Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Performance And Cocktails

Horus Rising: The Deceived (VI)

Rogal Dorn (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Those amongst you with even the most passing familiarity with Imperial history will know that following the events of the Horus Heresy, the Imperial Army and the Legiones Astartes were divided up by the Lords of Terra and by Roboute Gulliman, respectively.  The justification for this unprecedented alteration to the structure of the Imperium's armed forces - first put into place by the Emperor himself - was to ensure no single commander could ever again marshal the sheer volume of forces Horus threw into battle against his former comrades.

Whether such a precaution was wise or necessary is beyond our humble organisation of renegade scriveners and honourable naysmiths to determine.  That said, it is difficult to imagine that having employed such steps a decade earlier would have proved any real block to Horus' ambitions.

Consider the first briefing Captain Loken attended following being raised into the Mournival.  For a simple soldier committing to carrying out his orders faithfully and promptly, it must have been baffling to see so many illustrious personages of the Imperium showing each other so little respect.  The fleet commander mistrusts the Astartes.  The Astartes look askance at the Imperial Army.  The Mechanicum seems to hold more or less everyone in contempt.

Horus' advantage was never in the sheer quantity of manpower and materiel the Emperor granted him as Warmaster.  It was the skill with which those assets he did not control directly he was able to manipulate.  Given the role the primarchs were created for, it's hardly a surprise history has focused upon their prodiguous strength and speed, and their phenomenal tactical gifts, but in the final analysis what made Horus the logical choice for Warmaster - and which eventually spelled doom for the Imperium as it was originally conceived - was his preternatural gifts of charm and persuasion.  For all that primarchs such as Angron and Perturabo wasted such gifts in favour of bloodthirst and petulance, respectively, the martial prowess of the Emperor's sons was never their most dangerous quality to anyone not standing directly before them.

Consider: Horus was able to persuade fully six other primarchs to rebel alongside him (seven if one chooses to include Fulgrim, though the mechanism of his downfall was already close to completion by the time the Warmaster became involved).  Would replacing those six legions with hundreds of Astartes chapters prevented him from the machinations by which he caused one half of the Imperium to fold itself over and strike at the other?  Or would there simply be more targets for him to work his will upon?

The Imperium is safe from another galaxy-spanning civil war not because no single person now commands more than a few thousand Astartes.  It is because no primarch remains alive and in a position of authority within the civilisation of man.  With the death of Rogal Dorn (who, amongst more actions in the defence of mankind than we can ever hope to chronicle, was responsible for the inclusion of Garviel Loken into the Mournival) and the disappearance of Vulkan, the Imperium found itself bereft of its most tireless and stalwart defenders.  It also found itself free for the first time from the possibility that the Heresy could ever repeat itself.

There are still those who believe that Roboute Guilliman's corpse is repairing itself within its stasis field on Macragge. That Vulkan and Corax, Leman Russ, the Lion and the Khan, all will one day return to the Imperium.  To save it from its darkest hour.  To rally the desperate, bone-tired defenders of humanity for one final stand against the tide of xenos, heretic and daemon.

But what if this happens and they argue as to how the defense be enacted?  The most terrifying thought a man can have is not that we are alone in the void, with no-one to come to our aid.  It is that this might be the best of all possible fates.


What Was

Exclusively revealed: Horus has a brother. In fact, he has a minimum of ten.  We've talked quite a bit about what the Astartes are and how they come about.  What are your thoughts on the nature and origins of the primarchs?

We're back to the God question. It specifically says the Emperor is a god, and the primarchs are demigods.  The Emperor might be a DNA crazy person.

I might need a bit more than that.

Well, like that film Splice. The Emperor could be a combination of a man and a unicorn and a troll.

Yes, that is exactly the plot of the film Splice.

That was Splice, wasn't it?  With that girl who had  all that extra DNA bits?

Yes, it was.  It's the inclusion of the unicorn I'm having problems with.  And the troll, unless you're being rude about Rodney from Stargate: Atlantis.

