Review: The Unremembered Empire / Author: Dan Abnett / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: February 18th
The science fiction civil war space opera known as The Horus Heresy series is, at this point, long and unwieldy. With at least fifty books planned (plus seemingly endless audio dramas, limited edition novellas and other extras being produced) you can hardly blame many fans for simply declaring that they will only follow two or three select authors. Dan Abnett is typically top on that list; he did begin the series and is one of the most popular and talented writers producing books for the Black Library.
The Unremembered Empire is Abnett’s latest novel for the series, and it handily consolidates a whole bunch of plot lines and story ideas from the previous twenty plus books. At its heart, The Horus Heresy saga is one of demi-gods and gods waging a civil war across the galaxy, and to do a story like that justice, you need to make it pretty epic. The Unremembered Empire concentrates on one of these demi-godlike beings, the Primarch Gulliman. Stranded from the greater war by the cunning of his enemies, he has to attend to his own power base and the people he is responsible for, whilst a war rages on and his enemies come for him. As you might expect, gathering all the story strands from a big and complex series means that this book is a dense read, and very, very full.
Characterisation is excellently done and though the book is very action-packed, the main focus is on what’s going on in the minds of the major players. Given that the story features some of the main stars of the series, this is extremely well handled. The narrative feels a little rushed in places; as the pace increases the details become much less focused and though this change of pace is necessary, it does lend a slightly incomplete feel to the book. It generates almost as many questions as it answers, but as this is part of an ongoing series, that is entirely fine.
The Unremembered Empire feels like it should be in the middle of the Horus Heresy; after all, Abnett started it all and it feels right that the middle (and hopefully in future, the end) belong to him. If you’re currently wading your way through the previous novels in the series and wondering if it gets better, this novel is where some of the build up finally pays off and we can only hope the series quickens in pace and plot development after this.