Four Quick Audio Reviews (Black Library)

 

BlackLibraryAudioDramas-201706

In each of the stories mentioned below, the performances are excellent, and the production values superb. This has become an always-met expectation for Black Library’s audio-dramas.

Featuring: Dan Abnett, Chris Dows, David Guymer, Ian St. Martin, Joshua Reynolds, Gav Thorpe, Chris Wraight

*

Champions-of-the-Eternal-War-Cover.indd

CHAMPIONS OF THE ETERNAL WAR by David Guymer, Ian St. Martin & Josh Reynolds

Heed now three tales of the Champions of the Eternal War…

The Calculus of Battle by David Guymer

As the defenders of Varasine battle a tyranid invasion, Warleader Kardan Stronos and the Iron Hands come to their aid, measuring the Chapter’s cold logic and strategy against the cost in human lives.

The Embrace of Pain by Ian St Martin

When blademaster Lucius the Eternal is challenged by a champion of the Death Guard, he accepts without hesitation… but could a daemonhost of Nurgle, or the voices inside his own head, be the undoing of his Slaaneshi curse?

The Art of Provocation by Josh Reynolds

When orks amass on Polix Tertius, Lukas the Trickster decides to play a dangerous game. Risking the ire of the Wolf Lords, he turns his attentions to the planetary vox, and begins to broadcast…

Performed by John Banks, Antonia Beamish, Robin Bowerman, Cliff Chapman, Steve Conlin, Jonathan Keeble, Toby Longworth and Luis Soto.

This is a really good audio-anthology. Each of the three stories is fast-paced and engaging, and each offers something a little different and new. Each story does a great job of illustrating the eccentricities of the faction at its centre. For example, the cold logic of the Iron Hands in “The Calculus of Battle” is chilling.

Lukas’s playfulness in “The Art of Provocation” is irritating to all around him, but highly effective. True, he’s toying with orks, hardly the most rational and calm adversaries the Imperium has ever faced. “The Art of Provocation” is noteworthy not only because of its different flavour and playfulness, but also because I think it’s the first time the Space Wolves have been given Scandinavian/Germanic accents (it’s not 100% consistent, which is perfectly fine). Given their backstory, etc., it makes perfect sense.

“The Embrace of Pain” is perhaps my favourite of the three, and I enjoyed not only the insane Chaotic-ness of the Nurgle forces, but also the non-cartoonish performance of Lucius — no grotesque vocal tricks, rather he has a refined voice, something I would have thought more likely for the Emperor’s Children.

*

HH-EchoesOfRevelationECHOES OF REVELATION by Dan Abnett, Chris Wraight & Gav Thorpe

For more than two hundred years, the armies of the Emperor of Mankind fought to reconquer the galaxy – led by the superhuman primarchs, the Space Marine Legions brought countless worlds back under the rule of ancient Terra. Now Horus, once honoured Warmaster and favoured son of the Emperor, has been corrupted by the whispered promises of Chaos. At his command the Imperium is torn apart by a terrible and bloody civil war, the likes of which the galaxy has never seen… There are some who whisper that Horus’ rebellion was not of his own devising, but orchestrated by more sinister powers. While such thoughts are tantamount to heresy, they pale next to the notion that many noble heroes and champions of Terra are in some way blessed by a higher power still. Yet the war still rages across the Imperium, and all eyes now fall towards the Throneworld itself… This anthology CD features three short audio dramas following the half-understood destinies of some of the most important individuals in the galaxy.

CONTENTS: “Perpetual” by Dan Abnett, “The Soul, Severed” by Chris Wraight, “Valerius” by Gav Thorpe

Performed by Gareth Armstrong, John Banks, Ian Brooker, Cliff Chapman, Steve Conlin, Penelope Rawlins, Saul Reichlin,Toby Longworth and Luis Soto.

Another good anthology, but ultimately not quite as good as Champions of the Eternal War. I enjoyed “Perpetual” the most, given its focus on Oll Persson — one of the eponymous perpetuals, an undying observer of human history and misery. It’s set in the aftermath of the Word Bearers’ attack on Calth which, while drawn out beyond breaking point in the overall Horus Heresy storyline, is still a solid story.

In “The Soul, Severed”, Wraight gives us a little bit more of Lord Commander Primus Eidolon’s ongoing drift into insanity and depravity. Leading the Emperor’s Children in Fulgrim’s absence (who knows what the daemon primarch is up to, or where he is), Eidolon is challenged for command by Archorian. This is the story of how Eidolon and his Kakophoni deal with dissent within the ranks. It’s a big, nutty story, and one that perfectly illustrates the Emperor’s Children’s descent. I wasn’t so keen on some of the voices given to the Emperor’s Children (cartoonish, unlike in Champions of the Eternal War).

In “Valerius”, the eponymous character, Vice-Caesari Marcus Valerius of the Therion Cohort, is a dedicated warrior of the Imperium. He is willing to lay down his life in service to the immortal God-Emperor, and finds himself believing ever-more in the Lectitio Divinitatus — the forbidden religion that believes the Emperor is divine. It’s an interesting story, one that mixes the power of faith and service, with the grim realities of brutal, relentless warfare.

*

DowsC-WH40k-ScionsOfElysiaSCIONS OF ELYSIA by Chris Dows

The Elysian Drop Troops are famed throughout the Astra Militarum for their rapid deployment tactics, utter fearlessness and expertise at grav-chute assaults. The 158th Elysian are once such regiment, ordered to pacify piratical warbands at large in their native system. But as the campaign commences, disaster strikes, the regiment’s inexperienced and arrogant captain the cause. Only through the ingenuity of Sergeant Zachariah is a victory salvaged, but at a terrible cost.

Narrated by John Banks

This is the first thing by Chris Dows that I’ve “read”, and I very much enjoyed it. I like what he’s done with the characters, and also the story as a whole. It’s a different kind of WH40k story — sure, it’s action-packed, but I enjoyed the different focus: on pirates, as well as internal military politics and corruption. Dows has done a great job of transferring classic military fiction tropes into the 41st millennium, with shades of Vietnam and the World Wars, all from the perspective of the soldiers of the line. Excellent performance by Banks, and a solid story. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of the author’s work.

*

GouldingLJ-SotE-DaedalusAUDSCYTHES OF THE EMPEROR: DAEDALUS by L.J. Goulding

Waging a bitter war of vengeance against Hive Fleet Kraken across Ultima Segmentum, the Scythes of the Emperor must continue to look to the future if the Chapter is to survive. In a distant system of the Sotharan League, a lone Apothecary has become stranded before a fresh tyranid invasion – and the stock of Space Marine gene-seed he bears is too great a treasure to abandon to the xenos. Striking from the air, Assault Squad Cassander must push deep into enemy-held territory if they are to mount a recovery mission, facing all the winged spawned horrors of the hive ship Daedalus.

Perfomed by John Banks, Antonia Beamish, Robin Bowerman, Cliff Chapman, Steve Conlin, Toby Longworth & Luis Soto

I’m a fan of Goulding’s work, and this is a very good story. Excellent performances all round. The characters are interesting and, while one doesn’t have quite enough time to become fully invested in their fates, the story is fast-paced, action-packed and engaging. There are some interesting elements which, as with the other audiodramas reviewed today, show the authors and publisher experimenting and playing with the format — looking for new narrative elements that they can incorporate into audio-dramas, which add more and can be more effective in audio-format, as opposed to prose. (For example, free-fall with a jetpack.) Goulding has written a fair amount of Scythes of the Emperor fiction, now, and I’m interested in reading more.

 

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