Author: Dan Abnett
Genre: Science Fiction | Warhammer 40k
Release Date: March 2008
Legion is without a doubt, the best book in the Warhammer 40k universe. The story is told from the viewpoints of mere mortals; primarily that of the genetically modified soldiers of the Geno Five-Two Chiliad, who are deep in the middle of a war with the human Nurthene. Little do they know that their struggles are being subtly manipulated by shadowy forces waging a proxy war involving powers beyond their knowledge and comprehension.
Most of the story details the struggle of the Cabal, a conglomerate of xeno races including remnants of the Eldar and other unknown species, in order to get a hold of a Space Marine Legion to sway to their cause to overcome Chaos. After hundreds of years of failures, during which their human spies were killed or captured, they're finally at the end of the line because if this last gamble with the newest and latest space marine chapter to be formed, the Alpha Legion, doesn't succeed then all the sentient species in the Galaxy are doomed. Mankind holds the key to their collective fates. In order to do this, they've employed their last human agent, John Grammaticus; a powerful human psyker who has been alive (reincarnated by the xeno-tech of the Cabal) for over a thousand years, to seek out the Primarch Alpharius to convince him to make the right choice...even if it goes against everything the Imperium stands for.
Unlike most other Horus Heresy novels, the main underlying theme behind the story is espionage, especially that of the secretive Alpha Legion who operate as superhuman spies rather than battlefield combatants like their other Astartes brethren. Everything they do has a clandestine purpose beyond the knowledge or comprehension of mere humans. You never see the Alpha Legion engaging in massive conventional combat because to do so would mean that they have failed their mission to manipulate events through more covert means. The Alpha Legion does not fight in the open. Instead they use others to do it for them so that they don't have to get their hands dirty. When they have to fight, they're always prepared to show up in overwhelming force when their opponents least expect it and instantly control the situation so that it ends so fast, the other side never knows what hit them.
The Alpha Legion gave me the image of a bunch of superhuman CIA agents running around in the background, subtly manipulating events and people to get the information and outcome they desire. Obviously a bunch of giants waltzing around in power armor stick out like sore thumbs so instead they act as spymasters and intermediates for specialist human agents who do their dirty work for them. Legion reads more like a military/spy thriller than a typical Warhammer 40k novel. Prior to reading this book, I used to think that Mankind had a chance but now I've realized how deluded that wishful thinking was. The small flickering light of hope for the future was engulfed and snuffed out by the overbearing darkness and despair of the revelations at the end.
Overall: 9/10 (5 Stars)