The First Heretic (long text)

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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby sigillite » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:46 pm

Xisor wrote:
sigillite wrote:
Xisor wrote:
In The First Heretic, what we see is Lorgar portrayed on a journey. He, contrasted well with Vulkan in Promethean Sun, is unable to reconcile what he knows for a fact was the Emperor's [stated and repeated] design/intent and what he both thinks, feels and [to his view] knows is what he should be doing. Vulkan felt he was to be a leader, a protector, a visionary and a charismatic philosopher-king...but he knew the Emperor needed a general, so he had to become the warrior the Emperor intended, to forsake his own conviction for the Emperor. Lorgar couldn't do that.



I disagree on this. Lorgar got to the point where he just refused to do it any longer.




Unsurprisingly, I disagree with your disagreement. :lol:

Vulkan never had a tantrum. Nor did he beat up Malcador. To put it another way (and according to the artist who drew the two 'religious' pictures of the Salamanders in Horus Heresy: Collected visions, although that was generally about the Salamanders, not strictly about Vulkan himself): they never wavered. Even after everything, they still 'had faith' in the Emperor. (According to the artist, this was in contrast to the Dark Angels, who almost/sorta turned.)

Lorgar, on the other hand, was dragging his heels all along. Lorgar's legion was busy building utopias, the Emperor reiterated he wanted worlds conquered. (Note: it was the other primarchs who censured Night Haunter, not the Emperor. An important point? Probably not, but it should be.) Lorgar beats up Malcador. :?

Vivia wrote:What I disliked was the victimisation of the WB legion that the TFH painted, it was poorly done.


I don't see it in the slightest. The victimisation of the legion, that is. It's poorly done because they're victims to nothing more (and nothing less) than themselves: Erebus and Kor Phaeron gank Lorgar by insisting on religifying everything, on Lorgar having to have more than everyone else. They're pushy parents.

But, with that in mind, Lorgar has no bloody business in allowing himself to be dictated as he is. He's weak, he's...rubbish. (It's a coming of age story.)

Aaron's already discussed this: Lorgar isn't supposed to be likeable, or particularly competent (for a primarch). He's a fantastic idealistic world builder...but no-one needs that. That can wait 'til after the enemy aren't at the gates. More to the point, Aaron's noted explicitly that when we next see Lorgar, chronologically (i.e. prob. not in Aurelian), he'll be 'becoming the primarch he was born to be', someone who's not being pushed about, the Primarch who'll be doing the pushing.

But, as you indicate Vivia (though don't say so!), it's Lorgar who acts like the victim, even though it's plain to everyone he's not.

Note how he only takes ~300 folks with him on his 'Soul Search' to the edge of reality? Those 300 are his 'Mournival', to an extent. He gets rid of Erebus and Kor Phaeron for that. They go off and they lead the other Word Bearers (essentially knowing that/relying on Lorgar'll be more 'on their wavelength' when he gets back). As in they start the purges of loyalist Word Bearers and lead the legion without Lorgar's daft victim complex (which even he surely recognises is a Bad Thing, hence only taking a handful of what amount to redshirts with him).

And, of course, note that in Lorgar's 'absence' (lets call it his holiday to Magalu--- The Eye of Terror) the Word Bearers go from being the slowest most agonisingly crawling legion to 'absolutely fine, nothing to see here', better perhaps (I don't quite remember if that's explicit or made-up-by-my-imagination).

I concur fairly on Guilliman being 'normal'. As with Horus in Horus Rising, Ferrus Manus in Fulgrim and Mortarion in Eisenstein, they seem...well adjusted. Fulgrim's a bit of an odd-ball and Magnus is... Magnus. Similarly, the odd camaraderie seen at Nikaea in Prospero Burns is again eerily normal.

And yet, the more screen-time they get (e.g. Mortarion in A Thousand Sons and both himself and Ferrus Manus in Promethean Sun), they do seem a lot less normal. It's played with nicely (if not very well) regarding the Lion. He's brilliant, but his lack of 'getting normal things' is massively undermining him.

