Nemesis is the first Horus Heresy novel I’ve read that isn’t focussed on Space Marines. Instead, there’s a bit of politics, some body horror, stealing from Angel Heart, my favourite dreadful Mickey Rourke film, a bit of an A-Team vibe, and finally a bunch of Space Marines turn up and slaughter civilians. So, something for all the family, then.
It starts, though, as a police procedural. There are a couple of grumpy, tired cops looking into a series of gruesome murders on a planet that doesn’t do anything but make wine (straight from the George Lucas school of worldbuilding…) A parallel story develops, as the Imperium comes up with a plan to assassinate Horus and put an end to the Heresy.
There are lots of different kinds of assassin available to the Imperium; poisoners, snipers, utter psycho killing machines, psychic nulls, shapeshifters, and so on. Deciding that Horus is hard to kill, a team is assembled of one of every type of assassin. It’s hoped that the kitchen sink approach will succeed, or provoke a lot of arguments between the rival assassins.
Meanwhile, the gruesome murders continue, until it’s revealed they are part of Erebus, chief smug git and troublemaker of the Word Bearers, up to a Terrible Plan, quite in parallel with the Imperium’s own plan.
Gradually the two plans inch toward one another, until they collide in the end game.
It’s workmanlike. Not an unsatisfactory read (for the assassins are more interesting than the po-faced dickery of the Word Bearers, the previous book I read) although it takes a while to get going. It’s also a bit confusing that the always-angry, always-killing Evorsor assassin stops being all killy for a while so he can make grumpy comments at the others, but I suppose if he really was in angry-wasp-released-from-jam-jar mode for the whole book, he’d be dead a bit quicker.
The eeeeevil assassin is very evil, and properly revolting, but it does feel by the end of the novel that things haven’t really progressed. It explains why there aren’t more assassination attempts, but that means the whole book becomes five hundred pages of “look at this quick fix to the Heresy… aaaand here’s why it won’t happen”. Maybe it’s necessary. Back to Space Marines all the time for the next book, I expect.