Well, whatever. I just chose things at random.  Actually, unicorns probably wouldn't work, would it?  Too innocent.  It'd never splice.

That's right.  Haven't you heard that Loverboy song? "Unicorn and troll DNA just won't splice!"

What Is

It's made clear at the end of the chapter that Horus is a savvy politician, and has strong reasons for what he does and says when conducting briefings.  Given that, why do you think he started things off with a nervous architect?

He's making a point.  He sees a time  beyond the war, and he wants everyone to know that.  Also, to know that he's got no problem with the idea that humans can be the equals or even superiors of Astartes and Primarchs, at least in some respects.

That, or he's sneaking things into the plans for the new city, and  reckons people won't pay as much attention to things whilst the architect is in charge rather than him directly.  Statues of himself, and things.  I've changed my mind about where this is going.  By which I mean I've bothered reading the title of the book.  It's quite a big clue, really.

The conversation between the Mournival and First Captain Sigismund over drinks is aimed at people who already know the story.  Some of it is interesting for how on the money it is, and some of it is interesting for how far from ther mark it proves.  As someone who doesn't know which is which, did you pick up any implications as the Astartes spar with each other?

It'd be a very boring  series  if Garviel turns out to be right.  It's not even in human nature for him to be right. There'll always be some humans - namely narcissists and psychopaths - who'll rise to the top and cause trouble.  They'll always want to oppress someone.  Like gingers.

I'm glad you had the chance to get that in there.  Ginger power!

They had a ginger pride parade in Edinburgh the  other day. So, you know, it's a thing.

Yeah, but Edinburgh?  Not exactly enemy territory, is it?

Apparently one fifth of all the world's gingers live  in Scotland.

I knew there was a reason I keep going back there.

This is probably a difficult question to be objective about, given how much Dorn seems to have reinforced your idea of who Loken is, but what do you think of Dorn and his Imperial Fists, as compared to Horus and the Luna Wolves?

It just felt like typical banter between different regiments.  Which is definitely quite a human thing to do.  And Dorn is probably being a bit polite since he's not in overall command here, so his actual personality is a bit hard to determine. He's maybe just as good at some other job as Horus is at conquering.  Is he like the Kingsguard for the Emperor?  So that would mean when the civil war starts he stays loyal to the Emperor.  Or he stabs him in the back.

So you've decided that Dorn will either stay loyal, or not stay loyal.

Yes.  Horus is definitely going to turn against the Emperor.  Actually, Dorn probably will stay loyal, because he's close to the Emperor, and all the other brothers will turn against him.  He'll have to be like Shiva.


The Hindu God with multiple arms.  He'll need eight arms.


Because he has ten brothers.  And, er, two legs.

Yes, that is how combat works. That's why octopuses rule the sea.  And why we had so much trouble with those millepedes on holiday.

They were dead!

They were half dead.  That's still enough to take on five hundred ants, apparently.

Also, do the Astartes take people's essences so they can be reborn?  "Gene seed", is it?  So it's a bit like Splice again.  But not with a unicorn or a troll.  It's with a horse.

I just... what?

Because Melisandre (Mersadie Oliton) said Loken had an equine head.  And equerry means something to do with horses, doesn't it?

There was an awful lot of factions and rivalries touched on in this chapter.  The Mechanicum don't like bowing to Horus.  The fleet commander doesn't seem to care much for Astartes.  At least two of Horus' brother primarchs are outraged he was chosen over them to be Warmaster.  Loken has sworn to defend his lord from enemies both from without and from within.  Where should he start  looking first?

At Horus himself.


What Will Be

If and when the Vengeful Spirit and its fleet move on, where do you think they're headed?  To help out the Blood Angels, or to check out the possibility of an intelligent and possibly alien civilisation?  

This is my Fighting Fantasy question, by the way.

Fighting Fantasy?