Alternatively you could be Night Haunter and actually just be thoroughly loopy.




I should have clarified. I disagreed with the last sentence of your post when you said Lorgar couldn't do that. Lorgar did do that (act as a general) until Monarchia then he refused to do it any longer.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Xisor » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:51 pm

sigillite wrote:I should have clarified. I disagreed with the last sentence of your post when you said Lorgar couldn't do that. Lorgar did do that (act as a general) until Monarchia then he refused to do it any longer.

Ah, I see, my apologies!

Nevertheless, it's arguable that Lorgar's 'act' as a general wasn't that good either, hence Monarchia. The difference, say, between Patrick Stewart and William Shatner. ;)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:19 pm

As much fun as it is to over-analyse Lorgar and his failure as a primarch, poor man, let's not forget to over-analyse the novel. :)

So far my complains have been about:
    lack of compelling characters
    difficulties with the setting
    unrealistic dialogue, as in Shakespearean speech as they called it, it was the same in Fulgrim
    female characters as plot-devices
(the last subject is much more complicated and what should be in a topic called "What I like about the BL books".)
Xisor wrote:Aaron's already discussed this: Lorgar isn't supposed to be likeable, or particularly competent (for a primarch).

The not likeable character can be argued, one of my favourite books of all time is Madame Bovary and I don't like the main character but I can relate to her. I couldn't relate to anyone in TFH and that makes a difficult read.
So far people like Argol Tal, and Cyrene to some extent. Not one have mentioned KP, Xaphen or Aquillon so what does it say? That it seems the cast weren't made of fascinating and memorable characters as in Ravenor. No one has argued about me calling Aquillon despicable either. :)
What appeals to the readers with TFH? The plot? Lorgar? The setting in 30k? Or do people read because it's a HH novel? The reviews on Amazon left me puzzled (a reviewer called it a masterpiece, I understand it's an excellent book for a lot of people but masterpiece, really) and I should probably be hanged for saying anything bad about it. :)

Here are few links to help explain some of the things I keep babbling about:
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/dialogue-helps-to-tell-your-story/
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/creatin ... haracters/
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/5-quali ... velopment/
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05 ... tting.html
These articles are for writers but can be read by anyone.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Flashgordon » Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:01 pm

Please lets get over this analyzation of the books and take it for the facts that it gives us instead? I just feel it has been done to death already. We all know that taste is personal and that no writer who writes in the BL universe will become the "Ultimate writer of the century". I enjoy them all the same, to less, in some cases, and to a higher degree in other.
Personally i do not care if its "sheakspeare" reading or whatever as long as i enjoy it and it brings new light on my favourite setting. ;)

/sorry end rant.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:06 pm

Agreed with Flash. There is a danger of over-analyzing the novels once you start getting into this much detail about them and the characters and events within. Some things you just have to take on a liberal dose of faith and just go with it. Which is why even though I pretty nearly dislike the second half of Soul Drinker and yuck at the second book, I still like the series overall and Sarpedon is one of my favourite characters ever :)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:16 pm

Yes, I guess you are both right. I have a friend who writes and we tend to have endless talks about writing, fanfiction and stuff. Not everyone is into it. :)
Flashgordon, I don't think you're ranting, you're just telling how you feel about it.

Sarpedon is one of my favourites too but I can't remember exactly why and the second book was a little less than satisfying. I'm kind of having second thoughts about the first novel too. You know, 8+ is a long time. This time Execution Hour may prove to be completely reasonable, lol.
Last edited by Vivia on Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:17 pm

Finish Soul Drinker and then we can debate that one too ;)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:27 pm

Totally. At the rate my reading is going I can declare it won't be any time soon. :)
I can't wait to get to the Architect of Fate stuff (overworked brain, can't spell anything).

Is it wrong of me to want to read the Dawn Of War series? I can't find any reviews, perhaps that says something.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:37 pm

Vivia wrote:Totally. At the rate my reading is going I can declare it won't be any time soon. :)
I can't wait to get to the Architect of Fate stuff (overworked brain, can't spell anything).

