Cybernetica – Rob Sanders

While most recent Horus Heresy releases have moved the story forward chronologically, for the latest Limited Edition novella, Rob Sanders’ Cybernetica, Black Library have taken us back to an earlier point in the timeline. Set on Mars just as the Heresy begins, we follow a Raven Guard known as The Carrion, sent to train as a Techmarine after he was grievously wounded and left unable to follow his legion’s way of war. Alongside brothers from other legions he finds himself fighting to survive against the might of the Mechanicum, while on Terra, Rogal Dorn looks for a way to deal with the escalating situation on Mars. 

It’s an interesting choice to return now to this point in the Heresy story, and to the events on Mars,  after such a long gap (Mechanicum was released way back in 2008). Presumably it’s been influenced at least partially by the release of the new Adeptus Mechanicus range of miniatures and books, but whatever the reason it’s a welcome return to a fascinating part of the wider story. It’s also an opportunity to take a rare look at what it means for a Space Marine to leave his legion and train as a Techmarine, something that Sanders has fun with by making the protagonist a Raven Guard, whose injuries set him apart from his legion even before he went to Mars.

In a slow-burning first half we watch the realisation dawning that something terrible is about to happen, before all hell breaks loose and five Techmarines take on a seemingly endless supply of Skitarii with little more than their bare hands. It’s a delightful sequence that introduces us to The Carrion and his brothers, fleshing out what they’re doing on Mars and building up a strong sense of narrative before unleashing a ferocious set piece full of flying tanks, rains of Skitarii and some truly heroic action. If the second half never quite manages to reach the same heights of enjoyability, it’s still worth the read just for the first section alone.

With novella-length stories it can be tricky to find a balance between action and a decent narrative, but this continues the recent trend for strong, character-led releases in this format. In a sense it’s a little strange to cover this particular story in a novella, given how much scope there is in the events on Mars, but as usual Rob Sanders has delivered a book that works well both as a standalone piece and as a link into the next part of the story. It’s not perfect, but it’s a worthy addition to the series for fans willing to splash out on the Limited Edition format – it’s also got one of the most impressive aesthetics of all the novellas so far, making it just that little bit worthwhile.

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