Super Secret Chaos Club: No Girls Allowed

by Arthur B

Anthony Reynolds' Word Bearers trilogy of 40K novels really doesn't have any use for women.
The primary and most fundamental task of a Warhammer 40,000 tie in author is to make sure that the story they tell is appropriately metal. Not only does the story have to be intrinsically metal in the first place, but on top of that it needs to be the right kind of metal. For instance, if you're telling a story about Space Marines your metal needs to fill the heart with pride and set the soul soaring with the glory of battle, like this. On the other hand, Imperial Guard stories aren't going to be so idealistic - there's going to be a certain jadedness, a world-weariness, and a resignation at the absurdity of the universe combined with a resolution to get the job done, like so.

Chaos Space Marines are an even trickier prospect because on top of being totally metal, they're also meant to be evil. Writing a novel with protagonists who are clearly meant to be villainous is a tough tightrope to walk, even outside the constraints of tie-in fiction - all too many authors aim for something like this but end up here. Mike Lee and Dan Abnett struggled with the Malus Darkblade books to portray the Dark Elves of the Warhammer fantasy setting as anything other than a pack of losers who constantly screw themselves over because they spend all their time being pointlessly malicious to everyone they encounter, including each other. Then again, at least in the 40K universe the Chaos Marines have a very clear motivation - they're out to overthrow the Imperium and bring death to the false Emperor and avenge Warmaster Horus - which at least means that they aren't completely aimless. At the same time, of course, the tie-in novel authors can't ever let them actually succeed at that, but then again they can't let the Imperium succeed at stamping out Chaos either so that shouldn't be an insoluble problem.

There's been a steadily increasing number of Chaos Marine-themed series coming out of the Black Library in recent years, I think because writing all those Horus Heresy books have made the authors realise the potential of them. The Chaos Marines are sufficiently like normal Space Marines that if you've got a grip on writing Space Marine fiction you can switch to Chaos Marine fiction without an exceptional amount of effort - in particular, an individual Chaos Marine is going to be operating on the same sort of scale as an individual Space Marine, whereas if you're shifting from writing about Marines to writing about the Imperial Guard or the Arbitrators you're going to have to adjust the scale of what your protagonists can and can't do accordingly. At the same time, the different flavours of Chaos Marines are just as varied as the different flavours of Space Marines - if not more so - but there's also far more scope for heresy, sorcery, backstabbing and demonic weirdness than when you're writing for the vanilla Astartes.

The Word Bearers are one of the more prominent Chaos Legions, and are arguably the oldest; even before Horus had turned to the dark side, their Primarch Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearer leadership had turned to the worship of Chaos - in fact, it was the Word Bearers who were responsible for the corruption of Horus in the first place. Dedicated to Chaos Undivided, the Word Bearers are a ruthlessly theocratic bunch in which power is held in their various Hosts by their Dark Apostles, priest-warlords with the emphasis on "priest" - in fact, the primary responsibility for handling the military planning side of things is usually delegated to one of the Apostle's immediate underlings. Anthony Reynolds' Word Bearers trilogy follows the career of the Word Bearer Marduk from First Acolyte - second-in-command and heir-apparent to a Dark Apostle - to becoming a member of the ruling Council of the Legion.

Dark Apostle

Reynolds kicks off the series with a fairly standard scenario for a 40K novel: Chaos invades an Imperial world (in this case, the planet Tanakreg), Imperials try to stop them. This time around, Chaos comes in the form of the 34th Host of the Word Bearers, and the scenario is spiced up because their leader, Dark Apostle Jarulek, has an agenda beyond the usual "claim the world for Chaos and turn it into a daemon planet" deal. He isn't blabbing about what the plan is, but it's got something to do with an upcoming planetary conjunction and an enormous tower, the Gehemehnet, that Jarulek is using all those freshly-enslaved Imperials to build. It also clearly has something to do with the Adeptus Mechanicus' interest in the planet, because the tech-priests of Mars are sending a massive military force to aid the Imperial Guard in retaking the planet - far more help than they usually provide. Meanwhile, within the ranks of the Word Bearers, the rivalry between Marduk and Kol Badar, the 34th's Coryphaus or chief strategist, is building to a head - and Jarulek has no qualms about pitting his underlings against each other.

Reynolds uses a multiple-viewpoints approach more effectively than usual in this novel; normally I would suggest that in a book of a mere 240 pages there isn't really space for all the viewpoint characters Reynolds presents, but in this case he uses them to good effect in order to give the reader a privileged but not omniscient view of the action - for instance, we see enough of what Jarulek and the Mechanicus leader Tech-Magos Darioq are doing to realise that there is something special about Tanakreg which they are both aware of but which Jarulek is concealing from his forces and Darioq is hiding from his Imperial allies, but until the conclusion we don't find out exactly what that is. Rooting the story in a single viewpoint character would have meant that either that the reader would be much more confused about what is happening or would have necessitated jarring cut-aways and asides to explain stuff.

