Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Primal Scream

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (V)

What the Astartes saw:
the Eye of Terror (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

The visions of Chaos are a strange phenomenon. It always seems odd (and more than a little ironic) that a force so dedicated to overturning order should spend so much time offering visions of the future. Everything that Horus was shown in the Serpent Lodge on Davin has come to pass.  So too has much of what Loken glimpsed inside the fane of his Primarch, and we should not ignore the fact that there is still time for what remains unconfirmed to ultimately come to pass.

But if Chaos is so dedicated to heedless hedonism, violent overthrow, and the very concept of change itself (depending on which pantheon you're standing closest to), how can it comprehend the future with such accuracy? The most simple answer is that the time-dilation effects of the Empyrean makes watching the future no harder than observing the past. Which we don't doubt represents at least part of the answer.  Fundamentally, though, I think we have to look to ourselves.  How can it possibly be difficult to predict the future of mankind when we simply repeat the same actions, over and over?

If we are in the business of dissecting visions of the future, the barrage of imagery that hit Loken isn't actually any more  of what is to come than the spectacle of Lord Commander Eidolon and the rebel Warsinger atop the temple on Istvaan Extremis, screaming into each other's faces. That sad, violent spectacle illustrates the entire span of human history: two people rage at each other until one of them dies.

Throughout our time in the galaxy mankind's cardinal rule has always been that might makes right.  Oh, oftentimes we have pretended otherwise (and for all our lamentations for ages long past, we can at least give our current era this much: we don't put effort into hiding our credo of violence anymore) , but our protestations boil down to a simple sleight of hand; we tell ourselves that right makes might, and resolve to think no more on the subject, as though there were never any chance of the arrow pointing in the other direction.  Even the Great Crusade, the fastest explosion of human dominance ever known, and a campaign completely committed to reason and wisdom, boils down to one group of humans deciding all other humans must live like them, and shouting this revelation at full volume to every forgotten colony they stumble upon. And all of it justified, naturally, through the obvious sophistry that the Emperor's vision must be right, or else how has it become more successful. As though one disease is less unpleasant to suffer through than another simply because it spreads more effectively.

The point here isn't simply that mankind is a vicious and violent species.  It is that we defend our violence by screaming our rage at our enemies, so as to block out their own noise.  Their stories.  Their speech. We scream not just to give voice to the hate we need to build in ourselves to pick up our weapons, but to ensure we hear nothing from the enemy. In this way we can construct in our minds and in our culture an image of who and what our enemy is, without inconvenient facts breaking through and colouring the black and white images we prefer when shooting to kill.

Some wars are worth the fighting, obviously.  We don't even need to consider the Orks or the more rapacious iterations of Eldar to know that sometimes tyrants and oppressors need to be bled. The Age of Apostasy. The Reign of Blood. Man's bottomless reserves of inhumanity to man. But just as all wars are not created equal, nor are all war-cries. In those circumstances, a scream is not weaponised in the service of prolonging war, but as a rallying cry against oppression. Indeed, the difference between the two is simple to determine; we need think only whether the scream is needed because their voice had been smothered?

If this is so, all well and good. We will not set ourselves against you. Otherwise, we respectfully offer this suggestion. Just stop screaming, once in a while.  You might hear something you don't expect in the quiet.  Maybe that will be some revelation about those you assumed deserved to die. Or if that fails to move you, consider that it could be something else. It might just be the sound of Chaos creeping up on you, preparing to strike.


What Is

This is the first chapter of the book with some extended action scenes to keep adrenaholics happy.  How do Counter's descriptions of carnage strike you?

Well it was nice and gory, so it had that going for it. And there was a lot more about what the individual warriors were getting up to; a literal blow-by-blow.  That's been missing a bit in the other books.  But my problem here was that there just wasn't any description of the enemy before we got to the Warsinger.

Their armour got a mention.

Once. Just.  The rest of the time they could have been absolutely anybody.  Just faceless goons to be slaughtered to up the page count. There's no sense of challenge.

Fair enough. I confess I'm uneasy about battle scenes where no-one but the leaders actually matter in any sense. So how does Counter measure up against Abnett and McNeill?

If he'd included more about the people the Astartes were fighting, it would have been my favourite so far.  But it didn't, so it isn't.  The best fight so far is still against the Arachnids.

That's the benchmark, huh?

You disagree?

Not really. I still think the Megarachnids are a bit too reminiscent of Tyranids, but that's nothing you need to worry about. If my favourite isn't Murder, it's Xenobia. Those are the only two occasions so far that the Astartes don't seem to have just run over everything without feeling it.

