Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Pariah

Pariah by Dan Abnett This review is a tad late, I've read more books since, but waited because I enjoyed this book so much that I am still kind of chewing on it (mentally anyway). Also I had to really think hard on how to review this book without spoiling anything! This book is formally titled: PARIAH: Ravenor VS. Eisenhorn: Volume one of the Bequin Trilogy. If you are unfamiliar with Eisenhorn and Ravenor, in other words you have failed to read the previous two trilogies, then you are completely and totally short-changing yourself from participating in an amazing aspect of the Warhammer 40,000 mythos. Fix this problems as soon as possible. Seriously.

Having said that, you could start off with this book, as Beta Bequin is telling us the tale about how she first met Eisenhorn and Ravenor, and her attempting to comprehend how their wilderness of mirrors works and the Inquisition's layers of secrets-within-secrets while her paradigm shatters on itself repeatedly, often with a turn of the next page. But I think I will not discuss these things, or how they fit with the previous books, so if you haven't read this yet, and intend too, I shall not spoil any of it. But again, you could start with this and then go find a copy of the Eisenhorn Omnibus. But I think this is more fun to recognize characters before Bequin does.

I will forgo my usual review format and focus on an aspect of this book, and indeed many of Abnett's 40K books, that I think he excells at: The trappings. Abnett has a gift for making you, as the reader, look at a given world in the Imperium. He wants to show you how the society functions on each world. all of which are far removed from Terra, and show that these loyal and faithful worlds all function in their own way. The City of Queen Mab is particularly interesting as it devotes itself to Saint Orphaeus and wars in which the hero of the Imperium rose to prominence. This history haunts this place and a lot of it tends to haunt Beta as she struggles throughout this tale to comprehend (let alone find) the truth of what is going on. A particular feature of Queen Mab is the holloways, which are streets that have been left in an abandoned state in reverence of the passage of Saint Orphaesus in times past. So the pious members of society avoid these holloways, but the dregs of society gather there. The warblind, forgotten veterans of these Orphaeonic Wars are some of these dregs that Beta will introduce us to as the story unfolds.

Another aspect of this society that impressed me was Abnett having Beta go to an artist's loft, where starving artists and their bohemian retinues gather to create art and party. Typically I think the only artists we as readers of 40K materials have been introduced too have been the monk-like thralls who produce illuminated scripts, frescoes and other works of a holy nature to enhance the Imperial Cult, but this is the 1st time we see it being produced in this sort of capacity, and probably the 1st time we see how Chaos can be a threat even to such an apparently harmless thing as an oil painting... however, we are still shown the vast scale of the Imperial Cult's presence even here in Queen Mab when Beta is take to a cathedral. Abnett does a great job showing us the vast scale of this structure, and the thousands of worshipers that pack this place. Probably one of my favorite scenes in this book is when Beta is forced to do something for the deacons that goes "better" than expected...

My only true criticism is that I felt Abnett might've reached a bit too far in trying to convince us that any aspect of a modern day secret society could still survive in the 41st millennium, even in the corrupted and bastardized state that we find it in. Still, it made for a hell of a read regardless.

You get about half-way into this book, before you really wonder where the Eisenhorn vs. Ravenor aspect of this this whole thing kicks in. Trust me, it does, and toward the end you are shown that it has been kicking all along. So be patient if you're find yourself thinking this as you read through this book, you will not be disappointed. That is, until it ends, as you will be left starving for more!

And if more is what you need, try to find a short story called Perihelion. This is about the last (supposedly) time that Eisenhorn and Ravenor met on any kind of good terms. You'll find out in Pariah that the good times have definitely rolled on. This story is incredibly short and I can't say that it will fully satisfy any need to see more adventures between the two, but it will serve as a crucial, but not vital,  puzzle-piece to the over-all story.

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