On top of that, Reynolds demonstrates early on a willingness to kill viewpoint characters which actually succeeds in lending tension to proceedings rather than discouraging the reader from investing in the characters. It seems evident that Marduk, as the most prominent Word Bearer, won't be killed off in the first book of his trilogy, but everyone else is fair game. This is most apparent in the case of Varnus, a law enforcer from Tanakreg who is our primary (and for most of the book sole) viewpoint character from the planetary population. Enslaved by Chaos, his body and mind both violently reshaped to a form more pleasing to his new masters, Varnus' segments not only left me on tenterhooks when it came to whether he would live or die, but also whether his faith in the Emperor would hold firm under the barrage of blaring propaganda and more subtle manipulation he is subjected to.

He's by far the best character in the book, and you can't help but root for him, even though what you are actually rooting for changes a lot. First I was hoping that he would be a kick-ass leader of the planet's defences, only for said defences to be completely steamrollered thanks to the enemy within. Then I was rooting for him to lead a slave revolt and escape to the Imperial lines, until it became clear he was far too damaged to ever be accepted back into Imperial society. Then I was rooting for him to impress his masters enough that they would let him live, perhaps as a cultist army leader or something. Reynolds is quite good at regularly dashing the readers' hopes like this without making the reader feel put out, because I found that what actually happens in the book is usually more interesting than what I was hoping would happen.

Varnus is also a good example of Reynolds' ability to turn the conventions of 40K tie-in fiction on their heads. In the earliest chapters of the book Varnus catches the attention of an Adeptus Arbites investigator (think Judge Dredd in space with an Imperial mandate to overrule all local law enforcement) after Varnus uncovers evidence of a pervasive Chaos-backed conspiracy on the planet. Reynolds masterfully uses the standard details of typical 40K invasion novels to make it look as though Varnus and his Arbitrator boss are going to take command of the planetary defence and give the Word Bearers a good fight. As I mentioned, nothing of the sort happens; in fact, Chaos cultists arrange for the planetary leadership and the Arbitrator to be wiped out in one fell swoop. Many of the viewpoint character deaths in the novel occur as the result of sudden reversals of fortune more than anything else, which is entirely appropriate for the novel's focus on the machinations of Chaos. (Equally appropriate is the fact that out of all the viewpoint characters only Varnus really chooses his fate, rather than dying because of shitty luck or backstabbing or just plain being outgunned.)

The Adeptus Mechanicus really shine in this novel too. Usually relegated to the background, the Mechanicus in this case take the very rare step of sending an army of their own into battle, and Reynolds does such a good job of giving them a variety of different units and, perhaps more importantly, making them feel distinctly different from the Imperial Guard that anyone intending to make up rules for a Mechanicus army (whether they're making homebrew rules or an official Codex - hint hint, GW) could do a lot worse than using this novel as a model.

The Adeptus Mechanicus sections of the novel also shine because they are associated with one of the coolest characters in the book - this being Tech-Magos Darioq, one of the best-realised tech-priest characters I've seen in a Black Library novel. With his ancient organic portions sustained by extensive machinery, Darioq's lifespan has been so long that he has had to grow multiple brains to store his memories in, which he plugs into himself in a modular fashion as and when he needs to recall particular subjects. Between this and his habit of responding to people's questions with rote, unvarying answers, he's perhaps the most distinctly alien and different Mechanicus member developed by a Black Library author.

One of the perennial games 40K authors like to play is working in parallels between the Imperium and the forces of Chaos (justifiably - more or less the only distinction between the Emperor and the Chaos Gods is that he retains a vestigal physical body and claims not to like Chaos, and recent fluff suggests the first difference at least might not last especially long). Reynolds is no different, and this time around his primary tool for this is the Adeptus Mechanicus, which perhaps explains why they are so prominent in the novel. Both the Imperium (via the Mechanicus) and the Word Eaters deploy technologies which could fairly be described as biomechanical - the Chaos forces put more influence on the "bio" side of the equation and the Mechanicus obviously favour the mechanical, but both technological strands involve mutable flesh being invaded by and melding with machinery in Gigeresque ways. This is what makes Reynolds' legwork in putting the Adeptus Mechanicus on the front line more than a matter of fan-pleasing worldbuilding - it sets up the aesthetic parallels between the two sides neatly, making the novel a richer experience than its workmanlike prose and stodgy dialogue would have otherwised allowed for. It's not a classic of the Black Library - at the end of the day, the prose and dialogue are still rather mediocre - but it's a good shooty killy invasion story at any rate.

