Audio Review: Malediction / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: TBC
One of the main appeals of the the Warhammer 40,000 setting is its sense of darkness and grim certainty. This incredibly well supported franchise is not one that has many happy endings, and the horror of war and weakness of the human condition are long running themes throughout the various stories.
Malediction does nothing to buck the trend; it is a dark little tale, superbly narrated by Seán Barret and grippingly performed by both Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin. It’s the tale of an old soldier in the monolithic Imperial Guard, a galactic army. The poor chap has spent his entire life being hailed as a hero of a major battle, but the truth is much darker and more complex than that, and despite the fame and opportunity granted to him by becoming a hero, it seems like this old soldier has a pretty miserable life.
Things get worse when another warrior (a Space Marine of the Dark Angels Chapter, no less), turns up and asks the old man to tell his tale one more time, though this time, without the lies. At its core, Malediction is an in-the-trenches war drama about young soldiers in over their head, forced to fight by a world that simply doesn’t care if they live or die.
The author’s narrative drives the story forward at a grim and inevitable pace, though it’s the performances that really hammer the tale home. (I do note, however, that in the far-flung future, people still have a Northern Irish accent.) We really get a feeling for the hapless soldiers as they struggle to survive against impossible odds. Fans of the Imperial Guard will find this a familiar sort of tale, however, it’s still one worth listening too. Dark Angel’s fans will also appreciate elements of this drama. It’s not a nice story, but it is a powerful one and well worth it.