Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Horus Rising: The Gallery

Since I couldn't seem to find any picture of the Kinebrach on the web, I asked my very talented sister to draw me one so this 'ere blog could claim to be the first place where such a picture exists.  Behold!

Copyright Jill Crossman
You'll notice this example of the species has longer hair than the Kinebrach warriors the interex brought onboard the Vengeful Spirit, but then this is clearly a youthful member of the species; full of innocence and naivety. All it really wants to do is smoke two doobies in its three lips and order out for some alien pizza.

(This isn't the best quality version of my sister's picture, but she had "technical issues" - by which I mean she dropped a pot plant on her laptop - so this is the best version I currently have.  The actual sketch should arrive from Canada at the weekend).

Merry Christmas to you all.  Don't forget to come back for the start of False Gods on New Year's Day.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Infinities Of Reflection (Last Words On Horus Rising)

(As mentioned last week, Fliss is busy skipping through fields of autumn flowers now she's been temporarily released from the nightmare future of the 31st Millennium.  With the place to myself for the next fortnight, this seems like a sensible time to offer some general thoughts on Horus Rising as a whole.)

Mirrors are awful things. All they do is sit there and accurately reflect the hideousness of the world onto anyone unlucky enough to glance their way. They're horrible.

And yet somehow we feel compelled to seek them out. I'm as vain as the next overweight balding thirty-three year old. I shouldn't need an unusually shiny static surface to daily remind me of the orientation of my features - the basic set-up I've been staring at for three decades, and the changes over the years have been pretty much uniformly negative - but somehow, there I stand every morning, attempting to tease what remains of my hair into some semblance of order, trying to keep my eyeline high enough to not take in my spreading gut.

It would be enough to make any rational observer weep, which is why self-deception is so important when we find ourselves staring back at us.  Too much honesty is bad for the soul. Of course, too little honesty is just as corrosive, and oftentimes not simply to oneself. One should be particularly cautious with mirrors that themselves are less than truthful.

Horus Rising is a book deeply involved with mirrors. More particularly, with distorted and mistaken reflections, and whether people focus on the differences or the similarities. When Loken stares at the moon the Mournival have pressed into service as a replacement for Luna, he looks not at it directly, but through a pool of water.  A distorted image of a counterfeit object. Torgaddon assures us such variation is of no consequence for the purposes of their initiation, and perhaps he is correct, for all that flaws in the in the approach of the Mournival brought about so much, well, chaos.

Other differences are more pronounced, both for characters and for the reader. The initial attack on High City, for example, is quite deliberately structured to involve Horus attacking a world calling itself Terra and ruled by a false Emperor that he then saves the day by destroying. A mirror, in other words, of what Horus will eventually come to believe he is doing.  The implication here is hardly subtle: many of those who choose to follow Horus in the schism that approaches will do so for no worse reason than believing the Warmaster was as right the second time as he was the first.

This has enormous repercussions for those who would consider the loyalist Space Marines out and out heroes. Bred for war, incapable of fear, one cannot truly view the Astartes unswerving devotion to war for what they believe a just cause as some great virtue. One might as well praise a shark for swimming and for killing. It is not clear how one can celebrate the defeat of Sixty-Three Nineteen yet pour scorn on those that broke from the Imperium at Davin - or rather we can, but only because our villains were so good as to birth their new order in deliberate acts of mass murder (that said, it's always easy to argue honour binds us to the rules of war when those rules will almost inevitably hand you victory).

There are, I think, very broadly speaking, two types of people who identify with the Imperial forces in the 40K universe. There are those who appreciate the Space Marines despite their bloodthirsty, fanatical devotion to murdering anyone they consider anything less than pure, and those that appreciate them because of it. I can't speak as to which camp Abnett himself belongs to, but Horus Rising certainly asks the kind of question you would expect the former group to raise. Whilst the book encourages us to see the reflection of the Siege of Terra in this minor skirmish in the end days of the Great Crusade, it also demonstrates how completely the Luna Wolves fail to see their own image cast back at them. A people zealously devoted to their Emperor to the point where suggesting another human authority might exist is an immediate death sentence?  That no-one draws the obvious conclusion is remarkable.

