Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dark King / The Lightening Tower By Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett

The Dark King/The Lightening Tower is the first Audio book from the Horus Heresy series of books. As a matter of fact, it’s actually two short stories combined, but in typical Horus Heresy fashion they are both intertwined through mutual characters, settings and events. This was the first audio book I have ever listened to and I must be honest and say I was quite concerned I wouldn’t like the format. Why you ask? Well readers love to... well, read. So to then be ‘read to’ can be quite an adjustment without it all feeling weird and uncomfortable. So after copying the disc to my iPod, I headphoned up and prepared myself to be disappointed. I could not have been more wrong.

Firstly, this audio book isn’t simply ‘read’ to you, it’s ‘unfolded’ before you much like you’re right there watching it happen and hearing the characters interact with one another. Characters voices are differentiated through pitch and tone to make them appear they are different people (to the best of voice actor Tony Webb’s ability). Critically, Webb’s non-Primarch characters do appear to sound a little the same but Webb makes good of his vocal range to easily distinguish between the central characters of Konrad Curze and Rogal Dorn. I found Curze’s voice fantastic. Dark and brooding just like it should be. On the other hand I wasn’t that impressed with Dorn’s voice, it sounded high pitched, nasal and a little fast paced. A bit like your high school math teacher if you will, not really the Primarch of a Legion of super human warriors. Following Webb’s vocal exploits are a multitude of sound effects from bolter fire, battle and power weapons to even just footsteps when walking. These sound effects really add to the atmosphere of the story telling and if you can get over their Dawn of War origins, they work extremely well. Just remember to give yourself five minutes of listening before passing judgement on an audio book as that’s how long it took me to adjust to the different format. Now, on to the actual stories!

The Dark King by Graham McNeill

This audio book was by far my favourite. It tells the story the Primarch of the Night Lords legion Konrad Curze (Night Haunter) and his inevitable fall from grace with the Imperium. Before you even utter the word ‘Chaos’... don’t. Without giving too much away, let me just say Chaos has nothing to do with Curze’s decision to split with the Imperium. In fact, you’ll find it has a lot more to do with the Emperor being hypocritical of his most misunderstood bastard child. The story begins with Curze hunched over a bleeding and beaten Dorn and ends light years away with the well known destruction of the Night Lords homeworld Nortramo. Everything else in between is totally immersing; McNeill tells the story so well you would be surprised to know he’s had little to do with the Night Lords till now. The whole story is set nice and dark, just like 40k should be. I loved the arguments between the Primarchs as they both debate their own reasoning for their actions on the battle field, but most of all I loved the battle scene where Curze goes on a rampage and tears apart a few of Dorn and Fulgrim’s best warriors. Let’s just say that these Space Marines learned the hard way that they are no match for a Primarch. Furthermore, McNeill does a fantastic job of describing the intense turmoil boiling away in the thoughts of the Night Lords Primarch as he comes to the conclusion that the Imperium is ultimately flawed. In fact, if you consider the Night Haunter as a villain in the 40k universe then by the end of this short story you may just change your tune, or even agree with him. As I said in my opening sentence, I loved this short story, but it’s only half of the whole audio book so let me tell you about its sister story.

The Lightening Tower by Dan Abnett

In contrast to The Dark King, The Lightening Tower is a very different book. The story centres around Rogal Dorn as he struggles with his inner deamons on Terra. Dorn has been ordered back to Terra to fortify the Emperors palace against Horus and his allies. Problem is, Dorn adores his father’s palace. To him it signifies all that the great crusade is and ever will be. A shining beacon to human kind. Unfortunately for Dorn, each time he smears his father’s holy palace in turrets, trenches and pill boxes he feels his belief in everything he has done thus far start to waver. Basically the story is Dorn walking around the Palace of Terra contemplating everything from Horus and his motives, to which of his brothers he fears the most. Abnett’s story gives us a real and honest look into the psyche and thoughts of a demi-god, and we find that although they are far from human, their thoughts and feelings are not. There is a great cameo from Malcador the Sigillite, who helps Dorn delve deep into his feelings of Horus and his traitorous brothers. For those of you playing at home there is a small but very important mention on the two lost legions and their unknown Primarchs, but I’m afraid the information you receive only adds to the mystery behind these two expunged legions. I know some will find this book relatively slow and boring compared to the previous story, and at times... it is. But for the real 40k buffs, the information you get from this story more than outweighs getting through the slower parts of the story. But don’t listen to The Lightening Tower before The Dark King as events from first story transfer over to the second. I did enjoy The Lightening Tower, but not to the same extent that I did The Dark King which is the more superior story.

High Point: The Night Haunter tearing apart Dorn and Fulgrim’s marines like they are play things. I promise you it’s a chapter you WILL listen to again for its utter coolness.

Low Point: Danny Webb’s interpretations of Rogal Dorn’s voice. Webb could have done a lot better than the high pitched, fast, nasal Dorn his gives us in this book. It makes him sounds a bit... wimpy.


1 comment:

  1. I concur. It was also the first audio book I had ever sampled, and I was very impressed, after the adjustment.