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Priests of Mars by Graham McNeill

Priests of Mars

by Graham McNeill

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I've previously read a couple of Arkham Horror novels by game-developer-cum-novelist Graham McNeill, and I wasn't profoundly impressed by them. But I'm glad I took a chance on this book of his, set in his original fictive stomping grounds of the Warhammer 40,000 milieu. It was probably the best WH40K book I've read, with a huge variety of characters and the introduction of several alien races and Imperial cultural aspects that had been at most merely mentioned in my other reading.

Priests of Mars is the first of three volumes in the series "Adeptus Mechanicus," and the titles of the book and the series alike refer to the retro-technical cyborg hierarchy concerned with retrieving, deploying, and maintaining the sort of ancient human technologies that the now-decadent Imperium is no longer capable of devising for itself. In addition to the Martian magi, though, this book incorporates Black Templar space marines, a rogue trader, elite Imperial Guards of the Cadian 71st, mech titans of Legio Sirius, and -- perhaps most interestingly -- starship bondsmen conscripted from the space docks on the world of Joura.

Other WH40K literature I've read has referred to the bonded and subjugated classes of the Imperium, but has never set any of them up as characters of interest or explored their experiences, and by doing so, McNeill radically expands the perspectives available to him in telling the story of events on the Speranza, an enormous Ark Mechanicus starship that is the flag of the fleet gathered to explore the Halo Scar in the footsteps of a long-lost Archmagos of the Mechanicus priesthood.

The central plot is centered on the exploration of the "Halo Scar," which is an anomalous and dangerous zone of space more than a little reminiscent of the "Kefahuchi Tract" in the recent space opera novels of M. John Harrison. Having said that, the Adeptus Mechanicus books couldn't be more stylistically dissimilar to Harrison's polished gems of surreal enigma. They are straightforward far-future adventure with a heavy emphasis throughout on monstrosity, militarism, and machinery.

While this book clearly completes a segment of the overall plot arc, it doesn't supply any settled conclusion to the course of events that it begins to chart. It is nevertheless a fast read despite its 400+ pages, and I've already acquired the next volume in the series.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Dec 6, 2014 |
To me, this was an EXCELLENT Warhammer 40K novel. McNeill manages to throw about 7 or 8 very different and distinct types of WH40K characters into a cosmic quest to a region of the galaxy known as the Halo Scar. McNeill manages to mix in elements of real-world machinery, supernatural events of Chaos, and a rather clever humanizing faction of a massive starship with its commanding yet sympathizing tech-priest crew. I loved the attention to technical detail presented here, and yet McNeill manages to project a lot of emotion through all this data. Any details would just spoil the plot, but suffice it to say when the expedition reaches the Halo Scar and an orbital station nearby, all Chaos breaks loose. It helps to know that sequels will follow, thus making the abrupt ending more palatable. If you are even thinking about trying science fiction someday, this would be a great place to start. ( )
  utbw42 | Mar 19, 2014 |
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An Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet ventures beyond the borders of the Imperium, in pursuit of arcane technology. Who knows what perils may lie outside the dominion of mankind?

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