The Beast continues to Arise!
I’ve finished the second book in the twelve-part The Beast Arises series from Black Library, and I have to say, if I were reading these with no real context, I would probably have given up on the series at this point.
Let me explain.
The first book sets up the world of the 32nd millennium really well – the Horus Heresy is in the past but still looms large, as the Imperium begins to move closer towards the 41st millennium that we all know and love. Following the Imperial Fists fighting a xenos race referred to as Chromes, we also see the inner workings of the Council of Terra and the intrigue that results there. At the end of the novel, we see that the Imperium is threatened not by these Chromes, but by a massive Ork incursion, the likes of which have never before been seen.
The second book falls tremendously flat after all of this, and I can’t quite believe that I managed to make it to the end. I am Slaughter took me literally a couple of days to read, while I had to force myself to read this one over the course of a week.
The main issue, for me, is the plot. This book is essentially a filler chapter or two, stretched out to 250ish pages, often in the most blatant and literal of ways – paragraphs can consist of the same sentiment immediately rephrased two or three times to pad them out. I thought this might have been a stylistic choice at first, providing something of an archaic construction to emphasise the remove from the 41st millennium, but it began to grate on me very quickly, and I found I was focusing more on the writing than the plot.
We see the Orks invade a couple of worlds, and two successor chapters to the Imperial Fists – the Fists Exemplar and the Black Templars – band together to turn back the green tide. We also see some of the fallout from Ardamantua as the Mechanicum attempt to sort out what happened there. And we see some infantile machinations on Terra between the Officio Assassinorum and the Inquisition, which don’t always make sense. There’s also a “little people” plot that involves virus bombs…
I just can’t get over how much of a filler novel this felt like. The only reason I kept reading was due to the feeling it might prove to be important later, and unfortunately, there are a couple of elements – such as the Ardamantua discoveries – that will prove to be so. I think I was most disappointed with the fact the Terran intrigue was handled just so weirdly in comparison to the first book. There were a couple of chapters where Drakan Vangorich, the grand master of the Assassinorum, just turns up for the sake of it. It continually reminded me of the “secret Asians” joke in American Dad – was there any reason to fly to Mars to have that conversation, only to then next reappear needing the toilet during the proceedings of the High Council? Bah.
All in all, I wasn’t really impressed by this book. I’m intending to move directly onto the third book, The Emperor Expects, in the hope that this series isn’t entirely written off already. I’ll keep you all posted!