The Bolthole HH Book Club: 'Galaxy in Flames'

For talking openly about the spoilers from Black Library fiction.

The Bolthole HH Book Club: 'Galaxy in Flames'

Postby Xisor » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:59 pm

First of all, I must come clean that this is what's piqued my interest the last few days: After Ullanor: A Horus Heresy Bookclub Podcast.

They're up to Fulgrim now, but it goes right back to Episode 0, introducing the concept and all.

It's damn interesting listening, for my part. And it works as a great in-road for our purposes herein. A primer, if you will.

A Word On Spoilers

As After Ullanor are going sequentially, I'd be keen to rigorously avoid any unguarded mention of spoilers beyond this far into the series at all. Be guarded, and be careful: liberally use spoiler tags or simply modify what you're going to say. Moreover, when it comes to spoilers, a good example is Alpharius. Remember his lesson. Shush! Don't be crap-coy and give it away by veiling it in a rubbish riddle. Don't even do what I've done and draw attention to the fact that the thing itself you're not mentioning is a spoiler! Anything like that, just whack it in (brief, if you can!) spoiler tags.

So spoilers for Flight of the Eisenstein, no ta. Don't be like me in the False Gods thread, happily chatting about elements of Legion and Prospero Burns without also being better than me and being more careful about it. Good luck, we're all counting on you. ;)

In summary: Horus Rising, False Gods and Galaxy in Flames can be talked freely about. Everything else: be careful!

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Also, when discussing 'Sources to learn about stuff' in the podcasts, they happen to mention this very Bolthole. Go everyone!

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The Ending

It's the only bit that doesn't get a whole lot of coverage in the podcast regarding what I'd want to say about it and that's that it's poignant.

In my esteem, Loken's end is an agonising, utterly gutting end to the trilogy. But it is intact. It's largely whole and it works as an appropriately closureless death scene. It is pitiful, it's not even definite seeming. But there it is: a big fade to black with everything terrible happened. Now it's time for others' stories.

Thematically, it fits the agony of the arc of the trilogy. Hope's on the Eisenstein, not on the surface of Isstvan III. Down there it's desperate and hateful, all about bloodying the Warmaster's metaphorical nose before your existence is over.

I think that's important, and curiously despite the rest of the book, it's the bit that really and truly fits the trilogy.

Well, it does in my humble esteem.

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The Rest

It had elements of decency in it. The thread of 'knowing your place' was neat for Tarvitz and Lucius, and the turn of the Dies Irae was fairly enjoyable overall.

I don't think enough's critically made of how awful Horus is by now. And by awful I don't mean 'oh no, he's terrible!' I mean his portrayal's laughably awful. As the guys on AU note, the only real glowing positive is his more calmly bringing Fulgrim back onside late on in the book.

Otherwise, it ends with Horus having made more failures (not controlling Angron, wasting time) and still not seeming at all like a sensible candidate for Galactic Statesman of the Year 010M31.

I think that's another element that bugs me a little from the early Heresy novels: even the Captains featured aren't shown being terribly competent or magnificent. It takes a good long while to see battles that are complex or seriously task the Captains beyond how hard and quickly they have to kill. Rather, they're all spectacular combatants mano-a-mano and... that's that.

That's not really to comment on how tediously unengaging Kharn and Angron are, either.

By contrast though, there's still elements to it all that I adore. Much of the scene on Isstvan III during the bombing itself is played out brilliantly. Excepting some valid objections to Tarvitz's flight, that in itself is deeply exciting and engaging. The pacing of that middle bit of the story, the feeling of crushing inevitability played off against a mad dash of hope beyond hope... it's enchanting.

But it's let down by a ton of the rest. Good and bad, though, and certainly bits that left my happy I'd seen them. (But at what cost! *despairs* :lol: )
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Re: The Bolthole HH Book Club: 'Galaxy in Flames'

Postby Athelassan » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:54 am

Xisor wrote:In my esteem, Loken's end is an agonising, utterly gutting end to the trilogy. But it is intact. It's largely whole and it works as an appropriately closureless death scene. It is pitiful, it's not even definite seeming. But there it is: a big fade to black with everything terrible happened. Now it's time for others' stories.

Thematically, it fits the agony of the arc of the trilogy. Hope's on the Eisenstein, not on the surface of Isstvan III. Down there it's desperate and hateful, all about bloodying the Warmaster's metaphorical nose before your existence is over.

I think that's important, and curiously despite the rest of the book, it's the bit that really and truly fits the trilogy.

Well, it does in my humble esteem.

I concur. I'm not sure at what point I became aware that Loken had to die for the trilogy to work. Initially of course I wasn't sure whether he would be the viewpoint character to witness the fall of the Sons of Horus, and therefore whether he could survive almost indefinitely. In some ways I still think that the chosen option, to make him a witness to it without being part of it, was a bit of a cop-out/missed opportunity. For all that it was the point in the trilogy, the opening three books are really quite worryingly slim on the whys and indeed the hows of the Sons' actual descent into treachery. Even discounting the dream sequence, we don't get much after that. Loken gets shut out of the inner circle and whenever we see them in action they seem to have gone full evil almost immediately after Davin.

I almost wonder if the dream sequence is a bit of a red herring. Given Horus's super/post-humanity, his reasoning was perhaps always going to be incomprehensible, and it would almost have been better not to try to explain it than give us the laughably unsatisfactory explanation we got. But we also don't see it from the Sons' perspective. Did any of those falling into treachery have doubts or scepticism about where they were headed? All those who do seem to end up as loyalists, and the division is drawn quite early. The other problem with that is that it serves to sever us from the traitors as characters. By the end of Galaxy in Flames, there aren't many familiar characters around the Warmaster, and most of those who remain who we previously knew fairly well (Luc Sedirae, for instance) have been functionally absent for about a book and a half.

But anyway, at some point it became apparent that Loken was going to have to die to bring the trilogy to a conclusion. I'm not sure how much of the poignancy of that death scene was because it had been effectively forecasted so long ahead and had a grim inevitability about it, or because it was just done well. But I think it was done well, so kudos there.


Spoiler: All of which, of course, makes me very angry about what happened afterwards, but since this is the GiF thread I won't talk about that.



I don't think enough's critically made of how awful Horus is by now. And by awful I don't mean 'oh no, he's terrible!' I mean his portrayal's laughably awful. As the guys on AU note, the only real glowing positive is his more calmly bringing Fulgrim back onside late on in the book.

You're right again; I think I cringed when he made his first appearance at how clumsy it was. I prefer just to pretend he wasn't really in GiF.

That's not really to comment on how tediously unengaging Kharn and Angron are, either.

I was puzzled by Kharn. The idea that he's the voice of reason among the World Eaters high command was one of those things that was at once a subversion of expectations and somehow stupidly obvious, but fair enough. His one chat with Loken felt like it should have carried more weight, somehow. Later when Loken meets him again and wonders "what happened to him?" I flicked back and re-read that conversation and really nothing of the authorial intent seemed to come across. He was flat and stilted and impersonal; he didn't make enough of an impression for a later contrast to have much effect.

But then, as with Horus, I think I prefer mentally to write off the GiF Kharn - as with quite a bit of the opening trilogy - as an early draft while the setting was still finding its feet, and instead look at the way he appears in stories printed subsequently. Admittedly I haven't heard any of the audios, but he's much more engaging, rounded and sympathetic, in other materials: they give us the Kharn I think we were supposed to be mourning when Loken meets him on the battlefield - it's just that the reader hadn't seen that yet.

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