Dark Disciple

The next story follows on directly from the conclusion of Dark Apostle. Jarulek is dead, and consequently Marduk is the acting leader of the Host. Having got what they came for, the Host is heading back to the Word Bearer headquarters on Sicarus in the Eye of Terror. Part of the reason for this is to give Marduk his chance to prove to the Legion's masters his worthiness to ascend to the rank of Dark Apostle, which would cement his control over the Host, but they are also bringing a valuable prize - the ancient artifact uncovered on Tanakreg at the end of the previous novel. Marduk, however, knows that his case for promotion will be greatly improved if he can present the leadership of the Legion with the means of utilising the artifact as well as the object itself. Happily, according to his prisoner - Tech-Magos Darioq, now inhabited by the demon Grendh'al and rapidly mutating into a creature of Chaos - the one tech-priest who could perhaps unlock the secrets of the device happens to be on an expedition to Perdus Skylla, a frostbitten ice moon that's on the Word Bearers' route. The opportunity is too good to pass up.

However, when the Chaos Marines arrive they find the system swarming with Imperial forces, evacuating the planet to deny biomass to the hungry hungry hippos tyranids who are making their way for the system. There's too much Imperial firepower here for even the Chaos Marines to contemplate a direct assault, so Marduk instead leads the elite of the Host on a covert mission to the moon's surface to track down that tech-priest. But it turns out there are even more forces at work on the planet than anticipated - not only are dark eldar slavers using the chaos of the evacuation as an excuse to kidnap some tasty merchandise (and what merchandise could be tastier than a Space Marine?), but on top of that the tech-priest turns out to have been exploring a long-buried starship deep under the frozen surface of Perdus Skylla. And when you have Space Marines - even Chaos Space Marines - exploring a spooky abadoned starship, tradition demands that hordes of Genestealers hungry for kisses must show up...

Most Black Library novellists would balk at piling up Chaos Space Marines, normal Imperial forces, dark eldar, tyranids and a Genestealer cult in one novel, but Reynolds is able to make it work surprisingly well. He does this by establishing a rapid pace for the novel early on and continually escalating things until the apocalyptic conclusion of the story. Particularly nice is how well everything hangs together - looking back at the thing after completing it I'm actually impressed at how few extraneous plot elements there are. We're in multiple viewpoints mode again, with Marduk getting a substantially greater share of the spotlight time than previously. He's a more enjoyable character to follow this time around, at least partially because Reynolds allows himself to show more of Marduk's growing Chaos powers. The fight with the Genestealers in the buried starship is a good example of this, because whilst for the most part the Word Bearers tackle the task in just the same way as loyalist Space Marines would, the climactic summoning of demons from the Warp to smush the 'stealers is decidedly not in the Imperial playbook.

In fact, Reynolds' does a great job in this story of fleshing out his conception of the Word Bearers as being an awful lot like their Imperial cousins in most respects and drastically different from them in a few key areas. The xeno-heavy plot goes a long way towards helping with this because it gives Reynolds a chance to depict the Bearers' smouldering hatred of xenos, and to remind the reader that the Word Bearers were enthusiastic and zealous supporters of the Emperor's Great Crusade to stamp out all alien life in the galaxy back before the Horus Heresy. You get the impression that the Bearers feel that the pre-Heresy Imperium more or less had it right, except for the whole refusal to worship Chaos deal: certainly, incidents like one where a Marine realises his holy gene-seed has been corrupted by 'stealer-snuggles and allows his battle-brother to execute him play out more or less exactly like they would in a normal Space Marine novel, except the character dies with a prayer to Chaos on his lips instead of a prayer to the Emperor.

The other focus of the Chaos Space Marine side of the story is on Marduk's rise to power and how the other Word Bearers react to that; unlike in the previous book, almost all of the Chaos-focused parts of the narrative are either told from Marduk's point of view or cover what the other characters are currently thinking about Marduk. It's here where the personalities established in the previous book really come to the fore - particularly Kol Badar, the 34th's ambitious Coryphaus, Burias-Drak'Shal who is Marduk's closest thing to a friend (a snivelling, treacherous friend) who has a more symbotic relationship with the demon inhabiting him than might be expected, and the Warmonger, an ancient warrior of the Legion entombed in mechanised Dreadnaught armour and who keeps replaying the assault on the Emperor's palace at the end of the Horus Heresy in his increasingly dementia-afflicted mind. But the best supporting character is probably Darioq-Grendh'al himself; Games Workshop canon on the corrupt Mechanicus splinter groups who serve the Chaos Legions is scant, so Reynolds takes the opportunity to let his imagination run wild a little and he comes up with a really nice take on what a half-man half-machine all-demonically possessed tech-priest might end up like.

As far as other viewpoint characters go, there's Ikaros Baranov, a Rogue Trader who sells luxury berths on his ship to the elite of Skylla only to deliver them into the clutches of his Dark Eldar clients, there's an Imperial Admiral who wearily and rather regretfully carries out the system-spanning slash-and-burn policy the Imperium has decided to use against the tyranids, some fairly workmanlike stuff with the Dark Eldar, and Solon, the commander of an ice transport carrying evacuees who, after a Dark Eldar attack, is forced into a desperate trek across the frozen wilderness to try and get a small refugee child to the evacuation point. His story is, except for a couple of points, almost entirely irrelevant to the bulk of the narrative, but I think it still plays an important role in the book in that it gives us someone to root for when all the other characters are being vile, as well as giving snapshots of how the evacuation is affecting the bulk of the populace. On top of that, Reynolds works in a beautifully bleak twist of the knife at the end of the story which makes it suddenly much more relevant to the bigger picture.

