Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deliverance Lost review

A review of sorts...

With regards to[i] Deliverance Lost[/i] I firmly agree with those who found it disappointing especially with Yodhrin when he says that it seems Thorpe sees the HH series as a [i]"mechanism to "set up" 40K"[/i]. I thought it started off really well, the escape from Istvaan, the establishment of an Alpha Legion operative and the mission to retrieve the primarch gene-tech. All of that was well written and captivating, I found myself pleasantly surprised that this was a Gav Thorpe book that I hadn't found a fault with and I was half way through (my previous dalliance with his writing had been [i]The Purging of Kadillus[/i] which I thought was horrendous in so many respects). The flash backs to Corax and his rebellion was really good and were perhaps some of the best moments in the book.

The wheels began to fall off for me with the first battle scene against the Word Bearers - how marines were sheltering behind mess hall tables for cover and how when the plot requires it all legions astartes sensory equipment fails and marines can't see anything. It's annoying how bolt guns seem to vary in their destructiveness depending on the situation the author places his marines. How, the battle [b]must[/b] take 50 seconds because it's imperative for the book to show the speed of a Raven Guard assault when you're left asking why? Why does it need to take 50 seconds? It's not like Horus or Lorgar is going to send reinforcements. The Raven Guard have just been given the gift of Mk. VI 'Corvus pattern' armour and lost 14 'Raptors' on the mission who were wearing said armour. For the plot purpose of a Raven Guard-esque speed attack they have lost valuable armour. I know they're petty details but they rankle and start to derail the story.

Regardless of this first battle I pressed on hoping that it was just Gav Thorpe's lack of being able to write battle scenes and that soon we would get back to the proper narrative - I was to be further disappointed. Up until this point the Alpha Legion involvement and actions had been really very cool but then it all seemed to get a little rushed and forced and unbelievable. Throughout the book the whole build up of who was going to turn out to be Alpharius promised to be exciting but then it somehow just dwindled by the end. The whole, "it's Agapito it's Agapito, oh wait it's not! It's this guy you've barely read about" just didn't make me care at all. I really didn't like how the Alpha Legionnaires became as expendable as they did by the end of the book and I agree with all of those that prefer the Alphas from Abnett's [i]Legion[/i] over Thorpe's Alphas.

This brings me onto the whole change in the canon itself. Where previously Corax accidentally creates a horde of monsters in his rush to rebuild the legion (which up until half way through the book I still thought could happen) and it is this act that drives his guilt to such levels that he disappears. It's now written that he would have been 100% successful and only created a few monsters. I'm sure in a future HH book we will see the story expanded and maybe something as yet unwritten will really drive him insane but for the moment I cannot see what could be better than the original story. It might have worked if the taint had been introduced to the gene-seed right from the start and had a delayed reaction so that only after have thousands of legionaries had been created did they all change. That would have maintained the original theme and allowed for the integration of the Alpha Legion schemes to steal the pure strain for their own ends.

I don't understand why the custodians were not entirely guarding the infirmary and the gene-labs 24 hours a day? It is absolutely vital it remains safe and who better to guard primarch gene material than custodes? Corax's misgivings about keeping attention to a minimum doesn't make any sense. It's painfully obvious this is a plot device to allow the Alpha Legion inside the facility more easily. The same goes for why the labs were not set up on Deliverance, a space marine homeworld fortress moon. All it did was serve to split the Raven Guard so that they were on the moon while some of them were guarding the priceless primarch gene-tech on the planet below and forced Corax to travel between the two all the time making life difficult in the even of a crisis which, surprise surprise happens. Again, it's apparently to throw off suspicion and keep interest to a minimum, but it's just another poor plot device to allow the Alpha's in.

The Raven Guard response to the initial attack on Ravendelve by a few thousand rebel guilders makes no sense to me either. Why not send two squads of marines out into the rad wastes and gun them all down in minutes rather than cower on the walls shooting into the mist. It is here that apparently there is no aerial gunship support. Why? Is the mist too thick for astartes equipment? This is another one of those moments where space marine equipment and tactical brilliance goes out the window for the sake of driving the plot to its predetermined conclusion. Admittedly, the rebels later arrive with titans and allied dark-mechanicum units so I can understand for a little defensiveness in the face of that attack but again, this is a legion homeworld, surely, even though Corax left the planet quickly to prosecute the great crusade, Branne and those left behind would have ample defenses to repel what is ultimately a minor force. The guns of the fortress get taken out all too easily because that's what needed to happen.

As an aside, the final uncovering of the Alpha Legion operatives was a messy affair which should have been handled/written so much better. If Agapito had indeed assumed or even known about a traitor in the ranks since Terra then why on earth did he not voice his concerns? Again, forced plot device. It should have just not been mentioned, they should have either got away or Agapito tested them in another way there and then. To have one of the Alpha Legionnaires almost blurt out who their real primarch was just cheapened the skills of the Alpha Legion. They are masters of espionage and spec ops, why after spending the entire book making him seem brilliant at what he does suddenly make him a fool. It comes back to Thorpe's Alphas over Abnett's Alphas. I'll admit that it was good to have the two others commit suicide rather than get captured, that was nice.

However, putting aside all the contrived plot devices for a moment, the end result seemed to be skirted over as well. The Alpha Legion have just infiltrated the Raven Guard homeworld, they have tainted and destroyed the primarch gene-tech and go away with some yet there is absolutely no reaction to this turn of events just a casual - "destroy what might be left we'll go back to how we always made marines, this didn't work out". This completely jars with the importance of the security of the gene-tech earlier in the book and how Corax is told that he can take it but must pretty much take the information and its secrets to the grave before letting it fall into enemy hands. There is no sense of this abject failure at all. I had been expecting the tech to come under threat and the Alpha Legion get close to stealing it but I had been expecting Corax to guard it personally and single-handedly keep it safe, but no. This canon change might still have been salvageable if the loss of the primarch gene-tech crushed Corax and drove him insane and ultimately led him to disappear, perhaps in a hunt to retrieve it. But again, apparently not, it seems he got over the failure within days and moved on.

I won't mention much about the final battle against the Emperor's Children because this was a fortress assault written into one chapter from start to finish. I don't have to go into how that surely can't be good. I'll never understand why something that obviously requires more than 10 pages gets squashed into the back just for the sake of it.

To close I would say that [i]Deliverance Lost[/i] started fantastic and was great up until midway through the book. I was expecting Corax to be on the verge of success only to create hordes of ravening monsters, not the handful that seemed not to bother him. I was hoping for a previously supporting role legion in the whole background to really get a well-deserved centre stage moment. I was expecting the Alpha Legion to be like the ones in [i]Legion[/i], not the "forced" chaos ones that we actually got and I was expecting that when the threat to the gene-tech ultimately did happen (we all could see it was coming) that Corax, the Raven Guard and the Custodes would put up a better showing than they did. It ended up seeming like Thorpe reached half way then thought "ok how do I get to where this story has to end?" and did whatever it took to reach that point. Sadly, I came away caring less for the Raven Guard now than I did going in.


  1. Hey, at least they didn't get duped by a poorly disguised Fabius Bile twice in a row. If the dialogue wasn't totally cringe worthy and the character of the legion remained at all intact then Ravenguard players can count them selves lucky in comparison certain other poor chapters :( QQ