Is it wrong of me to want to read the Dawn Of War series? I can't find any reviews, perhaps that says something.


Well I'm going on a family holiday starting tomorrow so I'll be gone for a while ;)

The Architect of Fate stuff is going to be totally boss. Can't wait myself for it.

Dawn of War recommendation. The first book is a chore to get through. The second and third books also can be quite slow at times. The fourth, Dawn of War 2, is much easier to read but it just might not be something you like although I do recommend it. Keep in mind that the fourth book doesn't really follow the events in the game with any straight continuity. The first book though, from what I remember, pretty much follows the game's SM campaign chronology.

Overall I do recommend the books if for nothing else than some really cool scenes involving Eldar, Necrons, Tyranids and CSM.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:50 pm

I haven't played the DoW games, only watched it on YT, it's extremely repetitive but the cutscenes are cool. DoW 2 have fabulous voice-acting and I have this idea it will translate into the novels but I may be completely wrong there. :)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Xisor » Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:57 pm

Vivia wrote:As much fun as it is to over-analyse Lorgar and his failure as a primarch, poor man, let's not forget to over-analyse the novel. :)

So far my complains have been about:
    lack of compelling characters
    difficulties with the setting
    unrealistic dialogue, as in Shakespearean speech as they called it, it was the same in Fulgrim
    female characters as plot-devices
(the last subject is much more complicated and what should be in a topic called "What I like about the BL books".)


Compelling Characters?

Again, I can't restate it enough: I find Lorgar compelling. To an extent I find him relatable. I can read him happily. E.g. David Brent in The Office. There's entertainment to be had there (and I think A D-B delivered). Mainly because I can sorta see the reasoning behind someone driving themselves mad over beliefs. Being manipulated by your surrogate dad, Rev Iain Paisely in Terminator Armour (aka Kor Phaeron), makes for a sympathetic situation. Or at least a dynamic one which kept me intrigued. Arguably Phaeron and Erebus are placeholders, but then they're barely cameos in the novel anyway, I'd prefer to avoid being bogged down in 'why weren't they more significant!?'.

---

Difficulties with the Setting

I think this is close to un-negotiable, but it is explorable. I find Dan Abnett's 40k very perturbing. (Most perturbing!) Brothers of the Snake is dire. Graham McNeill's Ultramarines series are enjoyable, but not what I want to see more of in 40k books.

It is mystifying, to an extent, as I find Aaron's 30k and his 40k to be almost definitive. Both he, Chris Wraight and Rob Sanders, of the 'new crop' seem to get 40k (and relate 40k as a story [and 30k]) much better than even the well established authors. (Farrer's an exception, but he publishes so rarely I find it difficult to call him established. 'Kinda-regular miracle'? Maybe.)

So to then have someone say they don't get it, it's...disconcerting! 8-) And somewhat enlightening too. Always good to be reminded my opinion is distinct from fact.

As said, just because folks disagree on that sort of thing (and it is almost certainly 'purely/massively subjective'), doesn't mean it can't be discussed and explored in interesting ways.

---

Shakespearean Dialogue

I think I noted before, or meant to, but I care more for dialogue that speeds things along. Conveys emotions, gives import to characters and their motivations but which also 'properly' guides exposition. I can't say I've ever had a trouble with A D-B's dialogue, in shorts or novels. Indeed, I've found it usually more manageable than others'.

Contrast, say, to Graham's dialogue in the Ultramarines series where everything just sounds off. And contrast again with the Ravenor series, which as noted just oozes excellence so much so I barely remember the dialogue.

I don't mind it being charicatured, or stilted, so long as it fits. Ultramarines especially feels awfully mismanaged. I find Nick Kyme's dialogue to be one of his main weaknesses (along with a slight lack of inventiveness when it comes to naming things [not people, I like his character names]).

Again, I can see how it'd 'not work' on a personal level, but by technical measures, I've not noticed (not to say it's not there; I'll likely be looking out for it from now on) anything amiss.

---

Female Characters

To be utterly frank, I think BLP fails miserably on this front. The only notable female character in 40k, that I recall, is Shira Calpurnia. (Also Donna Ulanti of Survival Instinct, now I recall.)

