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40K REVIEW: The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill

3 Minute Read
Dec 1 2011
Knowledge is power, as one Astropath learns in the latest Horus Heresy novel.  Lets take a look at the latest offering from Black Library.
A guest review by “The Treatise”

Mind shattering secrets, the clash of entire legions of Adeptus Astartes, god-like entities battling it out on the charred plains of a dead world – these are things you won’t be seeing in The Outcast Dead
However, the 17th novel in the Horus Heresy series doesn’t need them. What it did need was to move the plot forward past a seemingly unending string of accounts of the Isstvan V drop-site massacre and to get us closer to the day when Horus and the Emperor duke it out in orbit above Terra. Fortunately, Graham McNeil’s latest entry in the Horus Heresy series not only moves the plot forward, it also delivers an entertaining read full of the drama, action and suspense you have come to expect from the Black Library novels set in the 31st millennium.
Part one of the Outcast Dead focuses on Kai Zulane, the Astropath and one of two survivors of a doomed voidship. Forced to psychically endure the deaths of the entire crew, he is sent to The City of Sight, the headquarters of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica on Terra, to undergo treatment. While there Magnus the Red starts a chain of events that leaves Kai in possession of a secret of unspeakable power. This part of the book primarily focuses on character development, setting the scene for the conflict which occurs at the end of the first act. Many of the fans of the Horus Heresy series may find this part of the story a little lacking in overt action – similar to the buildup in Nemesis, but McNeil more than makes up for this in the second half of the book.
Where the first act of the novel focuses on story and character development, the second is almost pure action. In this part we are introduced to the mysterious namesake of the novel, a group of Marines with a shrouded background.  You get a top notch prison break and on-the-lamb plotline right out of your favorite movie classics,with Kai and his fellow protaganists fighting for survival across the planet.  Along the way McNeill gives us a new and unexpected antagonist to the Horus Heresy series, stepping forward from the mists of time which should be more than enough to keep even the most jaded of Black Library fans flipping pages until three in the morning.
The Outcast Dead may not be my favorite Horus Heresy novel, but it is far, far from the bottom of my list. While the first half of the novel failed to provide any significant kind of hook, I did find the inner workings of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica to be interesting from a fluff perspective and the focus on non-superhuman characters is something I would like to see more of. Part one of the novel also has one of my favorite scenes in the entire Horus Heresy series – a classic scene of bad news being delivered at the highest levels that you have seen done in countless movies – handled expertly by Graham. 
Having said that, it took me several days to get through the first half of the book, it only took me an evening to plow through part two. The members of The Outcast Dead strongly reminded me of the cast from the Dirty Dozen. The leader of the group, is a total Bad-Ass and made me immediately want to start making a heresy era army from his legion. The pacing is fast, the action is non-stop and the way McNeil weaves the plot elements and characters from the first half of the book into the second makes for some exciting moments and great reveals. There may be a couple of books in the Horus Heresy series you could get by without reading; this is most certainly not one of them.

4 Stars (out of 5)

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