Horus Heresy News roundup
Black Library has released Angel Exterminatus (as mentioned in my first blog post Horus Heresy Rising) on pre-order this week. Initially available only in the new Collectors Edition hardback format, this gives collectors of the series a bit of a headache. Up until now, every pre-release has been available in paperback at around £8. Now, collectors have the choice of waiting for the follow up release of the paperback or, if they want to get their hands on the new story as soon as possible, to pay a premium price for the Collectors Edition format. I understand the issues many people will have with a £20 price tag for a book, and I look forward to getting my hands on a copy to see whether the additional content, style and format justifies the additional price.
Whilst the price is a universal issue, personally I am more concerned about the change in format. Unfortunately this means I will either have to accept a mix of styles (OCD alert!!) or upgrade my former collection to Collectors Edition format as and when they are released. Which neatly segues into the second, related piece of news. Horus Rising, False Gods and Galaxy in Flames (the original trilogy of Horus Heresy novels) have also been re-released in Collectors Edition format.
Horus Rising was, uniquely to the Heresy series, originally available in both paperback and hardback, but all three of the new Collectors Editions contain additional material and artwork. At £20 each, they’re a bit steep for casual readers, but I suspect they’ll prove popular for collectors and hardcore fans. In addition to the new hardbacks, Black Library have also released the additional material as ebooks, and have bundled together various options to give more cost effective options to buy these bundles. I’m a traditionalist, and prefer my books to have actual pages, but I’m sure these options will be great for some people.
For anyone interested, you can view all the Collectors Editions here.
Short Stories of the Horus Heresy
Anyway, enough of the news! This week I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of both Angel Exterminatus and Brotherhood of the Storm. Not wanting to commit to reading a full novel in case either of these did arrive, I have been rereading some of the short stories from the Horus Heresy series.
Black Library has a fine tradition of releasing short stories in the Horus Heresy timeline, going all the way back to the Games Day 2007 ‘Chap Book’ which featured two short stories from Black Library star authors Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill. The two stories gave opposing perspectives on the same incident – a fight between Rogal Dorn and Konrad Curze, respective Primarchs of the Imperial Fists and Night Lords.
This literary device, giving two sides of the same story, is a recurring theme within the Horus Heresy, most notably used in the novels Prospero Burns and A Thousand Sons. These two novels give the opposing sides of the long standing rivalry between the Thousand Sons and Space Wolves legions, culminating in the Space Wolves’ sack of the Thousand Sons homeworld, Prospero.
The use of perspective is notable in the Horus Heresy as authors will give information from the point of view of their characters. Perhaps more significantly, the Chaos powers are often show visions of the past or future to characters they are trying to influence. This presents a challenge to us as readers, as we have to make a judgement over whether we believe the written words, or whether we take visions of chaos with a pinch of salt.
A great example of this is the scattering of the nascent Primarchs throughout the universe that I referred to in my previous blog ‘A Background to the Heresy’. In one instance, we are told as a matter of fact that the Chaos Gods caused the Primarchs to be scattered. However, as this is revealed by a vision from the Chaos Gods themselves, should this be given more credence than any of the other explanations given throughout the series. I’m not here to tell you one version is right and the others are wrong. Instead I would ask you to consider this though when reading the stories – just because it’s in black and white, it might not be true.
Anyway, back on subject! Black Library has released a number of short stories through numerous different sources. Fortunately most of these have been combined into three specific Horus Heresy anthologies; Tales of Heresy, Age of Darkness and Shadows of Treachery. The latter of these contains a number of short stories that were previously released elsewhere. Outside of these three, I believe the only other short stories are in the Gamesday 2012/13 Anthology (Distant Echoes of Old Night) or in ebooks (Kryptos, Army of One). Given the Shadows of Treachery release it is probably fair to assume that all three of these short stories will make it into an anthology at some point in the future.
Tales of Heresy was the 10th Horus Heresy novel published by Black Library. It covers a wide period of time, from the Unification Wars (the Emperor’s conquest of Terra), through the Great Crusade and into the early stages of the Heresy. The book’s focus, early in the heresy series, is to portray the early years of the Imperium and to help set the scene for many of the later events in the heresy.
