The Outcast Dead – Graham McNeill

Outcast Dead
Published: 25 October 2011
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 416
Series: Horus Heresy #17
Format Read: Audible


The galaxy is burning. The Emperor’s loyal primarchs prepare to do battle with Warmaster Horus and his turncoat Legions on the black sand of Isstvan. Such dark times herald new and yet more terrible things still to come, and when Astropath Kai Zulane unwittingly learns a secret that threatens to tip the balance of the war, he is forced to flee for his life. Alongside a mysterious band of renegades, he plunges into the deadly underworld of Terra itself, hunted like a criminal by those he once trusted. In the face of betrayal, Kai must decide where his own loyalties lie and whether some truths should be buried forever.


Oh man, where do I begin with this one?

A massive hit for Savatarius and Inquisitor Jenn!

Big shout out to Jenn for joining me once again with this one. You can click on her name to see what she had to say on Outcast Dead. A really great review in my opinion.

Having had some great luck with book 16 in the Horus Heresy series that contained short stories mostly taking place where the Heresy was already in full swing, Jenn and I did not know what to expect from this novel. Graham wrote The Thousand Sons novel that we also both loved and I count amongst my favorite Horus Heresy novel to date as well as the best 40K novel thus far. We were also a little bit cautious as to expect too much seeing as book 15 rapped us against the knuckles with it’s false premise and promises (in my opinion at least). I am happy to report that Outcast Dead was another stand out novel from the coming from McNeil. I have seen this book have ratings from 1star through to five out of five so it is definitely a hit or miss kinda book, depending on your 40K preferences.

Outcast Dead nearly felt like an “Escape from Alcatraz” book with the 40K twist as well as the whole of Terra being Alcatraz. We take a back seat view from the Astropath Kai, he has been broken in mind and spirit a bit after a certain event that Jenn and I were still scratching our heads at as to it’s origins, but it did not take too much away from the story. One thing 40K does well at times is be very vague with it’s time line events and it was very evident in this novel, one of the points I can see 40K zealots being pissed off about, but it made little matter to me. Some events, very much like what happened in the short story collection, revealed potential spoilers to things that are still to happen in books that come later in the series, but it was handled pretty well as not everthing is made all that clear. We deal mostly with visions trickling in through the Warp and everyone should know by now that the Warp cannot always be trusted. The character Kai was such a great protagonist to follow and his sarcasm and wit throughout the novel was very much appreciated. I felt like Graham felt as pissed of about Prospero Burns as I was and deliberately went the way he did to help me have a little bit more closure to his first book The Thousand Sons, in a few sentences he wrote more than what Abnett could have dreamt of in the near 500 pages of Space Wolve sypathizer novel he did.

Kai later joins up with some “traitor Space Marines”, most of which are locked up on Terra, purly for the fact that their Chapters were either found out to be in leauge with Horus or for crimes that they were still awaiting trial on. Among them a Thousand Son, a Luna Wolf( as far as I know Horus has not renamed his Chapter The Sons of Horus yet), a Death Gaurd captain, a member of The Emperor’s Children and three soldiers from Angron’s World Eaters. Quite a mixture if you ask me. These are what will later to become the Outcast Dead(i.e my Escape from Alcatraz crew). Stuff goes down they run amok and are on a quest to get a message to Horus that is still on his way to Isstvan V. Kai is now not only running from the psykers that are trying to break open his mind to uncover the message he has no idea of knowing how to unlock within his broken mind, but also the Adeptus Custodes that are hunting the escaped traitors. There is also another plot regarding the other only survivor that was on the ship that Kai survived, but I am not going to go too much into detail about that as I have no knowledge of certain aspects of the events known as the Pacification-or Unity Wars.

