Monday, December 21, 2015

REVIEW: Gods of Mars

Graham McNeill's fantastic Mechanicus trilogy came to an end earlier this year with Gods of Mars. I'm a little late to the party, but I have finally finished the last book in the series, and what an ending. So how do all of the characters we have grown to love finish their stories?

The story picks up almost exactly where it ended in Lords of Mars, so I can't really talk about it without spoiling the second book in the trilogy. You have been warned.

Archmagos Kotov and his unusual group of compatriots have finally found what they were looking for. The lost Archmagos Telok has been found on the world of Exnihlio and he's not exactly what they were expecting. Having discovered an ancient device known as the Breath of the Gods, Telok has managed to transform himself and the entire world to his fit whims. In fact, all of the strange astronomical occurrences in the Halo Scar are his doing. The crystal warriors that were fought near the end of the last book are his creation as well and are some blend of organic and nano-machines. Telok himself is now a massive conglomeration of crystal and mechanical parts, said to be about the size of a Dreadnought. The only part of himself he kept organic is his face, which we discover in a bit, is not for the best of reasons.

Initially Kotov and the rest are welcomed by the lost magos, but after he shows off his arcane machine it isn't long before he reveals his true intentions. Everything had been a trap to lure Kotov to Exnihlio so that Telok could hijack his ship, the Speranza and return to Mars and reshape the Mechanicus and the Imperium in his image. From there relations quickly fall apart as Telok attempts to kill them. The group is saved though by an unlikely ally, the Eldar who had been hunting them throughout the trilogy. Back on board the Speranza tensions are coming to a head as Magos Tychon confronts the rogue AI abomination about killing his daughter at the end of the last book. Unfortunately, as much as everyone would love to see that creature killed, Magos Blaylock cannot allow it since Galatea is immeshed into every part of the ship's functions.

The story essentially splits into several different arcs at this point. Down on Exnihlio we follow Kotov, Tanna, Roboute, Bielanna, Ven Anders, and the rest as they simultaneously flee Telok, attempt to warn the Speranza, and also stop Telok's plans. There are some great moments here. I particularly like the robotic hunters unleashed against them called the Tindalosi. They are extremely vicious and completely alien. With an ability eerily similar to the Necrons to self repair they are more then a match for even the combined might of the Eldar aspect warriors and the Black Templar Space Marines under Tanna's command. Every fight scene with these creatures was fairly tense, since you don't know who was going to die or not. This being the final book in the series, almost no one is safe. They are also genuinely terrifying, which I always find as an accomplishment in a book. They also have a brief encounter with another alien race that I'm a pretty big fan of and have a pretty big presence in the 40k universe. They aren't utilized often though, so it was nice to see them. Graham McNeill uses them in a pretty unique and creative way that's integral to the plot too.

On the Speranza Mistress Tychon is still alive despite having been physically killed by Galatea. He incorporated her brain into his neuro-matrix to increase his own knowledge. Now she is trapped inside his mind along with the other unfortunate Magos he had collected throughout the centuries. It's quite interesting to see how he attempts to deceive her and torture her to break her will. He may have bit off more then he can chew though as she starts to fight back and formulate a plot to kill Galatea from the inside and sever his connection with the ship. Abrahem Locke's character takes a rather dramatic turn in this final book. We no longer see him hanging around with his fellow menials much anymore after the servitor revolt in Lords of Mars. Instead, he is now put into training with a low level mechanicus temple since he is seen as being machine touched. The rest of the mechanicus are still wary of him and quite angry at him for what he did, but they can't deny that there is something special about him. I was a little disappointed with how his story is wrapped up to be honest. I liked his Spartacus-esque storyline from the first two books, and here it seems like he is kind of shoehorned into a different role to fit the narrative of this book. It's not horrible by any means, but I would have just liked to see more of him acting in the interest of the working class on the Speranza.

Once Telok's intentions are revealed he also starts his attack on the ship. Teleporting a bunch of the crystal warriors on board to take control. This leads to some pretty cool battles with the Cadians attempting to hold off the attackers while also dealing with the bureaucracy of the mechanicus. The whole story is a race against time for Kotov which adds plenty of tension to the plot. If he can't succeed in his goals quickly enough then Telok will take over the Speranza and destroy the Imperium. Not to mention that the planet of Exnihilo is literally starting to tear itself apart during the second half of the story since Telok has no use for it anymore.

I don't want to say much more about the plot since I don't want to ruin it, but it's a pretty satisfying end to the trilogy. There are plenty of really cool moments scattered throughout and every major character gets their story arc tied up more or less. I would say that Gods of Mars is a resounding success as the finale to the series. The fact that I can remember pretty much all of the character's names with such a large cast speaks volumes to how well they were all written. They really stuck with me and I was invested in each and every one of them. Graham leaves a few loose ends in the epilogue hinting at possibly some future stories for a few of the characters. Now that he is working full time for Riot Games in Los Angeles I don't know if we will ever see these threads fleshed out, except for in a random short story perhaps. What time he has left for writing fiction for GW probably is better spent with the Heresy or newer ideas. Graham, if you are reading this I would love to see a few of these threads touched on again, even if it's just in one of those 10 page digital shorts.

Final Score - 4.5/5

Final Score for the trilogy - 5/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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