You know. "If you want to go left, turn to 221".  We could do the Fighting Fantasy books after the Horus Heresy.

(Stony glare)

I think they'll head after the  Blood Angels.  That seems to be the way things were heading.  But then why mention the Sagittary stars?  Maybe the Luna Wolves go and help the Blood Angels, and while they do that, the colonists will go over to the Sagittarius stars and all get eaten by aliens. Like in that film where all the colonists get eaten by aliens*. Or was that Stargate?

* This is honestly what she said.  It's not quite as bad as the time a friend of mine asked me if I'd seen that film about a robot that was also a policeman, but it's close.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Things To Do In High City When You're Dead Drunk

Horus Rising: The Deceived (V)

Reaver Titan, Legio Mortis
(copyright Games Workshop)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Presented here for the very first time since it was smuggled out at great cost from a Tarask-class vessel moments before it was scuttled by Battlefleet Isoka, five verses of a poem apparently written some centuries after the conclusion of the Horus Heresy.  The author is unknown, as is the manner by which he or she acquired so much detailed knowledge of events that took place so long before.

On the world that almost passed us by,
Numbers sit o'er its name, erased,
Where the fool Karkasy found his muse,
And lost his mind, and fell from grace.

Whilst upright he was no upright man.
Whilst down none chose to mourn his plight.
But the ugly truth that no-one saw?
There's little doubt that he was right.

For Garviel, Terra claimed every world,
As did Abaddon in his turn
Proclaim Horus lord of mankind,
And none foresaw how all would burn.

He retched truth along with liquorice stink
This poet in a drunkard's drawl
He spat out the future in a bar
He lost his teeth in pointless brawl. 

Why? Just for knowing what comes to pass
Nought we've begun will prove to last.
Wars fought to keep hold, no man can win,
The only victor there: the past.

Note that the owning - or reading - of this poem carries the death sentence on every Imperial world.


What Was

Let's change gears here, and try another round of word association:


A giant robot type thing. Like that thing in your drop-box (she means drop-pod, and my Death Company dreadnought), only much bigger, and with multiple Astartes inside.


Er, I don't know. Are they elite engineers, architects, and builders?


Don't remember. Are they the Astartes who aren't Luna Wolves.  The ones that are builders?


The court of the Emperor? A group of counsellors from various different branches of the elite?

This would seem to confirm the hypothesis that there's an awful lot of background being thrown at the reader, maybe too much.  And yes, there is information on the above that Fliss hasn't managed to retain, but she's read each chapter carefully at least once, so if it isn't sticking, I don't think it's her to blame.

What Is

This is the first chapter of the book to not feature any Astartes at all, besides the two sentries at Momnus' speech. We've talked already about whether the book benefits or suffers when the Astartes characters are off-set by the human perspective.  How does it work when they're (temporarily) removed entirely?

It's fine. With Karkasy introduced, you've got to use him, and you should be following his thoughts and actions.  It's important to learn about the unrest on the planet, and you'd not get that from watching the Astartes wandering around.  Everyone would be too scared to act 'normally'.

A related question: there's really not much that happens in this chapter in terms of the wider story - not unless you think there's going to be a major outcry over Karkasy's fate, and that seems unlikely. So why did Abnett bother to include it?

I think it'll inform something later on.  Surely questions will be raised over Karkasy, at least.  And yes,  the Astartes probably won't care, but the remembrancers will.  They might have to have escorts all the time from now on, which might lead to remembrancers and Astartes - read: Mersadie and Garviel - spending more time together.

Also, up until now, all we have is the official line that the planet is compliant, and that's ridiculous.  People aren't just going to willingly turn round and support invaders after they've just had their religious leader killed.

You had a very low opinion of Ignace Karkasy when you first met him.  What are your thoughts on his character now you've spent an entire chapter in his company?

It did help to have a back-story and read his thoughts.  He's clearly human, and his self-doubt makes him seem less of an arrogant dick.  I like how he thinks about how ridiculous it is that people would want to worship the Emperor as a god, but then he has these silly superstitions about his notebooks.

