It's funny you know, how books can relate to your gaming hobby. Be it being inspired by something in a novel and using it in your army or games, or taking character names or places and tying it into your own narrative. For me The Purge has reignited a rivalry that i have had with my Conclave of Har compatriot Lee Trayler for many many years....
I've always enjoyed playing games against Lee, we've faced off against each other so many times, from 2nd edition (which we have been revisiting) to current. My Ultramarines versus his Word Bearers, my Eldar versus his Emperors Children, My Ultramarines vs his Emperors Children and the Arch Fiend De'Sade (oh the stories that could be told of those battles!) and more recently my Emperors Blades vs his Eldar, through the last two decades we have crossed swords/bolters many, many times.
And another classic face off beckons, Lee has been amassing a 30k Word Bearers army in preparation for the worlds worst kept secret, the Horus Heresy plastic starter, a return to the army he used so very long ago. I in return will be returning to my original army. The Ultramarines. I'd not really put much thought into it till now, as Ying and Yang it was just assumed that we would face off again with this new release. All of that has changed since I read The Purge.
I headed into this novella after the giddy highs of Scorched Earth. (review Here) Indeed, the novellas I am reading are actually better than the full length novels at the moment (and certainly more frequent!) which is a sad indication of the state of the series in all honesty. I thought that i'd be bored by the book, after all, the 'Shadow Crusade' is something that has been well explored (and some would say belaboured) in the Horus Heresy. Reams of paper have been devoted to what was essentially a footnote in the original narrative of the Heresy. What more could 'The Purge' possibly contribute?
The story revolves around one individual, Sor Talgron, though there are many other characters in minor roles (more than most novellas in all honesty) this is his story. The main narrative is broken into two sections, there are flashbacks to Terra, before Isstvan V but after Isstvan III as Sol Talgron is bought before Rogal Dorn in the wake of Horus's first seditous act. Nathaniel Garro features in a walk on - walk off cameo as we gain a rare glimpse into how Horus's rebellion is initially perceived back on Terrra.
However, although events on Terra are important (indeed pivotal in many ways) it is the part of the book set in the present that is of most note. Sol Talgron leads his army of Word Bearers against the remainders of an Ultramarine force in the Shadow Crusade. Here we see the desperation that Gullimans legion can be driven to and their absolute hatred of the Word Bearers. I found it inspiring to say the least! The Ultramarines have never been driven like this and I felt they were portrayed here like never before, very much diminished are the 'theoretical and practical' this is survival, and failing that, revenge. They can't win and they know it, Hero after Hero lays down his life in order to ensure they can deal the Word Bearers a bloody blow. Reading it really makes me want to pick up a Horus Heresy army so i can take the fight to Lees Word Bearers.
But despite the action, inherent in this part of the book as the Ultramarines make their desperate and heroic last stand, this IS a book about the Word Bearers and Sol Talgron in particular. The character study of the Word Bearers captain is exceptionally well written. Sol Talgron is a soldier through and through. He turned heretic with the rest of his legion but doesn't subscribe to their new found beliefs, put simply is is of the old school. He is following Lorgar's orders because he is a loyal soldier and though he may agree with Horus he is having trouble reconciling how he feels about the Gods of Chaos. This makes him a liability and something of an outcast in his own legion. He is balanced by Jarulek, who in comparison has totally sold his soul to the Dark Gods. Talgron hates Jarulek, hates what he represents but knows that unfortunately he is a necessary evil. Much as he bemoans what has happened to his Legion, he follows orders.
Unfortunately The Purge tails off DRASTICALLY at the end. Put simply the ending is rushed and Sol Talgrons eventual fate is not explained well at all. Though the reader is left with some idea of what has happened (presumably to be expanded up on in a novel at some point) it certainly does not do justice to the rest of the novella. The author has done exceptionally well given the page length but the final few chapters cannot come close what has come before.
And that is the real problem here, some novellas feel like an excerpt from a much longer book, some feel like a few ideas coblled together. The Purge feels like it should have been longer, much longer. It feels like a novel that has been compressed into a much smaller format. The purge has plenty of ideas and content. It is however severely hamstrung by its format. Its a shame as much of what is here makes for fine reading and as i say, it is the type of book we just don't get enough of in the Heresy, So i would say that Th Purge is worth picking up but this should have been a novel, and given that there are precious few of those released these days that is all the more damning, .I am lead to understand that the book heavily ties into Reynolds's 40k Word Bearer trilogy and I shall have to pick that up sometime to see if it gives me fresh perspective. For now though, if you will excuse me i have a 30k Ultramarines army to plan.....