Shadowhawk reviews the third Horus Heresy anthology, a collection of four novellas focused exclusively on a Primarch: Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion El’J...moreShadowhawk reviews the third Horus Heresy anthology, a collection of four novellas focused exclusively on a Primarch: Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion El’Jonson and Alpharius.
“Some of the best Black Library authors writing some of its best fiction, The Primarchs is an absolute must-read because there has yet to be a collection like this in the grim darkness of the far future.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: some spoilers for previous Horus Heresy novels will be mentioned.
The Horus Heresy is hands down one of the best Science Fiction series ever, especially since its such a collaborative effort between so many authors, editors and all the fantastic artwork courtesy of the amazingly talented Neil Roberts. When last I dipped into the Thirtieth Millennium, it was with Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear, a novel that told the first engagement of the Horus Heresy between the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers Legions as the latter ambushed the former at their own stronghold of Calth! Know No Fear was quite an excellent read and set the bar quite high for future novels in the series to follow so it was with some tense anticipation that I picked up The Primarchs at Black Library Live! in early May. My expectations were quite high since each novella focuses on a single Primarch and his legion and thus the promise was quite high but really, I shouldn’t have been so tense.
The Primarchs is a cracking read that makes you wish the anthology had gone on and on and not stopped.
First up is Graham McNeill’s contribution to the collection, the novella The Reflection Crack’d which focuses on the Third Legion and its Primarch: the Emperor’s Children and Fulgrim respectively. The novella has been described in many places as “Exorcist in 40k”. That really is not far off the mark and actually hits quite close to the truth of it. When Fulgrim ended, Fulgrim had been completely possessed by a malicious daemon of Slaanesh and it was as if his fate was sealed for none except Horus knew of this startling development and the Warmaster had vowed to free his brother. And then in Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Aurelian we saw Lorgar realising that same truth and being quite physical with his opinions. The ending of it certainly created quite a buzz and it was with that ending that Graham begins the novella.
For the Emperor’s Children leadership is finally beginning to suspect that all is not well with Fulgrim and that Fulgrim may just not be Fulgrim after all. What follows is a brutal and visceral story of the Legion’s officers attempting to find the truth. The Reflection Crack’d is, in my humble opinion, the story that Fulgrim should have been and what it came quite close to being. The novella is a no-holds barred narrative that sees the Emperor’s Children embracing their Slaaneshi heritage in full and becoming true champions of the Dark Prince in the mortal realms. From start to finish Graham sets a tough pace for the reader with the promise that the secrets of the Third Legion are just around the corner and that you should keep reading lest you be left behind.
Revisiting Lucius, that depraved bastard from Fulgrim who ended up betraying his closest brothers for power and more power is back and Graham puts him in the spotlight as the focal character of the novella through which we see the narrative unfold. It really is some kind of an irony that it is Lucius of all people who should be the level-headed one in the novella and that he is the one who convinces his brothers that something is amiss with Fulgrim. The future great champion of Slaanesh finally comes into his own in the novella and it is an absolute joy to read more of him. The conclusion of the novella is intrinsically tied to Lucius and the way it ends, some pretty big things are on the horizon for the novella sets up Graham’s next full-length Horus Heresy outing: Angel Exterminatus, a novel with the Emperor’s Children fighting alongside their brother traitor legion, the Iron Warriors, against the Iron Hands. This will be great fun!
All in all, for its brilliant writing, and the various twists and revelations that are carried forwards from Fulgrim and towards Angel Exterminatus, plus the incredible “Exorcist in 40k” scenes, I recommend that even if you don’t get the anthology, get the novella as an eBook.
Next we have Nick Kyme tackling the Iron Hands and their Primarch, Ferrus Manus the Gorgon, in Feat of Iron. Ferrus is an interesting character because it so happens that he is the first Primarch to die in the 40k-verse, and that too at the Heresy’s most defining moment: the Istvaan V Dropsite Massacre. In Fulgrim we see how the long-standing friendship and brotherhood between the Gorgon and the Phoenecian (Fulgrim) is sundered and how that divide is taken to its inevitable conclusion. As such, it was always a question as to what Nick could do with him in light of this what kind of a narrative we would get from the perspective of a character who was, it seems, fated to one day lord over the Mechanicum,
Turns out that Nick took a really interesting approach with him. The events of Feat of Iron are set in parallel to the events of and take place on the same planet as in Promethean Sun, Nick’s previous Horus Heresy novella which was about Vulkan and his Salamanders. As far as I am concerned, the novella breathed Iron Hands for me, right from his characterisation of the Gorgon and to the characterisation of his Astartes. Additionally, seeing the Tenth Legion’s credo “Flesh is weak” turned on its head and biting them in their collective backsides was a big moment for me. What Nick did with the Astartes was a classic approach wherein you present your characters with a situation that is so inimical to them and where everything they know is challenged, right down to their very core. That, and seeing the Iron Hands attempting to fight against the Eldar of all races.
Overall, Nick has carried on with what Graham created back in Fulgrim with ease. The Iron Hands Terminators, known as the Morlocks, and their leader, Gabriel Santar had some of the best scenes in the novella and with Nick expanding the cast of the legion leadership beyond what we saw in Fulgrim, it was all very… cool. It was a little weird reading about the Iron Hands though, given the disaster on Istvaan V a few decades later, and Nick definitely had that fatalistic atmosphere in the narrative. Especially with Ferrus, who is forced to confront a certain truth about his future and it was almost heartbreaking for me to see him standing so firm against his destiny. More so when we see how much faith and trust Ferrus Manus has in his brothers.
You can find the full review over at The Founding Fields:
Shadowhawk reviews another Judge Dredd audio drama for his Advent Reviews series. This is Day 16.