I'd make one point on this by raising one idea: almost every BLP author fits the type "straight white male". Some deviations, of course, but that conception of normality is surely to reflect on their concerns as an author. Or rather, what they can accurately replicate.

I regularly RP as female characters, but that's largely because it's conceptually quite difficult. I.e. it's quite a struggle for me to concieve of any necessary differences between my outlook and the outlook of other people. Sure, experience-based differences and conditioning and the factor of potential hormonal stuff...but beyond that? I find it difficult to imagine a woman as terribly different from a man in principle. Characters, for me, are characters. But then I'm also a straight white male; there's a massive element of self-defeat in that line of thinking. Of course I can't concieve of a convincing female character. I can barely think of a convincing male.

I'd contend that the 'problem' with female characters in BLP isn't from a chauvanistic or anti-feminist front, but from simply a lack of the sources notably good female characters would logically come from in the authorship. But then Ms Cawkwell's on the team, perhaps we'd expect a change?

Contrarily, I think Cyrene did become a plot-device, but much in the same way that Erebus and Kor Phaeron did. Interesting and, IMO, well handled, but nevertheless: they weren't movers/shakers, they were causes and things to be affected by the story, not overwhelming pieces of it.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:03 am

Well said. I still don't agree but I understand a lot more.

From what I got from TFH, A D-B is very knowledgeable in the lore of 40k but that doesn't translate into good story-telling. Sometimes too much technical detail can weighed down the main plot.
To me, Graham's McNeill describes the world I get glimpses of from the rule book. I can visualise it in my mind and understand what the characters are seeing. :)

The "Shakespearen" speech is almost inexcusable to me, it isn't far from LOL speech in sillyness. Also, that's not why I want to read 40k novel for the "high prose" or imitation of such. For Fulgrim it almost worked because he was such an eccentric, to put it nicely.

To get well-written speech of this kind you can read in Eye of Terror where Barrington J.Bailey writes a Space Marine from ancient times, showing that the SM isn't from the age of 40k. Even the DoW 2 dialogue was more convincing, it's awesome, the actors know their craft. There are audio-files on YT.
"Yes, brother, moving to engage!" It all sounds very convincing to me. :)

I hardly remember any dialogue in detail from any book except for a few lines no matter what I thought of it.

On the subject of female characters in BL:

Most of the time I find it acceptable that there are so few women in them, for one, if there aren't any they can't be badly written. Dark Apostle was almost devoid of women and it worked since it depicted the SM.
I'm happy to say that what I read in TFH seldom happens in most 40k books, women tend to be neutral, not genderless. The universe of 40k have other concerns than gender-roles and I find that liberating.

If you RP female characters I wouldn't worry too much if it's convincing, just do your thing. That's what RP is about.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby sigillite » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:42 am

To each their own, but I don't know how anyone could think ADB's dialogue is unconvincing ( especially when comparing it to Eye of Terror, which was very enjoyable, but come on, it was Fantasia in 40k). ADB's dialogue is so matter of fact, it's as close as you can get to real people having real conversations and interactions in 40k. As Xisor pointed out, ADB is a relatively young writer so his stories aren't perfect, but dialogue seems to me to be his greatest strength. The newer writers seem to be taking the cartoonish nature out of 40k and I'm all for it.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby MC Warhammer » Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:42 am

The First Heretic is one of the few Horus Heresy books written with heart, and more importantly vulnerability,
two things I’ve found rare in Warhammer 40k fiction.

Not only that but it knows how to give shape to a story, using different tones and evoking different emotions. So far, it’s one of the few novels in the HH range to have genuinely humorous moments amongst the tragic. So many of these novels play just the one note, while TFH manages to hit many.

I also enjoyed the non-linear narrative, and the sense of introspection and psychology at play, which was a breath of fresh air for me.

The prose was also strikingly visceral at times, haunting and evocative. ADB seems to understand that the beauty needs to be expressed alongside the horror and grandeur. I really can't see any correlation with Shakespeare at all in that or the dialogue.

