Monday, May 1, 2017

REVIEW: Scythes of the Emperor - Daedalus

Laurie Goulding returns to the Scythes of the Emperor with another short story, this time as an audio drama. Having moved on from the disaster at the Giant's Coffin, the Scythes are looking to rebuild their fractured chapter. When a splinter of Hive Fleet Kraken happens to attack a world that is currently housing some of their precious gene-seed it is up to a small strike force to retrieve the cargo and its accompanying Apothecary. Can they slip past the tendrils of the Tyranids unscathed?

I really enjoy the audio dramas put out by Black Library, and this one is no different. For those unfamiliar with the BL audio dramas, these are more than just an audio book. There's music, sound effects, and multiple actors. Think more along the lines of a radio drama, or a movie with the screen turned off and you wouldn't be far off. Daedalus continues to uphold the sterling reputation with some great acting, sound effects, and music. The music choice here is more your standard 40k fare, unlike with the last few audio dramas I have reviewed, but that's not a bad thing at all.

The story opens with a Strike Cruiser of the Scythes of the Emperor closing in on the stricken world. Stranded on its surface is one of their Apothecaries, Aratus, and two crates of vital gene-seed. He had been deployed there to find new recruits for the Chapter, and in a stroke of bad luck, a single hive ship of the Tyranids happened across the same planet. The Scythes by no means have the forces to fight the Tyranid invasion in any way, so their only goal is to retrieve the gene-seed and escape. In fact, the retrieval of their own Apothecary is even secondary, and any of the Chapter serfs with him are to be left behind. This really shows off the very callous nature the Chapter has taken on since Sotha. To be fair, this seems to be more the attitude of their new Chapter Master, Thracian, than that of the Battle-Brothers of the rest of the Chapter.

Deploying by Stormeagle, we follow Assault Squad Cassander, as they weave through the Tyranid fleet and swarms of gargoyles. Our main hero is Brother Esau, a full fledged Marine, but still a novice by Astartes standards. In a cool moment he reassures a nervous novice who is not yet a full Battle-Brother by telling him how this will be his first drop deployment outside of a simulation. This again shows how strapped for experience the Scythes are. As the Stormeagle makes for the planet's surface it's attacked by a pair of Harpies in what has to be my favorite scene of the whole drama. The gigantic Tyranid creatures start tearing the gunship to pieces, bursting through the armor to snatch Marines away as the ship plummets to the ground in a tailspin. Esau is our point of reference for this whole scene, and all you can hear the whole time in the background is him breathing heavily through his helmet. That coupled with the shrieks of the Tyranids, the rushing wind, and the sounds of battle all add up to a truly harrowing experience. You really feel like you are there as it's all happening. The action ramps up even more as Esau has to abandon the Stormeagle and starts to plummet to the ground with nothing but his jump pack. This whole time the Harpy is still trying to attack him.

I don't want to give any more of the plot away, but the rest of it is equally as intense, with the finale almost rivaling the initial plummeting scene. This worked excellent as a short story, and fantastically as an audio drama. By putting us in the shoes of a novice marine we are able to experience the near panic he must have been feeling the whole time, or as close as a Space Marine gets to that emotion. The wind effects and claustrophobic nature of hearing his own breathing inside the helmet really puts you on edge throughout the whole thing. The action starts shortly after the first scene of the drama, and doesn't let up until the end. My only critiques of it are that the very start of it was a little slow and dry, and I wanted a bit more at the very end, which I guess says a lot about the quality of the story and acting since I just wanted it to keep going. Even though the beginning is a bit slow like I said, it is interesting in that it gives you a look at a bit more of the mundane sides of being a Space Marine getting ready for battle. I love that kind of stuff since it really helps me believe the world. For example, you hear about how their armor is put on, and how a Marine with a jump pack is secured in a gunship for an orbital drop.

The main characters all felt believable, with Esau really pulling you in and making you care for him. If you want to hear an edge of your seat, non-stop, nail biting Space Marine story, then I highly recommend this. Really, every action scene felt intense, felt like it had weight and consequence, and felt truly cinematic. It also doesn't hurt that the cover art for this is pretty awesome. Laurie continues to spin the tale of the Scythes of the Emperor and I'm excited to see where he takes it next. I can only hope that Esau and the rest of the survivors from this story make an appearance in whatever the next main storyline is.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment