Archive for November, 2012

Book Review “Eisenhorn” Omnibus

November 18, 2012 Leave a comment

I have a vague memory of hanging out with some friends in elementary school as they rolled some dice and moved around some painted science fiction themed miniatures on a pool table. Watching them was interesting, but not super exciting. So that memory made me sort of set aside the concepts of Games Workshop’s “Warhammer 40,000” as not really my thing. Recently though I took another look at the concept and was blown away. Here was a world that mixed Lovecraftian horror, with fantasy, and the sci-fi elements of properties like “Dune,” “Starship Troopers,” and “Star Wars.” It then gave everything a noirish gray hued twist and added a heavy metal-Frank Frazetta visual aesthetic for spice. It’s inventive and very cool. I don’t think it would look as cool played out on my dining room table with little pained metal figures, but I thought the right writer could tell some really awesome and really fun stories.


So with that in mind I decided to give the novels of the Black Library, the publishing arm of Games Workshop, a chance. I looked for a good place to start and came across the “Eisenhorn” trilogy of novels by Dan Abnett. The trilogy was described as part detective story and part interplanetary epic, which was music to this crime fiction fan’s ears. Plus, I was fan ofAbnett’s comic book work especially on the Marvel cosmic titles he co-wrote with Andy Lanning, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova.” So I picked up the “Eisenhorn” Omnibus which is composed of a trilogy of novels “Xenos,” “Malleus,” and “Hereticus” and two short stories that bridge the gaps between the novels. I’m glad I did too, because all three books were incredibly fun reads.


The “Eisenhorn” novels unfold in the world of “Warhammer 40,000” which is a grim dark future reality, “where there is only war.” That’s because in Warhammer 40K humanity is now a xenophobic interstellar empire that’s at war with several intergalactic cultures and four interdimensional chaos gods and the cults and demons that worship them. The title character, Gregor Eisenhorn, is an Inquisitor, an officer of the Empire of Humanity that’s one part detective one part super spy. Inquisitors are given absolute authority to root out and destroy any and all threats to humanity.


Eisenhorn is a pretty cool character too, and we get to know him intimately over the course of the stories in the omnibus because Abnett makes Eisenhorn a first person narrator in all the stories in the book. When we first meet him Eisenhorn is a veteran Inquisitor; dogged, determined, and ultra professional. You admire his devotion. Then over the course of the three books he starts to change and grow. He becomes less rigid and more inclined to bend the rules and laws of the Empire to destroy threats. It’s an interesting change because it makes Eisenhorn flexible, multifaceted and flawed. He’s an ultra cool psychic, detective, and warrior, but even he makes poor choices. Sometimes they’ll be selfish, sometimes they’ll be irrational and some times he’s forced to make hard choices where no one benefits. So he’s a hero, but he’s a very human character that cares about the well being of humanity and his friends.


He has plenty of friends too because Inquisitors don’t battle evil alone. They do it with a whole retinue of assistants. So over the course of the “Eisenhorn” trilogy you get to meet the title character’s friends and staff. They’re a diverse, well rounded bunch each with their own specialties and perspectives. Working with an Inquisitor is dangerous business though so not all of them survive from book to book, but the ones that do grow. Plus a strong bond of friendship forms between Eisenhorn and his staff members that do survive. It’s that cool band of friends bond that you see in some of the best sci-fi stories and concepts like Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” and “Serenity” and of course “Star Wars.”


The “Eisenhorn” novels don’t just have great heroes they also have an assortment of interesting villains. In the stories Inquisitor Eisenhorn and his friends do battle with a whole host of foes like a powerful and wealthy cult that feels almost like a futuristic version of a James Bond villain’s organization, strange and terrifying aliens, demons, corrupted and evil psychics, rogue and puritanical Inquisitors, and even a genetic super soldier that had been corrupted by the gods of chaos.


The heroes and Villains of “Eisenhorn”match wits in perfectly paced, and exciting action stories that mix and match elements from other genres as well. For instance in the first story “Xenos” readers are treated to twisted alien landscapes that feel like something you might see in the movie “Prometheus” and several chapters later you get an epic space battle as Eisenhorn, his retinue, and an army of soldiers land on a planet to do battle with a villainous cult and their alien allies. In the second novel “Malleus” you get more action and you start to experience the power and lure of the dark arcane arts. Then in the third and final novel, “Hereticus” Abnett brings things full circle in a story that mixes ancient horror, with high adventure and features plenty of narrow escapes including a sword fight on top of a train car in a blizzard. Yes it’s as fun as it sounds.


In fact the entire book, all three novels and two stories, are extremely fun books.. So if you like action packed science fiction epics that expertly incorporate elements from horror, fantasy, and , detective ficton pick up Dan Abnett’s “Eisenhorn” Omnibus. You’ll be glad you did.