Speaking of which, I'd like it entered into the record that Karkasy is totally right; writing on paper is much better than typing into a computer.  Did they keep calling it Bond?  Isn't that a paper company already?  Did anyone get money for advertising them like that?

You're a well-read woman; did you know "ordure" is synonymous with "shit"?

No. Is it French?

(Actually, yes it is.  See how we're both entertaining and educational? No need to thank us, internet!)

What Will Be

We have talked already about the central paradox of the Great Crusade: that they're all convinced there's no god because the almighty and perfect Emperor has told them so. We learn here that some people are explicitly squaring that circle by naming the Emperor a god.  Where do you see this idea going?

There are two possibilities that occur to me here.  The first is that the Emperor worshippers are eventually going to be found out, and the Luna Wolves are going to be ordered to kill them, which obviously Loken isn't going to be happy with.  The other possibility is that someone is going to try to assassinate the Emperor - and maybe even succeed - because it's been mentioned that he can only really become a god once he's dead.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Horus Rising: The Deceived (IV)

The Mournival (copyright Aerion the Faithful)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

It has already become clear that the origins of the Horus Heresy are too many and complex for any single observation to suffice as to why events unravelled the way they did. Nevertheless, were one so crass as to try, one could far worse than this: the Heresy came about because of critical failures in the chain of command.

Well of course it was.  The point's very accuracy renders it banal.  The second most powerful man in the galaxy stops taking orders from the only man who can give him orders? Of course that's a failure in the chain of command.  Even so, it is worth pursuing, because the nature of command across the Sixty-Third Expeditionary was more complicated than it might first appear.

There were two organisations which cut across the standard tree of authority by which the Luna Wolves were structured.  "Cut across" is an apposite term, not just for the damage they ended up causing, but because whilst the chain of command is generally considered to be vertical, these groups ran horizontally, supposedly existing without rank or superiority.  The first of these, the Warrior Lodge, we shall consider later.  For now we shall focus on the second: the Mournival.

The Mournival, for those unaware, was a grouping of four company captains, who acted as advisers to Horus himself, their relative seniority forgotten entirely in the pursuit of counselling and defending their primarch.  Such was the aim, at least.  In practise, like any group that considers itself indispensable and which survives for centuries, the Mournival became arcane and ritualistic, a role which became important by dint of its existence, rather than its utility.

Garviel Loken almost grasped this, the night he was inducted, but his pride at being nominated and his relief at being able to address Ezekyle Abaddon on equal terms distracted him at the crucial moment.  Even so, he might have had some success in seeing the trees in the forest - rather than the moon in the sunken garden - had his suspicions not been focused upon the Warrior Lodge instead.

It's interesting, in fact, that Loken simultaneously held such suspicions over the Lodge, but embraced the Mournival so totally.  Of course, it's not difficult to list the differences: the Mournival exists in the open, the difference in ranks is negligible, and its stated purpose has obvious utility.  None of that, though, is what truly separated the two in Loken's mind.  Loken framed his fears in terms of the dictates of Imperial Truth, but really, his fear was more fundamental: so tight-knit an organisation sooner or later starts to drift apart from what surrounds them.

Because the idea of a horizontal structure eliminating differences only goes so far.  There are still two layers; those within and, beneath them, those without.  To Loken, outside the Lodge, this was a concern.  It never occurred to him that the same problem could lay dormant within a group he observed from the inside.

Once again, in the lantern-lit darkness of the ruined garden of some nameless citizen of Sixty-Three Nineteen, Captain Loken was so close to understanding.  When his new brothers assured him the rituals he was witnessing were mere pantomime, the immediate thought should have occurred: does that include those aspects that are supposed to mean something?

