Review: Honour to the Dead / Author: Gav Thorpe / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: August 29th
Back in the '80s, Games Workshop produced a tabletop war game called Adeptus Titanicus. Set in the pre-history of their Warhammer 40,000 setting, it was about giant robots (called Titans) hitting each other. The set only included one shape of mechanical monster, so players squared off into loyalist and heretic factions. This game paved the way for what is now the multi-million selling Horus Heresy series of novels and audio-dramas. In a way, things have come full circle with the latest Horus Heresy audio, Honour to the Dead, which is all about the Titans.
Set during a planetary invasion, the drama follows two main threads; one involves a pair of super soldiers (called Ultramarines) who end up protecting innocents as the city around them gets devastated, and the other is an epic battle between giant, robotic killing machines who are doing much of the devastating. Though having people running round on the ground is nice (and allows the listener to get a perspective of the fight from the ground up), the real joy here is the fight between titans. Black Library has worked very hard to create a rich soundscape here, everything from War of the Worlds-style war horns to the thick clomping sound of super-massive boots treading on concrete can be heard. The plot is not a complex one – this is shooty death kill in space, to coin a phrase, but it is thrilling.
The performances are very well done as always; Jane Collingwood does especially well with the rather two-dimensional role of a terrified mother, bringing depth to the character as much as she can. It’s easy to see why this has been produced as an audio drama – Gav Thorpe’s story does the job but the production pushes the tale past the level of yet another Horus Heresy story and into something that really is quite good.
Those eager for more revelations in the Horus Heresy series need to look elsewhere; in this conflict, the heresy merely serves as a backdrop; this is an action adventure tale set during the approximate middle of the planned fifty book series, the drama taking place roughly the same time as the novel Mark of Calth. It does work as a standalone; all the casual listener needs to know is that there’s a big war happening across the galaxy, and that’s covered early on. If you have a fondness for the likes of War of the Worlds or if all the Pacific Rim hype has sparked your interest in this sort of story, then it’s certainly worth a listen.