Review: Angel Exterminatus (The Horus Heresy) / Author: Graham McNeil / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: January 17th
The enormously successful and vast Horus Heresy series continues in this latest instalment, Angel Exterminatus. If you're wondering how many more tales there can be to tell, this book shows that we still have some way to go, because McNeil has focused on less well-known but crucially important characters to produce a quite staggering narrative of revenge, resentment and the abandonment of reason.
The main focus is on Peturabo, a demi-godlike warrior who has decided to side with the rebels in a galactic civil war. Up until this point, we’ve seen this character and his minions, the Iron Warriors, as pretty standard grunt troopers. Angel Exterminatus reveals him to be a brilliant strategist who, despite his exceptional powers, has become deeply flawed. It's a discovery of some consequence, that allows previous books by McNeil to be seen in a new light.
The central thread is a quest for a super-weapon in the hands of some sneaky and untrustworthy aliens, but this takes a back seat to a sequence of character-driven dramas and subplots. Along the way we get an insight into how the rebels are devolving into the monsters that hardcore fans of the books know they will eventually become. Angel Exterminatus features the decadent and insane Emperor’s Children, a legion of corrupt Space Marines, and the signature characters of that faction are all present. McNeil plays up their villainy extremely well. It would have been easy to make them OTT, scenery-chewing crazies, but instead the author gets them just right – gloriously horrid, rather than ridiculously wicked.
The weakest moments come when the attention shifts from the rebels onto some of the loyalist Marines. Ordinarily, these interestingly broken and battle-damaged loyalists would be totally up to hogging the spotlight, but they pale in comparison to Peturabo and chums. This is a book about rooting for the villains.
Brilliantly written, large and complex though it is, this novel is unmistakably part of an ongoing series. Those familiar with Warhammer 40,000 will have no problem getting into it, but novices might find it a challenge initially, simply because of the vast amount of backstory already covered. Fans, though, will love it, and those waiting for the paperback to come out should be warned that it’s a hefty beast that you will want to devour in a gulp. Set aside a weekend; you won’t regret it.