It’s a subtle book that I’m sure was difficult to write and not as straightforward in its execution as 90% of the BL fiction I've encountered.

As you admitted from the get go, Vivia, most of your analysis is personal bias based on your tastes, morals and politics and I don’t know if these can ever be argued against. The book simply doesn't "fit you".

The idea that you couldn’t relate to any of the characters, is valid to a point. I’d say that it’s hard to identify with any of the traitor stories completely, since these are people who become ultimately corrupt through their own personal weaknesses. Weaknesses that a reader might not share.

Writing Argel Tal as the protagonist who willingly becomes a Heretic due to his loyalty, love and sense of honour is an extremely difficult and complex one to convey. He’s meant to be the reader’s “in” ,the one that we might not relate to, but can at the very least understand or comprehend in his motivations. A key to the Word Bearer legion to help us fathom its fall.

Loken from Horus Rising is much simpler to relate to, and perhaps you'd accept him more readily, since he stands against the corruption in his legion, never wavering and never understanding their fall himself. He is as much an outsider to their thoughts and motivations as we are. Even the Astartes in Fulgrim might be easier to swallow, since they are tricked by magic, drugs and surgery into becoming altered beings who quickly devolve into foulness.

It's strange to relate to a man who is a devoutly religious warrior possessed of an almost irresistible love and loyalty to his godlike sire, whom he consciously follows into hell, but I think the author opens us to it with grace and insight.

I can’t think of another fall to chaos written in quite this manner...and it’s heartbreaking to watch someone who once believed in better, allow himself to be broken for those he loves. Isn’t that the ultimate expression of (the darker side) of family?

To have weaknesses and compulsions (a need to worship or to be right or whatever it is we want to attribute to the legion ) is also ultimately human. We all have these and we are all compelled against logic, reason and morals from time to time. Or at the very least, sorely tempted to do so.

I agree that Cyrene was somewhat of a foil, but not for Lorgar. She was used to tell Argel Tal’s story and represented the last of his innocence, which he desperately tried to preserve even as he committed the rest of himself to hell. And when she was killed at the end (fittingly, by an agent of the Emperor), so was the last pure thing within him.

I think singling her out as an example of “female plot device” is unfair, as she is better used than most of the Space Marines, and comes from a political criticism, rather than what is necessarily good for the story.

When Argel Tal runs to Cyrene for comfort as everything he was and once believed in broke, was one of the most moving things I have ever read. He was becoming a monster, and he was frightened, and for all his power and resolve, he reached out for the one human in his life that was still “pure” and “good” to comfort him in that moment, hopeless as it was. As self inflicted as it was. The sheer vulnerability of that was very powerful for me.

That’s not to say that Cyrene didn’t have merit on her own. She was strong and brave in ways that most readers on this board would probably not be in the face of her home’s destruction. Her ability to love Argel Tal (blindly) was an indispensible part of the story.

And there’s still a lot of character development to be found in hers and other minor personalities in the story. Xaphen and the rest of the Gal V (even those with less screentime), go through very clear character arcs. Not necessarily in any great depth, but that’s where the author has given us the important pointers and markers in their journeys, allowing the reader to fill the rest in for themselves. This is not a book that holds the audience’s hand. Another thing I have to give to Aaron, even his smallest characters develop in glimpses; the reader just needs to be aware and participate. There's few "red shirts" here.

That’s one of ADB’s greatest attributes as a writer, the uniqueness of his characters. In Fulgrim, I felt I’d read it all somewhere before. Here, Argel Tal was new and fascinating to follow. I couldn't guess where he would go and what he would decide and how he would act. Another thing I enjoy about his characters is that they are unpredictable. Who saw Lorgar’s last show of independence and bravery and selflessness at the dropsite massacre coming? Or the last Custodes final (and grimly humourous) last kill?

You're right, Vivia, Lorgar is a child in some respects. He has the passions of one and the heart of one too.
He might not have been the youngest in terms of years but he is the youngest, most gentle of the brothers in character. I felt sympathy for him in the almost timid scene with Ferrus manus, where it was never so obvious that his soul wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the other primarchs, even if his body was. Never choosing to be a loner like others in his fraternity, he was an outcast simply because he didn't fit his father's dream. And like most people I love, I felt some distaste for him at times as well.

