False Gods by Graham McNeill, is the second book in the Horus Heresy and follows on immediately after the events of Horus Rising. It was the second Warhammer book I read and remains one of my favourites. The more I step into the world of Warhammer and explore it’s stories, the more I realise how fascinating some of its tales are. False Gods shows us how Horus, the Warmaster, slowly falls from grace towards his inevitable conquest to Terra to battle the Emperor. It’s a story paved with good intentions and does a remarkable job building up the sequel (Galaxy in Flames) and setting up this entire conflict. Let’s dig into the second book in the opening trilogy of the Horus Heresy.
One of the major players in False Gods is Erebus, First Chaplain of the World Eaters. He was set up during Horus Rising but we get a much better look at him in this book. He becomes the linchpin that pushes Horus towards his inevitable conclusion, twisting and controlling events to play out as he wants. And this all starts at Davin, where he convinces the Warmaster that one of the planetary governors (Eugen Temba) has rebelled and forsaken the Imperium. After riling Horus up, the legion converges on the planet’s moon to ‘illuminate him’.
And I’ll leave the main hook of this novel there. Needless to say, there are some great action scenes but it is what takes place outside of battle that pulled me so deep into this Universe. False Gods was my first taste of the powers of the warp. Certainly, I’d seen what happened at the Whisperheads in Horus Rising, but that felt like a mindless monster. Here though, we have a whole moon full of warp spawn that is oh-so-similar to the Death Guard and Nurgle Daemons that I’ve become full-on fascinated with. From the build-up to the inevitable conflict to Kyril Sindermann and Euphrati Keeler’s revelations, you start to form a picture for what Chaos is capable of. It is all enticing and each smidge of information makes you hunger for more without ever becoming an information dump. You get the feeling that everything will be revealed in its own time. And on top of all of that, you start to question the information you have when religious zeal comes into the mix, lies and misdirection and the titular False Gods, all with their perspectives and agendas. All of which means that you learn a lot but are left unsure who to trust and what information is correct. This means that the reader emulates the same feeling Horus is experiencing, and if that is true sorcery I don’t know what is.
There were times when I found Horus Rising a little slow and like I didn’t understand where it was going. Upon first read, I didn’t understand how each part flowed into the next and it left me feeling confused. After my first listen (Audible addiction strikes once more) to False Gods, I wanted more. I understood how each part showed a different bit of Horus’ descent to Chaos and not only that but subplots with the remembrancers and of course our main man Garveel Loken was exceptional.
After relistening to False Gods, I found it to be a thrill ride inside and outside of battle. The changes to the galaxy and foreshadowing to the main 40k timeline are brilliant, even if you have no idea of their full meaning on a first listen like I did. I couldn’t be more surprised or happier that the first listen wasn’t a fluke and this book was just as fun a listen the second time around. If you’ve finished Horus Rising and thought it was great but was missing something, that something is False Gods.
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