False Gods by Graham McNeill – Book Review

False Gods by Graham McNeill - Book Cover

In False Gods, the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet continues to march forward under the leadership of Horus Lupercal (and Graham McNeill). (See the previous part: The Horus Heresy by Dan Abnett). Their thunderous steps are guided by a complete lack of political correctness: fully armored, they crush anyone in THE UNIVERSE who is slightly different, or not human enough. Or perhaps human enough, just happens to hold an opposite opinion.

To start, the space marines smack down a few thousand living dead underground, during which Horus himself gets injured. As a result, the entire fleet deflates like a dried prune because they view their beloved leader as a demigod (and truth be told, after a while, you also get swept up in this incredible enthusiasm and start to admire him) even though this semi-divine being sometimes behaves like a narcissistic goose. One of the problems with False Gods is precisely this swooning, completely devoid of common sense respect that the guardsmen have towards Horus. And the way Horus turns towards himself, and who out of sheer pride and awareness of his own invincibility can walk into the most transparent trap. Yes, yes, at this point, you also start to wonder if the emperor’s little son is really the most suitable person to lead a fleet?

The title of the series is, of course, “The Heresy of Horus.” The second part jumps right into the thick of things because the main conflict revolves around Horus getting angry with the Emperor, his beloved and respected daddy, up until now. The quality of the conflict is somewhat diminished by the fact that it mainly plays out on a metaphysical level, specifically within Horus’s MIND. Horus’s attitude (who is, you know, a (BIG-)grown man) seems somewhat childish. He gets offended in advance because Daddy maybe wants to become a god sometime LATER; so surely he won’t care about him afterwards. Oh, and there’s a lot of bureaucracy too. That’s it. This is quite a thin foundation for a 50+ part book series.

From here on out, in the not particularly exciting remaining part of False Gods, you can agonize over whether Horus, who is essentially just a vain and arrogant jerk, will become a vain, arrogant, and EVIL jerk without any transition, based on a few silly visions. The fleet, apart from a few unlucky guys who get stuck outside the circle, will go along with him without a fuss, just like the legions followed the charismatic, emperor-rebelling generals in the Roman Empire.

In False Gods, there are also a few remembrancer leading a debauched lifestyle, who are actually just pebbles, ground-pounders, no one knows why they are with the fleet, and they just trail along after the events. When an ugly monster crawls out of the warp to devour a few of them, you just shrug it off. Bon appétit!

The quality of Graham McNeill’s writing is average, although sometimes a bit heavy-handed, and the characters often get unreasonably angry more often than necessary, but there’s not much of a problem with it. The main problem lies with the story: it all seems unprepared and off-the-cuff, like in a soap opera. If you keep reading this series, there can only be one reason for it: you’re curious (damn curiosity!) about what will happen to the noble Captain Loken, who is about the only character left in the story worth rooting for.


False Gods (The Horus Heresy #2) by Graham McNeill – Book Review
416 pages, Paperback
Published in 2006 by Black Library

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