Saturday, January 15, 2011

Honour Guard: A Book Review

Honour Guard, by Dan Abnett, is the fouth entry in the Guant's Ghosts series. Strangely, despite a very slow beginning (I actually got bored about 50 pages in, left, then came back a month later), this turned out to be my favorite of the Ghosts series so far.

Inside, Gaunt and Co. perform what amounts to a "Milk Run" as the team's last mission before being disbanded. This of course turns into the proverbial Charlie Foxtrot as it becomes apparent that the only commander in the whole Sabbat Worlds Crusade who knows a Heretic from a Hound-dog is Gaunt himself. That this takes place on Hagria, the homeworld of Saint Sabbat herself, makes the story more central to the success of the Crusade than any of the other missions the Ghosts have seen before.


Pros:
  1. A Bad Guy Plot that -gasp- makes some sort of sense. I have said it before, and I am sure it will come up again: a lot of villains in this setting seem to pull the wings off of butterflies just because it's the 'evil' or 'chaos' thing to do. 
  2. Setting. Hagria makes a lot of internal sense as a backdrop for the tale, with a whole religious overtone to everything going on that nevertheless manages to make the planet seem like a place that people live, unlike some other 'holy' worlds depicted in the grim dark future. The Monument World in the Blood Angels Omnibus jumps to mind as being a particularly egregious offender to me. What's the point there?
  3. Intelligible. This book has a good mix of flavor in the terminology, but was not too hard to keep track of what people were talking about. Whether that's because Abnett slacked off on the feth-ing or because I am four books in now I leave to you to decide.
Cons:
  1. Slow Beginnings. Really, a book where I have to put it down at page 50 and walk away, is Slooooow. I read Moby Dick. In Junior High.
  2. New Faces. Other readers have referenced this to me as well. It's inevitable that combat losses would dictate that new recruits be taken on, and while I don't actively dislike any of the new recruits (in fact I rather like Cuu), learning a whole slew of new names is rough. This series has been hard in general with that. 
  3. Deus Ex Machina. I'm not one for spoilers, so I'll leave that at that.

3 comments:

Dawfydd said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed it!
Honour Guard is really where Abnett really kicks things into gear in terms of expanding the history of the Sabbat Worlds and the Crusade in general. I do agree that it's is a tad slow to start with, but as you point out it does pick up.

With regards to characters yes, we do get at least two, completely new, long term players introduced in the forms of Cuu and Hark, but one of the things I've always enjoyed about the Ghost books is how Abnett tries to avoid falling back on using the Ghosts as nameless faces. Even if someone gets offed in the same paragraph. As the bodycount mounts (as it does) it really starts to hit home, and in the later books the fact that named troopers reappear, and you can remember them appearing (however briefly) in an earlier book adds an extra layer of continuity that I've found adds some nice depth to things.

I think your going to get a real kick out of 'The Saint' arc.

(On a side note, Dan was interviewed for Honour Guards release and let slip that he actually had to rewrite the majority of it after forgetting to do a backup. In the process one character appeared complete & fully formed who had not been there before. He's never said who that was though...)

CounterFett said...

Thanks for the great response. It does me good that folks really read these and put this much thought in.

By and large, I agree with you on the new characters aspect. I kept it still listed in the cons as an aid for people who have not read it, because it is an aspect of the book I know some people might not like.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I work on the theory that if someone goes to the effort of maintaining a blog that is of interest, the least I can do is try and comment constructively from time to time :p
(It probably helps that I'm probably a tad obsessive about Mr.A's writing...)

And yeah, I completely get your point that for some readers too many new names can get wearisome.