Of course, it isn't hard to understand why: the iterators in general and Kyril Sindermann in particular exist for the sole purpose of ensuring that link is never made. These people believe they must be right.  But they cannot be right, because they disagree with us.  And we know we're right. Therefore they can only think themselves correct, and we all know how thoughts can be wrong.

Whatever the uses of this strategy for maintaining morale and cohesion during wartime, Sindermann's efforts ultimately did nothing but cause the one weakness of the Luna Wolves to fester in darkness. By insisting the Emperor was always correct, and that Horus was the mirror of the Emperor - distorted, yes, but not in ways that meant any more than the variations in planets' satellites - the iterators both ensured utter devotion to two contradictory thoughts, and ensured those thinking them could never possibly realise that fact.

It is not a pretty picture. Fanatics so fanatical they pour scorn on other fanatics for not being fanatical enough.  Soldiers boundlessly proud of the fact that they cannot even conceive of questioning orders.  Such breathtaking hubris may not be of any real consequence while the pool is still and the reflection of the moon still looks more or less like the moon itself. But then Garviel Loken finds himself amongst the glittering bottles of a chaos fane.

A reflection in a limpid pool is singular, faithful, easily decipherable.  A reflection in a half-full bottle made from low-grade glass is fractured and fuzzy. It moves in ways you do not expect. The glistening droplets that coat the outside invert and distort your image until you cannot recognise yourself.  Loken is surrounded by these torn, mocking fragments of himself when Xavyer Jubal turns his heels and attacks.

When Jubal falls to the lure of Samus, he becomes one more fractured reflection in the tunnels beneath the Whisperheads.  His identity shatters, taking his mind and much of Loken's worldview with it. Surrounded by the chaos of war and the chaos of reflection, and staring at Chaos itself where once stood a comrade in arms of unquestionable loyalty, Loken had every opportunity to recognise himself and every other Astartes in the horror that claimed Jubal - once the life-or-death struggle had come to an end, at least.  Instead, inspired by the equally wilful blindness of his Primarch, Loken chooses to see only the differences in Jubal's broken reflection of the Luna Wolves, not the similarities.  Perhaps Loken is simply more concerned with convincing himself he can never become Jubal than he is in discovering how Jubal became Jubal. We all lie to ourselves when looking in the mirror.  Got to get through another day somehow.

The Deceived, then, is essentially an exercise in watching prideful men use that pride as a vehicle by which they may drive past the point at great speeds and distances.  You can feel the accumulated weight of the mistakes borne of cupidity threatening to topple the narrative over.  It's almost a shame that this is then shoved to the corner whilst the Luna Wolves deal with the situation on Murder.

It's not that I don't understand what Brotherhood in Spiderland is doing, or that it isn't doing its part to feed into the more general narrative.  I mean, if you want to spend some time watching Astartes tussle with the 30K analogue to Tyranids - with added storm spells and Simmons-esque death trees - then I wouldn't dream of holding that against you. But there's more going on here. Whilst in the first part of the novel the hierarchy of the false Terra reflected the intransigent mindset of the Astartes, the second reflects back their obsession with genocide.

In itself, there's nothing to object to here. It's one more facet of the Space Marines to explore, and one more indication as to where everything will eventually go wrong. If The Deceived reminds us that the Astartes are dangerous fanatics who can only be labelled heroes because the forces arrayed against them are so horrific, Brotherhood in Spiderland reminds us of that horror.

So what is my problem here?  Partially, it's a question of timing.  The kind of genocidal war the Imperium finds itself embroiled in might underscore the problematic approach of the Astartes in general, but the sheer viciousness of the Megarachnids makes that dedication to extermination defensible. Remember, there are two types of Space Marine fans; those that can accept their excesses, and those that actively enjoy them.  Both these groups would find little objectionable in the war on Murder.  But the first section of the novel has already made an effort to split those two groups, and The Dreadful Sagittary will push them apart still further. Placing almost the closest thing possible to a justifiable war (it doesn't quite qualify, since the Imperium is capable of simply bypassing Murder entirely) in between the two seems like a stumble in the narrative. It might have been preferable to start here, where the Astartes have their most defensible reason for hostility, and then bring in the shades of grey later.

