The Horus Heresy series is very well known to all fans of the Warhammer 40 000 universe. Recently, its 9th tome – Mechanicum by Graham McNeill – found its way to store shelves, thanks to the Copernicus Corporation. The series definitely needed a novel like this.
Warmaster Horus Lupercal rallies Legions under his banners, standing against his maker – the Emperor. Everyone who even dares to tilt their heads at him has little choice: they can either betray Terra’s ruler or die horrifically. Up until now, novels comprising the Horus Heresy focused primarily on epic battles between the different Legions. Graham McNeill – who also wrote two other books in the series, False Gods and Fulgrim – admitted himself that the saga needed a change. Thus, you find yourself on the Red Planet, where the Mechanicum cult is divided by internal conflict which finally found its release in a full blown civil war…
The Mysterious Mechanicum
The author made sure that Mechanicum’s plotting is interesting enough not to lose its grip on the reader. While I personally hoped for Titan battles and nuclear ravages – invariably ending in a bloodbath – I had to wait a long time until Mars stood in flames. The book does not fit the outline of „blood – mass murder – death”. It turns out that the majority of the plot focuses on a female character, one not connected to the Mechanicum. Dalia Cythera was a simple scribe sent to the Red Planet as her punishment for heresy, which was her only recourse from death. The Adept Koriel Zeth – Mistress of the Magma City – realized her unique abilities and gave her a task, which forever changed the girl’s life.
Graham McNeill interlaces the stories of Dalia and the rulers of the different Forges who plot against each other. The story, eventually, leads to a double finale. On the one hand, Mars’ sand is soaked in the blood of Forge warriros and the ground trembles under the weight of the massive Titans. On the other, deep into the planet, there brews a silent war for the deepest secrets of the Red Planet and the entire Mechanicum. In my opinion, at one one point the author took it a step too far introducing a motif straight from the purest fantasy literaturę, but it’s presented in a way interesting enough that it’s ultimately not that jarring. The finale is practically one, giant description of unforgettable battles between powerful machines and massive armies. Unfortunately, the story never really made me register that this is a fight for the largest possible stakes, which would be the planet’s fate, not just the Forge. Sure, some of the descriptions made me almost feel the Princeps’ pain as their Titans receive massive damage, but it could’ve been done better.
To Mechanicum, knowledge is power
Mechanicum is a very valuable entry in the series if just for the sheer amount of lore on the Warhammer 40 000 universe available to the reader; from technology, through the laws ruling over the Forges, to the Machine Gods and their characterizations. The book is a real encyclopedia of knowledge regarding not just the Mechanicum, but also the entire Empire.
I’m wondering, however, what was on the mind of the translator, Krzysztof Kowalczyk, when he tackled some of the given names in Polish – at several points, he strays far away from the original English, in a way I found hard to justify. The book’s Polish editing also leaves a lot to be desired, as it left out plenty of mistakes, not just stylistical ones. Other releases also had their share of errors, but in Mechanicum it just goes too far.
Despite some setbacks, you simply have to get Mechanicum – in the end, they are but scratches on the armor of a mighty Titan. A fully deserved and intended comparison, as Graham McNeill’s novel is mandatory reading for all fans of both the Warhammer 40 000 universe and the Horus Heresy series.