Hey, it’s the second Horus Heresy novel that I’ve ever reviewed on the blog!
I’ve always been more partial to the Adeptus Mechanicus than the space marines or Imperial Guard, so I was expecting to enjoy Mechanicum. And it’s pretty good. My main complaint with it is its insistence on cleaving the plot into two (three?) distinct stories that don’t really overlap until the final chapter (and even then, it’s not particularly meaningful.)
The main plot follows Dalia Cythera, an Administratum transcriber with some latent psyker abilities who’s conscripted into helping Adept Koriel Zeth build a device called an Akashic Reader. Dalia’s not a particularly interesting character — her abilities come close to pushing her into Mary Sue territory and she doesn’t seem experienced or opinionated enough to really drive her own narrative.
Zeth is more interesting — here’s a tech adept who actually values scientific knowledge and experimentation over faith in the Mechanicum’s “god,” the Omnissiah. (Of course, her values are ripped to shreds along with the rest of the planet, but, it’s nice of a 40K property to actually acknowledge the possibility of science over faith.)
Plus, look — a 40K novel with TWO female main characters! Too bad that Zeth gets an introductory description that spends more time on her “lithe, muscular physique,” “shapely armoured legs,” and “the curve of her thighs and the swell of her breasts” than on any demonstration of skill or personality.
Still, for all its failings, the book has charm. There are some great moments that express the conflicted humanity of the Mechanicum, and the age-old cyberpunk question of how much flesh and bone one needs to be considered “human.”
It’s also got a few moments where it’s clear the editor was asleep at the wheel.