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Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia (4) (The Horus Heresy: Primarchs) Hardcover – July 11, 2017
"The Fifth Doll" by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical world where strange magic threatens a quiet village. | Learn more
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.08 pounds
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781784965587
- Product Dimensions : 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-1784965587
- Publisher : Games Workshop (July 11, 2017)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 1784965588
- Best Sellers Rank: #133,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Perturabo is a complicated character- there seems to be a perpetual tug-of-war between the Black Library authors on just how to portray the character; either as a cold, calculating mind that turns to logic to suppress a wounded personality or a rampant narcissist that wants to be glorified but can't seem to grasp at how. Graham McNeil managed to strike a wonderful balance between the two in Angel Exterimatus, which was what got me interested enough in the character to pick up Hammer of Olympia. Guy Haley tries follow in McNeil's footsteps, but struggles with the execution.
This can largely boil down to the fact that most of the book has nothing to do with Perturabo; the book focuses on the campaign against the Hrud, a species of nomadic aliens whose biology causes temporal distortions in space and time. Reading the blurb on the back you would believe this to be the preface to the larger part of the story, Perturabo dealing with the rebellion of his homeworld, but in actuality it takes up the vast majority of the book- Perturabo's return to Olympia is a grand total of 28 pages out of the 218 or so total.
This isn't to say that Guy Haley didn't try- his ambitions are large for a 200 page book, as we do get snippets of Perturabo's life on Olympia growing up. The lore of 40k is a massive pool as deep as it is wide, so there's no shortage to cover, but given the size of the book, Haley spreads himself thin on each of the topics. They aren't poorly written, quite the contrary, but the real meat of the story; Perturabo's history and tortured relationship with hims homeworld and his subsequent sense of identity, feels rushed. Throughout most of the story Perturabo just comes across as an arrogant, egotistical monster with no regard for anything but making big Daddy Emperor happy, and then suddenly in the last 10 pages he experiences a whole book's arc. Haley understands the spirit of Perturabo and has good goals, but he didn't give himself the space or establishment it deserved in order to really hit home.
Now this isn't to say the book is without merit. Despite being of the opinion that the Hrud wind up being a subplot that grossly overstays it's welcome (intended to illustrate Perturabo's flawed approach to acting as a leader), Haley does a fun job depicting the aliens and the effects of their anomalous biology, turning people to dust or reverting their age and the ruin they bring purely by the fault of existing- the most enjoyable parts of the read focus on these often disastrous effects and are super creative; so much that the Hrud wound up being the most interesting part of a book intended to be about the primarch of the IV legion... And I guess that's really the core of the problem: the book isn't bad but it bites off far more than it can chew in it's limited page count. It needed a tighter focus.
Ultimately you can do a whole lot worse; Perturabo: Hammer of Olympia isn't a bad read, but if you were hoping to get a character study and origin story, you will be disappointed. Perturabo's history meeting the Emperor and his time being brought into the fold of the Imperium are barely touched and his growth as a character feels underdeveloped; flip flopping between depicting him as a cartoon villain and being a tortured anti-hero at the flip of a switch. Likewise, the decisive moment of Olympia's destruction and the fissures it causes in it's home legion (which will sow the seeds of the Horus heresy later on) are barely touched on.
Read Hammer of Olympia if you want to get some glimpses into Perturabo's homeplanet and history- but remember it's just that: glimpses. Nothing in depth. You should also read it if you like the Hrud, as now I want Hrud miniatures for the 40k tabletop game.
But if you're looking to see the human flaws and vulnerabilities of the Lord of Iron at flaws with his ambitions, you'd be better served picking up The Horus Heresy: Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeil
He's clearly exploited by Horus, but I don't think he would have been much better without the grinding that his Legion is exposed to.
Top reviews from other countries
The description of the world of Olympia with its competing and warring city-states is an interesting one and one which is largely inspired by Ancient Greece, with Perturabo becoming the adopted son of one of the local Tyrants, but also his favourite and his warlord, with the Tyrant treating him as his favourite son but also using him as a tool to become supreme. It is this tension and emotional conflict between a Perturabo wanting to be loved for himself and feeling used as a tool which is the origin of his harshness, his hardness and his bitterness. It is also the driver of his iron will, his drive to excel and prove himself and his suppression of any outward emotion.
While the origins of this aspect of Perturabo’s personality are quite well described, other components are somewhat less convincing. As mentioned by another reviewer and although the author mentions that the other Primarchs tend to look down on Perturabo, the book does not contain any such example while the book on Magnus the Red’s early years does show the Primarchs as fast friends. Also not very convincing is the supposed bitterness that Perturabo builds up over time towards his Emperor-father, apparently accusing him of giving him all of the hardest tasks to accomplish to set him up to fail. While all of this is attributable to his need to be loved and admired, and to the fact that he behaves like an abandoned, traumatised, paranoid child, such a human weakness and brittleness and the extreme reactions that it generates are a bit hard to believe, at times.
Another interesting consequence of this somewhat flawed personality is the impact this has on his Iron Warriors for whom Perturabo seems to care little and who increasingly seem to fear him more than they love him and he tends to throw their lives away to achieve his objectives at any cost.
Here again, there is a bit of an ambivalence. This feature does have the merit of showing how his legion will shatter and break up into competing war bands with little unity and no solidarity once their Primarch has gone. The missing part, however, is that the book contains hardly any feature exhibiting Perturabo’s genius as a meticulous, organised and deliberate besieger or builder of fortresses. Instead, you see him in one occasion throwing men at a fortification in a rather reckless way to overcome the defenders. This, for me, was one of the book’s major shortcomings.
The difficult campaign against the H’rud – an apparently alien race which has the ability to jump in an out of time and therefore conduct devastating surprise attacks – is used to show Perturabo and his Iron Warriors at a disadvantage and to illustrate the Primarch’s grim determination to fight on, even if it means sustaining huge losses. Once again, while this does show the flaw in his character and the extremes to which this can take him, it fails to show him as the great commander that is supposed to be.
My last comment is in a similar vein. It is about the incredibly brutal, cruel and ruthless suppression of a rebellion that breaks out on his home planet, over-burdened by the tithes levied to sustain the Imperial Crusade. Here again, Perturabo’s over-reactions are attributed to his emotional flaw and the behaviours of his troops with the fact that they have mostly become detached from any “human feelings” – he feels this as the ultimate betrayal. However, this simply jars with his supposed qualities as a super-human military leader since the scale of the retribution and the level of wanton destruction and massacre seems both unnecessary and quite counter-productive.
Three stars as a result.