False Gods (Abridged Audio) by Graham McNeill

Story by Graham McNeill
July 2011
Black Library Audio/Heavy Industries
Read by Martyn Ellis


Black Library’s collaboration with Heavy Industries to bring the popular Horus Heresy saga to audio format continues with, logically enough, False Gods by Graham McNeill the second installment in the series.  Once again, the book is read with great gusto by Martyn Ellis. 

As is often the case in Warhammer 40K fiction, the cosmos is ravaged by war with the Imperium of Man led by the Emperor as the faction of humanity’s forces.  However, the Horus Heresy saga is set ten thousand years prior to the main setting, when the Imperium of Man is at its darkest – a time of civil war.  In False Gods, McNeill is given the task of showing how this civil war begins; following up o the fine groundwork laid by Dan Abnett in the previous volume Horus Rising which introduced Horus and his legion, the Sons of Horus. 

In False Gods the Sons of Horus head to Davin to investigate rumors of a traitor to the Imperium. As in Horus Rising, Loken is one of the primary point characters in the novel, though McNeill is able to focus a large portion (and perhaps the most crucial portion of the entire saga’s) narrative on Horus himself. Whilst on Davin, Horus is mortally wounded, which causes strife amongst his legion.  Some feel the warmaster should be allowed to die, while others feel every possible option should be explored to ensure the warmaster survives his wounds. The only option for the warmaster’s survival; however, is to install him in the chamber of the heretical gods who once held sway on Davin. This chamber could revive him and allow Horus to survive or after the standard nine day waiting period, the warmaster could simply die.  The potential risk of tainting the Emperor of Man’s most highly ranked son is a risk many of Horus’s legion are willing to take, for the love the bear for their leader Horus eclipses everything else – they are indeed blinded by their love and respect for Horus. This being a dark fantasy/military science fiction hybrid, it should come as no surprise that the worst situation blossoms as Horus heals and revives.

This was my first experience with Graham McNeill’s fiction and I’m both happy and saddened by that fact.  Sad because I’ve missed out on what could possibly be some great fiction and happy at the prospect that I’ve got another author’s work to consume. McNeill is one of Black Library’s top writers and handing him the reigns of the second novel their marquee series is proof that their faith in him is justified.  What impressed me most about the story was McNeill’s abilities at balancing philosophical/theological ideas/themes along with the expected action of a Military SF novel. The strongest element of the novel, for me, was the depiction of Horus healing in the Warp as he grows frustrated with the neglect he feels the Emperor is showing him along with the nature of the universal reality and conflict. 

Ellis once again does a fine job of more than simply reading the book as he changed the tone and cadence of his voice slightly for each character.  When speaking through Horus’s voice, the sheer joy Ellis seemed to have comes through in a very resounding manner.

All told, I am fascinated with the over-reaching story arc unfolding in the Horus Heresy and plan on following along, either in this superb audio versions or the original printed volumes in addition to more of McNeill’s work.


© 2011 Rob H. Bedford

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