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).