Friday, December 23, 2011

Audiobook Review - Labyrinth of Sorrows by George Mann

Through these audio dramas from The Black Library I'm slowly getting introduced to the writers who seems most commonly associated with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as well as the various factions that exist within it. This time around it was both the Raven Guard and the Brazen Minotaurs, two extremely different types of Space Marines.

The Brazen Minotaurs are like a blunt instrument, they have no subtlety as they rush headlong into combat and overwhelm their enemies or face death at their hands. They have come on a mission to Kasharat, a mortuary planet, seeking to reclaim one of their own who has been captured by the Death Guard. These are Chaos infused Space Marines who spread a plague across the galaxy, killing anything that stands in their way, and sometimes raising those undead things back to life again to fight for their cause.

Because of an old debt the Raven Guard owe their brothers, when they learn of this mission they infiltrate ahead of the Brazen Minotaurs, attempting to clear the path as much as possible for them. The Raven Guard operates in shadows, using stealth and cunning to outwit their opponents - and close up blade-like weapons to dispatch them.

I want to leave the plot on a cliffhanger like I usually do, to tease the story a bit and hopefully raise your interest, but it's difficult this time around. There's not much to this story, despite everything I've already mentioned. Two teams go into this underground temple - the "labyrinth" I suppose, though to be honest, it's never treated as such. The "chapters" switch back and forth between the two teams. I found the accents of the actors extremely off-putting for the Brazen Minotaurs, like a carribean accent crossed with Norwegian. There was way too much repitition of each teams purpose, I got it the first couple of times you mentioned that the Raven Guard owe the Brazen Minotaurs.

The characters were unmemorable, and despite a cast of 4 people, I couldn't tell any of them apart (other than the narrator). Not just when they were talking as Brazen Minotaurs, but when they were Raven Guards as well. There is no real definable enemy in this story, just these plague infused horrors - which we certainly get plenty of gory detail about in their descriptions, but ultimately it just came off as disgusting and then they were easily dispatched by the heroes.

The big mystery of the story is at first that you don't know what the Brazen Mintaurs are looking for - only that it could WIN THEM THE WAR! Except, it turns out to be their own librarian who's been captured. Why could he win the war? Does he have some knowledge no one else has? Is it that the enemy could learn secrets that would win them the war? Who knows, these questions go unanswered.

There were two things that I did like about this particular audio drama. The first is the sound effects themselves - we've got drop ships landing, soldiers walking through the murk of a swamp, and the sounds of these underground passages. The music wasn't as good as in past productions, but in all they continue to do an impressive job of putting out a very high quality audio product. The second aspect I enjoyed was this idea of a mortuary world - basically a planet-wide cemetary. I suppose when you have endless war, there are going to be lots of people to bury, and lost of heroes to memorialize. I found this idea fascinating, it's only too bad that the setting isn't really used to any particular effect in this story. It seems to me that this location could be a wonderful resource for the right tale.

There haven't been many of these audio dramas that I've outright disliked, but this one is pretty much my least favorite of any I've listened to. I was hoping it would end shortly after it began, and I never feel that way when listening to these. Take a pass on this audio and look for one of the many others the Black Library has done that are far more engaging.

1 comment:

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

A mortuary world? That is very creepy.