Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Entropy Defence

False Gods: Plague Moon (III)

Eugan Temba (copyright RedElf at WH40Kart)
Welcome, citizens, to the truth.

Deep inside the rusting, broken corpse of the Glory of Terra, Horus Lupercal at long last hears the question we have been building to since we first met him in orbit around Sixty-Three Nineteen: will he willingly join the forces of Chaos in exchange for almost limitless power.

Horus says no.

For a great many of you, citizens, this must have come as a surprise.  What else do most of us know about the Warmaster, after all, other than that he betrayed the Emperor by embracing the Warp?  And it is more than that.  Horus does not accept Chaos through a failure to understand it.  He rejects it precisely because he does understand. Not fully; not yet. But he knows enough, knows that the path to Chaos is shortest through anger, and arrogance, and bitterness.

Which is true, of course, but it is also in an important sense incomplete. After all, Horus does fall to Chaos. Partially that is because he fails to entirely heed his own knowledge in the face of temptation, but there is a larger problem, one that stems from a lack of comprehension as to what the various routes to damnation have in common.

When the Ecclesiarchy spouts its sermons to the masses, even though Chaos is never mentioned as such, variations on the Emperor's warning to Horus are endlessly played out. Do not allow yourself to be angry at your fellow man. Feel no bitterness over those things you lack and others have. Never allow the skills and responsibilities the Emperor has granted you swell your self-image.  It is possible all of this is entirely sound advice - though as usual those who call loudest for accepting one's suffering are those that suffer least - and certainly failing to follow it can leave you at the mercy of the Empyrean's horrors.

What these sermons overlook, however, is that all the behaviour we are warned against in the struggle against Chaos stems from a single source: the inability to connect with our fellow man.

It is not anger that leads us to the Warp, it is the decision that we alone can act as the instrument of vengeance.  It is not bitterness that one is denied what others take for granted, it is the conclusion that we deserve all of what others have, rather than considering a more equitable system. Our pride in our ability to contribute to the Imperium becomes a danger only when we make the leap to assuming we deserve more than we have received as a result.

In short, the dangers of Chaos stalk us when we lose interest in the effects of our actions on others, when we become so consumed by our own thoughts and viewpoints that no conflicting information can be allowed to penetrate. So long as one remains rooted in empathy, one is safe.

At first glance, that might seem too broad a statement. Could you not argue, after all, that it was Horus' love for the Imperium that ultimately brought him low?  For sure, his resentment over his "abandonment" by his father - an almost pure expression of self-obsession, by the way - helped him along, but it was his fear that humanity would fall should he not act which provided the greatest push?

The answer to this, in fact, yes, but that you are not proving what you think you're proving as a result. Horus deeply desired to be the saviour of the Imperium, but that desire was utterly divorced from any consideration for the billions of billions that resided there.  Perhaps one can make the argument that empathy does not preclude cold calculations about who must die in order that many more can be saved.  That isn't what Horus did.  The butchery of the remembrancers, the murder of Istvaan III; saving lives held no interest for Horus after Davin.  The Imperium was not a civilisation to be saved, but a bone to be fought over and a prize to be prised from its former owner's grasp. Horus' mistake was not in coming to see the Emperor as a tyrant - indeed, that conclusion is perhaps not so much erroneous as overdue - but as the wrong tyrant for the job.

So did the Warmaster surrender his humanity. So did the unification of mankind become detached from man, and woman, and child.

We end this entry with Horus collapsed, his shoulder wound refusing to close around the splinters of the Anathame's curse.  One can only wonder how the galaxy might look now had he never risen again.


What Was

There's a sliver of new information in this chapter about the Primarchs, a reference to Horus having his martial skill "bred into him" by the Emperor.  How is your conception of these demigods progressing? How does this fit in with the Emperor finding Horus as a child?

Well, presumably he's been super-genhanced. That's what it must mean.  The Emperor didn't literally breed him.

Why not?

Because he can't be the Emperor's actual child.  Why would he wait until he was "found" to get to work?  I guess it's still unclear, is what I'm saying.

But if that's true, why does the Emperor have Primarchs and Astartes?  Why not make them all into Primarchs?  Make them all supremely awesome, rather than middling milquetoast awesome?

Because if everyone had the same abilities as Horus, they could overthrow the Emperor.  They'd be forever questioning orders.  This way, the ones who are the real threat are placated by having their Legions to run, which then keeps them too busy to start plotting.

What Is

I remember you saying that the duel between Loken and Jubal was one of your highlights from the last book.  Did Horus vs Temba have a similar effect?

Not particularly, I'm afraid.

Why's that, do you think?

