Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: Lord of the Night

 Lord of the Night by Simon Spurrier.

I stumbled upon this book at a local used bookstore. I had never heard of it before, and the synopsis appeared to have a cool plot liken to a Dark Heresy game which easily snagged my interest. I think I have said if before, but I really think from a fiction standpoint, the Warhammer 40,000 universe, particularly the Imperium -it's culture, laws, religions, history, etc.- is best presented in the stories using the Inquisition as protagonists.

I quickly devoured this book.

The basic set up is that a space hulk crashes onto a hiveworld, with it's sole occupant being a Chaos Space Marine, Zso Sahaal, a Raptor of the Night Lords Legion. He awakens to the sight of scavengers plundering the wreckage of his vessel. In particular, they steal a treasured item that he has sworn to safe guard for many millennium. he tracks down these scavengers to the Hive City of Equixus where he begins a campaign of revenge and (literal) chaos.

Also on this Hiveworld is an Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos named Kaustus along with his entourage of pompous henchmen. His 2nd in command is Mita Ashyn, an Interrogator who is also a psyker. Having psykic visions of the arrival of Zso Sahaal and the carnage he will bring, Mita tries and tries to get her lord to focus on dealing with this new threat, and the interplay is deliciously harsh between these two characters. So harsh that one wonders if Mr. Spurrier was citing personal experience with an asshole ex-boss, as it's that harsh.

This book is divided by the points of view of two characters: Mita and Zso, with each chapter alternating between each. It was a very clever way of telling this story and it helped to keep the events fresh and intriguing. Ultimately, you saw the point of view of Zso and as a reader, you couldn't help sympathizing with his point of view, his world view and motivations, by the end of the book. If anything you come to see the Imperium, with it's zealous laws and rigorous adherence to the maintenance of normalcy and order, as the thing that you despise.
  • Did I like it? Yes, very much so. 
  • Was it hard to put down? No, however I did find Zso's flashbacks to the good old days of chilling with The Night Haunter started to get a bit repetitious however these ultimately served a purpose to the over-all story in the end.
  • Could I care about the characters? Indeed. Again, one develops sympathy for Zso (even though he just slashed to death a room full of arbites) but it's Mita that I really rooted for. Mostly because I too have experienced in my day the frustration of working for a boss that I just couldn't get along with, just couldn't communicate with, yet damnit I wanted to get that prick to like me and to acknowledge that the work I was doing was good and valuable. That is a good summery of the Mita and Kaustus relationship I think. Another interesting character that was fun to encounter on page, and this guy, or one like it, and I could definitely see putting into a Dark Hersey game, is Pahvulti, a renegade from the Adeptus Mechanicus. A lot of fun ideas this character inspired, and his appearances throughout this tale definitely made the story more interesting.
  • Did the writer truly grasp how the 'world' of the 41st millennium works in the sense that it doesn't betray or retcon previously established (as I know it) lore? Or is this the work of a hack chasing a paycheck vs. establishing his mark on the ever-expanding 40k universe? This is no hack fiction here my friends, but this is total Inquisitor-style 40K! It was actually refreshing to read this after reading Gav Thorpe's Dark Angel stuff. However this book has that typical ending that one can expect from Inferno!-era novels, but handled in a good way. I was particularly keen on how he handled the Underhive and other details of hive life without getting lost in the minutiae. 
  • Was I being talked down too? No, the story-telling was smooth, and felt very "right" to me.
  • How predictable is this story? Not very. Although the story has a way of tricking you into thinking you know what's going to happen next. 
  • Do I recommend this book? In fact I do. Here is a link to the ebook version.

Ebook cover. And the lamest GW cover art EVER!

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