Saturday, March 10, 2007

Flight of the Eisenstein review

I got my paws on a copy of Flight of the Eisenstein fairly early, read it in a week, and I'm posting up the review today. The first part is the synopsis and tells you exactly what happens, so if you don't want to know the plot just skip straight to the review.


A Deathguard flotilla gathers to attack a gargantuan cylinder world of the jorgall. At the last moment, Mortarian, their Primarch, joins them. He brings Amendera Kendel, a Witchseeker leading a deputation of the Silent Sisterhood. The Deathguard invade the xenos ship. Captain Garro must take the hatcheries. After a ferocious battle Garro kills a mutant psychic alien. The Sisters of Silence depart for Luna with the dead mutant.

Kaleb, Garro's servant, discovers Commander Grulgor inducting a Marine into his warrior lodge. Grulgor threatens Kaleb who is defended by Apothecary Voyen. Mortarion honours Garro for his efforts during the battle. Mortarion invites Garro into the lodge. Garro refuses. The Primarch asks Garro to accompany him to a rendevous with the World Eaters, Emperor's Children and the Sons of Horus. Mortarion, Eidolon, Angron and Horus himself meet to plan the assault upon the traitors of Istvaan III. Garro renews his friendship with Saul Tarvitz of the Emperor's Children.

Garro discovers that Voyen has joined the lodge. The Deathguard and Emperor's Children attack an outpost on Istvaan Extremis. The listening post has been transformed into a strange ziggurat. Garro saves Decius' life but is severely wounded by the Warsinger, the enemy leader. Decius rescues Garro. Garro is tended by Fabius, Apothecary to the Emperor's Children, then Apothecary Voyen.

After the battle, Garro has his leg replaced with bionics. Kaleb prays to the Emperor to heal Garro. Garro dreams about The Saint. When Garro recovers he is assigned to the frigate Eisenstein to oversee the main assault on the Choral City. Typhon asks Grulgor to deal with Garro should he defy Horus and Mortarion.

Temeter leads the attack on the Choral city for the Deathguard. Hand picked squads of the World Eaters, Emperor's Children and Sons of Horus participate. Kaleb and Voyen discover Grulgor loading the ship's weapons with virus bombs. Tarvitz flies a Thunderhawk toward the Eisenstein, revealing Horus' betrayal and asking for help. Garro shoots down the chasing craft, allowing Tarvitz to escape to the surface of Istavaan III. Kaleb tells Garro about the virus bombs. Garro challenges Grulgor. Grulgor wounds Kaleb and the virus leaks onto the ship. Kaleb sacrifices himself to lock Grulgor and the traitors into a sealed compartment.

Garro discovers Kaleb's religious beleif in the Emperor. Decius, despite his reservations, helps take control of the ship for Garro. Istvaan III is virus bombed by Horus and the traitors. Temeter, along with many Deathguard, and loyalists of the other Legions, is killed.

Another Thunderhawk approaches the Eisenstein. Garro allows it to come aboard. It is carrying Qruze, a marine from the Sons of Horus, Sinderman the Iterator, Oliton the remembrancer and Keeler The Saint. Maas the communications officer of the Eisenstein informs Typhon that Garro has killed Grulgor and rebelled. Garro kills Maas. The Eisenstein is damaged by Typhon's ship but escapes into the warp.

The Eisenstein is attacked by deamons as well as the re-animated remains of Grulgor and the traitors. Garro kills Kaleb again. Decius loses an arm and becomes infected. The Eisenstein falls back out of the warp and is stranded in the middle of nowhere. The Navigator dies. Voyen wants to kill Decius but Garro refuses. Sinderman, Oliton and Keeler start a church on board. Garro visits Keeler, torn between his rational beliefs and his emerging spiritual feelings.

Garro orders the ship's warp engines be ejected and destroyed, creating a warp flare that will attract a rescue ship. Voyen challenges Garro - if the plan fails they will be stranded. The Imperial Fists, with their Primarch, Rogal Dorn, come to the aid of the Eisenstein. The Fists destroy the Eisenstein. They had been trapped in a warp storm until Garro's warp flare swept it away. Garro tells Dorn of the treachery. Oliton shows her hololithic projections and Keeler helps to convince the Primarch.

Everyone returns to the Sol system. Garro and his followers are taken to the headquarters of the Sisters of Silence on Luna. Decius is overcome by his disease and becomes the Lord of the Flies. He kills several Deathguard. Garro kills him after an epic fight.

Voyen dedicates his life to finding a cure for the disease. Malcador, regent of Terra, asks Garro and his men, as well as Kendel, to become fledgling inquisitors.

I was worried about this book. That's because I reviewed two other James Swallow books (Deus Encarmine and Deus Sanguinius) and gave them rotten appraisals.

The problems that dogged those novels were thankfully not present here. There was a lot of plot for the author to handle, and a lot of interweaving to track between the previous Horus Heresy books, but Swallow handles things well. This is the first book in the series to loop back in time and follow the events of the Heresy from a different perspective. For this reason there is a lot to pack in; starting with the supposedly loyal Deathguard, the revelation of Horus' treachery, the bulk of the Legion declaring for Horus, the virus bombing of Istvaan - and all this before the loyalists even reach the Eisenstein!

Maybe because of the relentless pace of the plot, the author is unable to indulge in the pages of dull and earnest monologues that blighted his earlier works. Despite the plot, Garro and his struggles, both physical and spiritual, are fleshed out well; we get more rounded characters here than in the cardboard cut outs of Galaxy in Flames, for example. The reactions of the supporting cast are more convincing too. The loyalists squabble amongst themselves and when they try to spread word of the heresy they are disbelieved.

This bodes well for the forthcoming books in the series, particularly Fulgrim, penned by Graham MacNeill, which looks at the heresy of the Emperor's Children and their Primarch.

This is a decent addition to the Horus Heresy series.

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