OK this one was 100% nerd fiction all the way, but it did have some intriguing elements the somewhat-less-nerdy may even appreciate. One of the few Warhammer 40K novels at the local library, it’s the latest Horus Heresy book that I’ve read. That is probably greek to most of you, so in summation: The Horus Heresy series (Now ~30 books strong) tells the history of the major events that brought about the grim darkness in WH40K. In more esoteric news, this series represents the best writing in the Black Library/40K universe, and numerous titles (including this one) have hit the NYT bestseller list for trade paperbacks.
As I’ve been writing, all you’ve heard is probably Nerd nerd nerdy nerd nerd (Unless you’re a WH40K initiate, then I of course have your rapt and undivided attention) and that’s ok. If you made it this far, I won’t bore you with plot synopsis most folks won’t understand. Suffice it to say Dan Abnett strikes again. Know No Fear one is fast paced, full of action and intrigue, and has a sad, somber tone following the cataclysmic destruction of an entire planet.
What sets this book apart from just about any other sci-fi novel I’ve read (and I’ve read plenty) is how the planet Calth is destroyed. Any Sci-Fi fan is familiar with the many different and varied explanations for space flight: engines, thrusters, rockets, “burning”, gateways, hyper-sleep, Infinite Improbability. An analysis of the many fictional means for traversing the void could fill several books on its own, as could the myriad of fictional solutions to Faster-Than-Light travel (Hyperspace, Warp, Dimensional Bending, more gateways, and as ever the Infinite Improbability Drive). Also many and varied are the vehicles for this transportation, from small fighters to gargantuan battleships. What we see in Know No Fear from Abnett is the closest thing to a realistic description of the sheer immensity of forces these theoretical modes of interstellar transportation employ, and what could potentially happen if they were employed nefariously.
Essentially what happens is a gigantic starship (~2-3 km in length), made of hybrid metals and steels, is run into a planet at “real-space” speed, just shy of the speed of light. It rips through orbital shipyards and other huge space vessels along the way. Abnett paints a captivating, artistic picture of the pure destruction and complete devastation this ship causes on its bullet path to the planet’s surface, and describes the impact quite antiseptically as “extinction-level”. Then he reminds us that to the people on the planet’s surface, the 4-5 page description of grueling destruction would be nothing more than a red flash, followed by a marrow-rattling earthquake planet-wide. Sort of a jarring reminder at the kind of forces us Sci-Fi writers and enthusiasts play with in our prose.
If you’re interested at all in a scientific approach to this kind of global-scale destruction, or you want to include it in your own writing, I suggest reading this book for ideas or just the experience. It was quite captivating, and may even appeal to someone that’s not a Sci-Fi geek.