Wednesday, 20 June 2012
'Malediction' - C.Z. Dunn (Black Library)
My current job sees me somewhere in the middle of what looks like possibly several weeks of data input. I'm not knocking people who do this for a living but it's not the most stimulating job in the world is it? It wouldn't be a stretch to say that it's exactly the opposite in fact...
The only way I've been able to get through this job is to have my iPod on pretty much constantly, throughout the day, and yesterday it was the turn of the Black Library's latest audiobook to get a good listening to. I was particularly interested to listen to 'Malediction' as I've only ever really come across C.Z. Dunn as an editor and not as an author in his own right. I wanted to see how his audiobook measured up to previous efforts and I'm pleased to say that not only did it measure up but it sets a pretty good standard for future audiobooks to follow.
Blurb copied and pasted today because, you know, data inputting waits for no man... :o(
On the world of Procel V, veteran Imperial Guard officer Regan Antigone is being honoured for his role in the planet's liberation from the forces of Chaos, some twenty-five years earlier. But when his old comrade, Master Tigrane of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, arrives to join the festivities and asks to hear the glorious tale told once more, Antigone falters. With the details of his account cast under close scrutiny and with the judgement of the Imperium hanging over him, will his noble reputation remain intact?
For seventy five minutes yesterday I was able to escape a rather dull job and look through the eyes of a beleagured Imperial Guardsman onto a battlefield gone mad with the horrors of war in the far future. Then I got to turn the iPod off and return to some measure of normality afterwards; the universe of Warhammer 40K is a great place to visit but not one where you'd want to stay for too long...
'Malediction' is a tale of deception on the battlefield and the cost that one man must pay for living with that knowledge afterwards. Regan Antigone hates the pomp that has grown around his 'heroism' and I started the tale feeling little sympathy for him. Once you get to find out the truth though, you can't help but feel sorry for a man put in an impossible position. Everyone wants to live and terrible oaths will be sworn on a battlefield to gain a few more hours of life. When you bring it down to that level you can't blame Antigone but how will his oath cast him, in the eyes of the Imperium, when that truth comes to light? Long term fans of the game, and the Dark Angels Chapter in particular, will have a lot more fun debating that argument than newcomers to the setting but the twist in the tale is one that everyone will enjoy I think. The ending is brutal, and very abrupt, yet somehow fitting.
If that wasn't enough for you, 'Malediction' is also an insightful tale of perhaps the most heroic soldiers in the armies of the Imperium, the Imperial Guard. These are just mere men tasked with defending humanity against the xenos hordes armed with nothing but a las-gun and a lot of faith. Dunn does very well to capture the fear that Antigone and his friends feel and the way that they soldier on regardless up until the point where their nerves can take it no longer. Dunn also does very well to show how the allies at a Guardsman's back can be just as terrifying as the enemy in front of them. No matter what Antigone wants to do, the only way he can go is forwards...
Sean Barret's narration is dry and imposing while Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin combine to fool the listener into thinking that the cast of 'Malediction' is far more than just three people. All in all, one of the better listening experiences from Black Library and one that I think will definitely set the bar for future audiobooks in the range.
Nine and a Half out of Ten