Recently Humble Bundle put up all of the Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy books and I’d been wanting to read them so I picked it up.
I’m enjoying it. But I’m not sure how I am supposed to be taking some of the characters and themes. Is the glorification of War and War Propaganda, and the fantasification of these genetically modified soldiers to be the perfect creatures kinda creeps me out. Is it supposed to be satire? Is the Imperium meant to be the genuine protagonists?
Right now I’m about half way through Altered Carbon which so far is a pretty great noir cyberpunk set in a world where your mind is digitized and stored on a device attached to your spine so that on death you can be put into a different body.
I also just found out when googling for the link that there is apparently a Netflix series coming out this year for it so now I got that to look forward to.
The most recent books I finished and enjoyed a lot are A Long, Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which are both books part of the Wayfarer Series. I think that the biggest thing I liked about them was probably that the aliens have more unique societies than they usually have in sci-fi, and even have differing gender roles and genders (n-b aliens are a thing in the universe). The first book focuses on a space road trip where the main character learns about a few alien species. The second is about an A.I. getting used to the limitations of the human form, from the limited vision in comparison to the all-encompassing vision of being in a ship, to the limited memory storage. It’s a really good series.
It’s a story about a witch (sorry, a first-year associate at an international necromantic firm) and a chain-smoking priest who need to find out what killed a god and bring him (Him?) back to life. It’s good.
As someone who went altogether too far down the 40k setting rabbit hole for too many years, I’m happy to give my read on this–not in an attempt to serve some sort of Devil’s Advocate role or anything, but largely to provide some… underlying extratextual context, I suppose?
See, the thing about the setting of 40k is that it’s a failed state. That it leans into “the most totalitarian state imaginable” as “the good guys (by comparison to everyone else on offer)” isn’t so much, on a more critical level, an endorsement of totalitarianism so much as it is a lament for the setting’s loss and failure on a level of humanitarian and scientific advancement. The standard boilerplate intro to every Imperium-based work in the 40k setting includes the following touchstone phrase:
If anything, I see that as the guiding principle of the universe: the Imperium is a failed state, crumbling under its own weight, constrained by its own massive inertia. It is a worst case survival scenario.
SO, how does 30k and the Horus Heresy tie into that? 30k ties into the failure of the future as the grand arc of tragedy bending back around, specifically reverse-engineered to fulfill the prophetic tragedy of the 40k setting. It presents these genetically modified and brainwashed soldiers as a flawed attempt at perfect creatures which is doomed from the start: these are emotionally immature yet hypermasculinized figures, whose temper tantrums spell the deaths of billions. 30k is an attempt at an exploration of why the Emperor’s Grand Crusade failed, and how it brought about the 40k universe.
That said, from metatextual perspective, I can’t speak for the guiding ideologies of the authors writing these books. They might be seduced by the face-level allure of raw power and hypothetical necessity of the existence of such a totalitarian regime. It’s a dangerous line to flirt with.
If you’re going to engage with the material here (which is for the most part, indeed almost exclusively, by no means heady or intellectual stuff) it’s worth bearing in mind that Black Library ultimately fills the role of hyping up the physical product line of Games Workshop. The ultimate end goal of their work, above and beyond being profitable themselves, is to sell readers specific miniatures, then also prompt in them an investment in the setting that will lead them to buy even more miniatures.
Which is all to say: I think the better works in the setting are the ones that are varying degrees of satire and subversion, or the ones which explore the less militant elements of the setting, not the ones that are a naked glorification of militant prowess–however, that said, it is a setting that literally sells itself on “bolter porn,” which is to say hypermasculine military prowess and gratuitous uber-violence.
Reading some books on M&A and drafting for work. For pleasure, just finished Volume One of the Darth Vader comic series from Marvel, which is fantastic and I want to get the rest, but all of Marvel’s other series, immediately.
I just finished Ghostland, which was really fascinating. It’s a non-fiction book about how we partly interpret history through ghost stories and how they reflected societal fears, both in the past and even today.
I’ve just barely touched it so far, so I can’t give much of a qualitative assessment yet. It’s an essay that talks about, quite unsurprisingly, the weird and the eerie, largely in art/media. But yeah, I’ve just cracked it open pretty much so I’ll report back in once I can say more.
Mark Fisher’s pretty great though. His most well-known essay is Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, which is a really great explanation of neoliberalism. It’s a pretty short read, isn’t incredibly heavy on impenetrable philosophy language, and uses a lot of pop culture references to make it engaging and understandable. He’s also done quite a bit of music writing, as well as writing about his depression, which sadly overcame him earlier this year.
Yanis Varoufakis’s (former Syriza finance minister, aka that guy who worked at Valve for a bit) memoir of how he tried to renegotiate Greece’s crushing debt with the EU. It’s relentlessly self-serving (he literally tells a story at the beginning about how a homeless translator begged him to save Greece), but extremely well-written and very illuminating so far.
Recently finished The Magicians, and man, I really fucking hated it by the end. It read like the CliffNotes of an entire trilogy of books, and I think I could have enjoyed reading maybe 2 of the 3. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read something that showed so little interest in actually exploring any of its own ideas.
Blew threw The Secret History of Twin Peaks in a weekend. It’s alright. Kind of cool on a “meta” level for someone who has a slight interest in the capitol-m Mystery of Twin Peaks, but it didn’t add anything that felt at all essential. (It’s not attached to an existing property, but reading this reminded me that I still have JJ Abrams’ “S” waiting in the wings; I really need to get to that at some point.)
Started All the Birds in the Sky today. About 50 pages in, and I’m just utterly delighted by it. When it got to an early part involving ice cream I found myself grinning on the train like someone who was still capable of human emotion.
Doing my best to read this currently but I find that concentrating on books is a real anxiety trigger for me, feeling like I should be doing something else or getting errands done, and I end up re-reading the same sentences over and over in case I haven’t fully absorbed them. Anyone else have this issue?
I just finished Patrick Ness’ new book RELEASE which is a YA book set over the course of a single day about a gay kid in washington state (i think… deffo PNW) and also a ghost looking for her murderer, it was v good, v short, easy read but also made me do a small cry.
all of Patrick Ness’ books are brilliant, would super recommend More Than This for sci-fi fans but also don’t look up a synopsis bc its basically all spoilers past the point of “a teenage boy drowns… and then wakes up”