Some things I loved about this novel was how I got to catch glimpses that referred back to other books, this time seen through astropaths and psykers alike. I love how McNeil let me learn more about their lore, especially that there is quite a difference in being a Navigator and Astropath. I really like reading about the inner workings and deeper thoughts and struggles of these individuals. Very much like the Mechanicum and their Noosphere that not that many people seem to like. I don’t know, maybe I am just weird that way. I loved the interactions between the traitor marines, essentially all some form of enemy of one another but brought under the same banner as the enemy of their enemies become their friend in the end. I loved the steriotipical mannerisms of each individual and from what I have read so far of each of their Chapters (Emperor’s Children striving for perfection, World Eaters just looking for the next fight etc. etc.). The battles that were going on against them and the custodes. The Custodes being taken for assess on the very planet they are always so smug about being “Their DUTY to Protect!”, making them seem like impotant security gaurds was quite a laugh. I loved the humour that this novel had, I actually chuckled and that does not happen often in any 40K novel. I love how McNeil further expanded on one of the one magical aspect of the Thousand Sons, as well as refreshing my memory about the others that I got a glimpse of in the Thousand Sons novel. Most of all I loved how this novel, with all that was going on, continued the Heresy part of things as well as clue me in on history pre Terran Wars. I’d like to read more about the Thunder Warriors at some point, but do not know if this correlates to the current Age of Sigmar soldiers in the Warhammer setting. What ever happens, I’ll have to look at that at some point.

One little bit of bitching I have is not so much with this novel, but the Emperor himself. This novel takes place after the events of Nikea, where old Emps himself slapped Magnus over the fingers for using magic as well as forbidding any form of psyker use, yet he still employs them to man all the ships(Astropaths and Navigators are just very powerful psykers after all, or have I not got all my ducks in a row?). This in my eyes makes old Emps the most hypocritical of all his sons in my eyes. I now have no qualms of blaspheming against him and I do not care if there is an Inquisitor reading this post. Also, this novel took place on TERRA, the PLACE where the EMPEROR NOW RESIDES FULLTIME, yet there were seven escapees running amok all over the place and HE did not intervente? WTF mate??? You’d rather piss about in some guy’s dream world playing chess and be all,” whooo look at me I am so mystrious and I give Vagueness a run for it’s money”. Seriously, you only need to fart to make things happen, yet you chose to keep it in as that seems like the only fuel you have…

Aaaaanyway, all blasphemy aside… The Outcast Dead got a solid 4 out of 5 from me on GR. It was a decent novel and built up quite well as well as never had a dull moment. There is enough politics as well as ass kicking happening and in fair ratio’s as well. Definitely a recommend if you ever consider picking up the HH series and contemplaiting if this should be skipped or not. DO NOT SKIP, at least don’t in my opinion, there are other less important books that can get bumped off. I had fun with this one. I want to also extend my thanks to Jenn for still continuing this buddy read. I am also very interested in what her thoughts were on this novel. I think I have typed all I could have said and a little more since the start of this review. I am also sorry for it being among the more lengthy ones. If you skimmed through it all to the end, IT WAS A GOOD BOOK, THE END.

+++Thought of the day+++

An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded.

14 thoughts on “The Outcast Dead – Graham McNeill

  1. Wonderful stuff! I’ve just gone back to read my review of this from 4 years ago, I’m surprised that I didn’t rate it much back then! I think my only gripe was that we’re on book 17 and the actual Heresy story hadn’t advanced very far! It’s always enjoyable to see the little people in these books, though, even if Kai Zulane isn’t all that little… glad you enjoyed it, sir, anyway! The next two are really good, in my opinion – looking forward to hearing what you think of them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jenn and I have started on 18 , by Jenn and I i mean Jenn… im having a hard time getting time in for reading at the moment. I remember you commenting after Nemesis that you could,nt wait for my review for this. I can relate to your gripe as well.

      Thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been struggling to get the time for much reading as well, lately, but hopefully soon it’ll pick up for the both of us!! Yeah, I just remember the book feeling very weird, and was wondering if that was just me! I love Graham McNeil though, and he handles navigators and astropaths so well!

        Liked by 1 person

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