Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eisenhorn Trilogy by Dan Abnett

As my two readers probably know, I am a fan of Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts 40k series and had an opportunity a long long time ago to interview him. I also read a stand alone novel called Titanicus which starred the Titan Legions of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Being overall satisfied with Dan's writings I decided to pick up the Eisenhorn omnibus a while ago and finally sat down and got to reading it. I have to say overall that I liked the books, but I felt it had certain problems which I want to outline. I will say it is a great introduction to the world of Warhammer 40k for people who want to dip into the lore and recommend it for beginners.

I want to begin by stating that this is an omnibus which means it is actually three books combined into one larger book. I actually enjoy omnibuses, at least of Warhammer 40k books, because they're usually about $15 and contain three or four books which individually would cost $24-32 (Averaging about $8 a book) and it takes up less shelf space than the individual books. And I am perpetually running out of shelf space. Basically it's a lot more book for less money and will help tide you over longer if you're a constant reader like me. Well, I read so damn fast at times that I burn through it in a week anyway, but you get the idea.

Gregor Eisenhorn is an Inquisitor and I'll hopefully explain more about the Imperial Inquisition in a Kalpar Lecture down the line, but suffice to say he's sort of like a detective for the Imperium of Man. Inquisitors are tasked with rooting out heresy and Chaos wherever they find it in Imperial society and command tremendous resources and respect. Because Inquisitors work far from the battlefields of the 40k universe and often undercover. As a result the Eisenhorn novels read more like detective novels than the war stories of the Tanith First-and-Only and I personally thought it was a refreshing change of pace. Often times I find myself wondering "Okay, how is this 40k novel different from all the other war stories I've read?" So reading a story that was less combat-oriented was interesting. Granted there is still plenty of action, this is after all Dan Abnett, but it's more something that happens because of the plot rather than being the focus of the story.

Another thing I really enjoyed about these books was that it gave us an inside view of Imperial society and how it works. In the majority of 40k novels, following the Imperial Guard or the Space Marines, we only see Imperial society at war. Sure, sometimes the conflict happens in a hive-city or an Imperial world but what glimpses we see of Imperial citizens are people dealing with living in a war zone. The job of an Inquisitor is to protect Imperial society from internal threats and as a result I got to see how life is for the majority of the trillions of humans who never even see a battlefront. I enjoyed it for its informational value as well as the change of setting.

The other good thing I have to say about these books is that I felt the pacing was handled really well within the novels. I mentioned in my review of Titanicus that the middle part of the book sort of dragged for me, and a few of the Gaunt's Ghosts books I feel suffer from a lack of direction but the Eisenhorn books were solidly written in my opinion. I will say that the final book kind of lacked a denouement but I believe that was Dan's intention rather than any lack of writing skill. I am definitely going to try and obtain the sort-of sequel the Ravenor omnibus and look forward to more of this different perspective.

The good things being said, there is one big issue I had with the book. Eisenhorn's career as an Inquisitor spans over a hundred and fifty years and the books are set at certain points of his career. And I will say that they are highly important points in the overall narrative of Eisenhorn, but I find myself wishing I knew more about the intervening periods. Characters that make up parts of Eisenhorn's staff die off screen between novels and new members join. While I recognize that Eisenhorn's staff is going to change over a hundred years seeing that staff go from five in one book to nearly two hundred in the next leaves me feeling disjointed. Characters I knew and cared about disappear when I wasn't looking and are replaced. Ultimately it became very hard for me to become emotionally invested in the characters. If anything I would have appreciated at least a few more books about Eisenhorn's intervening years just so I could know the characters a little more.

Lack of attachment for certain characters aside, I felt like these books were a good example of Dan's writing. Even if the ending to the trilogy's kind of a "WTF?" moment. If you're new to 40k and want to learn about how Imperial society works I would definitely recommend picking up the Eisenhorn omnibus.

- Kalpar


  1. you said WTF... Sounds like a good read for those who love Warhammer.

  2. I'm going to have to read those at some point. I'm working through Hammer of the Emperor omnibus right now.