The downfall of Dark Disciple is in its treatment of female characters. Dark Apostle had more or less none aside from the kathartes, which are daemonic creatures which in the material realm manifest as the skinless possessed corpses of people both male and female but in the Warp appear as pretty ladies. Not great by any means; I think the book implies that their forms in the Warp are mere glamours disguising their true natures but even then you have the only females in the story being sinister sirens who get under your skin and control you.

Dark Disciple is even worse in this regard. The most significant female character in this story is the Explorator the Word Bearers are here to track down - who doesn't get any real characterisation beyond "fat", gets very little dialogue, and whose brain is eaten by Darioq shortly after she shows up. Aside from a few female characters of absolutely no significance in the refugee bits, the other female characters comprise a Dark Eldar dominatrix squad (note: I don't think that's what they are called in the Codex but that's basically what they are), various mutant monstrosities in the Dark Eldar ship, the wives and mistresses of the Guildmasters of Skylla who get sold into slavery alongside them, and some daemonettes (actual Codex name for 'em!) which Marduk summons to bring the wrath of Slaanesh down on the Dark Eldar. Of these, only the leader of the dominatrix squad gets any dialogue at all.

So, to conclude: women are either scary sex monsters, irrelevant fatties, or compliant fuckpuppets. I don't think Reynolds introduces a single female character into the whole trilogy who he doesn't treat with either fear or contempt. A part of the trilogy which actually got my blood boiling was a bit where one of the Word Bearers reminisces about a siege of a Sisters of Battle fortress, at the end of which they captured the Sisters, crucified them, and left them to die. Sorry, but no: maybe a Sister or two might be captured if she were knocked unconscious rather than being killed out right, but the bulk of the Sisters of Battle would rather blow their own brains out than be captured by Chaos. The Sisters' defining feature is their iron-clad, fanatical faith in the Emperor which is so intense that they can actually manifest miraculous effects through it. They're not just going to helplessly fall into the clutches of the Chaos Marines - they're going to defend their fortress with their dying breaths and the vast majority will go down with the ship. It's always irksome when Black Library writers are sniffy or dismissive about one of the playable factions in the game because in general I think people's investment in those factions should be respected by tie-in fiction authors and each faction should be allowed to have its allotted level of awesome; Reynolds provides that to every faction he deals with in the trilogy except the one which happens to be composed entirely of women. Gah.

On the whole, Dark Disciple is still a gripping story, but it's very blatant about being a boy book for boys - and irritatingly, it's one of those boy books for boys which goes out of its way to put out a "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" sign, something which the better class of Black Library author (Dan Abnett, Matt Farrer, etc.) tend to be good about not doing.

Dark Creed

Dark Creed is another story which has no women of any significance in it, which in Reynolds' case is probably a good thing because there's a point where you just want an author to just stop inserting the foot further into their mouth and just concentrate on what they are good at. Anyway, having been confirmed as Dark Apostle of the 34th Host by the Council, Marduk is sent as part of a massive Word Bearer Crusade to take the Boros star system. Boros is a strategically crucible system not because of its own resources, but because it happens to be located at one end of a large number of extremely stable wormholes through the Warp, allowing the system to be used both for extremely rapid travel and for very stable communications - to the point where they can actually reasonably communicate with systems at the other end of the wormholes via conventional radio as opposed to astropathy simply by transmitting through the wormholes.

Of course, this arrangement makes the Boros system very valuable for Chaos to take - were they to capture it, they'd be much closer to being able to launch a direct assault on Terra - but it also makes it extremely defensible, since as soon as trouble shows up reinforcements from a heap of different systems can show up at the drop of a hat to smush any raiders. Which is where Marduk's ancient xenos artifact comes in: the object, known as the Nexus Arrangement, can create a barrier preventing warp travel into our out of the system, wormholes be damned. All the Word Bearers have to do is fly to Boros and turn on the Nexus Arrangement, and then they can crush the local defenders - led by the White Consul Chapter of Space Marines - at their leisure. Of course, it isn't as easy as that - not only do the White Consuls prove to be particularly adept at motivating the populace and slowing the advance of Chaos, but there's also sinister conspiracies and infighting within the Word Bearer ranks. Marduk has, in fact, been tasked by Erebus, one of the two highest ranking Dark Apostles who are second only to the daemon-Primarch himself in the Legion, to root out the conspiracy within the ranks, but can he do that and still win the Crusade?

Oh, and the necrons are feeling grumpy and cranky are coming to get their Nexus Arrangement back. That's kind of a problem.

