When The Memory of Flesh made the jump from Anthology exclusive to general release, like fellow Iron Hands short "The Blessing of Iron", I was quite pleased. As with Blessing, this story focuses on that dour Astartes Chapter, and is also written by an author that I have heard good things about, but not gotten around to reading yet (Matthew Farrer, of the Shira Calpurnia series). So, how did a different take on the Iron Hands work out? Actually, pretty well. And, it also turns out that this is the second part of a two story tandem featuring Sergeant Dolmech. While not a direct duology, with a continuous story arc, it helps immensely (but is not a pre-requisite) to read Blessing of Iron before Memory of Flesh.
On the scorching landscapes of Regnan Drey, the Iron Hands do battle against a vile xenos known as the breg-shei. One can assume that the breg-shei are a unit of the tyranids, however, I have never heard of them, and cannot discover much via web search. It is mentioned that this skirmish is a carryover from one that started upon a hulk ship, and they are insectoid in every description. They skitter around like millipedes, are fairly tough to kill, and have a vicious lash with terrible, disruptive powers. Especially terrible for the Iron Hands.
I have read in other reviews of his work the Farrer relies more on description than structure. I agree 100%. There is little evident narrative here; instead, there is a sequence of action scenes. What Farrer does is calibrate his prose to focus on the movements and workings of the mechanical elements of the Iron Hands and there tools. By zooming in on all the whirring and buzzing bits, we can fully appreciate the palpable threat of error and malfunction. And it is this same threat that the lash of the breg-shei unleashes. By disrupting what remains of Dolmech's organic parts, his entirety as a seamless fighting system becomes compromised. This is a sensation that stokes an uncontrollable fury. But what will happen is the same lash should strike a servitor; one piloting a Rhino transport vehicle, one who, in another life, went by the name of Benificiari Armicus?
Here's a hint: if you've ever watched Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, where the remains of the original Godzilla were used to form the skeletal structure of Kiryu, then you know where this is going.
Even though Farrer's style greatly differs from the one Reynolds utilized in Blessing of Iron, they both have two core similarities: one, they are both written quite well. Two, in the end, they both focus on the dynamic that is the relationship/bond between Dolmech and Armicus. While Farrer's tale makes for a climactic fistfight, Reynolds' piece edges out for being the better overall story. Still a thrilling conclusion.
Here's what it is:
A colorful climax to the Iron Hands/Dolmech duology. A somber reminder that just because all the data is erased from a hard drive doesn't necessarily mean that it is all 'gone'.
Same as The Blessing of Iron, only with a reddish hue. Holy palette swaps, Batman!
Cover Final Score: