Books about Inquisitors are a different kind of beast. They are less about fighting and the clearly black and white themes we often see, and are more about the muddling grey, and adventures and discovery. Audiences don’t see many books about Inquisitors, the majority of them coming from Dan Abnett‘s Ravenor and Eisenhorn trilogies. The rest of the time the Inquisition makes appearances on the side lines of other stories, adding to the intrigue while never really becoming the star of the show.
For that reason, part of me worried if the book cover summary of Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders gave away a little too much information about the plot. But personally? I suffer from the exact same problem when I describe my stories to other people. How much should I give away? I feel like I cheated a potential reader if I give away plot twists just to get them to read it in the first place. On the other hand, explaining very little of the story risks people putting it down without reading it at all.
When I first picked up the book, I was tired and hungry while waiting for the bus to take me home. Try as I might, I got a few pages and put it down.
I tried again after some rest and food, and this time found the book incredibly difficult to set down. It kept chugging along at a fine pace, mixing rest and illumination with the action and discovery. I found myself snappy when I had to set the book aside.
I have to take a moment to laugh at two descriptions in the book that I found hilarious. About 99% of the writing was good, but that 1% was memorably bad. The first was “chunky bolter.” My peanut butter is chunky, my bolter is bulky. The second is when Rubric Marines are described as being “death defying silent.” That was a horrible description. The words may sound pretty but sometimes, they just don’t make sense. But I guess 60% of the time they work every time.
The tale was addictive and imaginative, and in some ways the characters were and weren’t as well. Bronislaw Czevak, the main character, was an amusingly intelligent and eccentric man. But it wasn’t until I glanced briefly at other reviews that someone made a connection in similarity between Czevak and the famous Doctor Who. You see, I have rarely ever watched the good doctor although I have friends in both the United Stated and Britain who do, but from what little I’ve seen I have to reluctantly agree with the commentator who said as much.
The other characters were much the same way. They were unique and likeable, but there were aspects of them that felt like templates built off of someone else. James Hoare over at SciFiNow mentioned that the characters felt like they had come from the codex descriptions published by Games Workshop. While I don’t like to draw from another reviewer’s words on the matter, the fact is that Hoare’s words proved nigh impossible to remove from my mind once he made the connection. Still, I found myself liking Father the servo skull and Saul Torqhuil, the Relictors Tech-Marine and the rest of the cast, despite any building blocks that Sanders may have relied upon.
As the book came towards it conclusion, I found myself looking back on old sections again and again, trying to draw some connections that I may have missed. I surmised I knew what happened. But I felt like between Czevak’s induction into the Black Library and his reappearance among the Imperium, I missed something. Because the story is told out of order, there is some mental chronological restructuring that any reader has to partake.
In conclusion, despite the weaknesses in the book, I find myself hungering for a sequel. Not a trilogy, mind you. It’s very possible that if another book is written, Sanders could overcome the weaknesses in his characters and that side splitting 1% of bad descriptions. But if the second book is worse than the first, I probably won’t bother with a third.