For Garviel Loken was the last member of Horus' private retinue to be asked to swear loyalty to the primarch and to the Emperor both.  Like so much else in the Mournival, the oaths to the Emperor had become a ritual, something one simply did, thought about no more than the painting of the moon upon a new initiate's helmet.  A horizontal arrangement of men, even Astartes and even primarchs, cannot include the Emperor.

So Loken was right, in a sense, when he looked askance at the Warrior Lodge.  He diagnosed the problem, after all.  It was merely the location of the infection that escaped him.

Until Davin.  Until it was all too late.


What Was

This chapter mentions primarchs, and a few morsels regarding how the Astartes come about.  How clear/amusing is your conception of the Astartes at this point?

I am now under the impression that the modification of the Astartes is linked with Horus - some part of him is put into them: they're GMed using his own... something.  The primarchs must be next in line after the Emperor - they call them gods.  And they say they're not born; so they must be test-tube babies.  Literal test-tubes, in this case.  There was a lot here about humans being weak and afraid of the Astartes.

What Is

Why do you think Loken is so keen on offering an exclusive to Oliton after she pissed him off so completely earlier?  Where do you see their relationship going?

The same direction I've thought it's been going for quite some time.  She's a part of his conscience.  He obviously has questions, and if she's asking the same ones, he knows he's not alone in wanting answers. Like how lecturers say that if anyone asks a question, there'll be ten more people who wanted to ask it, but were afraid to.

How reasonable do you think Loken is with his objections to the Mournival ceremony?  Is he mistaking tradition for superstition, or has he put his finger on a legitimate problem?

It's probably a logical concern, given they say their whole faith is based around the idea that superstition shouldn't exist. If that's true, then being inducted into one of the greatest available roles through superstition invalidates that.  There was a phrase used in the ceremony which may prove useful if Loken ends up battling against the Imperium and/or the primarchs; that he could use to justify his actions.  It said something about protecting the Imperium from all evils, foreign and domestic, basically.  That sets him up for fighting against superiors who he thinks are corrupt.

Also, I'm a bit suspicious about the naming in the ceremony.  They say the oath can only be broken by death, but I'm wondering if some of them started asking too many questions, and got killed for it. I also thought: "thirteen, unlucky for some".  Tarik does mention luck quite a lot.

Abnett's description of a night in the ruined garden is his first opportunity to give us some descriptive prose without it needing to be shackled to either action scenes or to exposition.  Are you enjoying his style?

Yeah, it's alright. This concludes my analysis of Abnett's prose.

I worked out that the p value of the same two people out of four surviving nine deaths in the Mournival is 0.012, allowing us to discard the null hypothesis that Mournival members have equal chances of being killed at any given point.  Have you any ideas as to what's being this disparity, and are you regretting shacking up with a probability geek?

See my previous answer; also, I want to see those calculations.  Did you do a continuity correction?

Why the hell would I need to do that? Think about the basic nature of -

No, it all comes down to what test you use.

(This goes on for some time.)

What Will Be

Four chapters into this first part, who do you think are "The Deceived", and what bearing will they have on what's coming?

I think this section will end with someone - maybe or maybe not Loken - realising they've been deceived by Horus. Maybe Mersadie will help Loken work it out, something to do with using her weird head stuff.  Maybe Abaddon and Torgaddon turn out to not really have been in the Mournival since the very beginning.  Also, the other two remembrancers might be involved, though I could just be hoping that so that something nasty might happen to the obnoxious one (Karkasy).

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Here Beginneth The Lessons

Horus Rising: The Deceived (III)

Captain Garviel Loken (copyright Games Workshop)
 Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

As one considers the technological marvels and enlightened philosophies of the Great Crusade, it is hard not to dwell upon how far Man has fallen.  Our means and our ends are so petty and inadequate compared to those that have gone before.  Not for nothing to so many whisper fearfully that this is the "Dark Millennium". There can scarce be a man or woman across the range of this galaxy who wouldn't find their lives easier had they be born whilst the Emperor Himself still walked from world to world.