I think an ability to understand and be fascinated by the inner workings of others that you don’t relate to or agree with is a huge part of enjoying the First Heretic. A curiosity of their motivations and a desire to understand them, to put yourself in their shoes, not the other way around. It's not easy, I suppose. That’s what a great writer should be able to explore and convery for us and what I feel ADB accomplished in The First Heretic for a great many readers.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:24 am

Mc Warhammer wrote:The prose was also strikingly visceral at times, haunting and evocative. ADB seems to understand that the beauty needs to be expressed alongside the horror and grandeur. I really can't see any correlation with Shakespeare at all in that or the dialogue.

I don't care for florid prose and well, it's 40k. It was only the dialogue that I thought was "Shakespearen" (with quote marks because it's fake), sorry if I wasn't clear. :)
I felt sympathy for him in the almost timid scene with Ferrus manus, where it was never so obvious that his soul wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the other primarchs, even if his body was. Never choosing to be a loner like others in his fraternity, he was an outcast simply because he didn't fit his father's dream.

It was an unexpected touching moment and felt more genuine than the rest of the novel. The same when he thought about Fulgrim's rejection.
I wish the story would have touched more of that instead of getting lost on describing the wonders of L and the WB. I suspect the story was trying very hard to be something it wasn't.

Mc Warhammer wrote:I agree that Cyrene was somewhat of a foil, but never for Lorgar. She was used to tell Argel Tal’s story and represented the last of his innocence, which he desperately tried to preserve even as he committed the rest of himself to hell. And when she was killed at the end (fittingly, by an agent of the Emperor), so was the last pure thing within him.

That's how female characters are used as plot-devices in literature and popular culture all the time, there is nothing new there. They stand for the Good and Pure and sometimes sacrificed in order for the Hero to feel. I'm not buying it in TFH for one second and AT is a Space Marine, for crying out loud.

I also object to the way the Custodian was used in the murder of Cyrene. It made no sense for a tube-grown man-creature like Aquillon and I can dislike him all I want but he deserved better than that as character. But as I said before, since I failed to make sense of the story I started to nitpick minor details.

Yes, Eye of Terror was like Fantasia a la 40k but it made sense within the context of the story with the giant rose planets and what not. :)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:57 am

It has been great discussing TFH, every angle of it but I have reached my limit in discussing golden man-creatures of the future. And I don't think I can type the name Lorgar again for at least six months. :)

Blood for the Blood God is looking very tempting.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:47 pm

Blood for the Blood God is an excellent book.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Vivia » Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:31 pm

Yes, I have read Palace of the Plague God, an evil tale of gore. I'm trying very hard not to read the spoiler section.
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby MC Warhammer » Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:21 am

I can understand being over it, Vivia. Three pages on the same topic is usually about my limit too. As usual, I'm a late comer to the discussion, so I'll just keep talking to an empty room for my own amusement. I won't expect a reply, but hopefully some of what I have to say will offer a different perspective to consider, even if you (or anyone) ultimately disagree...

I can't see the "florid" nature of the author's text myself...his writing is almost the opposite of flowery. It's visceral and by turns grand or rough, but never flamboyant. I'd ask for examples, but I'll respect your decision to bow out of the discussion.

I'm also wary of limiting the style of writing to "it's 40k" which could be seen as saying "know your place little book, don't ever delude yourself that you could ever be more than candy pulp power swords". I see it more as 'Well, it's 40k...and it can be as sublime or foul as it wants'.

I'm curious what it is that you believe The First Heretic had pretensions to becoming, that felt it couldn't manage. I can see where a lot of your criticisms come from on a surface level, but it is a subtle book in many ways and layered in meaning. If I took it at face value, I think I'd have a very similar reaction to you. I just don't think this book or this writer works in that simple a way.

