Wednesday, 31 July 2013

If They Bleed, We Can Kill Them

Horus Rising: The Deceived (II)

The battle for High City (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

It is in hindsight ironic that of the three warriors we can identify as being present at the death of the false Emperor, it was only Garviel Loken who we know saw what the ruler of High City had planned. Ekaddon and - to the extent our cogitators can determine - Horus himself did not forsee the 'Emperor's' treachery.  Only Loken went in with his eyes open wide enough.

Contrast this with later events, on the surface of Davin and the orbit of Istvaan III.  There, it was Loken who once more stood alone, but this time because he failed to see the treachery of an Emperor.

So the deranged Horus would claim, at any rate.  Perhaps then we should say Garviel's position was the same each time, it was simply the circumstances that had changed.  It was, after all, an unwillingness to change that led Garviel to his fate in the Istvaan system, and which both led to his greatest hour and his inevitable fall.

Such contradictions are to be expected when considering Loken, of course.  After all, it was in this moment, amid the howling artificial inds atop a shuddering tower in a dying city, that the Primarch of XVI Legion saved Loken's life, radically changing the destiny of the whole galaxy.  Indeed, so momentous was Garviel's rescue, one might be forgiven for failing to notice a far more important development.  The hope and violence to spring from Garviel's later actions should not be understated, but his deliverance pales in comparison when one considers another development.

Because atop that tower, Horus gained a taste for killing Emperors.


What Was

I think it likely that Abnett introduced the idea of Remembrancers to provide the reader with a human's view of the Astartes that are the focal point of the series.  That, indeed, might be why this second chapter is bookmarked with Mersadie Oliton.  Did that work for you?  Did it give you any clearer a picture of the Astartes and their organisation?  And, for that matter, is it clear who the Remembrancers are themselves?

I assumed Remembrancers might have the role of remembering the battle dead, but it seems like they're more general storytellers/historians.  I at least have an idea of what the Astartes look like now.  Presumably they've been altered to become elite soldiers, though I don't know how (I'm still thinking maybe a chemical from that planet (Cthonia)).  They clearly think of themselves as superior to us.  I think the Remembrancer thinks of them as abominations, though.

What Is

Have you changed your mind on living in a constantly shaded rotating building now you've learnt they're health and safety nightmares?

Yes.  I'm not at all keen on having to go to the bathroom in the night if it means risking a fall through a giant hole in the middle of the tower.

I'd hope the apartments in this hypothetical building would have their own bathrooms.

Maybe.  Or maybe the giant hole is the bathroom.

Ick. Did it occur to you that Garviel and Ekaddon were unknowingly leading Horus into a trap?

Well, Horus or Abaddon, yeah.  It seemed a bit easy for the old guy to be the 'Emperor'.  Actually, I was expecting the 'Emperor' to be a bit cooler than just some invisible dude.  I thought he might be a computer.  But do we even know that the guy on the throne was the 'Emperor'?  I mean, they'd pulled the fake ruler ruse once...

I asked you last time about your first impressions of Garviel.  This time the obvious question is: what strikes you about Horus?

He's a god, basically. So maybe that makes the Astartes are demigods - Garviel does call Mersadie a mortal.  Maybe the Mournival are gods too. I think maybe they start out as human, but then ascend in some way.  Maybe that's why Loken is touchy about Mersadie calling the Warmaster 'Horus'; it's a reminder of his former life. Horus clearly has human emotions, what with having a favourite in Sejanus, and because he still tried to make peace after Sejanus died.

Of course, as Mersadie says, if he'd really wanted to give them a chance, Horus could've just left them all alone. Maybe though once they'd revealed themselves they had to strike quickly, because otherwise the 'Emperor' might have made Astartes of his own.

That's something I wanted to talk about, actually: Mersadie asks quite an important question at the end of the chapter, that Garviel brushes off immediately.  Why is it so difficult for him to imagine leaving the false Imperium alone, do you think?

I think it's just that he has his religion, and he's sure it's correct.  Their aim is to reunite mankind, so they can't really leave any isolated pockets, especially one so technologically advanced.

