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I've managed to complete my collection of all the available Horus Heresy novels. Pre-Christmas I'd read upto Fulgrim and reading a number of reviews and talking to various GW staffers, as well as people here, I'd heard Descent of Angels was the worst novel to date, and by quite a margin.
Having read it for myself now I have to say I can't see why it's slated so badly. The only reason I can see why it's considered the worst is that there is a lot less "marine on marine action" (so to speak!). It feels very much likely the first novel within it's own little series, setting the stage for things to come. The novel itself is well written, more so than some of the others IMO, and I think it's reputation is somewhat undeserved.
I don't think any of the below is likely to be much of a spoiler but read on at your peril if you've not read it yet
I did like some of the in-references to other aspects of the 40k universe - conflict between the proto-Dark Angels and the "Knights of Lupus" setting the stage for future Space Wolf tension for instance - as well as the picture of life on a non-imperial plant pre-Crusade. I'd have preferred the first contact situation to be a little more... profound (they rolled over a little TOO quickly for my tastes), but overall, and considered as the first part of a likely "mini trilogy", I think it's a pretty good novel.
What did others think, good or bad, but if you don't like it, I'd be interested to hear why?
Before I begin, I'd just like to say that writing about the oldest and most secretive of all SM chapters must have been a difficult undertaking. The few Dark Angels players I know are rabid in their devotion to the chapter and to its fluff, so the author is already in a lose/lose situation. Either he writes the history and satisfies the curiosity of all the non-Dark Angels players and alienates all the DA fellows, or he keeps them secretive and doesn't explain much, and leaves non-DA people feeling unsatisfied.
I first got into 40K because of my buddy telling me about the Dark Angels and their history, and I immediately liked the idea of a chapter that was on its own even though they are a part of the huge war machine that is the Imperium. Descent of Angels didn't really say anything we didn't already know about the Dark Angels, and all the background about their origins was pretty cool, but in the end, I just didn't feel like I read anything that added any substance to my thoughts on the chapter in general. Every other book has done exactly that, most dramatically in Legion I believe.
Really, if the book wasn't in the HH series and could be developed into another book or two, I think that i'd feel a lot better about reading it. As it stands, I agree with the crowd in thinking that it's been the biggest letdown so far.
Last edited by SimulatedSnowman; January 5th, 2009 at 17:51.
I think you need to spend more time on your floor.
2500 Black Templars
That's why I think the criticism to date has been overly harsh - it's so obviously part 1 of a series and building up to other things that to see people writing it off already seems way too premature.
Take your point about the mentality of Dark Angels players though, I hadn't thought about that. To be honest I've never seen the fascination behind the chapter really, it's certainly no better than the fluff behind any of the others.
*hides before the wrath of DA players worldwide is unleashed*
Its not my favourite of the series. (Its my least favourite in fact). I remember while reading the book I was just waiting for it to kick in to action and then when it did that the end was far too rushed.
Having recently re-read it my opinion didnt change. Granted its the first of a series and as such just laying the foundation for the next novel. Maybe after Fallen Angels is released people will look back on it more fondly perhaps.
Currently play: 4000+ of Black Legion
As a person who knows absolutely nothing about the Dark Angels I was hugely let down by this novel, when The Lion sent all those people home, including his best friend, without any explanation I was so confused... I mean really I didn't pick up any reason throughout the whole book explaining why he would cast down all those people even though there's evidence he really liked them (his conversations with Zakariel, for example)
I didn't mind the lack of action at all and I would have loved the book if it actually had a successful cliffhanger instead of making me think "lolwut" even the guy at my local GW was confused by its ending cause it just seems like the Lion went "I don't like you anymore, go home" without any clear reason.
The writer of the book is neither talented nor polished, what do you expect?
Black Library is not populated by top notch story tellers; these books are written mostly by fans with little capacity to write books that would garner literary acclaim outside of the genre, and they aren't intended to. Some of the "better" authors have been responsible for some of these books, which is why some stand out ... Descent just isn't one of them.
I am not a big enough fluffboy to have a lot to say about the content's quality in terms of new or old DA (i.e. I don't know if the stuff in there broadened the story ot not), I just know I felt like I was reading a high schooler's over-wrought short story. BL must use the same QC crew that GW's rules-writers use.
Nids & Guard
GMail = MVBrandt
Strong words. I'd argue the book is better written and more polished than some of the earlier ones in the series and a lot better than a lot of the trash that BL churns out.
Lets face it, the Horus Heresy novels and even the background story & heresy concept itself are hardly groundbreaking fiction, they're all ultimately rehashes of other stories. I'd argue that many of the writers are skilled - skilled enough, at least, to know their target audience and write accordingly.
I think Descent is more complex and overall a better novel than most people say it is, because the vast majority of people reading it are looking for pulp fiction 40k style, and it's just not that kind of book. If anything, it's better written than many.
I'm not sure that generalization on what people are looking for is fair, though I don't want to "get into it" with anyone over such a silly subject.
That hedged, however, I'm not a 40k fluff "guy," but I read the first few Horus Heresy novels and felt they were effective in a stand-alone sense ... that is, with only a modicum of 40k background awareness I could enjoy reading them for their literary value and the entertaining style in which they were written, with effective story-telling / scene-setting / etc. That's generally absent from Descent of Angels, and ... whatever that one with the Word Bearers was called, with the super-ship. There's no great complexity or deep meaning to Descent, no startling / different revelation (a la Legion), no ... well, no anything really.
It's a B-movie equivalent, with spurts of trying to be better or more meaningful than it really ever manages to be.
I would say that it fails to satisfy the pulp fiction 40k style readers (though I do not consider myself one) because it is not a pulp 40k style book ... I agree with you there. Unfortunately, it also fails to satisfy the independent / more objective reader, in that it isn't a very deep, meaningful, expertly written or even grammatically well-managed book.
For better or worse, we all exist in the land of opinion on this one. If anyone enjoyed the book, consider them more fortunate than those of us who didn't, for their money was not wasted. I'd have much preferred to enjoy it, than dislike it. Sadly, that was not to be.
Nids & Guard
GMail = MVBrandt
As a large DA enthusiast myself I found it to be very informative. Pre-terra Caliban is something that isn't able to covered in the codex fluff and so it was a new experience for me other than the whole unforgiven concept. the book itself was well-written in my opinion, and for those outside of DA, the second book is where it will all kick off (I could spoil for someone so I'll stop here), and for the thread author: I have read as far as Abyss and can honestly say that you will have a large chance of finding Legion to be the best book of the series, the only thing that looks like topping are perhaps the Thousand son/Space wolf books towards the end of the year, and they'll be by the best two HH authors at the mo. Can't wait!!!
Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat
I found it just a tad boring. I don't expect literary gOLD to spring out of each page, i read these books for the same reason i eat fast food i suppose, a quick fix. Some will be better than others (KFC all the way!) and DoA is just at the bottom of the pile.
Proberly my fav so far is Fulgrim. Im sorry but ripping the head of an Avatar bare handed gets thumbs up in my opinion. In all the others i can remember great moments which were fun to read but DoA offered none. Only questions remained which hopefully will be answered soon..... What/Who the hell are the watchers damnit!!
I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.