Warhammer 40,000

Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence.

Warhammer 40,000 is a very interesting book franchise. You’ve likely never heard of it, despite it’s mountainous and long-running catalogue, as it’s substance is consistently hyper violent, macabre, and hit-or-miss in terms of quality. Some novels are nothing but bland [even if glorious and wild] action and machismo, some need serious editing, some are simply bad. The discrepancy in quality is chronological: newer titles being far, far better than the early ones. An excellent new series: The Night Lords Trilogy.

Despite it’s flaws, WH40k has a unique quality which sets it apart: it focuses on the dark side of human nature. No, not like cartoonish Sith Lords, whom merely kill people. In one WH40k book, a villain is held in a container filled with low-grade acid, intended to slowly dissolve over the course of a millennium, while kept alive. That’s tame, for WH40k. I’ve actually been disturbed by some of what I’ve read, and not because it was violent or sexually perverse; the writer thoroughly depicted the essence of irrationality – the true form of “evil.”

While WH40K’s themes can be ridiculously over-the-top, they can also set the stage for deep insights. For, in extreme circumstances, peoples’ character becomes well-defined. In WH40k’s perpetual and horrific galactic warzone, protagonists are not children’s heroes, naively stumbling through challenges, all their problems coincidentally resolving with no sacrifices. Instead, protagonists regularly throw away lesser, or even innocent lives, for greater goals.

Many people would imagine these themes being primarily for shock-value, lacking substance. In some novels, that’s true. In others, they serve to expound the darker components of human nature – warning against them by outlining their defiling function and all-too-common manifestation. And the price for preventing them.

My favorite character within WH40k’s massive lore is Night Haunter. He brings genuine peace and prosperity to a world of ceaseless crime and corruption. He does so by personally and perpetually hunting even the pettiest criminals, butchering them, and publicly broadcasting their mutilated corpses. He’s super-human, so he can’t be stopped [WH40k is “low-magic”]. Eventually, crime stops, peace reigns, and thus he stops with the butchery. He’s perfectly content with this peace, and not needing to kill anyone.

Later, he is enlisted to command a legion of space-bound soldiers. They utilizes his tactics, developed on his homeworld. His legion becomes so notorious for their monstrous horror-tactics, that entire worlds regularly surrender without so much as a shot fired – then they merely move on, without harming anyone. In similar situations, other legions, with tamer tactics, could kill millions before reaching peace.

On the whole, Night Haunter and his legion are a clearly positive force in the universe. But WH40k doesn’t leave their story in such a simplistic state. Over thousands of years, the Night Lords slowly descend into madness and savagery, until only a handful retain a fraction of their former, arguable nobility. The descent is not merely stated, but explained, so the reader sees the intricate dangers in their culture.


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~ by Louis Naughtic on May 10, 2017.

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