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Scourge the Heretic (Dark Heresy) Mass Market Paperback – February 26, 2008
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About the Author
Sandy Mitchell is a pseudonym for British author Alex Stewart. He has written science fiction and fantasy, television scripts, comics, and gaming material. His television credits include the BBC’s high tech espionage series Bugs.
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Inquisitor Grynner contacts Inquisitor Carolus about a psyker mystery in the Calixis sector. Psykers draw their power from the Warp (parallel universe with malevolent entities), which is why they are usually insane. Inquisitor Carolus and his team are trying to determine how the escape of some specific psykers may be related to a people-trafficking operation.
The team of agents include Elyra Yivor - a psyker herself who has a personal history with Carolus, Keira Sythree - an Officio Assassinorum operative raised as a Redemptionist, Mordechai Horst - a former arbitrator, and Hybris Vex - a techpriest. Later, they are joined by Danuld Drake and Vos Kyrlock - members of the Imperial Guard, who assist the team after an attack on the Citadel of the Forsaken.
Most of the story takes place on the mining world of Sepheris Secundus. Icenholm serves as the agents' center. Vos and Elyra are sent on a mission in the Gorgonid, specifically The Tumble, to go undercover within the smuggling operation. Horst and Vex investigate the Fathomsound Mine, where techpriest Tonis (from the Citadel) was working on a secret heretical project. Drake helps Keira pass as an aristocrat to infiltrate the Conclave of the Enlightened, to find other heretics that Tonis might have been working with.
At first, all the pieces of information seem random, and quite unrelated to Grynner's discovery in Calixis. Eventually, as the story progresses, the team begins to realize the situation is more deviant than they imagined. As they continue their investigation, Inquisitor Carolus withdraws from the team, and the epilogue adds a twist to that withdrawal.
I read both Warhammer and Warhammer40K, and I've always had a slight preference for the Warhammer fantasies...BUT Sandy Mitchell aka Alex Stewart dug deeper into the personalities and thoughts of the characters than I've seen in other WH40K novels. Each character was so distinct from the others that it provided an extra dimension to the mystery with the psykers. The detailed attention to the dynamics of the team made the story much more entertaining. For instance, we learn that Kyrlock has personal ties to Sepheris Secundus that go further into his past than his time with the Guard. It is also hinted that Elyra and Carolus may not be the only ones with an interest in another team member. The focus was more on people and plot than laspistols and other Imperial technology, which I liked...I can only take so many descriptions of the same weapons used in one 40K story after another.
I'm hoping the sequel Innocence Proves Nothing will give more story time to Kyrlock's and Elyra's mission, but Keira's ultimate discovery was nothing less than thrilling. Looking forward to more of this series...
HOW I GOT HOOKED
I got this through vine and put it directly on my nightstand. Although I've never gamed Warhammer (Warhammer 40k Space Marines Combat Squad) or any of their many other games, I became a fan of Warhammer 40,000 after a friend in college introduced me to the Warhammer 40k universe back in 1990 I want to say. While browsing through Amazon, I came across Eisenhorn probably the best "starter" novel to get anyone started into the Warhammer Universe. I have to admit, I've gotten hooked on the stories.
THE BLACK LIBRARY & GAMES WORKSHOP
From a company standpoint there is a British company called the Black Library that owns and manages Warhammer 40K. They have some great writers on staff like Dan Abnett and Graham McNiell who write many of the stories. The common thread of the writers is that in my opinion they are very literary people who manage the capture the dark, dystopian, almost opressing vision of this far future. Many of their stories have foundations and parallels in real world history...for example The Flight of the Eisenstein (Horus Heresy) is very similar in my opinion to The Battleship Potemkin. I think the company was founded in 1989 to provide advanced hobbyist game pieces (Games Workshop Space Marine Devastator Squad Box Set) that gamers could paint and decorate and then play in competition based on some rule books called codexes (Warhammer 40K (40,000) Codex Space Marines) very similar to dungeons and dragons.
Warhammer 40K takes place about 40,000 years in the future in a neogothic dystopian Universe where the entire galaxy has been colonized. During the 40,000 year history humanity discovers that hyperspace (the mechanism they use to travel faster than light) is filled with ghostly demons and other lifeforms that will not hesitate to invade and infest the real universe. Add to that alien Elves, Orks, intergalactic insectoid invaders, parasites and every other conceivable menace, this makes for a tormented universe that only knows War and suffering for its untold trillions or quadrillions of denizens.
In this Universe there is an Empire based on Earth with an Emperor and and a gigantic bureaucracy that manages the Imperium. I'll outline some of the story lines to help you make sense of this (if you're not a pro already):
SPACE MARINES - Genetically and Cybernetically augmented warrior monks that form the front line of defense for the Empire. Space Marine novels generally build on the mythology of the space marines and generally describe a chapter of space marines (a monastery) and tell some story of how they fight for the Empire or how they fell from grace. Space Marines are almost not human, they've been augmented genetically stand at 8 to 12 feet tall and wear giant powered armour. They fight in space and in some horrible conditions. For this reason, you don't get much of a feel for the denizens of the Empire (generally) in these novels. Space Marines are Monks and celibate (I think) so you don't get any flavor for interpersonal relationships. Although in a few stories you do get some political intrigue and in one space wolf novel, you even get to see Earth. Expect lots of fighting with these novels in very novel settings.