Of course, doing that would mean losing an opening that mirrors the close of the entire Heresy, which is a wonderful slice of circular narrative that I am entirely in favour of, so perhaps here we have the lesser of two evils.  That said, the problem we have here is no less real for the most obvious solution causing its own issues.  If nothing else, moving the caster of reflections from the Luna Wolves to the Emperor's Children dilutes the narrative somewhat. Yes, we gain something as well by allowing the two Legions to see their reflections in each other, but we learn too little of the III Legion to justify sidelining the building complications with the XVI.  In the final analysis, Brotherhood in Spiderland is far from a failure, but it feels like a short story sandwiched between two halves of a novel, which is a shame.

By the time we reach The Dreadful Sagittary, we are back to the central theme, which is just as well, because we are also running out of time. There's a sense of a dash to the finish line here, possibly as an attempt to jump-start the escalation after seven chapters dallying on Murder.  The result is a denouement that feels breathless and rushed, though I confess I can't see how padding the section out would help in this regard - any tinkering that might improve things here would probably have to take place in amongst the Megarachnids.

There my complaining ends, however, because the third and final part of Horus Rising completes the series of distorted reflections. At Sixty-Three Nineteen, we saw a twisted image of the Astartes philosophy. On Murder, it was their approach. Finally, here in interex space, we come across a reflection of the Legions' aims.

With thirty or more systems living in harmony, and all alien threats neutralised (one way or another) the interex is, if a little on the petite size, essentially represents a model of how the primary goal of the Imperium: a united and secure humanity. And yet when they come across such a society, not only safe but free from the endless war which carving out the Imperium seems to require, the first instinct of almost every Astartes present is to try and smash the mirror.

Why does this matter? Because by this insistence, we finally understand what a Space Marine sees when they look in the mirror. Not a warrior tasked to protect humanity at all costs, but a flawed image of the Emperor himself.  Of Horus himself.  Every part of the tragedy that follows stems from this simple fact: there was nothing the Astartes desired more than to have someone to emulate through slavish, thoughtless devotion. When the pool was still, the image was clear, and all was well.  But throw a stone into that pool, maybe even a small one, and the images begin so separate. Devotion to the Emperor and devotion to the Primarch no longer look like the same thing.

When the image you see in the mirror becomes unbearable, when the reflection no longer matches what your soul tells you you are, there's not really much more you can do than break it, especially when its reflecting a past you no longer wish to lay claim to.  For some, smashing the mirror itself isn't enough; you have to grind the shards to powder. Two centuries of inflexibility and unhampered aggression have conspired to create a mindset whereby no arrangement can be wonderful enough to not need tearing down if it hasn't been created at the whim of the right personality. Against such obsession, not even the past can stand.

Niggles notwithstanding, it would be hard to imagine a more thorough way to set the stage for the explosion soon to come. Indeed, the one irredeemable flaw here is that the build-up to the conflagration ultimately proves more interesting than the inferno itself.

Not that this is Abnett's fault, of course.  With False Gods, we'll start working out exactly where the blame does lie.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Horus Falling

Horus Rising: The Dreadful Sagittary (IV)

The stealer and the stolen (copyright unknown)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

At last we find ourselves, twenty weeks after our first broadcast, concluding the tale of Horus' rise. At least, such is how it is always described. One could be forgiven, perhaps, for asking why.

There are only three campaigns Horus prosecuted whilst both Warmaster and a loyalist. In the first, he lost a member of his Mournival and saw one of his sergeants suffer the earliest case of daemonic possession of an Astartes outside the Word Bearers Legion, a development which resulted in no obvious change of operational procedure; all to capture a single human world of no noticeable strategic value. In the second, Horus committed a significant portion of his Legion to exterminating an alien species later found to be incapable of leaving their world, ultimately without either ridding Murder of the Megarachnids or securing the planet for Imperial use. And in the third, Horus allowed himself to be tied up in diplomatic games for weeks before losing several Astartes in a sudden attack which came perilously close to seeing him captured or even killed.

Our point here is not that Horus made obvious mistakes in any of those situations. Indeed, Horus judged himself far more harshly here than we are inclined to. What is important here is not the degree to which the Warmaster can be blamed for his failures, but that all those around him insisted that his star was unquestionably ascendant. The reality of course is that Horus was already falling, albeit on the most gradual on inclines relative to the cliff's edge that awaited him at Davin.  The irony here is notable: the whole of Imperial society assumed Horus was rising, because that was simply what should have happened next in the story of the Emperor's first-found and favourite son, but in fact all that was rising in Horus was his willingness to question that very narrative.