“As a first introduction to the Judge Dredd/Mega City One setting, this is utterly fantastic.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m on a bit of a roll with Judge Dredd reviews for my Advent Reviews series (which you can follow here): I’ve done two audio drama reviews already, and have also done a comic review featuring the big bad Judge Dredd himself. It’s fun to go back to listening to these great audio pieces by Big Finish, who produce some truly amazing work. 99 Code Red is no exception. It was my first taste of the whole franchise (the Stallone-starrer notwithstanding) and it was highly enjoyable.
The story here is that some criminals have stolen vials of a very dangerous plague solution from a laboratory and are planning on infecting everyone in the Big Meg with it. Their chosen “point of contact” is the opening of the new Shakespeare play at the White Cliffs of Dover, which is a theme park in the city and is modeled after life in Ye Olde England. Jonathan Clements writing is superb. He shows off a variety of the goofiest characters of the Big Meg, from a group of strippers and their pimp to the self-serving and self-involved journalist Enigma Smith. There are lots of commentaries about the modern-day world as well, such as when noted play critic Adrian remarks why the theme park is putting on a play by a nobody like Shakespeare when they could be putting on stuff by (J.K.) Rowling and (Terry) Pratchett. Or how the traditional dishes of Ye Olde England are kebab and tikka (note: these are Indian subcontinent dishes actually). Simply, this audio makes you laugh a lot. It is silly at times, yes, but it is the good type of silly. It simply shows off how goofy the whole setting itself it, even though it has a very serious tone as this is very much a (sort of) post-apocalyptic world. The second half of the audio drama focuses on Dredd as he tries to contain the spread of the plague and here it all turns into a sort of police procedural/detective story, with lots of dead bodies floating around. The scenes set in the Mega City General Hospital are just as (seriously) entertaining as the ones from the streets of the Big Meg and at the theme park from the first half of the audio drama. The tension really does ramp up and it’s all simply wonderful.(less)
I got into Judge Dredd earlier this year through Big Finish’s audio dramas range featuring the post-apocalyptic-futurist lawman. I went through a whole bunch of them at the time, but never quite found the time to review them at that point. With my Advent Reviews series, I thought I’d change that, and picked up Jim’s Dreddline to kick things off, and listened to it twice to refresh my memory and remind myself why I loved these audios so much.
The best thing about these audios is the fantastic voice-acting. Toby Longworth, who is the best voice-actor doing audio dramas for Black Library’s out-sourced range, is behind Judge Dredd himself, and he delivers a scorcher of a performance. Dredd’s guttural, heavy tones are something that Toby excels at. Whenever Toby/Dredd talks in contemptuous and dismissive tones, you can really feel the weight of them. From everything I’ve experienced of Dredd, whether the movies or the audio dramas, Toby has definitely excelled at being Dredd.
Jeremy James as the notorious safecracker and wisecrack Bax Philo, Kate Brown as the antagonist Whyte and Nicholas Briggs as Whyte’s bodyguard Buzz and Hannah Smith as Judge Dalton also deliver some great performances. They’re all great voice-actors and they perform their roles with gusto, really getting into their characters and being those characters, just as Toby does with Dredd.(less)
Welcome to Day 6 of Advent Reviews, where I bring to you a Judge Dredd audio drama this time. This is actually the second Judge Dredd audio drama review by me, the first was written two days ago for a guest spot on A Fantastical Librarian, where I was interviewed yesterday (my first interview!), and will be going up tomorrow (edit: slight snafu by me here, the review is already up here). The reason I’m mentioning is to skip the usual intro stuff I write, explaining how I got into a franchise like this. Suffice to say that I’m quite the fan of Judge Dredd and that these audios by Big Finish are just plain excellent overall.
ilovejudgedreddI Love Judge Dredd is the third Judge Dredd audio drama I’ve listened to, and it’s easily one of my favourites. What sets it apart from most of the others is how satirical this one is. It pokes fun at pretty much everything in a social commentary sort of way (if that makes sense), and it delivers a really interesting and fun plot in terms of its scope.
The story starts with a celebrity show, where “tonight’s” guest of honour is none other than Judge Dredd, the premier Judge of Mega City One. Hosting him is noted television celebrity Tark Pastry (the guy’s called Pastry, what’s not to like? Plus, on the mp3 his name sounds like “tart pastry”, even better!), who has been the host of the show for several years. Tark Pastry has just spent two days running around all over the City after Dredd, following him like a shadow and recording two days in the life of Judge Dredd. There are civil rights political demonstrations by Robosexuals (people who believe in love/sex with robots of the hard-edges, boxy-shapes variety), a murderous meeting with a mineral water magnate, a face-off against the deranged leader of a revolutionary group, a former celebrity attempting to commit suicide, and more. Morris has packed this story with a ton of really fun stuff which is very clear in its objective: to get the listener to have fun, and be fun (and snarky, and satirical) itself. Easily one of the best Judge Dredd stories I’ve come across. Fantastic pacing, with a fantastic turnabout at the end which makes for a twist I never saw coming.
The voice acting, as is always the case with Big Finish audio dramas, is excellent. Toby Longworth as Judge Dredd is a downright gem, and his Radish Timberlake, the aforementioned deranged leader, is also gold. I don’t know what it is about Toby that makes him so darn good at what he does. Suffice to say, that in my experience, he is the best voice-actor I’ve ever heard, bar none. Nicholas Briggs’ Tark Pastry is just hilarious, whether its drawn out, heavy accent, or just the way that Briggs performs. You really do believe that Tark Pastry is a real celebrity TV show host. There are some other minor characters on the audio drama of course, but front and center it is always Dredd and Pastry, who make for a good “team”.
Overall, with its excellent production values such as all the background sounds and chatter, I Love Judge Dredd is a light-hearted comedy in a harsh dystopian world, and it is superb.