Monday, January 17, 2011

Prospero Burns - book review

I haven't bothered reviewing The Horus Heresy series from the W40k universe as if you're into that you're going to read them no matter what is said. For the latest I'll make an exception.

For those not in the know the Warhammer 40,000 (W40k) series is set in the 41st millennia and deals with the struggles of a humanity dispersed amongst the galaxy and the attempt by the near-dead Emperor of Mankind to unify them all in the face of aliens and daemons However the 'current' events all start 10,000 years before when the Emperor's favourite son Horus turns against his father and initiates a civil war. The Horus Heresy deals with those times.

"Prospero Burns" is the fifteenth in the series and in essence follows on from the twelfth "The Thousand Sons" as such a recap of that book is in order.

Another of the Emperor's sons Magnus and his legion, genetically created from his template, all share a vast physic potential on a level of that of his father and not shared by any of his other sons or their legions. However such gifts come with a price and "The Thousand Sons" hints at the sacrifices made by Magnus to protect his 'sons' from the curse of mutation and the deals made with eldritch powers for the same.

The other sons of the Emperor fear that Magnus is pushing these gifts in dangerous ways and a decree is made to curb this legion. At first acceding to this request Magnus learns of the treachery of Horus and needing to warn his father uses his powers to penetrate the defences of Earth to give such a message. However in doing so he disrupts a delicate experiment being conducted that would free humanity from the forces of daemons and ruins it forever.

In anger the Emperor sends another of his sons, Leman Russ leader of the Space Wolves legion, to Prospero homeworld of the The Thousand Sons to return them for punishment. Despite accepting this and wanting to turn himself over the Thousand Sons disobey and start fighting leading to Prospero being razed. Seeing all the knowledge he has acculumlated being destroyed Magnus makes one final entreaty to the eldritch powers and becomes doomed to Chaos forever.

It can be seen that just as The Thousand Sons deals with the events from the viewpoint of Magnus and the Thousand Sons, "Prospero Burns" should take another vantage point and fill in the gaps; in this instance from the Space Wolves point of view.

We start on the Space Wolves home planet of Fenris during a battle, we're introduced to a new character and get some interspersed weirdness before we discover said character is on Fenris and has now been taken in by the Space Wolves. He joins them on their battles to become a story-teller to them and we see the dichotomy of their apparently brutal actions and their iron-core discipline. We see the edict against Magnus from a most strange vantage; and finally our story-teller weaves the tale of the fall of Prospero.

However the book is over 400 pages long and the fall covers roughly the last 40. So in a book entitled "Prospero Burns" about a tenth covers Prospero, which is disappointing. I can't even say this is a book about the Space Wolves. It's a book about the initial character, whom we've never heard of before this and from the ending won't hear about ever again. Yes it gives an insight towards some of the strings being pulled to set the Horus Heresy in motion, but it seems an afterthought.

The entire plot as it were is - the Space Wolves aren't as barbarous as some make out; the events of the Horus Heresy have been in play for a long time, and there are powerful powers behind them. But we've known all that from the other books and this is where this series entry fails. All the others stand alone, they can all be read without reading any other novel and still be appreciated in their own right. This one can't.

This is less a novel and more an expanded  novelette and I doubt anything it contains will hold any relevance for those that follow in the series.