Thursday, 21 May 2015

Devourer (Novella Review)

The problem going into this story is that, right from the word go you can tell it’s completely the wrong type of tale for this format. Novellas have been hit and miss in the pass with Black Library, and it’s not hard to see where those misses stemmed from. The unsuccessful ones overburdened themselves, trying to tell too vast a story with too many characters and perspectives at once, without streamlining itself. Daenyathos, Masque of Vyle, and the more renowned ones all did this, following a single straight forwards event rather than anything too vastly broad. The only one which has gotten away with this so far is Eater of Worlds, and even that was only thanks to an extended length and primarily focusing upon two groups of characters. Devourer though? You have three major parties, several major ambitions, and entire war and at the same time trying to present a completely alien perspective. Mashed together and compressed as they are, what we’re let with is an overstuffed and overburdened tale which would have been far better suited to a full novel, or ditching two of the major protagonists.


  1. Hey, a Black Library book I've actually read before it appeared here! At least I can talk about how disappointing it was. This was one of those where I can't help but feel it was completely wasted for no discernible reason. Maybe it was editorial mandate that they had to cram as much in as possible but the Flayers turning on the Necrons (I can't figure out why they did that considering they're not supposed to), turning Necrons into Flayers instantly (which they're also not supposed to do and in fact cannot do) and infecting Canoptek's somehow (which they also CANNOT do) was overall pointless.
    You could have had the Flayers replaced by the Tyranids breaking in through somewhere else and nothing would have changed aside from an almost interesting character surviving (can't have that I guess).
    Speaking of Valnyr I really thought it was disappointing that they tried to give her and her guards some characterization, only to throw that away almost immediately. If you replaced them with mindless warriors nothing would have changed.

    Anrakyr I thought was even stranger, I've never seen any Codex fluff where he hates organic creatures (unless they've destroyed/plundered a tomb world). In the 5th edition Codex he even respects some guardsmen to the point that he's willing to let them surrender and live because he doesn't want and doesn't need to kill them or the fortress they're in. The fights with him were weird too, like how he used the ornamental bit on his head to cut through a Tyranid (granted it's massive on the cover, but on his model it's far smaller and both are inefficient for doing that) and I couldn't even keep track of how he uses his weapon because his war-scythe becomes a spear for no reason at one point.

    There also seems to be some weird power disparity in the Necron ships, when Anrakyr is on the ground he sees his ships getting destroyed extremely quickly, when he's in space later the one ship he has is ripping through the Tyranids as if they were nothing and there's no explanation as to why this one Necron ship is so much more powerful than everything else he had. Granted he's not supposed to have much but the book makes it look like he had a pretty sizeable following before they were destroyed.

    I do agree that Anrakyr's advisers were a lot more interesting than he was. There's a short story where they told him the full story about why the he worked with the Blood Angels (though anybody should be able to figure out why) and it turns out it actually is a lot more interesting than this tale despite being a fraction of the size, though it does have some laughable moments in it like the Blood Angels being able to hide a Cyclonic Torpedo (yes, a full one, not small parts of one or a downscaled one) inside of a Rhino so they can try to use it as a suicide bomb against The Silent King.

    The ending did make me curious which book it ties into, and after I looked through the Shield of Baal books I concluded none of them, at least none of the ones I could find. Not even the official campaign books that it's supposed to lead up to, which pretend as if this story never happened.

    1. I'm quite glad you got the time to comment here and respond, and thank you for giving such a detailed response. The reason I didn't go into so many points about the canon was because - in all honesty - I wasn't sure what may or may not have been changed following the prior codex. As such while the nature of the flayer curse seemed very strange, I didn't want to say anything in case it was noted it could evolve or develop into new or more dangerous strains somehow. Thank you again for pointing out these issues.

      The only bit I might contest somewhat is the point of the necron vessels being taken out. We don't fully know their capabilities now sadly following the death of Battlefleet Gothic and given the lack of description part of me was tempted to be generous and put some of those vessels down to being support craft or the like. That said, the real problem here really did seem to be down to a lack of detail and information on the size and scale of the fleet battle in that case.

      Out of interest though, while it might have been wildly out of character, are there any necrons who display such an open dislike or hatred for organic beings? Sorry if this is an obvious question, I only ask this given how many now seem to have the end goal of ultimately restoring themselves to flesh once more.

    2. I've never seen anything that said the flayer curse evolved and I don't really think it can. It's supposed to be the shattered remnants of one of the C'tan (unsurprisingly called The Flayed One), and since that C'tan represented an aspect it would be very strange if his curse/remnants changed to embody more than his element.

      We have seen the Necron vessles in the Fall of Orpheus, but I can agree that some more description on how much weaker they are would have been quite nice.

      As for Necrons who hate organic life, I can think of two, the first is Obyron though he's debatable if he hates life or is generally very intolerant to it. I do know that there's no reason whatsoever for him to kill the Zahndrekh's though aside from the fact that he just doesn't like them, and so engineers scenarios in which they'll "conveniently" find a way to escape their cell only to run into him almost immediately where he butchers them then tells Zahndrekh they "died trying to escape."

      Second is a Necron Phaeron I cannot remember the name of in the Shield of Baal campaign. He openly despises organic life but works with the Blood Angels anyway because the plan he and Anrakyr enact to kill the Tyranids will also completely wipe out almost all living creatures in his dynasty.

      Considering that Necron Phaeron had just recently woken up and hadn't gotten his full dynasty back yet they probably could have replaced Anrakyr in this book with him and nothing would need to have been changed since he (and Anrakyr in this book) act more like a Destroyer than anything else.

      One quick thing though is restoring themselves is the goal of a few (mainly the Silent King, though that's because he's guilt ridden over it), it's not the goal of everyone. The flayers are consumed (literally) with becoming organic again, but aside from that Necrons like Anrakyr and Imotekh don't really care, Szeras is only interested in researching it because he likes messing around, Obyron certainly doesn't want to revert because he mainly cares about protecting Zahndrekh, whereas Trazyn and Orikan actually enjoy being like that though in Orikans case there's an interesting conversation to be had on if he's actually a Necron at all.

    3. Whoops, meant to say that there's no reason for Obyron to kill Zahndrekh's prisoners (missed a word there), since there really isn't, and now come to think of it that's another idea that could make for a pretty good book as one of the tales in the 5th edition codex talks about an escape that relies on a Space Marine and an Eldar working together initially to escape their cells before confronting Obyron, they lose the fight but they're spared anyway because Zahndrekh intervenes and lets them leave (though as soon as they're out of the ship they immediately go their separate ways).

      In the story they were in the court of Zahndrekh for quite a while so the reader would be able to see what life was like to the Necrons before the bio-transferrence (write parts of it through Zahndrekh's eyes) and be able to contrast that with how they are now based on everyone else in his court as well as have the unlikely allies angle, not to mention being able to see the Necrons directly through the eyes of the Eldar as well as the eyes of any other prisoners that Zahndrekh has that haven't "died while attempting to escape" yet.

  2. Necrons and Blood Angels working together to stop the Nids. I can definitely get behind a compelling story like that one in the 40k universe. However, as others have mentioned this is a classic example of farmed out writing from a guy who obviously doesn't play 40k or even read the 40k fluff. The flayer rebellion was absolute nonsense, his depiction of Anrakyr was so far off the mark (based on past codex fluff editions) I almost wrote the author asking what he drank while he was writing. But then I thought....Games Workshop must've read this garbage before it was published to approve it, and then a publisher had to read it as what were THEY drinking that would make it alright for a lousy writer to mangle their characters?