Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nemesis By James Swallow

Nemesis is the 13th book in the current Horus Heresy series of books from the Black Library. While some books in the series run sequential or standalone to one another, Nemesis falls somewhere in the middle. While it uses characters established in previous books, it introduces enough new fresh faces to allow someone with a basic Heresy knowledge to get away with reading this as a standalone. However, as with all Heresy books, reading them in sequence allows for the best character and plot emersion and thus, the best reading experience. Well, in this reviewers opinion anyway.

Nemesis introduces the reader to the cloak and dagger world of the Officio Assassinorum, which is basically an Imperial assassin’s guild set in the 31st millennium. As Horus continues on his bloody warpath to Terra, decisions are made in secret to combine the might of all the different Assassin Clades (guilds) to form a specialised Kill Team with the single goal of dispatching Horus before he can get anywhere near the Sol system. Considering the Assassin Clades are not fans of one another at the best of times, and until now all Assassin missions have been solo ventures organised by individual Clades. It makes the joint venture quite a big deal in the world of the Officio Assassinorum. Swallow does his best to breathe individuality and personality into each of the members of the Kill Team. I was particularly fond of the Kell (Vindicare sniper), Koyne (Callidus shapeshifter) and Iota (Culexus psyker killer) who in my opinion was the best character of the Kill Team. Iota is a puzzling character, she was test tube raised and has little connection with how humans think and interact. She spends a good proportion of the book trying to understand human emotions and feelings which is an interesting twist. The fact that she’s stealthy, deadly and female further add to her ultimate coolness. I did find the characters of “The Garantine” (Eversor rage-killer), Soalm (Venenum poisioner) and Tariel (Vanus data-freak) a little clich├ęd and dull. But the way Swallow writes his interactions between members of the Kill Team allow the better characters to make up for the dullness of a few.

While the kill team go to work setting up the greatest hit in Imperial history, Erebus of the Word Bearers decides that ‘what they can do, I can do better’ and creates his own assassin, Spear. Now I won’t go into too much detail about Spear, as the unfolding of what Spear is, and how he came to be is an integral part of plot development. What I will say is Spear is badass. As the story progresses and you find out what Spear is and what he can do, it’s hard not to like... it. I often found myself rooting for Spear and enjoying the various ways he can take the human body apart... Opps, I’ve already said too much. I’ll leave the juicy details till when you read the book yourself.

The different story arc’s of the Kill Team and Spear are set on an eventual collision course on the planet of Dagonet which is in the middle of a planetary civil war. What at first appears as the perfect set up for the Kill team quickly turns into a desperate struggle to stop an even greater threat to the Emperor of man-kind than Horus... The Spear thing. If your thing is action then once you slog through the first third of the book, there is violence and mayhem aplenty. Between the Kill team and the Spear thing, the book racks up a nice body count, and as previously mentioned. Some of the things Spear can do simply boggle the mind. For all intensive purposes he seems unstoppable... or is he?

Overall, a cracker of a read! Slow to start, but comes home like a power fist to the face. It does little to advance the Heresy plot in the grander scheme of things, but I guess that’s not the point of the Assassin Clades, they work in the shadows, behind the veil of normality. And in that same way, that’s why this book works so well. So much happens on Dagonet, yet ultimately it affects the Heresy in such a small and insignificant way that it could not have happened at all. And that’s why I like it.

High Point: The paragraph where Kell the sniper takes his shot at Horus. You follow the path of the bullet from hammer fall to target in a way that makes you feel like your right inside the gun. It’s well written and very cool. Hang on... was that even Horus?

Low Point: Iota’s final outcome. I hated it so because I liked her character so much. But I guess it had to happen, this is 40K after all, and there are no happy endings in 40K.


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