It feels like an age since I finished reading a book! According to the above instagram photo, however, it’s been almost a month, and more than two since I last read a Horus Heresy novel. At any rate, I’ve finally finished reading the ninth novel in the Horus Heresy series, Mechanicum, so thought I’d come here and share my thoughts, as per usual!
In short, I didn’t like this book. This has nothing to do with the writing (Graham McNeill is one of my favourite genre authors, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog), but rather the subject matter. I know the Adeptus Mechanicus is a popular thing for lots of Warhammer fans, shown especially when they launched as a distinct faction for the tabletop miniatures game, but despite trying to be interested, I’m just not all that interested in them. The story of this novel deals with the Schism of Mars, and I feel it sets up a very important element of the overall Heresy storyline, but I found it far too uninteresting, and sometimes went almost a week between chapters.
The book has three story strands that coalesce towards the end, though I do feel that one point is left hanging somewhat awkwardly. First of all, we have the story of Dalia Cythera, a latent psyker brought to Mars to help build a machine called the Akashic Reader, which is supposed to be able to harness the power of the Warp enough for a more capable psyker to delve into its secrets. She does so, but the initial run with it involves draining power from the Astronomican, and causes a massive catastrophe yet it is strongly suggested that some of the knowledge from the Warp was collected, but we never find out what. Touched by the psychic power unleashed, Dalia begins to dream of a dragon locked beneath the Noctis Labyrinthus, and travels across the red planet to free it. What she finds there, however, is not what she expected.
The sponsor for this work is Mechanicum Adept Koriel Zeth, who is something of an anomaly in the Adeptus Mechanicus in that she believes more in the supremacy of science than the power of the Omnissiah, something that causes a rift among her colleagues. Her forge at the Magma City becomes a centre of attention as the story progresses, as one of the few forges that escape the conversion to the Dark Mechanicum.
This is something that I’d heard bandied around by 40k enthusiasts for a long time now, in terms of modelling an army and the like, so I thought it intriguing to read about it all. Basically, Regulus, the Mechanicum adjunct to the Sons of Horus from back in the original opening trilogy, returns to Mars with the offer of an alliance with the Warmaster and Mars – if the Fabricator-General agrees to supply the Warmaster and his allies over the rest of the Astartes, Horus would not only give full control to all of the galaxy’s Forge Worlds over to the Mechanicum, but also provide the original Standard Template Construct database recovered from the Auretian Technocracy (detailed in the second novel, False Gods), and would provide the key to unlocking the fabled Vaults of Moravec and all the technology held there. The Fabricator-General, Kelbor-Hal, agrees, and the Vaults are opened, revealing a host of Warp-enhanced servitors and Skitarii, as well as a virus-like “scrap code” that proceeds to infest the majority of the forges of Mars. Kelbor-Hal then begins production of a titanic new ship for the Word Bearers Legion, Furious Abyss.
Something of a power-play takes up the central portion of the novel, as the Titan Legions posture before finally declaring all-out war. Legio Mortis strikes the forge of Koriel Zeth, who is defended by Legio Tempestus. The novel ends in something of a bloodbath, with only one machine of the Legio Mortis left standing – that is, until Koriel Zeth releases the safety protocols on her Magma City, basically wiping out her entire forge in a sea of magma.
Despite what I said at the beginning there, parts of this book really interested me, and I found a lot of it really enjoyable. I think the politics of Regulus and Kelbor-Hal were the outstanding parts for me, as they had the strongest tie to the overall Horus Heresy storyline, which is what I’m really keen to learn more about. The rise of the Dark Mechanicum, while a little weird, is nevertheless an important part of the lore, so I was glad to discover more about that.
Dalia’s storyline started out really intriguing, especially as they managed to make the Akashic Reader a reality. However, I was left feeling a little cheated when the suggestion that it had, in fact, worked went unexplored. The storyline lost most of its interest for me as she traveled the planet to the Dragon of Mars, which was a little too crazy at times – though I have since read that the Dragon might be one of the C’tan, which is exciting for a Necron player such as myself! Dalia’s storyline ends fairly abruptly, too, which I was surprised by, though perhaps this is going to be picked up in a future novel?
The third storyline in the book is that of the Titan legions, and while I’m sure it was meant to be as interesting as the others, just confused me from the start, and I found most of it just boring. There are a lot of characters in this book, which is nothing really new for the Heresy series, but having almost every warmachine rider as a named character, across the whole Titan Legion, led to me losing interest as I couldn’t keep up. As the story progresses, this strand becomes increasingly foregrounded, which didn’t help in the slightest, and I think led in part to my disinterest in the novel.
Overall, I’m glad I read it, but I think I was expecting a lot more than what we received. The parts that disinterested me unfortunately outweighed the parts that I found to be interesting, which has led to me feeling less than positive about it. At any rate, if you like the Adeptus Mechanicus faction, you’ve either read this already, or else should definitely pick it up. Otherwise, while it has some important impacts on the overall Horus Heresy, I feel it could be summed up as “Regulus starts a civil war on Mars, leading to the Mechanicum largely following Horus”.