Horus Heresy book review – The Outcast Dead

Horus Heresy The Outcast Dead book cover
I decided to catch up on the Horus Heresy, and so I picked up The Outcast Dead. I finished the book just a few moments before writing this review, and I’m still not certain how I feel about it. The first part of the book was absolutely great. The ending was spectacular. The action throughout the middle part was entertaining. I maintain my opinion that Graham McNeill writes far better than many over-hyped BL authors. But, unfortunately, there are details and questions that mar this book too much.

For starters, as I said, the beginning is great. We get to see what Terra is like before war comes roaring. We see the palace, we see the people visiting it in pilgrimage, and we also get a unique view into the way astropaths due their work for the benefit of the Imperium. This is where Mr. McNeill’s writing style shines. Most of his characters are unique, interesting and generally far from unidimensional manifestations of clicheic prose.

BUUUT then it all goes to shit when the marines come into the picture, the so-called ‘Crusader Host’ to which we have no explanation of existence. Some of them simply reminded me of why I hated the first Ultramarines books (the annoying, over-the-top hero Uriel Ventris and his emo, oafish super-best-friend, Pasanius). Atharva, the Thousand Son sorcerer is essentially omnipotent. Tagore, the World Eater sergeant is somewhat ok with his portrayal of glory and honour lost through the haze of the berzerker. The dynamic duo of the twins Subha and Asubha could have been something great, had they been a bit further developed, and the Emperor’s Children and Death Guard best-buds simply annoyed me, though I suspect (and hope) these two were simply a nod to an age-old cliche and a poke at the pair of Tarvitz and Garro… I was really happy when they died (derp, that was a spoiler I guess, but meh, they’re really not important). Then there’s Severian, another unidimensional, bland character that barely contributes to the story (though possibly a seed for something yet to come).

Aaaaand as the main trigger to the story, Magnus’ attempt to warn the Emperor is used. EXCEPT in this book it takes place after the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V. Really made me scratch my head, it essentially makes Magnus into an ever bigger puppet than Thousand Sons did, which, I guess, only increases the tragedy of the legion I love so much.

All over the book there are plenty of great snippets, be they about the unification wars or the future of the Imperium, they’re weaved almost flawlessly and combined with references to chess that I, being the geek that I am, simply adored. Kai’s escapades into the dream-world he created to stave of his traumas are wonderful sensorial scenes (if that makes any sense…), and while there are still a few questions left unanswered, the ending of the book was suitably action packed and satisfying.

All in all, I really liked this book and I don’t understand why some people bash it. Now I’ll jump to Death of a Silversmith and Aurelian, two HH shorts I’ve been quite eager to read for a while now, and then Deliverance Lost for some kick-ass Alpha Legion action (yeah, I like the Raven Guard too, but Alpha Legion just trumps everything else).

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3 responses to “Horus Heresy book review – The Outcast Dead

  1. Death of a SIlversmith is a great short story. Aurelian i did not enjoyed too much, as i felt it very pushed and uni-dimensional.

    Deliverance Lost is a nice one and made Corax even more a great primarch. I did not felt the awesomeness of Alpha Legion in that, but more the primarch stubbornness of not yealding and recovering from every defeat and every step-back. But still a good read.

    Outcast death was just a one night fast read and i agree with you on the characters. Still was written ok so it was not the worst of all. I still find Mechanicum the worst HH as is the only one i could not read till the end due to a very crappy style.

  2. In the meanwhile I’ve finished Death of a Silversmith and am on my way to finishing Aurelian. Unfortunately, I see DoaS as a bit of a failed experiment. Written in first person, it simply doesn’t convey the emotions one might feel as death grabs him in its clutches. Otherwise, it’s an interesting footnote to the story of Horus Rising/Galaxy in Flames.
    Aurelian is so’n so. Simply having all those primarchs interacting means it can’t turn out bad. I’ll add more once I’m done with it, probably tonight. 🙂
    And yeah, can’t wait to get into Deliverance Lost. Hopefully it’ll spur me back into working on CSM.

  3. OK, I finished Aurelian as well. I rather liked it. Yes, the fights in the Eye were not terribly impressive (or maybe I’m just growing tired of such scenes), but I do like the prophetic side of the novella. I’ll write more about it when I post about Deliverance Lost. 🙂

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