False Gods is the second of dozens of Horus Heresy novels that supply background to the Warhammer 40,000 gothic space-opera gaming universe. It made an interesting contrast to the previous volume Horus Rising. Where I found the plot and content of this second book much more interesting, I felt like the prose was noticeably less polished and evocative.
The “starch-ass” space marine captain Garviel Loken continues to be the sympathetic hero for most of this novel, while many passages detail events well removed from his knowledge. Some of the enigmas posed in the first book are clearly resolved in this one, and the secular virtues of the Imperium of Man start to erode rapidly in the face of the burgeoning cult of the Emperor as well as the corrupting influence of Chaos.
The centerpiece of the book was the seduction to Chaos of the Warmaster Horus in a set of visionary experiences in the Warp while he is convalescing in the temple of the Lodge of the Serpent. I found this passage entertainingly reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: a tour of Imperium Future, Imperium Past, and Imperium Present, with the Word Bearer Chaplain Erebus as the Jacob Marley psychopomp. The final chapter of the book makes the stakes for the upcoming volumes crystal clear.
As I mentioned, the writing in this book was a little step down from the previous one, and while there may be some artful Warhammer 40,000 literature out there, I’d say that the Horus Heresy series is one that will appeal to fans of the games, and few others.