We arrive at one more tragedy in a tale already heavy and stinking with them. From the moment Horus gained his new title, it would not his pride at being Warmaster in name that brought him low, but his guilt at failing to be Warmaster in fact, at least in his own judgement.  His feelings of abandonment already rankled, to be sure, but what pushed them to the forefront was his guilt over his own failings. 

The human mind finds it almost impossible to process guilt. There exists no mechanism by which it can be safely decanted. It can only be ignored, relived or converted into other forms. Almost invariably, people take that third route, it being the only way to clear a dataslate otherwise filled to capacity with feelings of horrific, blinding inadequacy. They transmute their guilt into the most readily available alternative to be found, anger. Why feel guilty for having failed someone, after all, when you can be furious with them for having put you in a position to seemingly fail?

Nowhere is this process more obvious than with children and their parents.  Apparently, in the final analysis, Horus shared more with the humanity he once swore to protect than anyone imagined. He felt he'd failed his father, he became angry at the idea, directed that anger back at the Emperor, and the rest is tragic, bloody history. Rising from the shadow of your father is impossible when you don't insist on dragging that shadow forwards with you, blaming him every step of the way for the fact you remain in darkness.  Otherwise, in the inky blackness of your self-imposed inferiority, it is all too easy to lose your way.

Especially when others lurk in the darkness, waiting for their chance to strike.


A change in format this week, both because we're now at long last at the end of Horus Rising, and because a four page coda doesn't really give us much to work with.

1. Ooh! Erebus is the thief!  What's going on there, then?

Well, he's from the Word Bearers, who from their name are presumably directly responsible for upholding the Emperor's edicts.  Erebus must have hated the Kinebrach even more than Abaddon, because he's even more invested in what the Emperor says. Maybe that's reached the point where the Word Bearers have signed up to the idea of the Emperor being a god.

In retrospect, it's a bit suspicious that Erebus, who's described both as very reasonable and charming and as being essentially equivalent to Abaddon in rank didn't put any effort into befriending the interex. Though I suppose that might just have been Horus ordering everyone to keep quiet out of concern Abaddon would say something stupid.

None of this explains stealing the sword, though.

Given the way he's described in the last chapter - very much a Gollum kind of a deal - it wouldn't surprise me if he'd been infected by the Warp.

Is there anything specific he has in mind, though?

Oh, it's the cursed sword, isn't it?  Maybe he's stolen it for the Warrior Lodge, that's certainly suspicious.  Perhaps his Legion has had their own "Whisperheads moments" already? Or is he in the Emperor's Cult?

Wouldn't they hate the idea of cursed swords?

Fair point.  The question is who he plans on using it.

Yes, it probably is.

There's two obvious potential targets here: Horus and the Emperor. Though if it's Horus, I don't know why he hasn't attacked already.  Maybe it's too hard on board the ship whilst Horus is surrounded by his "sons".

That, or it would be really shit to kill the title character in the last four pages of the book.

Seen it happen. Talk to Cecilia Dart-Thornton. Maybe she'll apologise again.

2. How well does the title of the novel fit with the events it depicts?

Well, I don't know. Sixty Three Nineteen was his first campaign, wasn't it?

First as Warmaster, yes.

So it started with a win, and somehow he's managed to start getting requests for help from people who never used to, despite not having done anything new for them.  That's about as far as his rising seems to have gone.

Unless it means "rising" in the sense of becoming increasingly able to question what's going on around him.  He's getting more and more willing to think outside of what he's being told to do.

Is that really doing any good, though?  All we've gotten out of the deal is Erebus running around with a cursed sword.

We won't really know what we've gotten until the next book, though, will we?  Anyway, that's the only way I can think of that Horus has risen. Really this is the story of Loken rising.  And the remembrancers, I guess, since now at least some people seem to have a bit of respect for what it is their supposed to be doing.  Tarvitz might be on the rise as well, though possibly not in his own Legion.

