Thursday, September 1, 2011

Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders

Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders
Black Library Publishing
416 pages

Inquisitor  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.

In moving my usual box of BL goodness got lost in the mail so I made some purchases. Among these was Atlas Infernal by Mr. Rob Sanders. I'd never read his work before so I was excited to get a taste of what he brings to the table.

Atlas Infernal has a lot of things pulling me to it as a reader:
1. An Inquisition story. I run Dark Heresy regularly so I'm always drawn to any tales of the Holy Ordos.
2. Inquisitor Czevak is a character I've seen pop up as being quoted here and there as a knowledgeable person when it comes to anything Xenos. I figure a story featuring him would be awesome.
3. Anything involving the Eldar, most especially The Harlequins is 100% win in my book.
4. Anything involving Ahriman and his Thousand Sons is also similarly made of awesome.

I plopped down to start reading and work got crazy busy and I was forced to set it aside after absorbing half of it in one sitting. I wanted to give it a proper reading so I just sat down and started fresh. I absorbed it in a couple days (evenings) after work and it was a proper meal of a story. So much good stuff going on. Rob Sanders did a wonderful job with the plot and characters.

To start with Bronislaw Czevak is certainly no typical Inquisitor. He's sliding down a slippery slope. Hell, he's already slid completely off the path of purity and directly in to radicalism. Unabashedly so. He runs around with Xenos and damned trinkets, and his associates are completely heretical (without spoiling anything). I can't help but see a bit of the mildly cracked Sherlock Holmes in Inquisitor Czevak. Inquisitor Klute (formerly his Interrogator) plays his sidekick Doctor Watson nicely. Their relationship is fun to watch. The character development of the protagonist and his retinue is very well done. Nothing is as it seems.

Rob Sanders takes a complicated plot and makes it work nicely. Maybe it's simple in retrospect, but the way it is ladled out, drop by drop is potentially confusing. We're talking about the plots of a Tzeentchian Daemon's going to be complicated. Wheels within wheels and all that. Add to this there is a lot of illusionary distraction happening as well. From Ahriman and his Rubric Marines and Apprentice Sorcerer Xarchos as well as the Harlequinade. Czevak is a hunted man. Hunted across the galaxy by The Inquisition, across the eye of Terror and the Warp by Ahriman and through the Webway by Harlequins. Mr. Sanders really gives us the feel of being chased down.

The story isn't contiguous. You think it is, but at some point you realize that the story jumps back and forth in time: showing glimpses of his trials, capture, and imprisonment. Since illusion is such a factor it all seems like a feverish, drug-induced haze, but it really works. Usually I balk at such things but Mr. Sanders really pulls it off nicely. I got a little lost on occasion, but I think that is what was intended.

The chapter breakdown is done in the same manner is Milton's Paradise Lost which worked nicely to give Atlas Infernal a very unique feel. Again, it works.

The cover art by Stef Kopinski is good. Not great but a solid piece.

Rob Sanders does a fine job in crafting a smart, savvy plot and intriguing characters. It's a very colourful story and I enjoyed it. The characters were interesting but I would have liked to have more depth: pull my heart strings. Kill characters. Make me mourn their loss (after building them up to be cool). The author's skill at crafting plot, managing pacing and keeping it all flowing were great. I felt more like I was watching the story happen more than being pulled in to it on an emotional level.

 3 out of 5 Stars.

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