Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dan Abnett's Xenos: A Book Review

As promised in the Weekly Update this morning, I finished reading the first book of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn series, Xenos. After moving from the Enforcer series, on which I was pretty 'meh', getting back to some primo Abnett stuff was a breath of fresh air.
Xenos serves as an introductory look at Gregor Eisenhorn, and Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos. Actually, I already was familiar with Eisenhorn and his antics via the game Inquisitor, which believe it or not was the second GW game I played on my recent spat of fanboism (I think GorkaMorka was first). As described on the back of the cover, Xenos is part detective story, part interplanetary epic, and I don't think there is much I can add to that. That being said, let us dive straight into the Pros and Cons...

  • Ordo Xenos. My favorite of the Ordos, these are the guys that hunt aliens. Yeah, it's that awesome. The one thing about Eisenhorn that the game Inquisitor does not tell you is to what order he belongs. I would have liked him a lot better if I had known that to start with.
  • Deathwatch. Yeah, some Deathwatch Marines appear in this book, which is always a positive thing, as far as I am concerned. Brother Cynewulf, in particular, is one that I have heard the name of before, though I don't remember where.
  • Inquisition Goodies. All the fun stuff you remember from playing Inquisitor (or not, if its numbers were anything to judge by) or the Inquisition Codices from 40k are in here!
  • Intrigue. There is the expected Inquisitional politicking and backstabbing. any book about a member of the Inquisition without it would not be the same.
  • Strong Warband Characters. Eisenhorn surrounds himself with a mixed bag of specialists, who are fleshed out in painstaking detail. All of his henchmen make sense, to boot. No bootshiners or porters come along for the ride. He has a pilot, a savant, and astropath, some servitors, and an Arbite along for the ride.
  • First person perspective. Yeah, I still hate that. Even Abnett in his foreward says it was a terrible idea to do it. It works within this book, so I guess I better buckle down and be prepared for more of the same going into the next two books.
That's all for now folks. If you are one of the two people who still have not read this, I seriously recommend you give it a read. If it looks like the Pros seriously overbear the Cons, you are getting the gist of the situation. There is a lot more to like about this book than not.


Porky said...

I'm wondering how this matches up to the early '90s Inquisitor trilogy. I'm getting a similar vibe, even if I imagine the changes in the game universe in the time between made a difference.

I think I've said it before, but your pro and con split is clever. Simple, but it understands how much time people might have for reading.

The Antipope said...

I really liked the Eisenhorn Trilogy, probably the first books that really got me into reading warhammer fiction.

I would say it's quite different to the old Inquisitor trilogy Mr. Porky. More straight forward if you will. The other book was way too weird and uncomprehensable for me. Maybe it's the language barrier but I enjoyed Dan Abnett's books more.

Porky said...

It's the weirdness that makes it great! There's an argument for it at Strange Horizons at the moment, and Riskail is good for something manageably familiar. They have a post up at the moment with a take on the hive city idea. It might not seem like it of course, but 40K can be rather conventional compared to what's out there.

CounterFett said...

I like the Eisenhorn trilogy better so far for the lack of anything too wacky.

I don't mind weirdness in my sci fi, per se. I like it if I can see some sort of internal logic to the behavior, but if it is weird just for the sake of being weird to contemporary readers, then it's a no-go for me.

Zero said...

I read the Eisenhorn omnibus and the Ravenor omnibus back to back, and they were the first Black Library books I read. It gave me false hope that all of the 40k books were going to be as well written. Wow was I wrong (Dawn of War II).

I recently read the Inquisitor book, and I think it was BL's first book, right? It has that "we're looking for our footing" feel, especially the end.