As is normal on Sundays, I got woke up by La Serpiente refusing to sleep in and had to take her out for pancakes to prevent the maelstrom that would ensue if she woke her sister up by banging around the apartment. And then when I got back, I read another Games Workshop novel about renegade Space Marines, possibly as part of a long term plan to irritate my wife.
We don’t get to encounter the eponymous Talon Of Horus (a ludicrous combination of threshing machine blades and multi-barrelled rocket launcher) til near the end of the story. Most of The Talon Of Horus is about a quest to find a lost spacecraft, and existential ruminations. Perhaps that’s why there’s a bit more shooting in The Black Legion, the sequel to this book, because people wanted more war-porn and less philosophical musings.
Just a quick background note: to sell more toy soldiers, the setting of Warhammer 40,000 has hordes of Chaos god-worshipping Space Marines running around fighting each other all the time, and that doesn’t help if you want to write an interesting plot that’s not just everyone shooting everyone in the head for 300 pages. So Dembski-Bowden explicitly rejects this with a paragraph stating
We are alone in this galaxy. Alone with the nightmares of all who have lived and hoped and raged and wept before us. Alone with our ancestors’ nightmares.
So, another cheery book, not at all embracing problems about extracting meaning from a hostile universe that disregards us.
It also seems to me to be another example of the history nerds employed as writers by Games Workshop stealthily teaching people about medieval (or earlier) history. Or rather, this book mentions the Albigensian Crusade as an example fo the cruelty of religion, and that inspired me to look that up in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and that can’t be such a bad thing. It’s not just pulp fiction wirh gods with stupid names (Nurgle, anyone?) banging into each other. I wonder what’s next – perhaps there will be a 20 page digression into pastry baking in between descriptions of galaxy-wide apocalypse.
Near the end there’s a big battle and lots of people get killed. It’s also the set up for the second book, some of which makes a bit more sense now I’ve read the set up. But I guess you come for the nihilism and the body-horror (gestalts of captured brains being used in a network to command a starship) and stay for the tales of power-armoured supersoldiers. Or was it meant to be the other way around?