One way in which Reynolds did manage to impress me with this trilogy is with his restraint - after three books, this is the first time any loyalist Space Marines are making an appearance at all. The obvious temptation with any Chaos Marine story is to throw up against loyalist Marines as soon as possible - after all, they're arch-enemies, right? But at the same time, it makes sense that most of the Word Bearers' engagements would be against Imperial Guard or various alien factions, and that encounters with the loyalist Marines would be a rare and savoured treat. The loyalist Chapters are, in fact, spread incredibly thin on the ground - and whilst there is a consolidation of them around the Eye of Terror, for the most part Chaos Marine expeditions heading out into the wider galaxy would be forced to evade rather than engaging those forces.

Reynolds is even able to pull off the cunning trick of making the Ultramarines - or, rather, an Ultramarine successor chapter who essentially act exactly like the Ultramarines, only they wear white - interesting. The Boros system is directly administered and ruled by the Chapter, whose emissaries occasionally make planetfall to make inspirational appearances to bolster the morale and loyalty of the fanatical local population. The human populace of Boros are quickly established as being zealously militaristic goody-two-shoes lovers of the Imperial yoke; they love Big Brother, especially since Big Brother is here represented by a Space Marine, and so it's a pleasure to see their creepily fascistic little lives being disrupted by the invasion.

Of course, the problem he sets himself with the premise is that if the Word Bearer Crusade succeeds, then they'll be within a hair's breadth of winning the Long War against the Emperor, so it's evident from the beginning that the Crusade can't be allowed to win. To give Reynolds his due, I think it helps a lot that he's open about this from the start of the story; it's clear that the necrons are going to show up before the end and fuck everyone's shit up, so when it happens it's not so much a surprising deus ex machina so much as the inevitable consequence of the Word Bearers' hubris. At the same time, I think it was the right decision to make sure that the Word Bearers do at least make an effort to try and actually advance the Long War during the scope of the trilogy, because in principle that's the primary purpose behind everything they do and it'd be disappointing if despite all their "Death to the False Emperor!" rhetoric they never made an effort to bring death to the False Emperor.

It also gives a chance for Reynolds to play with characters like Erebus, who as readers of the Horus Heresy novels is the Dark Apostle who was personally responsible for the corruption of Horus. Throughout the novels Reynolds likes to come back to the fact that a lot of the Chaos Marines are, in fact, the very same traitor Marines who fought in the Horus Heresy, having survived to the present day thanks to the gifts of Chaos, the time-shifting nature of the Warp, and generally being very, very hard to kill, but it's only when Marduk is walking around talking to characters you recognise from elsewhere as being central to the Heresy that that really hits home.

A particularly interesting way that possessing the power of a Dark Apostle changes Marduk is the shift in his interpersonal relationships with the other major Word Bearers. Though there's still no love lost between him and Kol Badar, Marduk is now secure in his mastery of the Host and realises that Badar's strategic and tactical genius is too valuable to dispose of unless he has no other choice; conversely, his friendship with Burias sours as it becomes clear to Burias that Marduk is never, ever going to promote him to Coryphaus, driving Burias into the arms of the secret Brotherhood out to subvert the Word Bearers. The conclusion of the treachery plotline feels rather abrupt in the novel, particularly when it comes to the lack of any real closure on Burias' story; the omnibus includes a brand-new short story (Tormented) tacked onto the end to provide a proper ending in that regard. I actually think it works very well as a capstone to the series as a whole, because even though it mainly focuses on Burias and has only a small dose of Marduk at the end and doesn't really feature most of the other characters to any real extent, at the same time it provides a satisfying enough snapshot of how Marduk, having secured himself a place at the very heart of the Word Bearers, reduces one his closest allies in the journey there to a mere tool. (It's also the closest thing we're likely to get to a 40K take on An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.)

On the whole, Dark Creed somehow manages to be a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy despite the fact that it ends with a series of failures and anticlimaxes. In particular, it manages to work the whole "the bad guys don't win because they're too busy with the backstabbing to really focus their energies on a long-term strategic victory" angle with a bit more finesse than usual; a lot of the time writers who try to go for that theme end up overplaying it, and leave you with bad guys who are backstabbing each other so constantly you wonder how they ever get anything done at all and there's no good or clear reason why they even work with each other, but Reynolds' Word Bearers' rigid military and theocratic discipline helps cover up the cracks and keep them bubbling under the surface until they erupt at precisely the worst possible moment.

The Corruptive Power of Chaos Is Fine But Keep Those Girl Cooties Away From Me

The Word Bearers trilogy more or less succeeds at what it tries to do: it's got a fantastically different take on a Space Marine story, it offers excellent adventure fiction and violence, and it's the appropriate sort of metal. It also shares geekdom's unfortunate tendency to either be rather anxious about the subject of women or simply see no real use for them. This is probably not a purposeful act of misogyny so much as it is a consequence of Reynolds simply setting out to write boy books for boys and his editors being blithely indifferent as to who he makes feel unwelcome in the clubhouse - provided that he's not alienating the core 40K demographic, who cares, right?