3.  Time to mark the book.  I figured we'd have a brief chat about three aspects of the action, and then get you to mark them out of ten.  Then you can give us your overall mark for Horus Rising.

a) Plot

I found it quite bitty, which makes sense given the structure of the book, but the link between the parts seems quite tenuous.  There didn't seem any obvious reason why the Emperor's Children were on Murder, too.

I think you needed someone there so you get an idea of how other Legions might view the Luna Wolves.

Though I'm not sure how well that came across anyway. I really liked the build-up to the spiders, but the execution let them down a bit. They could have done something more more interesting with them.

I don't know.  In themselves there weren't spectacularly original, perhaps, but I loved the idea of the murder trees. It was quite reminiscent of the Shrike from Dan Simmon's Hyperion, which can't be a bad thing.  Were there any bits of the bits that you did enjoy?

I'm enjoying the way things are being built up. The interactions and politics of the Mournival and Horus are definitely interesting. There's a lot of unanswered questions, though, so a lot depends on how things develop.


b)  Characters

It's interesting how many of the main characters we seem to end up knowing so little about.  Abaddon, for example; there must be a lot going on in there that we're not seeing. But then that's probably deliberate given how the Luna Wolves are.

I like Loken, which is just as well.  Karkasy is interesting as well.  Mersadie I wasn't so big a fan of.


Er... (struggles for words) she's quite... sneakative.


Sindermann is interesting; I can see how he could lead to some interesting dynamics.

What about the Big Dog himself?


From context we'll assume I'm not talking about Bill Clinton.

He's clearly hiding an awful lot.  There's possibly a lot of intrigue there.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I like him, or find him tremendously gripping, but he'll do. 

What about Lucius and Eidolon?  Love to hate? Or just love to wish weren't in the book?

Depends if more people punch them in the face multiple times. It's very cathartic.  You need irritating characters in books, so you've something to compare the good guys to.

I also want it known that it bothered me how the writing kept switching between people's first names and their surnames.  There's too many characters with hard-to-remember names for that to work.

* This is a lie


c) Setting

I wasn't a fan in general. Some things just got sketched over. Like the ship. There wasn't enough there for me to get a handle on it, which is a problem for the only location that stays more or less constant over the novel. High City got short shrift, too. Other than the rotating towers and the slums - which I guess were well-described, just not at all fun to visit. Murder had some good ideas involved, but as a location it was a bit barren.

I thought it spent too much time focused on the dismissive attitude of the fleet to people, too, flying through space pouring scorn on anyone who doesn't agree with them. That got old pretty quickly. Um, this is all getting a bit negative, I think.

How about you give us your three favourite ideas from the setting; end the book on a positive. We might not be able to do that too often, actually.

Um, OK. Third is the idea of a weapons museum.  Humanity goes to space, we get separated as a species, and what's the first thing we do when we get back together? Check out each other's weapons.

Second can be the Murder Trees, I think.  It's just such a cool concept. The shield-storm idea, rather than the stabbing-people-and-eating-them angle. And it makes me wonder why the interex didn't take it from the arachnids. Maybe they just couldn't understand how.

First is the fight under the waterfall surrounded all those empty bottles. It was phenomenally described. Kind of confusing in places, though that's what the arrival of this completely unexpected event needed.




That's it for chapter analysis this year, folks.  Fliss is taking a well-deserved break from the Heresy over Christmas, though I'm hoping to have something up on the 18th and on Christmas Day for you all.  The blow-by-blow account of my girlfriend's journey into the 31st Millennium will resume on New Year's Day with the first chapter of Graham McNeill's False Gods.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Numbers Of The Beasts

Horus Rising: The Dreadful Sagittary (III)

Ten thousand years after the Horus Heresy, a Red Corsairs Chaos Lord models
the alien weapon that caused all the trouble in the first place (copyright me)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

There was once, upon Old Terra almost forty thousand years ago, a group of intellectuals dedicated to the concept of chaos numbers.

The casualness with which these men and women named their discipline reflects the frightening naivete of humanity at the time. To them the term implied nothing sinister; they considered chaos simply a facet of the universe, no more evil and seductive than acceleration, or gravity.  Despite their complete ignorance of the truth, however, the name they gave to their field is not entirely inappropriate.

