Horus Heresy: The Eagle's Talon
written by John French
I'm not sure if its a different editorial direction of if they just both came out after Mortarion's Heart but so far the Heresy audios have been a lot better for knowing what makes a satisfying audio experience. The basic plot of this one is a very simple engagement: at some time during the Battle Of Tallarn an Imperial Fists strike team of three squads has infiltrated an Iron Warriors macro-transport ship (its like a troop transport except its transporting an entire army including armour) that they have to stop reaching the surface.
That's a very simple and direct skirmish engagement, more so even than the battle at the centre of Mortarion's Heart, but John French uses the audio medium to make it both interesting and varied to listen to.
First of all we are once again in a story being related after the fact. In this case we have someone examining a series of archived radio transmissions between the three Fists squads as they infiltrate the ship and making notes on them. This allows French not only to skip a lot of boring bits but to use the listening historian as a source of exposition. During the breaks between vox fragments we have our Iron Warriors historian talk about the specific tactics of the skirmish, the larger tactical situation of Tallarn, and even offer some thoughts on whether or not the concept of honour has any value in the Heresy-era Imperium.
A similar conversation to that last one comes up between the Fists sergeants, one interesting detail of which is that one o their number became a Space Marine during the Heresy and has only known war against other Space Marines.
Of the communications the most interesting, for my money, is when the subject is broached of destroying the ship and letting it crash. The impact and the nuclear fallout would kill indiscriminately the people on the surface both loyal and traitor. What interests me, what gave me more insight into the Imperial Fists psychology than I think I've ever been granted before, is that one of the sergeants insists that Space Marines should not sacrifice human lives for their own victory, that it runs counter to the reasons the Space Marines were created.
It isn't a new insight into Space Marine psychology (it forms the basis of one of the earliest Black Library novels) but it gives the “vox archive” sections a bit of meat they might otherwise have lacked alongside the more contemplative exposition of the archivist.