Thursday, 2 June 2011

‘The Madness Within’ – Steve Lyons (Black Library)

Whatever it was that has knocked me out these last couple of days hasn’t left me in much of a state for reading books; when your eyes hurt just looking at stuff then a good old dose of reading can only end in tears (literally!) Audio books though, that’s a different deal altogether.

The Black Library’s audio adaptation of the Horus Heresy novel ‘False Gods’ left me cold but Black Library’s more than decent record in audio books (overall) meant that I was still very much looking forward to listening to ‘The Madness Within’. I couldn’t help but hope though that this latest offering would be a return to form and, luckily for me, it was. I had a great time listening to ‘The Madness Within’...

The Crimson Fists Space Marines’ mission to rebuild their Chapter has hit the nastiest of obstacles in the form of a daemon that has manifested on one of their recruiting worlds and is picking off the Marines stationed there. Soon there are only two Marines left... and a Librarian Psyker mentally scarred by the attentions of the Warp and driven to acts of violence against his own comrades. The Librarian’s experience will be crucial if the daemon is to be stopped but can Marines Estabann and Cordoba trust him to be able to do his job?

When you’re coughing pretty much constantly and you’re waiting for your teething daughter to wake up (again) there’s no better way to spend this time than by listening to ‘The Madness Within’; at least that’s what I found. I couldn’t get enough of it and actually had to remind myself that I really should think about sleeping at some point...

John Banks takes up the narrative duties this time round and shows us all why he’s pretty much got this Black Library audio book gig sewn up (along with Toby Longworth). Banks’ delivery captures the bleakness of the setting and the steadfast determination of the Marines who inhabit it. He also very much captures the urgency of Lyon’s plot and proves to be more than adept at moving with the plot’s natural ebb and flow. If there was one small issue I found it was that one of the characters didn’t sound ‘Marine’ enough when compared to the other two (who really did) but Banks was so spot on with everything else that I almost feel a little churlish bringing this up...

Lyons’ story is very much a riff on the classic ‘hunt a monster somewhere dark and full of corridors’ storyline but he injects it with enough with enough energy and atmosphere that you won’t mind too much, you’ll be happy to just jump on and enjoy the ride. Perhaps it was a little too drawn out for my tastes though. After all, how many times can you keep bumping into a daemon and having it escape before you start wondering about things like the running time on the CD and ‘filler’...?

That to one side though, ‘The Madness Within’ is an urgently paced tale full of surprises and Space Marines doing what they do best (attacking stuff with dirty great chain swords and exhorting each other to further acts of courage). The atmosphere draws you in, the plot and interaction between characters makes sure that you stay. I particularly loved the downbeat ending that comes just when you think that a certain character has accepted developments and is prepared to work with them. This ending hints at more to come for a certain Space Marine and I’d be happy to see more along the same lines.

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten

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