Except, of course, for the Ecclesiarchy.

Consider the task of the Imperial Preacher.  Consider the mindset.  Walk forward, proclaim the divinity of the Emperor, burn alive those who shake their heads.  Repeat until you are dead or everyone else is.  The encroaching darkness which seeps into every thought of every man and woman on every Imperial world does nothing but strengthen the Ecclesiarchy's self-justification.  Every setback is proof the galaxy needs the Emperor more than ever.  Every angry denial means the redoubling of effort is still more important.  In the final analysis, there is no conflict between declaring the Emperor a God, and mercilessly butchering those who refuse to praise him.

Such coherence escaped the Ecclesiarchy's ancient forefathers, the Iterators. For them the central tenet of the truth was not that the Emperor was god, but that the concept of gods itself was ludicrous. Science and, more importantly, logic was judged the fundamental bedrock of existence.  A pretty idea, no doubt, but the Iterators betrayed it utterly when they used it as the justification for war.

Logic, in the end, simply wasn't enough.  Logic cannot exist in a vacuum; it is of use only when one wishes to extrapolate from one's fundamental principles to create a coherent whole.  All to often, those bedrock ideas are unreachable by logic; one cannot use a tool to tear itself apart.  If I believe blue to be the most pleasing of all colours, it is logical that I paint my crawler blue. If my hab-neighbour feels just as strongly regarding the superiority of red, then he too is logical to paint his crawler red.

If we share the crawler, however, logic can only tell us that neither of us can be completely happy with the paint-job that ultimately results.  The idea that the best course of action is to murder my neighbour and steal the crawler lies not in logic, but in something else.

This is the great tragedy of the Great Crusade, the rot that would ultimately eat its conquests away almost entirely.  "We do not think we are right, we know we are right" was Kyril Sindermann's guiding principle. It was a statement of overwhelming hubris.  With this as a foundation, the newly-forged Imperium could never stand.  We can spend all the hours we wish pouring over the myriad ways in which the Horus Heresy might have been avoided, but to do so is to miss the point.  Horus' fall to Chaos was never inevitable, right up to the moment he ordered the virus bombs deployed.  But something was always going to happen.  Something was going to be born from the idea that if a man simply thought hard enough he could not err.

More to the point, there was never any way to avoid tragedy when one's unbreakable rule is that there can be no divinity because the Emperor has said so.  This tragic combination of logic and hubris, of rejection of religion but unquestioning devotion to a single man, would tear apart the galaxy one way or another.  The specific form of this disaster we can blame upon Horus.  The fact that such a disaster was inevitable we can lay at the feet of the Emperor himself.


What Was

How does the arrival of a new type of Astartes and the (briefly mentioned) idea of Old Night fit in to your conception of the novel's back-story?

Well, I still haven't gotten my head around who the Luna Wolves are, yet.  I'm choosing to believe they're a battalion of werewolves.

So what would that make the Imperial Fists?

Who? I don't know.

But you got Luna Wolves = werewolves just from the name.  What does "Imperial Fists" suggest?

Crowns with fists?  How would I know?

I'm imagining a fiddler crab with a sceptre in its teeny claw. "Obey me, puny vertebrates,or it's the claw for you! K-KLACK!"

Someone should draw that for us.

Are these Imperial Fists the personal guards of the real Emperor, then?  Old Night is presumably when humanity split, and some went off to try and find a new home, or something.  I don't know.  When do we get to the easy questions?

What Is

What do you think it says about the Imperium that they chose to send poets to cover their crusade, rather than journalists?

Is that really that different?  They're both telling stories.  One is just through the medium of poetry.  We've already had war poets.

Yeah, because they were already in a war.  No-one said "Oi, Siegfried; head on over to that trench line and capture its violent horror through verse".

But you've got people who volunteer to enter battles and chronicle them.  I've read enough fiction to know that.  Like musicians who follow knights to compose songs about them.

When you say "read enough fiction", do you mean "watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail"?

