Sunday, January 2, 2011
Prospero Burns Review (The Bad, The Good, and The Meh)
Not my favorite Horus Heresy novel. Bam! Goodnight.
Nah, seriously, I wasn't a huge fan.
Judging it simply as a literary work, its not bad. Its a very competent execution. Still, not Abnett's best. His battle run downs are almost off handed. Like he's gotten bored with describing dismemberment in all its glorious forms. Death on a massive scale is so blase after all...
"Soandso had his head chopped off. Soandso2 was decapitated and his arms torn off. Soandso3 was torn in half and by the way...had his head chopped off." Really Dan? I'm not making this up. This is a paraphrase of an actual part of the novel that takes place during the fall of Prospero. Which, by the way, takes place in the absolute last section of the book and is incredibly short. I read it in an hour. The novel is called, Prospero Burns, and the battle itself is barely a footnote.
My biggest issue with his prose is his fall back to repetition throughout the story. There are entire paragraphs devoted to saying one thing three different ways. This is significant considering the book is pretty short when compared to the other HH novels.
This is barely a Space Wolves novel. They are supporting characters! I repeat, Dan Abnett made the Space Wolves supporting characters in their own novel. See more about this in the Meh section.
Its gives us a peek at the tribals of Fenris...a section that easily equals the amount of pages spent on Prospero.
It gives us a decent look at the "The Rout" themselves. Pre-Heresy Space Wolves don't call themselves Space Wolves. They're "The Rout" or Vlka Fenryka. The Fang, the most famous fortress in all of WH40K, is not The Fang. Its "The Aett." These little things, whether you approve of the execution or not, are nice bits of world building. I love world building.
There are a ton of little things that I enjoyed about this book.
The depiction of Long Fang. He's a Terran born Space Wolf Rune Priest.
"Bear" I put the name in quotations because there's a funny story surrounding the name. Bear is just a cool character. An utter bad ass, a stoic pragmatist, and a good friend. That IS what a Space Wolf should be.
SPOILERS!!!!!!(Highlight the space below to reveal)
"Bear" spends the entire novel as "Bear." At the end, its revealed that the narrator mistranslated his name and its actually...drumroll please...BJORN!! Bjorn the Fell Handed himself...at least thats what I think. He ends up losing his arm in a fight with a Daemon and later makes a remark upon seeing a couple of his Dreadnought brothers. He was happy he lost only an arm because surely being a Dreadnought would be worse. *wink wink*
All in all, Abnett's depiction of the Wolves is well done. They are savages. They are murderers. They'd be the first to tell you this themselves. They are also cunning. They are practical. They are loyal and steadfast.
Chained beasts, but the chains are there for the guests' assurances. Their master knows that he need only raise his voice and they are his will personified.
This is a nice second side to the story depicted in, A Thousand Sons. In A Thousand Sons Russ is shown to have no hesitation in the prosecution of his brother, Magnus. In Prospero Burns he's shown to have given Magnus many warnings. Even going so far as to attempt to speak through a proxy to Magnus to get him to surrender peacefully to spare his life and the lives of his Legion. The Wolf King makes only three or four appearances in the novel, but his presence is felt. He is shown to be a wise leader with a decent heart, but a firm hand.
The Narrator! Ugh. I understand what Abnett was trying to do. I understand that it would have been very hard to have a Space Wolf narrate this story. An outsider was needed to tell the story of Prospero. Unfortunately, this is a crutch that many Horus Heresy novelists have fallen back on. Telling stories through Remembrancer characters or Legion proxies so that questions that a member of the Legion would never ask can be asked for the benefit of the reader. We get the point. Astartes are demigods. Who better to marvel and impart marvel for the Astartes than a mortal, but damn...is it getting a bit old.
This is a minor issue so it didn't make it into the bad. Hell, it might have even made it into the Good section if not for SO MUCH of the book being devoted to this one character. So many pages were spent trying to get the reader to care about The Man of Many Names that it makes the Space Wolves themselves supporting characters in the ONLY HH novel devoted to the VIth Legion. Let me reiterate. The Narrator is not a bad character. His motivations are fleshed out, the subplot surrounding him is woven into the Heresy as a whole, and he serves a purpose to the Legion. Unfortunately, the subplot is dumb in my opinion. I'm not going to spoil it. Not even in blocked out letters. The subplot's resolution is over inflated and it felt like Abnett wrote himself into a corner and decided, "well I've spent over half the book on this bullshit I might as well give it delusions of grandeur that affect every aspect of the Heresy now."
Stupid as it is, its not "bad" per se. Its just not a great decision in my opinion. It works as far as it could. I'm not anywhere near as competent a writer as Abnett is so what do I know? Maybe he felt this was the ONLY way this story could be told with a sense of power. I just wish it hadn't completely overshadowed the Space Wolves themselves.
A Thousand Sons was the stronger of these two novels. If you read A Thousand Sons you got the gist of the Fall of Prospero. Read Prospero Burns if you're a Space Wolves fan. Otherwise, save yourself the cash and hope it shows up in your local library. Its not a bad book. Its a decent one, but it falls short of expectations. Health problems or not this did not read like a piece of work that was YEARS in development.
This was all very hard for me to say. I'm not a fan of McNeill. Storm of Iron and Thousand Sons are the only books of his that I enjoy. On the other hand, I love Abnett. He and Aaron Dembski-Bowden are my two favorite Black Library authors.
Off Topic: Now that I've finally put this baby to rest.(I was waiting so very long for this book to come out) I can go back to reading Lord of Night with the second Ciaphas Cain Omnibus soon to follow that.