False Gods – Graham McNeill

Title: False Gods
: Graham McNeill
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: June 2006
Genre: Science-Fiction/War
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection

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“The Great Crusade that has taken humanity into the stars continues. The Emperor of mankind has handed the reins of command to his favoured son, the Warmaster Horus. Yet all is not well in the armies of the Imperium. Horus is still battling against the jealousy and resentment of his brother primarchs and, when he is injured in combat on the planet Davin, he must also battle his inner daemons. With all the temptations that Chaos has to offer, can the weakened Horus resist?”


The second novel in the Horus Heresy series and another of the set that I have previously read; although I didn’t remember much about the book the first time around; other that being left with the impression that not much happened other than Horus being an idiot in a cave! I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Initial concerns – prior to my first read of the novel – was that the second book in the Horus Heresy was written by a completely different author. Would Graham McNeill be able to handle the beloved character from Horus Rising in a way that complimented Dan Abnetts groundwork of them? No two people approach the same problems in the same way, so I recall having concerns regarding Graham McNeills approach. These concerns are completely unfounded as not only does McNeill keep the core essence of the characters the same, he develops them and their story and makes them his own.

Needless to say, the enjoyable characters from Horus Rising are still present in False Gods and I feel like I gushed enough about them in my previous post to only give them a brief mention here. As False Gods progress the characters… change. Their easy companionship with one another becomes fraught as opinions differ and they start to walk their own paths. It’s easy to see where some of them are heading, while others we’re left guessing about. Which is a part of what is so enjoyable about the novel.

I remember Flight of the Eistenstein (Book #4 in the Horus Heresy) for being the catalyst to my hatred of Nurgle and all things gross related to it, yet somehow I had blanked the absolutely disgusting descriptions of Davins moon and the battle that takes place there; it’s a wonderfully written section of the book that left me reeling in abject horror for some of the encounters and the desperate struggles for some of the beloved characters.

This book was a page-turner and I read it in less than a week but at the same time it was really difficult to reread. This is the book that it all starts to go very wrong; the entities from the Immaterium are unveiled properly and Horus starts the wonderful decline of betrayal; which shouldn’t be a spoiler as this series is called the Horus Heresy! The plot-line and how it continues from Horus Rising feels superior to it’s predecessor, layering upon the intrigue that is started in Horus Rising masterfully. So while the book in itself is fantastic, there is the internal monologue screaming at some of the characters (Horus, mostly) not to be so effing stupid and get his act together! I actually think that this is the most questionable part of the book. Horus is mortally wounded on Davins Moon by rebellious Planetary Govenor Eugen Temba, Imperial Apothecaries can’t help save him and after pouring his heart and soul out to his personal Remembrancer Petronella Vivar he is taken to the Serpent Lodge on Davin and left to the “healers” of the lodge. Whilst in the Lodge Horus has visions which space the course of Warhammer 30/40k history! Horus seems so easy for the Chaos Gods too corrupt, especially considering his guides during his visions are of extremely dubious authenticity!

Everything after Horus’ visions feels hollow and empty; the heart of his Legion has been torn from him and the book takes on a very wary, forlorn feel to it. The Remembrancers suffer as much (if not more so) than the Sons of Horus and are cast aside by those they’ve been sent to document; partially by choice and later because they have no use and are seen as ‘dangerous.’ And False Gods certainly feels like a book of two halves, which is actually a good thing; you can’t pinpoint the exact page on which the tone of the story changes, but it’s certainly present. It all comes down to two sections; ‘Before’ and ‘After’ the fall to Chaos.

To help balance this fall into Chaos, we have the humans starting the journey of the Lectitio Divinitatus and it is amazing to see how the fall of one ‘God’ enables the rise of another; the offset of the two events (Fall of Horus and Rise of the Lectitio Divinitatus) is wonderfully written and really thought provoking in it’s own right. Woul the Chaos Gods have need of Horus is the Lectitio Divinitatus hadn’t taken hold and would the Lectitio Divinitatus even be required had Horus not fallen?

False Gods does a wonderful job of advancing the Horus Heresy story and allows the tale to start taking on a different tone; few and far between are the fun-filled encounters between the Mournival members and as a reader I felt that keenly. I longed for the happier times of the previous book, but knew that they had to die on order for the series to progress into something new, for the story of the Heresy to take place.

As this is my second reading of the book, I am pleased that my knowledge of the 40k Universe has aided in my understanding of the novel and while I still believe that anyone can pick up these books and read and enjoy them, I feel like I have gotten more out of them the second time around now that I am more invested in the ‘verse.

I am excited and terrified to read Galaxy in Flames.

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