Saturday, August 27, 2011

Atlas Infernal - Book Review

Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders
quisitor Bronislaw Czevak is a hunted man. Escaping from the Black Library of the eldar, Czevak steals the Atlas Infernal – a living map of the Webway. With this fabled artefact and his supreme intellect, Czevak foils the predations of the Harlequins sent to apprehend him and thwarts his enemies within the Inquisition who want to kill him. Czevak’s deadliest foe, however, is Ahriman – arch-sorcerer of the Thousand Sons. He desires the knowledge within the Black Library, knowledge that can exalt him to godhood, and is willing to destroy the inquisitor to obtain it. A desperate chase that will bend the fabric of reality ensues, where Czevak’s only hope of survival is to outwit the chosen of Tzeentch, Lord of Chaos and Architect of Fate. Failure is unconscionable, the very cost to the Imperium unimaginable.

As any 40k aficionado will know this novel is about Inquisitor Czevak. The Inquisitor is a very, very hunted man, and after escaping from the Eldar’s Black Library of Chaos. This book centres on him and his survival

As the novel sets out from the very beginning Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak cannot make a single step without being hunted by some of the most powerful beings in the universe! The problem is that not only does Czevak carry the knowledge of the Eldar Black Library in his head but he has also stolen the Atlas Infernal (which isn’t just the name of the novel), a living map of the Eldar Webway. Both of these items on their own could be very dangerous indeed in the wrong hands, but to have both!! Those wrong hands come in two forms, principally those of Ahriman, Arch-Sorcerer of the traitorous Thousand Sons Legion; an already superhuman being who sees the Atlas Infernal as a means to aspire to godhood. The threats also come in the form of other Inquisitors eager to kill him for perceived heresy, and finally the Eldar Harlequins eager to return him to the Black Library itself to preserve him and the knowledge he has obtained.

One thing I liked about this novel was the chances we got to explore new areas or areas little touched by the Black Library writers. It was refreshing as well to see the imagery adding to the plot but not wholly dictating it. Sanders has taken a great opportunity to look at the lives of those unfortunates touched by chaos but not in thrall of it by looking at loyal citizens that just happened to get caught in the wrong place. The end result of the timing and location of the action is that you get a real feel for where our heroes are and how important it is that their mission succeed. As noted by other reviewers and I point I will reiterate is that for once the level of detail complements the plot instead of working against it and you’re left with a fully realised and atmospheric stage for the drama to play out on.

As for the characters, there is an odd mix, some are likeable, some are merely tools (in both senses of the word) and some just don’t seem right. However no matter how bad or, on the flipside, well written the characters are Sanders really does a good job of fleshing them out and making them work in to the story. Some of their plot points and the way they interact seems a bit over the top but it seems to work. One example is the Relictor, all I will say is Superhuman, yes, when he meets the GKs…. Well come on you have to be kidding!! I really didn’t like that part (about the only part I didn’t like in some way) as the outcome just shattered any ideals that one might have had from previous and accepted fluff. I know Sanders was breaking new ground and trying something new but it just really didn’t work for me, other might like it and to be fair the imagery and action was superb, it just didn’t sit right with me.

The plot whilst steadily onwards and flowing is broken neatly and constructively by jumps, flash backs and general reminiscence, where previous meetings and experiences are dealt with and as the plot goes on are explained. Whilst these could be annoying in other stories here the revelations and styling of them work well and adds to what is in effect a great mystery novel. The plot devices, the cast (I much prefer in this case to think of them as a cast then characters) and the overarching story make for an interesting and unusual read from the Black Library and one that no doubt leads the way for more Czevak novels, and who knows even a Ravenor style set of sequels! A generally good read and a must for any fan of the lesser man coming good. A solid 4 and a half out of 5 and one for the shelf.

Available from:
Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders
416 pages, softback • ISBN 9781849700696

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