This isn't a major theme of the books by any means - he doesn't spend page after page in Dave Sim-like rants or anything like that. But it is a blot, a blot which readers might or might not be willing to live with depending on how urgent their need for 40K fiction is. Personally, I don't feel that my time was wasted with the trilogy but I don't intend to hold onto it.

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Comments (go to latest)
James D at 04:03 on 2012-05-21
Arthur, your metal analogy is all well and good, but I'm a bit surprised and disappointed you didn't reference a certain British death metal band for the Chaos Marines part. You know, the one that actually wrote a whole concept album about Chaos Marines.
Arthur B at 04:59 on 2012-05-21
Bolt Thrower are the common ground where all 40K varieties meet (and then fight).
James D at 05:19 on 2012-05-21
Haha whatever you say, Arthur. ;)
Arthur B at 05:20 on 2012-05-21
Also that's clearly Ultramarines in pride of place on the album cover. :)
Arthur B at 05:24 on 2012-05-21
Wait, I tell a lie - they're Crimson Fists.
James D at 05:26 on 2012-05-21
I'm pretty sure it's actually the Crimson Fists, but it's just stock art. The album itself is about Chaos, as the title suggests. Note the song titles like "World Eater", "Plague Bearer", etc.
James D at 05:35 on 2012-05-21
Ah fuck off, I was 2 minutes late with my correction. Your nerd status is safe, Arthur...for now.
Arthur B at 08:22 on 2012-05-21
"Stock art"? It's the cover to Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, it's practically a holy icon of the hobby. ;)
Wardog at 09:40 on 2012-05-21
Wow, a nerd off!

Fight fight fight!

Arthur, do you realise you have reviewed over 31 Warhams products? 31! I believe you must be personally keeping The Black Library afloat :)
Arthur B at 10:12 on 2012-05-21
Actually, if you count individual books/games/CDs and include the podcast it's more like 65.

I have a problem.
valse de la lune at 11:47 on 2012-05-21
The trouble with Arthur's reviews of Warhams is that they're usually a lot more interesting to read than the actual novels.
Arthur B at 12:31 on 2012-05-21
You think so? Maybe Games Workshop should get me to do condensed versions of their novels for busy people.

Dark Apostle

WORD BEARERS: Death to the False Emperor!


IMPERIAL GUARD: Quick, Darioq, we have to do something!

DARIOQ: stfu n00b, ph3ar my 1337 t3ch-army.

MARDUK: I am ambitious!

KOL BADAR: I am jealous!

JARULEK: I am playing you off against each other!

BURIAS: I'm possessed!


VARNUS: I love Chaos! No, wait, what am I saying? /shoots self.


DARIOQ: /captured

PLANET: /dies

WORD BEARERS: Oh look, a pyramid!

JARULEK: I told you there was awesome loot here. Let's go inside, Marduk.

NECRONS: Get off our lawn, whippersnappers!

JARULEK: Now I have the Nexus Arrangement, I'm going to fight a Necron Lord and my second-in-command at the same time... because just because I have precognition doesn't mean I have any sense of timing.

MARDUK: Fuck you.

JARULEK: /dies

MARDUK: Got your magic ball, codgers!

NECRONS: Damn kids!

KOL BADAR: Oh no, Marduk survived!

BURIAS: Hooray, Marduk survived!

MARDUK: How does this toy work?

DARIOQ: p1ss 0ff n00b!

MARDUK: We have ways of making you talk...

Dark Disciple

DARIOQ: 1 am teh Cha05 na0w.

MARDUK: I am teh leader now.

KOL BADAR: I am teh butthurt now.

SKYLLA: Who scheduled this Exterminatus?

IMPERIUM: Sorry, tyranid infestation, you know how it is.

TYRANIDS: omnomnomnomnomnom

DARK ELDAR: unfunfunfunfunfunfohyeahhurtmelikethatagain

MARDUK: Let us be sneaky like only giant metal men can be.

GUILDMASTER: Chaos Marines! How terrible!

DARK ELDAR: Chaos Marines! How erotic!

MARDUK: Where's the Explorator?

GUILDMASTER: Not telling!

DARIOQ: teh hax0r!!!

MARDUK: Let's find this Explorator then.



EXPLORATOR: 0h, h3110-

DARIOQ: teh n0mz0r

EXPLORATOR: 0w, my bra1n!

MARDUK: Darioq, do you know how to use the Nexus Arrangement now?

DARIOQ: rtfm n00b

MARDUK: Great, let's go.

SOME GUY WE DON'T CARE ABOUT: The Genestealers cornered me, but I'm fine!

OTHER WORD BEARERS: No you're not, you've been snogging Genestealers haven't you?

SOME GUY WE DON'T CARE ABOUT: Oh, so I have, I forgot. /dies

MARDUK: OK, heading out now.

