On the flight to London I read The Lords Of Silence, a novel centred on the eponymous Lords, a warband of evil Plague Marines. As with most things, it’s more fun to read about the villains than the heroes.
In other books in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Plague Marines are an insidious, evil force delighting in causing suffering and infection. In this treatment, its a little different. The leader of the warband, Vorx (don’t worry, they all have silly names) is slow and pensive, thinking about reality and contrasting his behaviour with the ossified Imperium. They’re meant to be the good guys, but for 10,000 years they’ve been feeding the souls of innocents to their corpse-Emperor, so it’s not so clear they’re so great either.
As with most of these books, the battle scenes are done well, but aren’t the most interesting things. There’s the combination of the weird body horror aspect, and the politicking amongst the Plague Marines. And it’s strange that this can make Vorx a sympathetic character when he’s a plague ridden monstrosity who literally steals somebody’s heart and compels him to do Terrible Things.
(Then again, people have read Fulgrim and decided he’s a tragic figure and not just an uppity wanker, so I guess it takes all sorts.)
The story is set at a time of apocalypse, which always sells more plastic soldiers for Games Workshop – the Chaos Marines (boo!) have escaped their prison in the Eye of Terror and simultaneously broken the psychic beacon everyone uses to navigate through space. Which is a bit rude, really.
Whereas in Dark Imperium and Plague War, set at the same time, the Chaos forces are uniformly evil, scheming baddies, here they’re a bunch of nerds obsessed with counting things and writing everything down (as well as tormenting people, inventing new poisons, etc etc). So maybe this is a stealthy way to introduce concepts about scepticism and seeing somebody else’s viewpoint.
Or it’s more chainsaw and bolter porn. I don’t know.