No, and shut up.  Journalism is a pretty new field compared to, you know, killing people en masse; the people who usually chronicled military conquests were generally less interested in being objective (to the extent  journalists are truly objective now).

How well do you think Kyril Sindermann does in justifying the actions of the Great Crusade, either to his pupils, or to Garviel Loken?

Is he justifying anything?  He spends more time telling Garviel doubts are healthy.  The bits where he is trying to justify himself go horribly wrong.  It's just so obviously self-contradictory.  You can't say people who think they're right shouldn't push it on others, but if you know you're right, that's different.

As an agnostic, how much sympathy do you have for the idea that a dedication to secularism and science is something that should be proselytised as fiercely as possible?

I don't think it's at all a good idea to start tearing people's belief systems away from them. What are they left with? How will that lead to a stable society? Offering people what you consider enlightenment would be OK, I guess.

But how do you draw the line between enlightening others and pushing your views on them?

You teach those who want to be taught.

Is it more fun hanging out with the Astartes, or the remembrancers?

I'm not sure either is better. You need them both. That human perspective is vital, particularly since it looks like Garviel is going to need to explore his human side.  I think the remembrancers are going to be important there.  So I guess I don't mind who we're with as long as it keeps changing. You know, up to a limit.  I don't want this going all Martinesque, with a new character every ten minutes, all of whom die.

Do you subscribe to Ignace Karkasy's theory that a culture's worthiness to survive is directly proportional to the quality of its booze?

No. Well, not really.  It's too down to individual tastes, isn't it?  We're never going to agree on good booze quality.

What?  What about champagne?  Created for us by that proud martial race; the French?

Yeah, but hampagne is fucking horrible.

...A point well made.  Maybe we should limit the scope of the question: what booze could we point to if we wanted to justify Britain's survival?

God, I don't know.  Cider, maybe, but that's hardly to everyone's tastes, is it?  Mead?

We should credit that one to the mighty Vikings, really. What about ale?

The Germans do better beer.

If you like lager, maybe, but-

And what about the Chinese.  Do they even drink anything?

Not that I know of.  Maybe that's why they developed as a culture so quickly.  Or maybe they were just off their tits on opium the whole time.

This is becoming awkwardly racist.
And what about the Mongols?  They spent all their time quaffing fermented yak's milk, and they had the greatest contiguous empire in human history.  Though maybe they were just so sick of getting pissed on sour milk they were invading every pub they could find in Christendom.

Yeah, this really isn't helping.

At least we haven't had a pop at the Americans.  Every alcoholic drink they make is awful.

What about California wine?

OK, the wine is great.  But when are California going to invade anyone?  How does one weaponise a surfboard?

Schwarzenegger looked like he was happy to have a pop at someone. 

Fair point.

What Will Be

Now that you've learnt the fleet is engaged in bringing what they see as enlightened atheism to the masses, have you changed your mind on where you see this going?

Well, they say it's atheism, but given they keep talking about the Emperor and Horus like they're gods, it's not clear what difference that makes.  They even say things like "Oh, the Emperor" and "By Terra".  That's just substituting new words in for "Oh God!".  They're still spreading a religious message; they're just pretending not to.  It's all still "You have to believe in the Emperor".  Kindermann even tells Loken that he should do things just because the Emperor tells him.

You mentioned in our discussion of chapter 1 that you thought trouble would end up brewing between Garviel and Abaddon.  How's that theory shaping up?

If this was a fantasy novel (Fliss' usual genre of choice), I'd say it was shaping up perfectly. Kindermann has told Loken questioning orders is a good thing, so it's obviously being set up for him to question too much.  Possibly with Oliton's help, who may or may not teach him how to love.

I thought chapter 2 made it clear that the Astartes don't have that kind of drive.

Yeah, but if he's exploring his human side, who knows?  Maybe that's why the remembrancers are in the story; they're going to help Garviel work out how to be human.