What Will Be

Now that the 'Emperor' is dead - and not, unfortunately, a Frank Baum character (Fliss: "He was hiding behind a screen") - and Horus himself has killed him, some of your predictions have already received their answers.  So... what's next?

Well, as I say, I'm not convinced that really was the real fake Emperor.  I'm also wondering why Loken has had to repeat his story so much.  Was it just to amuse people, or has there been an investigation into what's happened.  Maybe the real Emperor isn't too keen on the idea of Emperors getting shot.  Beyond that, my prediction is: WAR!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Hastur Sejanus Was Dead: To Begin With

Horus Rising: The Deceived (I)

The Luna Wolves (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

There are a thousand ways and places in which we might begin the tale of Horus.  We choose this one: the false Imperium, a collection of human worlds ignorant and arrogant enough to declare war upon the Luna Wolves of the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet. 

We begin here for two reasons.  Firstly, it marks the beginning of the tale that will see Garviel Loken take a major role in the shaping of the Legion's future.  Loken will be our touch-stone for some time as we explore the Truth, and his actions against the 'Emperor' are the spark that illuminated him in those all but forgotten days, when everything still seemed to make sense.

The second reason is the 'Emperor' himself.  For it was through him that a dangerous thought first occurred: that honourable warriors could boast unquestioned devotion to the self-proclaimed ruler of all humanity, and yet be horribly and obviously wrong.  The manner by which the Luna Wolves responded to this dark mirror would ultimately tear the galaxy asunder.


What Was

With only fifteen pages under our belt, many of them involving shooting people, there’s not been much exploration of the Heresy’s back-story just yet.  Still, there is some basic priming going on for the uninitiated, so I decided to run a word association test with Fliss to see what she’s picked up.


A planet? No, wait.  Is this the race Locust is fighting for?


A weapon, maybe?


Is that the ship the Emperor is on?

Which Emperor?

The one Locust - or is it Loken?  - is working for?  On those ships.


I picked this one up, at least, but I've no damn clue what it means. A code of conduct between the fighters... warriors... Astartes?

Deeply revealing, I think.

What Is

Dan Abnett seems to have constructed the beginning of this chapter to be intentionally confusing to long-term fans.  It’s an interesting tactic, and the obvious question is to how well it works for people with no reason to be surprised that the Emperor and the Luna Wolves are fighting each other.  So, what do you think is going on?  What’s this fight about, and what does the larger mission of the Luna Wolves seem to be?

I think the Luna Wolves have been at peace for a while after a major war, and they want to expand their territory and/or preach their religion. I think we've got two groups of humans here that have both left Earth.  The fleet people must have settled on that other planet (Cthonia).  Is that where they got the super-juice from that makes them so strong?  They're on a crusade, basically.

Did you notice anything about the implied location?

I thought it might be suggesting this was our solar system, but there aren't enough planets.

Yes there are, or at least there are with Pluto included.

Oh.  Then the 'Emperor' must be from a group of humans who came back to Earth at some point.

Again, with all that space taken up with people exploding, there’s not much room in this first chapter for character development.  Still, with that said, what are your initial opinions of Garviel Loken?

It say's he's being ironic when he talks about Horus killing the Emperor; does it turn out he does it himself?  Or did the Emperor survive somehow?  Actually, could Garviel become a rebel?  Other than that, he's clearly respected and good at his job, and trusted by his superiors.

It’s a common opinion – one which I share, actually – that Dan Abnett is the best writer Games Workshop has to call upon.  How does his prose strike you?

It's difficult to say right now, because it's so packed with terms I'm entirely unfamiliar with. I've too much to absorb to think about prose. Let's come back to that question later.

Would you like to work or live in a building that swivels to face the sun?

No.  Being ginger, I would burn and die in minutes. Unless I could be in the shady bit all the time.  But wouldn't the constant twisting get annoying?  Or would you just get the equivalent of sea-legs.  I could be a pirate! Stealing from those that enter my building without permission.

(At this point, Fliss begins to wax lyrical about rotating rooms she has known, and as her mind turns to rotating German restaurants which offer delicious forest gateau, I decide to move on.)

What Will Be

Again, there’s not really much material to go on here, but for the sake of form: any predictions?

