The Flight of the Eisenstein – James Swallow

Title: The Flight of the Eisenstein
Author: James Swallow
Published by: Black Library
Publication date:  March 2007
Genre: Science Fiction/War
Pages:  397
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection

Buy the Book – Amazon

“Having witnessed the terrible massacre on Isstvan III, Death Guard Captain Garro seizes a ship and sets a course for Terra to warn the Emperor of Horus’s treachery.” – Black Library’s synopsis of The Flight of the Eisenstein

This review contains mild spoilers.

Continuing the run of Horus Heresy book reviews with the fourth book in a series of 50+ this is an ongoing saga that I am reviewing on The Eternal Bookcase and I am hoping to pair up with a reading buddy after this one to help encourage and smooth things along. This is the second time I have read The Flight of the Eisenstein and much like the previous instalments of the Horus Heresy, my memories of the books seem to differ to the reality of them!

During The Flight of the Eisenstein we leave behind the tragic events of the Isstvan system and the core of Horus’ treachery, we follow Battle-Captain Garro, who came to the fore in Galaxy in Flames and the first part of The Flight of the Eisenstein is a recap of key events in Galaxy in Flames from Garro and the loyalist Death Guards point of view and while it was nice to have those events reshown with different opinions the book really picks up and gets a life of it’s own after these events.

I remember really, really liking The Flight of the Eisenstein the first time around and attribute it to my hatred of a certain gross daemon of the immaterium and while I enjoyed rereading the book I wasn’t as grossed out by the frigates trip through the warp – and it was nice to be able to leave my last remnants of hope for Captain Loken and his men behind and enjoy the book for what it was – a tale of mental anguish as much a stomach churning romp through the warp.

Garro himself holds up a lot of the novel and it is his inner turmoil that holds a lot of interest to me as a reader; we’re treated to thoughts and the inner workings of his mind as he wrestles with his personal conflicts in ways that felt vapid in the previous instalments by comparison. Garro wrestles with so many tragic elements that to see an Astartes this close to cracking is shocking and so well handled.

Other highlights are being introduced to the Sisters of Silence – during both the background section at the beginning of The Flight of the Eisenstein and during the advancing plot – learning more about the secretive sisterhood and their place in the 40k Universe is intriguing and makes for a refreshing change – as are the Jorgall the xenos that brings the Death Guard and the Sisters of Silence together; I always find it fun when an author can flex their fingers and weave an alien race into existence if they no longer exist in Warhammer Canon, it makes the 40k ‘verse feel all the richer.

We are also introduced to Rogal Dorn and the Imperial Fists, who’re drier than a desert in the heart of summer – but they’re wonderful for it and they’re very well handled, even if they seem to be bathed in the ‘bad-guy’ light compared to Garro – the man of the hour we’re meant to be rooting for!

Where James Swallow truly shines is in his descriptions of the warp creatures we’re introduced too – these things are the early incarnations of Nurgle – and all I recalled from my first take home of this book is the intense hatred and disgust I felt for the Chaos God. The descriptions are so vividly imagined and well executed that the readers imagination translates them so easily it is as though the reader is there in the midst of battle themselves and it is truly horrifying. It’s no secret that I adore horror stories and love reading the grisly details of a crime scene, so to have me baulk a second time at some of the disgusting things described in this book is worthy of note.

However, these lengthly descriptions seem to fall foul when applied to other elements in the book, turning them from stomach churning too… dull. There was many an occasion I felt my attention slip that I had to go back over some paragraphs and read them again as they’d only translated to mindless ‘blahing’ which I found rather jarring to the readers flow; I am not sure if this is because I found these sections challenging – they’re more the technical elements of science-fiction that oft I struggle with – or if it was due to Swallows writing style which seems to involve words that I wouldn’t usually encounter.

I remember praising this book the first time I read it and this time I confess, I did struggle with parts of it. My memory of it was of a much more intense battle within the immaterium and much longer lasting. But, I can’t blame the book for my failure to remember its intimate details. It suffers a little from the rinse and repeat of events from Galaxy in Flames, but I largely enjoyed these whereas other readers might not be as forgiving of this repetition.

For an alternative opinion please read this review on Wordaholic Anonymous.

12 responses to “The Flight of the Eisenstein – James Swallow”

  1. Whooooo, what a review! And thanks for the link🙂! I think where the book shined most for me personally was the struggle the Space Marines went through, from going against that which their psyche was programmed for. The Lord of Flies part was a bit dull for a bit then it al sort of disappeared due to a spelling mistake in my copy, i got lord of the Files instead😂.


  2. You’ve captured my thoughts on the Eisenstein pretty well. Garro is a compelling character and the moral dimensions of the plot are one of the novel’s strengths. But Swallow weighs his stories down with too much description and exposition. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good one, but the 4th in a running series (at this point) so if you’ve not read the previous three I’d give them a go first.


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