Whew, it’s been a long time since I made a wargame related post. Not that it’s even really about wargames either…but even so. To all of my 40k-playing readers out there you may have realised by now that the Horus Heresy series is made of pure awesome and win. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but I have enjoyed it immensely apart from a few glitches in the system, but in a series that has run as long as this one has there are bound to be a few outliers in terms of quality, both ways. Mechanicum is written by Graham McNeill, of the Ultramarines trilogy and Storm of Iron fame and I was looking forward to it considering that Storm of Iron was one of my favorite 40k novels overall and he also wrote Fulgrim, one of my favorite books in the Horus Heresy series. So with trepidation I picked it up when it first came out…and was forced to put it down again as work and holidays overtook me. But I was finally able to pick it up again and in the end, it was quite a ride.
The story itself concerns the schism that split apart Mars during the Horus Heresy and tore the Adeptus Mechanicus (or the Mechanicum as they were known back then) into two. For those of you who are enthusiasts of the 40k background like me, you will know what happened next and how significant it was in the grand scheme of the Heresy but for those of you that don’t, I can’t imagine it will be much of a spoiler. Basically the Dark Mechanicus wins and takes over Mars, allowing Horus ample opportunities to resupply for his push on Terra, which made the siege of the Emperor’s Palace that much harder on the loyalists. In addition to this, there are several subplots involving the Titan Legions and the hunt for a corrupted machine that posesses sentience, as well as the story of a young girl named Dalia Cythera who can understand the way that machines work. Again, enthusiasts of the 40k background should know that this is a pretty big deal.
But on the other hand, it was my least favorite out of all the subplots. Not only do I not really have any interest in what they were doing but at the same time the end of that particular plot thread revealed things that I felt should have been left in mystery for the sake of the 40k universe. There are some things that I feel shouldn’t ever be brought to light because they’re part of the mystique and appeal of the setting, the fact that as much as humanity struggles against threats from without, there are just some things that they will never understand, never defeat, and which are always looming in the background. The other thing that upset me was that this subplot got a relatively large amount of screentime compared to the meat of the story, which I felt was the conflict between the various factions of the Mechanicum.
I would say that the Dalia Cythera story was the lowest point in the book however, because it gets better from there. I was much more interested in the mannerisms and actions of the various Tech Priests and it was good to see the character of Kelbor Hal, the Fabricator General, expanded upon in a bit more detail because it was never made clear to me why he decided to turn traitor and side with Horus. Koriel Zeth’s pet project was also pretty interesting and contributed to darkening the mood when you realise that everything she has worked on is going to be for naught because the Dark Mechanicum will destroy everything that she and others have worked to create. The greatest forge on Mars is levelled in a single battle, denying the Emperor’s forces their most precious source of arms and armament in this war.
Then there was the story of the Titan Legions and how they turned their city-razing weapons on each other. There were some truly epic Titan battles and the various Princeps were among my favorite characters from this novel. I think that the Princeps Senioris of the Legio Mortis could have been given expanded character development, especially considering that Legio Mortis has been present in many of the books and has been an enemy of the Imperium in several previous works, in the form of the Imperator Titan Dies Irae. In fact, Graham McNeill featured it in Storm of Iron, albeit in a minor role. I wish he had taken the opportunity to expand a bit more on the character of each Princeps and why they decided to stay loyal or turn traitor. At the end, their sacrifice was truly inspiring though, and I was happy to have read the conclusion.
All in all, I would say that Mechanicum falls strictly within the middle regions of the chart. It is neither very good, nor very bad, but is of the quality I have come to expect from the Horus Heresy series. I’m happy with what McNeill has done, because after all, we can’t all be Dan Abnett.