I think it's because it's all swordplay - to the extent Horus feels like all he's fighting is  a sword.  And the snapping of Temba's ankles just came out of nowhere.

I really liked that idea; that he's so bloated he can't carry his own weight, and so powerful he doesn't even care.

Which is fine, but there wasn't really a build up.  I mean, I got that he was fat, but not that massive.  It's something you have to pin down, I think.  I also wish Horus fought a bit more dirty; like Loken against Lucien (Lucius). If that's how the Luna Wolves fight, let's see it with Horus!  Why did it take him so long to chop Temba's arm off?

I don't think that was deliberate. He didn't see an earlier chance to dismember Temba and think "Well, I could turn this bloke into a one-armed bandit, but it'd feel a bit too far from Queensbury rules."

Aren't guts quite slippery?

I can safely say I haven't a clue.

But you see it all the time in films!

I've seen films where people turn into flies. Worse, I've seen films where pretty women are attracted to Adam Sandler. 

"Do your guts hangle low, do they wobble to and fro?"

I think that's number 27 in the Common Hymn Book of Nurgh-Leth.

We learn a lot in this chapter about how Warp possession works, and what makes people susceptible to it.  If indeed it does tend to strike at people through anger and jealousy, what problems might that generate for our protagonists?

Well I did wonder about Horus.  He's certainly been made very angry. But then it was mentioned that the Warp asks you before it takes you, and he's already said no. I think Erebus has been taken, and was trying to get Horus angry enough for him to get taken too. Though that's a stupid plan; make someone so angry at someone who turns out to have said "yes" to the Warp that they'll sign up too?

I don't think much for Abaddon's chances, though.  I see a split coming; Loken and Torgaddon on one side and Abaddon and Aximand on the other.  Though I confess I'm not sure about Aximand.  He doesn't really seem to do much, does he? But they seem to imply he's Abaddon's little lapdog.  Ekaddon might sign up out just out of hatred for Loken.  Qruze too, maybe, though if he's that old, shouldn't he have been tested by now?

I don't think it's as simple as a function of age; it seems to only happen only under certain circumstances.

But would the Warp care about someone like Qruze who no-one listens to anyway? I think Sindermann falls, too; out of anger for having knowledge of the Warp kept from him. And what's happened to Oliton, too? It's a bit suspicious that she's been gone for so long.

Temba has an interesting take on the Emperor's crusade across the galaxy.  How sympathetic are you to his point of view?

I'm on board.  The Emperor is the same as every other emperor in history; he's just going around lopping off the heads of everyone who doesn't agree with him.  Beating them into submission.  Though, to be fair, we haven't heard any reports from worlds after they join the Imperium.

Well, we know that rebellion within the Imperium has been until literally unthinkable; they must be doing something right.

Yeah, but even then.  Even with the worlds that join peacefully, you don't know if that was just because they saw what was coming faster than most.  It's not like you can fight the Astartes with giant hats, can you?

Did Horus' reaction to the death of Temba make sense to you? I remember last time you had problems with Horus seeming to blame Temba for what he did whilst possessed.

His reaction here seemed more in keeping with his character.  I wonder if the fight here gave him a chance to burn off his anger.  It fits in with his regrets about taking worlds by force rather than giving diplomacy more of a chance.

Clearly spotting your former colleague trapped and screaming inside a giant wobble-fleshed pus prison must cause a think too.

Indeed. And if Temba's in that much agony, why doesn't he kill himself?

I presume he's being prevented.

Oh, OK; and it takes the fight to change that.

So is your theory that Jubal was just hallucinating/drugged out the window now?

Yeah, that doesn't work any more. Is Temba's agony something to do with these things being from another dimension? Is it a throwback to when he was first possessed?

Who knows how the dark forces of Chaos operate?

You'll regret saying that.  That can be my response to every question from now on.

What Will Be

Eek! Warmaster down! What are the most likely immediate consequences, here, and how well do you think Erebus' plan is progressing?

Surely, the Warmaster has only fallen over. I find your question suspicious.

You think the next chapter will start with him getting back up and being fine?  That'd suck. Not that there are no writers in this series that couldn't drop the ball that badly.

Silence! I was going somewhere.  I see something suspicious in the fact Petronella ends the chapter with a variation of the sentence "I was there the day the Emperor fell".  Also that Horus' wounds healed almost immediately last chapter, but this sword wound won't repair itself.  That'll help Erebus' plan. Or is it Chaos' plan?

Do you think the Mournival can sneak Horus back to the fleet without anyone seeing he's wounded?

Not with Petronella having seen him.  That might explain Loken's attitude when he sees her. Once she spreads that message as his remembrancer, it could be open season on Horus.

For whom?

Anyone who wants to kill him and/or replace him.

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