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Book Review of Priests of Mars (Warhammer 40,000)

Author: Graham McNeill

Publisher: Black Library

Reviewed by: Jim Zabek, 12 October 2012



An epic journey with the Adeptus Mechanicus begins and readers are in for a treat.

++Begin Transmission++

Graham McNeill is one of the finest writers of the Black Library. Author of many books, his Ultramarines Omnibus is perhaps the best introduction to the Warhammer 40,000 writing universe. There are now dozens of Warhammer 40,000 novels available, most of which focus either on the Space Marines or the Imperial Guard.

Readers seeking a fresh perspective from some other faction in the universe have a few choices available, but one of the rarest – and most tantalizing – is the Adeptus Mechanicus. Dan Abnett’s Titanicus is a towering (literally and figuratively) monument to the huge robotic legions that can raze hab dwellings without a thought. Great though it was, readers have yearned for more, and Graham McNeill’s Priests of Mars is just what we’ve been waiting for.

Although it isn’t advertised as such, Priests of Mars appears to be the start of an omnibus dedicated to the Mechanicus. And what a start it is. Readers are treated to a gamut of perspectives. Humans, Mechanicus, a rogue trader, Space Marines, Imperial Guard, and even a Legion of titans tossed in for good measure. Sound like fun? It is.

Priests of Mars’ story arc is about an epic journey aboard a recently discovered Mechanicus starship of incredible proportions. Able to house several manufactories, a legion of Titans, Imperial Guard, Skiitari, all while berthing several smaller starships, the vessel, named Speranza, is headed out on a voyage of exploration to find a lost fleet that itself was exploring the space beyond the Halo Scar. But Priests of Mars is more than just an epic journey. It is a tale of the quest for identity of the human race and its integration with technology epitomized by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Mechanicus are, of course, humans that have slowly augmented and replaced much of their human physiology with robotic limbs and tools. Priests of Mars delves directly into the clash between logic and emotion – precise, cold calculation and human frailty and intuition. The strengths and weaknesses of both worlds are exposed and tested in Priests of Mars and we see all sides struggle with their sense of identity as they face challenge after challenge.

Priests of Mars is Graham McNeill’s best work to date. Epic in scope and vision, he strikes a perfect tone as the large cast of characters struggles with obstacles both externally and within their own society and even the Speranza itself. McNeill does an outstanding job of making the cool logic of the Mechanicus vulnerable, fallible, and yet entirely real. His treatment of humans explores the caste structure of the dystopian universe that is Warhammer 40,000. Priests of Mars should already be considered a classic of the Warhammer 40,000 library, and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Priests of Mars is a must-have for any fan of Warhammer 40,000 fiction and for folks waiting for another Mechanicus novel. Run don’t walk to your nearest book vendor and get it ASAP.

++End Transmission++


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