Monday, 15 June 2009

‘Heart of Rage’ – James Swallow (Black Library)

I can’t remember the last time I listened to an audio book (and I’m not counting those storybook tapes I used to get when I was a kid...), it may be that I’ve never listened to one at all... Until now that is.
In the spirit of trying out new things on the blog, I thought I’d start trying to include more audio books on here. Has anyone got any recommendations for audio books that are worth me giving a go? I’ve very much enjoyed Black Library’s ‘Warhammer 40,000’ series of books and the news that they had a new audio book coming out seemed like the best time to jump straight in...

The Imperial Navy Frigate ‘Emathia’ has discovered a half dead Tyranid (think Aliens but with a lot more teeth!) hive ship floating through space; such a discovery could prove invaluable to the Imperial war effort against this particular xenos threat... One boarding party has already gone missing but the prize at stake means that the Tyranid ship must be taken. Enter the Blood Angels Space Marines.
Brother Librarian Nord and Brother Sergeant Kale head up a squad of Space Marines tasked with locating the lost party and securing the Tyranid ship. However, there is more to this mission than there seems, what lies on board the alien vessel will threaten both their bodies and their very souls...

This may seem like an incredibly obvious thing to say but I found there to be a big difference between listening to an audio book and reading a regular book. I read pretty quickly but this time I wasn’t going at my pace, I was being led at someone else’s... This meant that I had to hit rewind more than once as the story got away from me! Once I got used to the pace though I found ‘Heart of Rage’ fairly easy to keep up with.

Toby Longworth takes on the voices for all of the characters, as well as being the narrator, and I thought he did a good job all round. Longworth gives each character a voice and mannerisms of their own; they’re all very much individuals and you’re never in any doubt which character you are listening to.
I also loved the sound effects that went with each scene; while the prose is a little light on descriptive pieces this is more than made up for by the rattling of gunfire, the arcane noises of an Imperial Frigate and the underfoot squelching of alien organic matter. The makers of the audio book really went all out for atmosphere and got it bang on as far as I was concerned.

The story itself is a fairly simple ‘mission on a haunted star ship’ that has new light thrown on it by the Blood Angels’ genetic ‘taint’ and how this affects the confrontation right at the climax. I haven’t read a lot of stuff by James Swallow but it seems that whenever I pick his books up there’s always a deserted/haunted star ship involved. Can anyone tell me if he’s written anything that isn’t set in a deserted/haunted star ship? ‘Heart of Rage’ is no exception and I’m starting to get a little tired of this setting. As I mentioned, the descriptive passages are played down (in favour of the sound effects) and this gives the story a light weight feeling. I was also left wondering if the story was limited by the space available on the CD (seventy five minutes) of which there was only one in the case.
Having said all that though, none of this was enough to put me off the story itself. It ran at a good pace with plenty of tense moments followed by moments of all out action and combat, just the way I like it!

‘Heart of Rage’ should appeal to fans of James Swallow and fans of Warhammer 40,000 in general. It’s a very well presented audio book as well, in my opinion, it will be interesting to see what Black Library comes up with next in this vein...

Seven and Three Quarters out of Ten


Anonymous said...

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series are some great audiobook. You also might want to check out the multi-voiced recordings of the Dune series from BBC Audibooks.

Terry Tibke said...

On the debate over audio books versus standard print, I have been careful in taking sides, and find each to have a very strong place.

I recently shifted my daily routine to a work from home type of schedule, yet up until this point -- for the last ten years or so -- I've listened to audio books as the primary avenue of reading stories. My place in life required I drive back and fourth to work, and therefore it was best to spend all that time reading; my time at home was so busy with two kids, a wife, various artistic side projects, and writing books, that I had no time to read print.

I find that now that I don't drive as much anymore, I'm not listening to audio books, and having more time to read print during down time. Its a pleasant change.

My point though, is that both have their place in one's life, depending on their lifestyle and free time. I'm a fan of storytelling in all its many forms, and audio books rank way up there with print books for me.

Great review as usual, Graeme. Thanks!


Terry Tibke
Author of Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies

Anonymous said...

One last word on what I'd recommend in audio. I found the Silmarillion to be absolutely absorbing in audio, and enjoyed the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica in that medium as well. And of course, for the re-read factor of Lord of the Rings, the audio books offered through RecordedBooks are the best I've heard, giving a fantastic feeling of an ancient storyteller doling out his tale by the fireside.

I'm listening to David Eddings' Belgariad now, and Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series (though its taking a long time w/o many car-rides), so I'll let you know how those go.


Terry Tibke
Author of Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies

Ethansdad said...

I've recently begun listening to audio books because I now commute via car instead of train, and one that I really enjoyed was Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars.

Anonymous said...

Well, 'Flight of the Eisenstein' mostly took place on a (haunted) starship, true... but the 'Blood Angels' omnibus has a very different setting, and it was a quite enjoyable read, maybe you should pick it up.
And on that note, I was intrigued about this audiobook before, but after this review I'm going to pick it up for sure, so... good job. :)