry. This background has now spawned a series of novels that delve into the previously hinted at ancient 'history'. the series is bringing to light things that all of us who have held on for the last 30 year have wanted to know.)

I finally got around to catching up with the Horus Heresy. "Fallen Angels' surprised me, with the dreck that was 'Descent of Angels'. But that's for another review, I am tackling 'Tales of Heresy' now.

When I was coming of age in a literary sense, I fell in love with short story compilations. Isaac Asimov shorts (or approved collections mostly), Heinlein (again, approved collections), McManus (jeebus, crying laughing so hard). I still like to pick them up on occasion, for various changes of pace/line waiting at govt offices/doctors etc. I haven't held a short story compilation in quite a long time that traveled with me OUT of the bathroom (so to speak) excepting for the aforementioned dull waiting reasons. Now I have.

The last few books have disappointed me a bit. Even the (hobby wide) vaunted 'Mechanicum' was a bit of a disappointment to me. I think that book rode on the fascination with Titan Legions more than actual merits. So with trepidation, I opened 'Tales' and proceeded to read.
And read...
And read...
I am ALMOST glad the move I just made prevented me from getting to this book until now. It meant I was MUCH closer to the next Heresy series release, and wouldn't have to wait as long! It washed the bad taste of 'Battle for the Abyss' and 'Fulgrim' out of my mouth. There are a few stories that are slightly pedantic, or un-enlightening, but they still delivered in an action sense.

My personal favorites are as follows;
"Scions of the Storm". Other than that abomination that was Battle for the Abyss novel, this story is my first real exposure to NON rulebook/codex fluff regarding the Word Bearers Legion. I have to say, I was glad to see they were just as evil sh##s as we were led to believe. Actually, they did a great job developing characters that did not typify what we would consider the 'norm' for the word bearers, and also gave us a taste of their primarch as a true 'prophet'. You get a sense of how powerful it must have been to be in the presence of someone touched by the divine no matter how corrupt!
"Call of the Lion". This one is not written as well as it is just plain revealing. In the last Dark Angels book, Fallen Angels, we start to get a sense of the deeper divisions in the Legion. In Call of the Lion it becomes even more pronounced. We get to see where the lines are REALLY being drawn, and start to wonder if all we've been told is a lie. I think that this story arc (with what is coming after it) may be a defining sense of the Heresy to come, and prove to give as much enlightenment to 40k history as the 3 original Heresy books.
"After DeShea". About damned time. Angron. He's ANGWY, we get it. That's the way I've always seen it anyway. Yeah, we've had it spelled out to us. Emperor comes, Angron says go away, Emperor teleports him away from comrades in a desperate battle...wackiness ensues.
Okay, that's all I've known to date. This story is written from his 2nd Kharne's perspective, and what happened when the Emperor 'dumped' the WE primarch into their laps to deal with. I have the Kharne model, I have some world eaters, now I am going to have to make them into a full blown army. They really are a Legion with character. Kharne is awesome and controlled, the epitome of an Astartes. Dammit, that's a legion I wish had stayed loyal! Gotta read it!

These are my favorite three. They either break stereotypes of Legions we have a tendency to just disregard beyond their base nature, or they give us in depth nuances to the over-developing heresy (or both).
All of the stories though do one big thing, they bring more of a sense of galaxy spanning impact that the Heresy will have.
In this series of short stories, we get a sense of the SCOPE of these events, a much greater sense of it, and what's going wrong. It made me want to be a part of the HOBBY again.

Now this was purely a 'fluff' review, not a literature review. I did not take it apart based on its form or substance. As a written piece though, I think Black Library may have learned a bit. They seem to finally realize that you can't just hand a 12 year old a word processor and some notes and then sell dreck based on fans. I did not once have a sense that I was rehashing crap or looking for typos. I did not feel as though I wasted my time with any of these stories. I think the writing was above-par for the SciFi genre as a whole, not just a niche target audience.

I wholly recommend this book to fans of the series and game alike.

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