Did any part of Loken's vision interest you? Were you able to make any sense out of it?

It mainly felt like a replay of the one Horus had.  Though I don't understand why it happened.  He didn't sacrifice anyone.

Maybe it's like the Playboy Channel. You have to pay for the movie but you get the trailers for free.

Playboy Channel?

I hear stories. Let's stay focused. There were a lot fewer gibbering daemons when we were in Horus' head.  Though that might be deliberate.

You mean someone's deliberately added them to Loken's vision?

Actually it's more likely someone edited them from Horus.

I guess.  Though Loken's already worried about daemons, so...

You think it's his subconscious?

Maybe. In part at least.

Actually, that would explain why Loken thought he saw Torgaddon. Maybe he was feeling guilty about forming this secret club with him then blowing him off to snoop around.

He might be worried about him.  Torgaddon's the only person in the Mournival and almost the only person full stop who hasn't already betrayed him.  Maybe he's worried the whole thing is a set-up.

That would be really interesting, actually.  It'd be nice for someone to not be what they seem; that hasn't really happened since Erebus. Torgaddon being rotten would be a great twist.

It wouldn't be a great twist. OK, I'll give you. A great twist would be Abaddon turning out to be the Emperor.

That would... what? How... what?

Yeah.  Didn't see it coming, did you?

No, for like seventeen different reasons. The Torgaddon twist at least has some non-zero chance of actually happening. I was actually disappointed when he turned out to not be real here.  How about you?

I've had too many cool twist ideas that haven't come to anything already. I don't have the energy for disappointment today.

What's up with Eidolon and all that screaming?

Doesn't he just have a microphone?

Tarvitz doesn't think so. He'd probably not be too shocked if the Emperor's Children tended to use sonic weapons. I mean, not that they ever would. Clearly.

Well we did learn Eidolon has been getting good at... that... thing. The talking thing. To people. What's the word.

You mean diplomacy. We shall pass without comment over your inability to remember the term.

So maybe when he learned that he also learned how to deal with loud people.

Right, but plenty of people learn that in this world, but they don't tend to approach it by screaming people's faces off.

Where's Eidolon been?

Who can say. Other than me, of course, and I won't.

Then he could have been at a secret voice school. Or he could be like Felix Castor (from the Mike Carey books everyone should read) and can upset supernatural things with music. Or even it might just be physics; using his voice perfectly to cancel out the Warsinger's.

All good theories. Well, all theories anyway.  Which reminds me:

Where do you stand on the Warsinger? Creepy and effective or rather silly?

I don't understand her tactics.

Which part?

Why did she let Eidolon get so close to her?  Why did she go all the way down to the ground?

She didn't.

Yes she did. After she knocked down the pyramid.

She didn't knock down the pyramid. She just picked up bits of it and chucked it around.

Well that wasn't very clear.

Actually, destroying the temple is probably a good idea. You could just float above everything peeling Astartes to your heart's content.

They still have guns though.

For all the good they did. Though I'm not clear why a sword would work any better.

I think you have to distract her. Which makes the temple collapse an even better plan. Stay up there where no-one can bother you, and you can rip apart Astartes to your heart's content. Or drop huge pieces of masonry on them, just to switch things up.

Wouldn't it be easier just to make everyone so depressed they just kill themselves.

She's not Leonard Cohen.

Or so angry they kill each other.

She's not Anti Nowhere League.


Not sure. They seemed awfully angry in that So What? song. Under no circumstances Google that. Anyway, we seem to have gotten entirely off the subject.  Did you like her, was the question.

She's... an interesting concept.

That all?

I'm trying not be negative. I get told off when I'm too negative.

What Will Be
What's going to go down when Horus learns his latest reading material has been swiped?

He will sing to it and it will fly back to him.

Because what? How? What?

Singing is very much the theme of this chapter.

Actually it's the ridiculous volume of making war and how you can weaponise that, but your idea is profoundly silly either way.

Charming. Maybe Horus unleashes his daemon thingies on Loken.

You think he'll know who did it?

He might have an intuitive connection with it.

That's possible.

Will Horus really mind all that much?  Does he still need the book.

Presumably.  It's a pretty incriminating thing to leave lying around if you don't need to.

But he has Erebus.

Erebus doesn't have the whole book on him.  You can't fit a whole book on your head.

He's got the whole of the rest of his body.  It's always saying how big Astartes bodies are.

I don't care if every square centimetre of his body is covered in text with his cock reserved for a bookmark, you can't fit an entire grimoire of unspeakable evil onto one slightly gigantic man.

So maybe Horus will think Erebus has stolen it to make himself indispensable.

Now there's a theory I can get behind.

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