Put in its most basic terms, the first theory of chaos numbers is that there are some processes in our reality which are simply too complicated to predict.  Not complicated in the sense of being too hard to understand their principles, but in the sense of there being so many contributions and interactions within and alongside them, each causing so many changes to whole with the slightest change to itself, that we simply lack the raw processing power to sufficiently model the phenomenon. This is sometimes summarised as the flitterfly effect.  It is not that a flitterfly flapping its wings on one side of Macragge causes a storm on the other, but that the millions of interactions that combine to generate the weather are so numerous and so phenomenally sensitive to change that it would take only the motion of a flitterfly wing to change events beyond our ability to predict them.

The second theory of chaos numbers is this: as above, so below. There is no quantitative difference between the mountains of the Khum Karta range seen from twenty kilometres away and the tips of those mountains' peaks viewed at close range under the strongest magnification possible. The very fact of chaos' reliability to be chaotic causes baffling fractal patterns at all levels of reality.  It is here that chaos becomes Chaos.  The temptations of Chaos lie deep within us, however much we might deny it.  It takes but a single careless moment for us to be utterly lost.  And from that single moment within a single soul, ripples expand, colliding with events around them, changing the world.  The flitterfly flaps its wings and the storms of war are unleashed.

A father rebukes his son, and Lorgar is lost to Chaos. An Astartes steals a sword, and the galaxy is torn asunder. A fractal pattern of betrayal. We can point to how easily it all could have been averted - if only Erebus had arrived too late, or the interex had not wasted so much time keeping Horus at arm's length - but such suggestions counter only the specifics, not the underlying concern. We have spoken before of our belief that the Heresy was inevitable in some shape or form; those that studied chaos numbers would have considered it a mathematical certainty. Some systems quite simply lie outside our ability to control.  A ruler may fool themselves into believing they are all-powerful; their armies unstoppable, their enemies battered into helplessness by their might. Societies can be created that seemingly neuter all effective resistance, or even the thought of such resistance.  But for all the brute force on display, these systems simply respond to those ripples which break the surface. Underneath lie endlessly complicated patterns of shifting circumstances and effects.  We cannot predict what we cannot understand is happening, and it is in those things we cannot understand that everything truly important takes place.

It is in these dark, empty places where Chaos finds its greatest advantage. We cannot best it without understanding it, but understanding is impossible. Worse, attempting to understand can serve Chaos itself, because it is in thinking we can comprehend and plan for chaos that we leave ourselves most vulnerable. Our hubris is our downfall.

We knew that, of course. We might lament the interex's failure to enlighten Horus on the true threat humanity faces in this universe, but it is not hard to understand their fear they were already too late.  Nothing feeds Chaos so effectively as war.  Not just the rivers of blood in which Khornate daemons bathe. Every alliance betrayed and general outwitted is grist for the mills of Tzeentch. With war come pestilence enough to sate Father Nurgle.  Even the loathsomely beautiful face of Slaanesh must shine with pleasure to see each debauched victory celebration and each city sacked by adrenaline-crazed soldiers treating enemy citizens in ways best left unconsidered. Our warlike nature damned us to be devotees to chaos before we had any idea what that meant.

Because somehow, we have persuaded ourselves that war is the only instrument of control. Because we refuse to seee how each new attack and each new front generates its own new set of ripples; ranks of fractal teeth that grow and spin and ensnare all that surround them. In the Great Crusade we used chaos to fight chaos. Five hundred generations later, we use chaos to fight both chaos and Chaos, all in the name of imposing order above all. One might just as well try to build a house from flames.

Still we continue. And dark and terrible gods grow fat with power in the space we cannot see, and where all the numbers are against us.

Places where Horus is soon to walk, and so damn us all.


What Was

Apparently the interex has spent an awfully long time concerned about this issue of Kaos. What do you think it is, and how does it tie in to discoveries and theories from earlier in the book?

Well, they've said it's something from the Warp.  Maybe it's nothing more than something which drives you mad, though since they're worried Horus brought it with them it might be some kind of plague. Clearly it drives people mad so that they start killing everyone who's even a little bit different to them.



Oh. I thought you were making an hilarious joke about how that's what the Imperium does anyway.

That was my point, yes.  I just don't think it qualifies as satire.

Well, let's not quibble. What about Tull's comments about "Warmaster" being a potential signifier of "kaos"?