Think of the subversive, almost ironic way the things that bug you actually play out in the story. Yes, a lot of the description in the text is a biased narrative devoted to extolling the wondrous wonders of Wonder-Lorgar and his Wonder-Bearers...but...the events and portrayals of those same characters showed just how not wonderful they actually were. At this point in the Great Crusade, despite their god-like ability and potential, Lorgar and the Word Bearers are the closest thing the Emperor has to a legion of failures.

While Argel Tal and most human perspectives are coloured by rose tinted Lorgar 5D glasses, the facts of the novel speak for themselves and subvert those opinions. The Custodians are especially important in this regard, as they give the audience an out-of-legion point of view on the legion and their "weakling primarch"

For me, it's about looking beneath the froth on top and seeing what's brewing below. The clues are all there. That scene that we both enjoyed with Ferrus and Lorgar is a good example of this balancing out of his character. And I don't think I'd want too much more of it, those glimpses are more powerful for being used sparingly.

Similarly, there's ADB's subversion of the 'pure and good female "plot device"'. I agree that it's been done to death since...well...since stories began...but it hasn't lost its potency or relevance in all those centuries for a reason.

Further, if we want to be pedantic, we can break down any character as a "plot device"...I mean, isn't that what all characters are in a technical sense? A device through which we tell a story. It's only when that device isn't handled in an interesting manner or fails in some way to advance the plot that it becomes a problem. Something that I don't think Cyrene was guilty of.

Anyway, back to TFH subversion of the "pure woman"; think about it. Consider who the one, pure "woman" in Argel Tal's miserable, choking life is. She's blind for one, and can't see him clearly. She's from a corrupted world for another. And her profession back home was anything but "pure" in the traditional sense. She ain't no ingenue.

And yes, Argel Tal is a (very idealistic) Space Marine. On the one hand you (rightly) criticise the cliche of the "pure female" archetype, but on the other seem to be demanding it for the "macho Space marine". Thank **** I was able to read about one Astartes that had such a human vulnerability and idealism to him. He really was one of a kind in a legion of thousands and a unique character amongst 40k fiction.

For me, I find that with a corrupted dystopic setting like 40k, I'd have a tough time enjoying it if I didn't leave my own political and moral convictions at the door. There's a danger of judging the text on those personal grounds rather than its own merits. And worse, a danger of not enjoying it. ;)
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Re: The First Heretic (long text)

Postby Ogun » Sun Aug 28, 2011 11:24 am

I'm finding these different takes on TFH very interesting :)

When I read the book I found Cyrene to be an incredibly difficult character to understand and relate to. She is a religious fanatic blindly devoted to the WBs. Yet, on one level her death at the end was saddening (I actually found the Tech priest and the robot to be the more moving, which I think was a wonderful way by A D-B to up end our expectations).

Anyway, back to TFH subversion of the "pure woman"; think about it. Consider who the one, pure "woman" in Argel Tal's miserable, choking life is. She's blind for one, and can't see him clearly. She's from a corrupted world for another. And her profession back home was anything but "pure" in the traditional sense. She ain't no ingenue.


I would agree. To my mind in fact Cyrene was not at all 'Pure', she is both symptom and part of the problem inflicting the WBs, and more particularly Argel Tal. She is to a large extent a negative force. A conflicted Argel Tal only finds naive reassurance from her, the message that the WBs will do the right thing. She never asks the hard questions of Argel Tal's actions that Loken recieves from Karkasy, Mersadie Oliton, Sindermann or Keeler. On the other hand she is a link to humanity for AT, her death is saddening in that it is another thread to AT's fast dwindling humanity that has been severed, he is now alone with no comfort or reassurance, isolated even from his own legion.
I think Cyrene's role could have been beefed up slightly in the last section of the book, particularly with a view to showing how the Custodians viewed her presence before Istvaan. She was after all a religious figure, surely that must have caused tensions with them? I think Aquillon's reaction to go after Cyrene both demonstrates he is aware of her influence, and, that he has been suspicious of it for a while. She is a canker to him that warrants his immediate attention and to a degree his analysis is correct.
That at least was my take on her :)
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