Friday, 5 April 2013

40k Book review: Pariah (Spoiler Free)

Pariah By Dan Abnett

Before i start this review proper, one of the first things to get out of the way is that, whilst not absolutely necessary to have read the preceding series Eisenhorn and Ravenor, it is highly recommended and you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check them out. Both are available in a comparatively cheap omnibus format now and are amongst the best that Abnett, and indeed the Black Library, have to offer. In fact, I would go as far as to say they are some of the finest Science Fiction novels I have read.

Pariah takes place quite some time after the events of its predecessors, and although subtitled Eisenhorn Vs Ravenor it is very much the Gregor that takes centre stage. Indeed the first part of the book reads more like a memoir than anything else (the whole book written in the First Person perspective Abnett has utilized for all his Inquisitor books) this perspective really allows you to get in the head of the narrator and is as effective as it has been previously.

Abnett is actually quite clever in his construction of this book. The early chapters where the pace is a little slow are kept deliberately short, each little more than a single scene. It keeps the reader turning the pages and by the time the chapters do become longer you are so engrossed in the story it matters little, you won't put this book down mid-chapter. I can assure you.

In fact, I can think of only one stage where my attention started to wander slightly and that was more because of not knowing what was going on than it actually being boring. In fact, the sense of mystery is a large part of this book, Abnett keeping his cards close to his chest for much of the time. At times you will have no idea what is going on. This is deliberate and as the story progresses more and more revelations are made, few will be dissatisfied by the end. Multi-layered and with a few great surprises, new characters appear along old favourites and the sense of familiarity, especially towards the end of the book, is profound.

Abnett is one of the few authors responsible for actually increasing the 40K lexicon, terms and names in his books being adopted in 40K canon. So it proves here and the focal point of the book hangs upon one of these entries (first used in Ravenor if I recall correctly) and is so mindbogglingly audacious that it may prove too much for some to assimilate. It is nonetheless impossible to ignore even if it seems pretty far fetched. Another thing that few will dispute is that NO ONE nails settings like Abnett. In the grim darkness of the far future there may be only war, and we know Abnett can do that with Gaunt's Ghosts, but he is also king at all the other stuff. He excels at the minutiae and creates settings and people that feel real and are not just mindless battling automatons. Some of the dialogue is very well written and at times quite moving, adding to the three dimensionality of the characters. Its almost like being back amongst old friends and its great to get back surrounded by these characters we know so well.

Previous readers of Abnetts work will no doubt recognise his easy and confident style. This is classic Abnett, another great effort from an author who rarely fails to deliver. Even when you are completely in the dark the book is not difficult to read but nor is it dumbed down, the prose exuding an effortless class born of a veteran author. It is worth noting that this book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, the story very much unresolved and I cant wait to get my hands on Penitent, the next volume in the series.

So overall no real surprises. Another great Abnett book, vastly enjoyable and cleverly constructed. It's not perfect and perhaps feels a little brief, ending just as it really gets going, but its a great start to the Bequin trilogy which will hopefully provide a fitting end to the most revered of series. 


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