The Ultramarines Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000 Omnibus)
TITANS - The giant Mechwarriors (giant walking two legged tanks) that form the heaviest of assault machines of the empire. Titanicus is the only Warhammer 40K novel that I know of that is based on Titans. Because Titans stand at 40 stories and are crewed by a very select group of very religious people, you don't get much of the flavor for the citizens of the Empire although you do get dazzling descriptions of the cities, planets, and how the war machines fight. Expect lots of fighting with these novels.
Titanicus (Warhammer 40,000)
IMPERIAL GUARD - The Army of the Empire (untold billions serve and die regularly) -- CADIAN BLOOD is an Imperial guard novel. Expect down and dirty grunt fighting and warfare in these novels with a healthy does of intrigue and plot machinations. Because Imperial Guard are human, you get more of a sense for the Empire than you do with Titan or Space Marine novels.
Cadian Blood (Imperial Guard)
INQUISITORS - The Emperor's inquisition carries the Empire's complete support as they go out and seek out evil in any form (Einsenhorn, Ravenor, and Innocence Proves Nothing are Inquisition novels). Expect more intrigue and deceipt in these novels and expect to see some of the more opulent aspects of the Empire because many times Inquisitors walk among the citizens of the Empire. I find that I get a better flavor for the Warhammer Universe from Inquisitor Novels. They are my personal favorites.
Eisenhorn (A Warhammer 40,000 Omnibus)
Ravenor: The Omnibus (Warhammer 40000)
Innocence Proves Nothing (Warhammer 40000)
MECHANICUM - The Mechanicum is almost like a pseudoreligion based on Mars who has a very close alliance with the Emperor (although sometimes you wonder). The Mechanicum makes most of the technology for the Empire. So many things have been invented and forgotten in the 40K universe that technology is more of technomagic and technology use is almost ritual-like.
Mechanicum (Horus Heresy)
HORUS HERESY NOVELS (take place circa 30,000 years from now versus 40,000 from now for most other Warhammer stories) - When the Warhammer 40K Universe was invented (mostly for gaming purposes), a backstory was developed that tells how the Galaxy was brought under the Emperor. It used to be a fairly short story but has been expanded broadly now that Warhammer 40K is so popular. Here are some Heresy books in no particular order but there is an order (there are too many of them for me to track and I haven't read them all).
Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy)
The Flight of the Eisenstein (Horus Heresy)
False Gods: The Heresy Takes Root (The Horus Heresy)
Mechanicum (is a Horus Heresey story which takes place about 30,000 years from now)
SCOURGE THE HERETIC
This is a real Warhammer 40K story, it takes place in the 40K universe vs in the Heresy which is really 30K (30,000 years from now). I read "innocense proves nothing" first which is the second novel in the story. I can tell you this. Read them in order, it helps somewhat because you get the introductions of the characters in this where, by Innocense Proves Nothing, the team is formed and you're left to glean details from scraps.
OK for those of you looking for some super bad-kick-butt Inquisitor action like you get in Eisenhorn. I'm going to deflate you right now. This book and series is not about Inquisitors. It's about the Inquisitor's Agents. Apparently Inquisitors are not just hands on but they have teams of regular people (albeit tough tough figthers and smart and well trained) and they send those people out there to gather leads and handle issues and the Inquisitor comes in to handle business and the really tough stuff. You do get quite a bit of exposure to Inquisitors in this series but the Inquisitor is not the protagonist.
Rather it's about the team of agents out there doing the business of the Inquisition. In many ways it's more real because these guys aren't as superhero(ey) or as tough as Inquisitors. This keeps the Inquisitor mystique locked away and hidden (Inquisitors don't lose their shine) because they don't appear that much.
Also, as I understand there's some gaming that you can do to this series, some kind of Codex -- not my bag really but if it's yours, hey go for it - fun stuff.
In any case, you get some solid introductions, some good mystery, lots of intrigue, some eldar action, some daemon scum, some scourge of humanity, all that bad apathy dystopian aspects this Universe can bring us. But it also has the opulent side of the Imperium here, some interstellar travel, swords. Keira is a "hot chick" in case you don't pick that up from Sandy Mitchell drilling it into your brain with about 1,000 mentions of that in the book. It's all good.
Read it, enjoy it, hang your brain at the door (or don't, there are mysteries here that haven't been answered --- I love how the black library guys just throw scraps and nuggets in there to make you wonder about stuff in this Universe)...great stuff.
Read and enjoy - it's a good read.