GENESTEALER CULT: Y u no like hugs and kisses?

MARDUK: lol kill them all.


DARK ELDAR: Spank squad, attack!

MARDUK: I am captured!

KOL BADAR: I am leaving!

BURIAS: I am whining!


BURIAS: I am not whining!

DARK ELDAR: spankspankspankspankspank

MARDUK: escapekillsmashrendsummon

DAEMONETTES: Come along, eldar, Slaanesh is hosting a cuddle party and you're all invited.


KOL BADAR: I'm glad Marduk is gone.

MARDUK: Here I am!

KOL BADAR: I'm teh butthurt now.

NECRONS: Damn kids!

Dark Creed

EREBUS: Go go gadget Dark Crusade!

MARDUK: I'm helping!

TRAITORS: We're plotting!

MARDUK: I'm spying!

KOL BADAR: I'm helping!

BURIAS: I'm getting a promotion!

MARUDK: No you're not.

BURIAS: But Marduk, we're friends, why can't I be Coryphaus?

MARDUK: Because you have no experience of command or leadership skills whereas Kol Badar has millennia of experience and can actually do stuff in a fight other than randomly hulking out.

BURIAS: ...I am teh butthurt now.

TRAITORS: Come and be butthurt with us.

WHITE CORSAIRS: We are manly and awesome.

IMPERIALS: Sieg heil!

WHITE CORSAIRS: Ha ha, foolish Crusade, don't they realise they'll be smushed thanks to the wormholes?


WHITE CORSAIRS: Where did the wormholes go?

BORAS: /dies

NECRONS: Can we have our ball back?

NEXUS ARRANGEMENT: Grandad's back, gotta go! /whooshes to necrons.

CRUSADE: Oh no, we're fucked!

MARDUK: We are fight necrons now.

NECRONS: We are fight Marines now.

MARDUK: We are running from necrons with ball now!

NECRONS: We are chasing Marines now!

TRAITORS: Aha, we are traitors! Kol Badar, join us!


TRAITORS: Oh fuck. /die

BURIAS: Waaah, I thought we were friends Marduk!


KOL BADAR: Let me put Burias over here so you can deal with him in a short story.

BURIAS: I am teh butthurt now!

VORTEX GRENADE: Hey, I appeared in an earlier scene to set up the whole Chekov's Gun bit, can I blow up now?

MARDUK: Sure, here's an escape pod to blow up in! Have the Nexus Arrangement to keep you company!

VORTEX GRENADE: Thanks! /explodes


NECRONS: Damn kids! /go home




MARDUK'S SHIP: /escapes

EREBUS: It was all a plot to expose the conspiracy set up by my BFF, Kol Phaeron!

MARDUK: Are you going to smush him!

EREBUS: No, it's how we show our affection for each other.

MARDUK: I feel like I have wasted a lot of time and a heap of Word Bearer lives.

EREBUS: Will a seat on the Council make you feel better? We have comfy cushions.

MARDUK: Sounds great!


BURIAS: Oh no, I am teh tortured!

UNDERLINGS: We are teh torturers.

BURIAS: Marduk is going to cut off my limbs and turn me into a Dreadnought - a fate worse than death for an able-bodied Marine.

UNDERLINGS: Serves you right for being a traitor.

BURIAS: And he's banished my demon!

UNDERLINGS: Cry moar, n00b.

BURIAS: I am teh butthurt now.

VOICE IN BURIAS' HEAD: It's OK, you can escape!

BURIAS: No I can't!


BURIAS: No I can't!


BURIAS: No I can't!


BURIAS: No I can't!


BURIAS: No I can't!


BURIAS: Oh wait, I can.



BURIAS: Hey, my demon's back!

VOICE IN BURIAS' HEAD: Don't think about it too much. Enjoy your freedom!

BURIAS: /runs amok

CHAOS PEEPS: Stop him!

BURIAS: I jump off a ledge!

WEIRD LADY: Oh hi, there's a plot twist just over there.

PLOT TWIST: I'm you!

MARDUK: Stop fucking about.

VOICE IN BURIAS' HEAD: Don't listen to Marduk! Fuck about all you like!

BURIAS: Hey, voice in my head, you wouldn't be part of my psyche trying to shield me from an unacceptable truth would you?


MARDUK: Seriously, wake the fuck up.

BURIAS: Maybe if I die in the dream I die in real life!

MARDUK: Wakey wakey!

BURIAS: No! I must escape the Dreadnought!

MARDUK: No, Burias. You are the Dreadnought.

(and then Burias was a Dreadnought)

BURIAS: How long was I asleep this time?

MARDUK: A century or so. We're going to war now, you want to come with?

BURIAS: I'd rather kill you.

MARDUK: Not going to happen, but would it make you feel better to kill some Imperials?

BURIAS: ...I suppose so.

PART OF BURIAS' PSYCHE TRYING TO SHIELD HIM FROM AN UNACCEPTABLE TRUTH: I'm going to tell you that none of this is real so you can retain some semblance of sanity in the nightmare which your life has become.

