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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

“Eisenhorn”, by Dan Abnett

768 pages, The Black Library, ISBN-13: 978-1844161560

The Warhammer 40,000 Universe has intrigued me ever from the 90’s when a friend of my brother’s demonstrated the table-top game at a convention at his school. While I have never had the time, patience or talent to collect, paint, and display these awesome miniatures, the universe as created by Games Workshop intrigued me from the start, and I have been hooked ever since. The Warhammer 40,000 Universe is set in the 41st Millennium in a time when humanity has colonized countless millions of planets throughout a good portion of the Milky Way. The whole Imperium is ruled by an Emperor of Mankind centered on Holy Terra (Earth to you and me) who exists in a half dead state – he’s ruled for 10,000 years in this state; The Horus Heresy series of books tell the story of how the Imperium came to be – and the whole administration of the Empire is somewhat Feudal and Medieval with gargantuan bureaucracies and religion seems to permeate a significant portion of people's lives. So many technologies have been invented and forgotten that technology has come to be regarded as a kind of techno-magic, and there’s a whole religion associated with technology, The Adeptus Mechanicus. There are the Adeptus Astartes, or Space Marines, the Emperor’s elite, genetically engineered and power-armored augmented fighters, and there’s the Imperial Guard, populated by mere humans.

In this time, faster than light space travel is through The Immaterium, better known as “The Warp”, or Hyperspace – but this Hyperspace is not empty as in so many other fictitious universes; rather, it is teeming with demons and lost souls that are just ready to rip a spaceship that is not protected appropriately. In certain places the Immaterium is very close to real space (the two realities, ours and chaos, are very close to each other and here demons will sometimes spill out into the real universe and invade and corrupt real worlds and people (they become tainted with chaos). The Inquisitor’s job is to seek out and find the taint of Chaos, Mutants, Orks, Xenomorphs, Eldar etc., throughout the Imperium and exterminate them (no United Federation of Planets or interspecies cantina here; the only good alien is a dead alien). Inquisitors are very independent but they each carry the full weight of the Emperor, each has his own way of doing things but they have a hierarchy and they go out throughout the Universe seeking anything evil and once they do (each in their unique way) then they focus the Empire’s legions to destroy it. They’re like the white blood cells of the imperium by finding evil, tagging it, and then having space marines or imperial legions to come and destroy the evil. What we end up with then is a very Gothic, dark and dystopian future in which hope is small and there is only war.

This is what interests us and Eisenhorn, an omnibus book that gathers together the works by Dan Abnett that concern Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn: the novels Xenos, Malleus, and Hereticus, and the short stories Missing In Action and Backcloth For A Crown Additional. Eisenhorn is already a full-fledged Inquisitor hunting evil and it traces his development as his devotion to Emperor causes him to use ever-more marginal – indeed, almost heretical – approaches to hunt Chaos, and leaves us with an Eisenhorn who, while still devoted to the Emperor (in his fashion) stoops to use Chaos to fight Chaos. Is Eisenhorn, then good or evil? Hard to say at this point, although Eisenhorn himself would insist that he is but doing the Emperor’s will in his own way.

If you’re going to jump into the Warhammer 40K universe – or just dabble about at its fringes like I do – Eisenhorn is probably the best to open the doors and show you just makes the 41st Millennium tick.  Eisenhorn will show you some of the greatest parts of the Imperium as well as some of the worst evils, and you’ll even be rewarded by Abnett by him giving you glimpses into almost every facet of the Imperium, such as the Space Marines, Chaos Marines, Titans, Chaos Titans, et al. Abnett’s characters evolve and some favorites will die in a dark universe where humanity is fighting for its survival. This is not a book that ends happily ever. Will humanity overcome the Chaos that threatens or will he fall prey to it in the attempt of learning and fighting it?

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