Horus Heresy: Hunter's Moon
written by Guy Haley
I think I made a mistake yesterday. I chose an audio from the Space Marine Battles line which tends to be very action oriented (and not terribly well-suited to audio) from an author I didn't know about an army that doesn't much interest me. Today its a Horus Heresy story, which tend to do better on audio, by one of my favourite Black Library authors and featuring two of my favourite Space Marine factions ever: the Space Wolves and the Alpha Legion. Certainly a better recipe for success. Also its only half an hour long so wouldn't try my patience it if didn't live up to its pedigree.
Haley certainly knows how to make a story like this work on audio. He crafts a small incident in the greater sweep of the Heresy rather than trying to write an entire battle into a short script. He also employs a more intimate narration style as an old fisherman on the planet Pelago tells his young pupil of the day the “star giants” came to their world. As well as providing us with characters from grimmest, darkest Mummerset this allows us an unusual glimpse into the Horus Heresy setting. Several, actually.
First, the Heresy is normally either presented as the present day or as ancient legends, not the recent past. This is someone narrating the lived experience of seeing the dream of Unity end before his eyes, having the illusion that the Space Marines are perfect defenders of mankind shattered. We also get to hear something of how this more liberal and forward looking Imperium affects the worlds under its banner. Pelago is clearly a primitive world where flashlights are an imported miracle but one of the characters mentions attending a collegium where he's learnt some science and knowledge of other worlds, spaceships and the existence of the Legions. Its clear that the presence of the Imperium is actually doing something for the population rather than the grinding exploitation more commonly shown in the forty first millennium setting.
Its actually a little disappointing when the Alpha Legion ship crashes in the sea and the fishermen go to investigate. Now, obviously, there has to be some point to the story rather than just some fishermen telling tales and filling us in on random worldbuilding and I don't begrudge it that. Rather, its that there's a limited number of places the story can go after that. I enjoyed the interactions of Torbjorn with the fishermen once he loosens up enough to tell them things (he's all “do not speak to me of it” for a little too long given the brevity of the story, to be frank) but a lot of the exposition is just to reinforce that his squad was one of those dispatched by Leman Russ to look in on the Primarchs to see if anyone was thinking a bit too much about rebellion in the wake of Prospero.
As with any good Warhammer short there's a twist of the knife ending. Not a terribly surprising one but one that has a lot more punch than you'd expect thanks to the narration style.