|Luna Wolves in action (copyright ilqar)|
When last we broadcast, we discussed the arrogance at the heart of the Astartes Legions, and how that arrogance doomed the Great Crusade to failure long before Horus fell from grace. The transformation of humanity from a collection of living, breathing individuals to be protected into a theoretical construct to be won meant that the theoretical cost to civil war shrunk to almost nothing, and Horus himself bears no more blame for that than any other primarch.
But it is not the primarchs for whom the ultimate blame for this must lie. It is the Emperor himself. We have mentioned already the strange fact that the Astartes remained ignorant of the forces of Chaos for so long despite having been founded on a world from which the Eye of Terror could be seen. This fact alone demonstrates that the Emperor's decision to keep his warriors ignorant of the perils of the Warp was an active decision requiring effort to maintain. Not a lie of omission, in other words, but a purposeful campaign of misinformation.
The problems with this approach are obvious. It's not just the most immediate objection - by definition the Astartes cannot operate in theatres of war beyond the reach and interest of Chaos, which makes encounters ultimately inevitable (a fact which to this day remains the most plausible explanation for the destruction and expunging of the II and XI Legions). It's the idea that the Astartes can be trusted to conquer the galaxy, but not to understand the galaxy. That's a supremely dangerous mode of thinking. At worst it leaves them horribly exposed to manipulation - which, of course, is exactly what happened - but even at best it ensures the aims of the endeavour and the realities will drift further and further apart, as more and more discrete events that cannot be rationalised throw the vector of Imperial truth further and further from its intended direction.
The true degree to which the Emperor erred here we will discuss further when we bring you the truth about the fall of Prospero and Magnus the Red, but the effects of the mistake are already all too clear. We see it in the final assault on the Sixty-Three Nineteen loyalists (and how quickly they found themselves renamed "insurgents") in the Whisperheads. Loken is so determined to seek rational explanations and lecture dying men on the pointlessness of their faith - that nothing can exist but what he already knows to exist - that the arrival of Samus utterly blindsides him.
This would be first time XVI Legion was unprepared to recognise the signs of impeding tragedy. A few months later, it would happen again, and the galaxy would burn as a result.
There's not really much new revealed in this chapter, and with the focus here being what's happened to Jubal and the nature of Samus, we'll skip this section this week.
Who is Samus?
Samus is everywhere. Samus is the person standing right next to you.
I'm so glad you've been paying attention.
Is it a hallucinogenic in the water? They talked about the water a lot, and made a point of the Astartes walking around without their helmets on. Maybe they've inhaled it. That doesn't explain the vox chatter, but maybe that was a previous victim broadcasting. The problem with that idea is that Euphrati is hallucinating Samus' voice. How would she get the idea that it was Samus?
All of this would explain why the locals are so keen on collecting the water from the Whisperheads. They want that to spread the word of God around.
Kind of like Native Americans and peyote, in some sense?
I'm sure we did something similar, until the Christians got here and ruined all our fun.
Yeah, a lifetime of boring inactive mushrooms is all Jesus had to offer us. I could be off my tits on acid at a blood-soaked orgy right now. Hell of a way to spend breakfast, I tell you.
Actually, maybe Janus (Jubal) is using this as an opportunity to get back at Loken for passing him over for command. "It wasn't me, it was Samus."
Reading this chapter again, I was struck by how Abnett seems to be running two genres at the same time. The first, unsurprisingly, is the action set-piece of the Tenth Company Terminators assaulting the insurgent stronghold. How much were you and are you grabbed by this kind of futuristic war action?
Well I do enjoy a good fight scene, but this wasn't all that brilliant. I've read better. But then it wasn't supposed to be much of a fight anyway, given how much the Terminators dramatically overpowered the other team.
So did you prefer the earlier battle scenes, or were you too busy trying to figure out what was going on?
Yeah. I think the problem here is that there's no focus on individuals. The Terminators are described as a group, there's no single perspective to latch onto other than Loken's. It would have been good to see something of the insurgent's panic at their utterly unstoppable attackers.
I see what you mean. It'd be like seeing the whole of the Battle of Hoth from the perspective of General Veers.
If you say so.
The second genre this chapter plays with is horror. The build-up to Samus will be familiar to anyone who's watched a few horror films: the suggestion a place is haunted, the whispers dismissed as pranks until that becomes impossible, and the final reveal of whatever is lurking in the dark. How well did that work for you?
(Fliss pulls a face. It is not the face Dan Abnett would want to be seeing right now.)
No. I just figured it for a battle tactic.
We talked a lot last week about the reasons the remembrancers have been allowed to the surface. A the time, you mentioned Maloghurst, and we discussed whether he had his own agenda in letting them down to the surface. Here we find they've been set down miles from the action. How does that feed into your thinking?
Well, I assume they'll be allowed to see the after-effects of the battle, but that's a problem because they won't see the context and the reasoning. They don't see the field of dead Imperial soldiers that the Astartes can show as reason for the assault. Nor do they see how effective the Astartes in combat.
Plus, maybe the Astartes get bloodlust - or battle lust -
Wolverine's berserker rage?
- whatever. Maybe in battle they'd be unable to tell one human from the other whilst fighting. Or someone else would get to them. Lot of paperwork if you get all your remembrancers killed. 'Ealth and Safety gone mad.
A common theme of both previous chapters and our discussions has been whether the people on Sixty-Three Nineteen could just been left alone with their planet and their religion. Has the fact the insurgents were apparently protecting fanes to the murderous Samus changed your mind?
No. They weren't hurting people. They'd never been heard of before, so they obviously weren't causing a problem out in the universe. And you're always going to get rural areas where religion takes a particular hold od people
Yes, let us not forget the Death Cults of Somerset.
I don't think Somerset is rural enough
Somerset: insufficiently rural. Got it.
Isn't Midsomer there?
Does that have death cults? I would watch Bergerac fighting murderous cultists, I won't lie to you. Moving back on topic, though, what about the effect on their own planet? This weird system of hallucinogenic water and murderous lunatics, or whatever's going on?
All we know was they were collecting water and putting tokens in it. There's no evidence of blood sacrifices, or feeding virgins to dragons. If you chuck money into a wishing well, do you deserve to die? Or be told you're stupid?
There's a hell of a difference between those two responses, you realise.
"You're going to die, there is no afterlife, and you've wasted a penny. Idiot."
What Will Be
With only two chapters left to go in the novel's first part, what do you think lies ahead for Loken, for Samus, and for the remembrancers?
I assume we're going to go back to "where is Mercedes (Mersadie). Presumably they'll have to kill Jubal and deal with the fallout of his rampage. Will Loken start questioning what happened, or will his faith in science be strong enough for him to explain it away? Maybe Euphrati will be the next to go crazy, since she can already hear Samus. But she might not do it until she's back on the ship. She might kill all the iterators, who are so obviously priests no matter what they say. Then everyone will be lost and confused, and they might sod off home and leave the planet alone.