Know No Fear – Review in the year 30,000

(Note to reader: it’s quickly going to get Warhammer 40,000-ey in here. In fact, its going to get Warhammer 30,000-ey in here. If that alarms you, or if you weren’t aware of its existence, please use the side door.)

Smurf fight!!

Smurf fight!!

Something odd happened to me. I know these things can be excused, we are in a recession here in the US, and I did move cross-country in the last year. OK – it wasn’t exactly cross-country, but roughly-a-third-cross country, but I still can’t forgive myself for such a plain oversight.

I missed the release of Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear back in February, 2012.

Yes, I will admit to myself I was not grossly over-excited about my favorite author’s tale about the most exalted and highly decorated (AND MOST BORING) Space Marine chapter of all time, but I still had to read it.

At least it’s written within the Horus Heresy series and those are always a fun read, right? Thinkingaboutit.thinkingaboutit.thinkingaboutit… Yeah, those are always a good read! I mean – I remember that I did read Battle for the Abyss and Descent of Angels had its moments…   Yes, its a solid series of positive literature set 10,000 years in the past from a futuristic science fiction setting. Nothing can go wrong there, right?

Well I decided to make up for this and downloaded Know No Fear through the iTunes store to read right away. First, a word about that process. For those of you who have not read the Black Library’s publications through an eReader or other digital version, I have to say that this was an immensely positive experience.  This was my first full-length novel in digital format and I was quite impressed and pleased with it.  Not only was the download so quick and easy I felt guilty, but the iOS book reader format was incredibly awesome. I found myself highlighting passages, sending them as notes to myself, and switching back and forth between the already-bookmarked Dramatis Personae section of the book (just like I would normally with ink and paper in front of me) like it was second nature.  I self-identify as a bibliophile and I found the digital format scary-good.  Well done, BL!

Know No Fear is the story of how the year 30,000 version of the Ultramarines came into the universe-shattering conflict known as the Horus Heresy that shapes the world of the year 40,000 (or is 41,000 now?). We finally get a glimpse of the Primarch of Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman, and his legion of legions as they get set to wage war on the behest of newly-appointed Warmaster of Everything, favored son Horus. Yes, of the Heresy-Horus.

Previously in another book in the Horus Heresy series, The First Heretic, we see another of the Space Marine legions, the Word Bearers, get censured by everyone’s leader/father at the hands of the Ultramarines. In the eyes of the Emperor (un-named, but voiced over by Patrick Stewart in my mind), the Word Bearers don’t have the spirit of this whole galaxial crusade down and are dragging their feet in the name of belief and religiosity. Ole’ Emp-y calls on the Ultramarines to torch one of Word Bearer shrine cities as a lesson in time management and that leads the Word Bearers down the trail of shame, denial, resentment, evil, even worse evil, and demonic possession. BUT, that is not this tale.  The Word Bearers go bad, worse than bad.  They go so far into evil that Stalin would say, “You’re going to do THAT?!?” The Word Bearers find a new set of gods to worship and decide to spread the fun to everyone.

Don’t think they forgot the Ultramarines’s role in their plight. The Ultramarines are the model of efficiency, the best and brightest, and also the most numerous force at the Emperor’s disposal in terms of post-human military might (that’s an Abnett invention there, Space Marines are post-human evolution and don’t forget it). They’re also the furthest away in the galaxy from everything important. So, the evil geniuses that decide to ruin the Emperor’s crusade have to do something about these Ultramarines or their plans will be for naught. The story begins at the planet Calth, where Horus wants the vast majority of the Ultramarines to team up with a force of Word Bearers to eliminate some alien threat on that side of the galaxy.

The format of this book is absolute pinpoint precision, lemme say. Abnett does some of his best planning and mapping out in a novel that I’ve read in some time here.  From the beginning, he tells you something you already know: the Word Bearers are going to betray everyone.  The chapters leading to this event are titled by a freekin’ countdown clock and you’re still in shock by the events. You know the betrayal is coming, you know that evil is going to have its day, and you know that people are going to die. But he still hits you with the SCALE and SCOPE of it all.

For those of you who know the latest generation of Battlefield video games, you know that creating realistic artificial destruction is an art that is being perfected and executed for entertainment. Know No Fear is the friggin’ Mona Lisa of disasters. Goodbye, Michael Bay & Roland Emerich, your reign is over. I am crowning Dan Abnett as the King of Disasters. He ruins the planet Calth in an unrelenting fury of orbital bombardment, irradiation, demonic summoning, and plummeting space craft. PLUMMETING SPACE CRAFT. It is raining Star Destroyers on Calth and I don’t even think that’s hyperbole.

The story is good, the action – as always – is fantastic. My favorite character, when it isn’t the Primarch, turned out to be the skitarii leader with the  faulty optics and an even better dead-pan sense of humor than the usually dull post-human space marines.  When a cyborg and a space marine are having a conversation and the robot says, “I dunno, we usually say it in binary and keep it to ourselves,” you’ve GOT to be having a great time!!

Mr. Abnett does the series and the entire Games Workshop brand proud with his efficient and enjoyable Ultramarines. He keeps them human enough with his varying viewpoints and characters while also maintaining their post-humanness in a way that few other authors can, which is great.

Also, there’s a scene that matches the cover of the book EXACTLY! Did you purchase, or withhold from purchasing, this novel because you wanted open-void Space Marine hand-to-hand combat? Know No Fear, friend, that event is just an eventuality.

This book rates 9 and a half Star Destroyers dropped on the surface of Calth.


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About recalcitrant041

Andrew Babcock has manifest destiny on his mind. The road west is paved with basketball, psychic dreams, passable egg-toast, Dungeons & Dragons, and haiku.

2 responses to “Know No Fear – Review in the year 30,000”

  1. cadarn says :

    Pretty much sums up my feelings on the book perfectly. I’ve found the series to be rather hit and miss, with more misses than hits of late, but whenever I see Abnett or Dembski-Bowden’s name on the cover, then I am assured I’m going to read something special.

    What I loved was that Abnett clearly set out to do something original and distinct from the other books in the series, which largely consists of fight-setup-setup-fight-setup-fight and do the Black Hawk Down of Heresy novels.

    What sealed the deal for me was the ship crash. That one event can be told over so manay pages and still have you as a reader staring at the book boggle eyed is just mind blowing. He envisions an event on a vast scale, and yet in minute detail, picking out those specific events which really bring home just how incredible such a thing would be (raining tanks!)

    So yes this stands out as one of my absolute favourites in a series which started out excellently, but is losing it’s way somewhat due to the sheer number of “Meanwhile, somewhere else in the galaxy…” novels.

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