The Emperor is going to die, but which one?  I figured it would be the 'Emperor', but then you started quizzing me in a suspicious manner.  I think there's going to be a problem with Garviel later on.  Maybe he learns something from elsewhere in the galaxy that will turn him from the Emperor?  Or maybe the first Captain (Abaddon) will, and Garviel will have to take him down.  Definitely they're going to end up fighting each other.  Possibly over a woman.  That's how these things usually happen.

Anything else?

One or both Emperors turns out to be the Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Primer

Welcome, Imperial citizens, to the Truth.

There is one rule, and one rule only, forced upon humanity the length and breadth of this galaxy: do not question.  All laws and morals, from the most stringent to the most innocuous, spill from this central concept.  The Emperor has decided for you.  Do not question Him.

But the centre cannot hold.  If one denies knowledge, one cannot prevent questions, because without knowledge, how can one know which questions are not to be asked?  Here, in the darkness of the void between, we will give you that knowledge.

We will tell you of Horus.

The Truth is here, for as long as we can broadcast.  The Truth is here.


TL; DR: it's this guy (copyright Games Workshop)

For the last few months, I've been working my way through the Horus Heresy series (international bestsellers, or so they tell me), and doing fairly well with it.  But then, they're preaching to the choir: I've been hanging around the GW universe for the last twenty years.  I've read the story of the final battle of the Heresy a hundred times in a dozen forms.

Which comes with its own problems.  There's almost nothing left to surprise me.  So am I ahead of the game for how much I know and love this story, or would a strategic frontal lobotomy to clear out all those years of background leave me better placed to enjoy the series?

Well, I don't have access to a frontal lobotomist.  But I do have a girlfriend, who's mental landscape is blissfully untarnished by Games Workshop's intellectual properties, beyond having to listen to me explain why these miniatures have to be dark green and those identical miniatures have to be blood red.

So what would happen if I expose my very intelligent, genre-savvy and infinitely patient other half to the futuristic horrors of the Horus Heresy?  Will she guess what's coming? Will she piece together what has come before?  Will she care why the II Legion aren't around no more?

Here's the plan.  Once a week, at eight am Wednesday (GMT), I'll post up a discussion based around one chapter from one book in the series.  I'll be asking my girlfriend Fliss what she's making of the series so far, what she has been able to glean about the wider setting, and how much she's prepared to speculate on subsequent events.  Right now all knows is that the series is set during a war in space, and often features the same events from different perspectives.  Beyond that, she's got nothing, and I'll be barring her from reading the blurbs, so that she meets everything with as little forewarning as possible.  Hopefully this will be illuminating, and entertaining as well - Fliss being no slouch in the wit department.  Specific format may flit around a bit over the first few months as we get our bearings, but the basics won't change.

Anyone noting a potential similarity between this blog and this one won't be the first.  Indeed, when I hatched this idea I spent a couple of days deciding whether this was too close to stepping on Neil Perryman's toes.  Ultimately, though, I've decided three things.  One: exposing one's partner to one's passions is a pastime that very much predates us all.  Two: my desire to share this rich universe - if not always one in which tales are told tremendously well - with my other half is powerful, and I'd be an idiot if I threw away the resulting experience when I could write about it instead.  And three: no-one told Einstein that there was no point investigating the underlying nature of the universe because Newton had already done it all.

Well, actually, they probably did.  But they were wrong.

Next week we kick off with Chapter 1 of Horus Rising.  I hope you'll join us.

(A quick word on spoilers in comments.  I'm fairly confident that anyone wanting to read and pass judgement on this site is liable to be in the "very familiar" camp as regards Games Workshop's extensive fictional histories, so I have no intention of trying to crack down on all potential spoilers.  That said, I think for now at least it's best to keep explicit discussions of events in the series to those that happen before or during the opening trilogy.  So Flight of the Eisenstein is fair game, as is Fulgrim up to Istvaan III.  Anything following on from that I'd like to avoid getting into for at least a little while.

Oh, and for those who don't already know, I have two other blogs: a random collection of topics I find interesting or enraging, and a deranged and utterly doomed attempt to create a coherent time-line for the entire line of X-books.)