In a change to my original intentions of getting back to the Powder Mage trilogy, I decided to read the first book in The Beast Arises series at the weekend, as I’d heard it was a quick read, so thought it’d be good to see what it was all about before I then went in for the larger tome. I have to say, I thought it was pretty great!
The story is relatively straightforward, dealing with the Imperial Fists prosecuting a war against the xenos race labelled “Chromes”, after their shiny exoskeleton, on the planet of Ardamantua. It is the 32nd millennium, and while the Horus Heresy is in the past, its echoes continue to be felt. This is something I really liked about the book, actually – despite having only read nine of the books in the chronologically earlier series so far (though, obviously, knowing how it all ends!), I thought it was really nice to see all the little nods to that era. Something I particularly liked was how it feels almost-mythical, when Primarchs led their Legions into battle, and the like.
The plot on Ardamantua has a lot of general battle scenes, and while I’m not generally a fan of the Imperial Fists, I still thought they were generally quite interesting. For the first half of the novel, though, I found the situation on Terra much more interesting, as we see the political manoeuvrings of the High Council and the like. I’m a sucker for political stuff though, so it was kinda expected!
There’s a weird kind of disconnect roughly in the middle, where the Council agrees to dispatch a relief force of Imperial Fists to the planet, emptying the Imperial Palace of the honoured sons of Dorn, and they arrive six weeks later, where the planet is massively changed. Completely by chance, I put it down at this point, so it wasn’t exactly an issue, but I thought it a bit odd. Anyway, the relief force eventually meets up with the entrenched marines down there amid a massive gravitic storm which, it turns out, is being caused by the arrival in-system of a huge
Death Star Ork battle station. The planet is overrun with the greenskinz, and they pretty much wipe out all of the Imperial forces both on the planet and in orbit. Luckily, however, word is sent to Terra before they are entirely overrun – sent to the High Council, though intercepted by the Inquisition. So I’m looking forward to the further power-play between these two factions, I have to say!
This book was pretty good, anyway – it’s less than 250pp, so a real quick read, which perhaps makes the price of £12.99 a bit steep. However, I enjoyed it, so I can’t complain too much or too loudly! I’m not an Imperial Fists fan, but it was nevertheless interesting to see the big yellow guys – as the historical defenders of Terra, they are a huge part of the lore, after all.
Something that I have to commend it for, however, is the incredible sense of expectancy that is created by the fact that the series was publicised as being the story of a huge Ork invasion, but we don’t see them until almost the end. Knowing this somehow creates a huge tension as you read as, because you’re just waiting for them to show up and stuff, but the marines are still fighting weird metal-insects (which seem to be a favourite Dan Abnett enemy!)
It was a really good start to the series, anyway – not as strong as Horus Rising for the Horus Heresy of course, but that book is pretty much the gold-standard for any kind of sci-fi multi-book series for me. Definitely worth checking out, anyway!
But now, I really am going to start reading The Crimson Campaign…