By contrast with Tales of Heresy’s scene setting, Age of Darkness has a starkly different tone. This book marks a change from the initial shock of the heresy to it’s impact on the wider galaxy once the heresy has taken root. As such the stories are a little darker, often dealing with planets or systems choosing which side to take in the heresy, and the ultimate consequences of their choices.
Looking back at Tales of Heresy, each of the stories taken individually is of decent quality, but the lack of a consistent theme detracts from the anthology. By contrast, Age of Darkness, which generally contains weaker stories, works much better as a compilation with it’s darker theme.
The third anthology, Shadows of Treachery, is less homogenous than either of the previous offerings. Primarily a vehicle to launch two novellas, The Crimson Fist and Prince of Crows*, Shadows of Treachery also includes a number of short stories that had been previously released independently. This is a godsend for anyone late to the Horus Heresy, as a couple of these short stories were limited edition releases and are therefore difficult to get hold of. As someone who already owned all the short stories, I would have felt cheated if the two novellas weren’t particularly good. Suffice to say I’m very happy with Shadows of Treachery, and would highly recommend it.
* I won’t be covering either novella today – they deserve (and I hope will receive) an article of their own at some point in the future.
So to conclude today’s offering, I thought I’d finish with my top 5 short stories of the Horus Heresy (again, excluding novellas) in descending order.
5. The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett – from Shadows of Treachery
As mentioned earlier, this was originally released as part of the Games Day 2007 chapbook, and is a very welcome addition to Shadows of Treachery. This story focuses on Rogal Dorn as he fortifies the Imperial Palace on Terra. It’s an interesting story, despite containing no actual ‘action’, but it focuses on Dorn’s relationship with some of his brother Primarchs and also deals with his doubts and fears over the growing heresy.
4. Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – from Age of Darkness
I’m sure many would disagree with this not being higher in my list, as Dembski-Bowden has quickly established himself amongst the best (in my opinion the best) Black Library authors. Savage Weapons is a really interesting story, showing a confrontation between Konrad Curze and Lion El’Johnson (Primarch of the Dark Angels). Whilst this story is taken from the perspective of the Dark Angels, it really marks the beginnings of Dembski-Bowden’s writings on the Night Lords legion in general, and the Night Lords First Captain, Sevatar, in particular.
3. The Iron Within by Rob Sanders – from Age of Darkness
As Sanders’ opening piece in the Heresy series, this is a great offering. It covers the resistance of a loyalist Iron Warriors stronghold against it’s own legion. This is, to my mind, a faithful portrayal of the Iron Warriors, and gives a brilliant demonstration of how fortifications would work within the technological landscape of the 31st millennium.
2. The Last Church by Graham McNeill – from Tales of Heresy
This story takes place during the Unification of Terra campaign, when the Emperor and his Thunder Warriors (genetic precursors to the Space Marines) conquered the planet. It is set in a backdrop to the fighting, as the Emperor takes time away from the military campaign to mark the destruction of the last church on Terra. The entire story focuses on dialogue between the Emperor himself and the priest of the last church, and contains a debate over the nature of science/rationality vs religion/faith. The insight into the personality, power and ambition of the Emperor is revealing, and the story itself is really well written given the potentially inflammatory nature of the subject matter.
1. After Desh’ea by Matthew Farrer – from Tales of Heresy
I’m mystified that this remains Farrer’s only contribution to the Horus Heresy to date. The story itself covers the first meeting between Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters, and his legion after his recovery by the Emperor. I use the word meeting, but that far from covers the violence and tension between Angron and Kharn, the 8th Company Captain (for fans of the Chaos fluff, I’m sure the fact that Kharn is captain of the 8th company is entirely un-coincidental).
Well that’s all from me. If you have any comments about anything I’ve written on short stories of the Horus Heresy, or would like to share your own top 5 short stories, please drop me a message on here or on twitter @Marcoos14
All the best,