MARDUK: I am teh winz0r.

BURIAS: I am teh butthurt now.
Arthur B at 12:35 on 2012-05-21
Oh, I forgot in Dark Disciple:

SOLON: Thank goodness I got that one child to the escape shuttles, even if there were no places left for me. Now I shall sit and gaze at this scenic view whilst I wait for the Exterminatus to hit.

NARRATOR: Actually, the kid was a Genestealer and is going to start the cycle all over again on the planet he's evacuated to!

THIRSTING GODS: lolololololol
James D at 14:55 on 2012-05-21
"Stock art"? It's the cover to Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, it's practically a holy icon of the hobby. ;)

Yeah, it's pretty much stock art, since it has nothing to do with the album specifically. I'm pretty sure they used it without permission, too, because they changed the album art for the recent reissue.
Arthur B at 15:11 on 2012-05-21
They did in fact get permission - Games Workshop was dabbling at getting into music tie-ins at the time. Plus the band have expressed disapproval of the reissue because they don't get royalties from it and they weren't consulted on it.

Have you seen their vaguely Imperial Guard-themed album?
James D at 15:55 on 2012-05-21
Ah, they did get permission? Interesting. I did hear about the no royalties thing, but unfortunately that's kind of par for the course. A lot of the bands back then were so excited at 'hitting it big' that they would essentially sign anything a record label handed them, and Earache has since gained a reputation for being a trend-hopper and treating its older, untrendy bands quite poorly. Bolt Thrower left Earache in the 90s and joined Metal Blade (a label that treats its bands much better, from what I've heard), so now that oldschool death metal is enjoying a substantial resurgence in popularity, from a business perspective it makes sense that Earache would trot out its back catalog in shiny new wrappers and cheat the bands out of whatever they can.

And yes, I've heard all their albums. It'd be cool if they did more 40K-themed stuff, a grim dark far future where there is only war is absolutely perfect for their music. Realm of Chaos will always be my favorite though; the production is just absolutely perfect. Apparently at one point during the recording, they downtuned the bass strings so far that they wouldn't even vibrate, haha.
valse de la lune at 17:05 on 2012-05-21
See Arthur, if you keep doing this I'll never have to read another Warhams book again. You're snatching the bread out of Black Library's collective mouth.

But no, really, reading your reviews of these books is often a lot more rewarding than reading the actual novels.
Arthur B at 17:10 on 2012-05-21
See Arthur, if you keep doing this I'll never have to read another Warhams book again. You're snatching the bread out of Black Library's collective mouth.

Yuck, I hate spit-soggy bread.

But no, really, reading your reviews of these books is often a lot more rewarding than reading the actual novels.

The same's true of writing them really. I probably would read a tiny fraction of the Black Library stuff I do read if it weren't so fun (and easy) to take 'em apart.
James D at 17:55 on 2012-05-21
Quick, someone write witty reviews of Arthur's Warhams reviews. We need to see if the trend continues.
Arthur B at 18:07 on 2012-05-21
No no, we can't have anyone do it, we need the Black Library authors to do it to get a feedback loop going. Where's Dan Abnett when you need him?
James D at 18:21 on 2012-05-21
What if they somehow worked it into a Warham narrative? Chaos could invade the propaganda planet Arthurius B, burning its libraries and executing its vast legions of anti-Chaos journalists.
Arthur B at 18:33 on 2012-05-21
What if they somehow worked it into a Warham narrative? Chaos could invade the propaganda planet Arthurius B, burning its libraries and executing its vast legions of anti-Chaos journalists.

Then I would hope that the Little Shims Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes and the intrepid double act of Inquisitors Hemmens and Kyra can save the day.
valse de la lune at 19:00 on 2012-05-21
They're probably just going to declare Exterminatus on Arthurius B.
James D at 19:08 on 2012-05-21
Dan H at 19:09 on 2012-05-21

They're probably just going to declare Exterminatus on Arthurius B.

Those who understand realize we have no right to let them live.
Arthur B at 19:50 on 2012-05-21
/is virus-bombed
valse de la lune at 20:16 on 2012-05-21
To further fear Inquisitors Hemmens and Kyra is redundant; to hate them, heretical.
Dan H at 20:28 on 2012-05-21
Only the insane have strength enough to review Warhammer fiction, but only those who review Warhammer fiction may truly judge what is sane.
Arthur B at 21:04 on 2012-05-21
Never ask a question of the Abnett, for they will return with three novels, all true and terrifying.
Arthur B at 10:33 on 2012-05-22
And how could we forget:

"Yet still, there was to be a branding upon the leather book bindings: an imprint of a stylised heart, no larger than a fingernail. Only, this was indeed to be an honour - for the Critic himself personally wielded the electro-iron when Enforcer, Ravenor and Ciaphas Cain bent over to flex the great creased expanses of their spines."
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