Ben's Reviews > Eisenhorn

Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett
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's review
Feb 01, 2012

liked it
Read from January 20 to February 02, 2012

I hated giving this three stars, but I felt that I had to. Here's why:

I've always been fascinated by Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 as games, and especially as settings. Part of what I really enjoy is the way in which it was founded as a grim satire of the utopian sci-fi of the early-mid 1980s. Nowadays, it seems to me that many players don't realize how much of the hyperbole which is typically employed by Games Workshop's writers is (or was, at any rate) a joke. Many players who are now introduced to the game seem to think that the sky really is falling. There's no doubt that the Imperium of Man is doomed, but do we all have to take it so seriously? Dan Abnett seems to change his mind about this frequently, which I found refreshing.

Additionally, I love getting a chance to see the elements of the 40k universe which are not typically depicted in the game; it's nice to see what Imperial planets look like before they are invaded by Orks and burned to a crisp. It's also interesting to see more of the bureaucracy behind the Imperial Navy, Inquisition, and Imperial Guard.

All of this is to the good, so why the 3 stars? Mostly, it comes down to Dan Abnett's writing. He's no hack, but there are a few elements of his style that drove me bonkers. His language varies from purple to sparse and back, often in the course of a single paragraph. His narrative plotting and character arcs become easy to predict, and he loves to write really short sentences to add drama to a scene when something is about to go wrong. The first few times it happens, it's an enjoyable idiosyncrasy. The next hundred times, not so much. Here's an example:
"I commanded, using my will. No reaction. They were psy-shielded.
Someone had prepared." (Eisenhorn, p. 611)

Still and all, for what amounts to a pulp novel, this is some pretty well written stuff, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to go beyond Space Marines having their umpteenth valiant last stand against a sky-darkening mob of Tyranids.
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