It's probably all a piece with the general bloodthirstiness of the Astartes.  Why would the Emperor name Horus 'Warmaster' whilst warning him to watch out for the Warp - which I still don't quite understand yet, by the way - over all other things?  Is it supposed to be a title of defiance? If you're worried about this sort of stuff, shouldn't Abaddon and Maloghurst constantly insisting that the interex be wiped out be ringing alarm bells?

How, as Warmaster, can you tell when your troops have gone too far?  Or is that what the iterators are for?

I'm not sure they could do an awful lot about it anyway.

They could flag things up to Horus, I suppose. Though it's not like Sindermann knows what's going on with the Warp, I suppose.

I'm not sure anyone else does, except maybe the other Primarchs.

Surely not.  That's a recipe for disaster.  They'd all contanstly be watching for signs of kaos in Horus. They'd never leave him alone.

What Is

This is effectively the book's finale, with just a four page epilogue to go.  How successfully did it tie things together for you, and was the Battle of Xenobia impressive enough for you?

I think Loken made a big mistake, there.  Why not give over his weapon?  It's not like he needs it to defend Horus.

I think it probably helps.

Yeah, but you're just guaranteeing the worst possible outcome.  I liked the difference in the way Loken and Tull fight. Aside from all the crazy weapons, the battle here seems reminiscent of the fight in High City; Loken travelling through the battle, coming across unexpected foes, whether they be invisible or centaurs.  There's clearly been some kind of misunderstanding; starting a war just because a museum burns to the ground.  It's a bit OTT, even for people who are as fond of their museums as these people are.

Did it work as a action-packed finale, then?

It came out of nowhere a bit, was the problem.  It didn't build up.  Everything just suddenly goes wrong.  And it's clearly set up for the next book.

Yeah, but plenty of ongoing series take pains to end books with a big explosive ending.  Like how George R R Martin used to do.

The interaction between Loken and Tull was quite nice; it seems like that was the first time the Astartes had gotten anywhere with the interex, which makes the fact that it all goes to crap just so... I mean, what were the rest of them doing for three weeks?  Why didn't they get anywhere?

I think the idea there is that three weeks of Horus and Naud sparring and surreptitiously checking each other out for Chaos has gotten them nowhere, and Loken just blindly stumbles into the solution because he doesn't know any better.  Or at least, he would have.  Speaking of which...

Who, if anyone, started the fire?

It can't be Horus or Loken.

Thanks for that.

You're going to disagree with me?

No, I guess I was just hoping you'd, you know, put some effort in.

Well get ready, then! Prepare for my hypothesis!

This is something I have to brace myself, now?

Yes! This hypothesis will blow your mind!  It was: Erebus!  Acting under the orders of Sagittarius!


I mean Sanguinius!  Erebus did it because Sanguinius told him to.  How convenient the Primarch has "left the system".  And Erebus got really fighty really quick.  Maybe Chaos has got to him.  Abaddon could have done it to start the war he's clearly desperate for. Sindermann might have done it because he hates how the interex talks about the curses of their weapons.  The Kinebrach might be making a bid for freedom.  The eldar might be causing trouble, whoever the hell the eldar are.

You're a big fan of reading. Would you like a device that holds books open and you can flick through by touching the air in front of it? And would you prefer it to a Kindle?

It'd be kind of cool.  Like looking at books in museums, except that your not forced to read just whatever page they've decided you can see.  A good way to avoid sweat damage. It might be noisy at night, though.

You mean the humming?

I mean whatever mechanisms are involved in turning the pages.  You might find it tough to sleep if I'm using it.

I wasn't really suggesting you bring it to bed.

It would be better than a Kindle, because you'd get the smell of the book.  I'd worry about RSI from all the flapping around, though.  Still, on balance, I think it's a good thing. Begin working on the technology immediately.

What Will Be

What's next for the Imperium's relations with the interex now so many people are dead?

Now that both sides have overreacted so much, I don't see how there's any way back.  They can't just apologise and move on. About the only way I can see things working out is if they find and decapitate the arsonist.  Or maybe the Emperor could sort things out.  It's weird that Tull was so focussed on Horus and not the Emperor, now I think about it.

I guess this far out, Horus is the only game in town.

It still seems like they've been underplaying him.