Friday, 14 September 2012

Fear To Tread - Two Minute Review

When it comes to reviews, it takes a pretty strong reaction to force me to put one up on the blog here.  And a strong reaction is exactly what was provoked by the latest Horus Heresy 40K novel, Fear To Tread by James Swallow.

Over the previous twenty books, the Horus Heresy series has shown us a side to the 40K universe that we haven't seen before.   However that unique viewpoint of the Horus Heresy has been lost and it often feels we're just going through the motions, until the authors get round to the battle for Earth.  In my opinion, the best HH books (Legion, The First Heretic, Fulgrim) have been those that start before Horus has fallen to Chaos and chart those events from another Legions point of view.  Some (The Outcast Dead, Mechanicum, Nemesis) were just garbage.

Now when you read 
licensed fiction (i.e. something set in a pre-existing universe,) you accept that the author doesn't have free reign as to where they take their story.  Accepting that, you are entitled to expect some core elements from the existing universe.  When it comes to 40K and the Horus Heresy books, that includes plenty of action, decent dialogue, appropriate imagery and an insight into the particular legion you're reading about.

Fear to Tread
does a pretty good job of portraying the Blood Angels; loyalty and division in droves.  The dialogue is pretty engaging too and from unexpected quarters; the dialogue between Horus, the daemon and the Word Bearer is outstanding, as is the way the plot to turn Sanguinius to Chaos is revealed.  Sadly, the rest of the book is spent trawling through some rather underwhelming bolter-porn.  As the legion succumbs to rage and mindless violence, all the finesse in the writing disappears.  I lost all respect for the book when a group of Space Marines were attacked by lampposts.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Then there's the blood.  Yes, they're Blood Angels and a lot of the imagery and 
symbolism of that legion revolves around the idea of blood; loyalty, sacrifice, anger, violence, family etc.  Fear to Tread really takes this to extremes, however, and some of it is comical - Wait, that blood isn't Blood Angel Blood, that blood is someone else's blood!  Sigh.

Sadly, I'd hoped for so much more from
Fear To Tread.  Although the plot is engaging enough, the the writing nowhere nearly up to scratch; really a big missed opportunity.  What really surprises me is the number of 10/10 or ***** reviews you can see online.  Seriously?  I know GW have a lot of fanboys out there, but overall Fear To Tread is just terrible!  Hopefully we won't see James Swallow near another HH book for some time.  Abnett has another Eisenhorn/Ravenor book out later this year, all I'm saying is that it had better be good or I'm going to have to start sending out those threats again.

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