Monday, September 21, 2015


Dishonoured by Ray Harrison. A Warhammer 40,000 short story, Day 5 of the Summer of Reading 2015 (Week 1). Originally published by The Black Library, August 2015. Approx. 36 pages.

Dishonoured offers an interesting slice of Warhammer 40K history; the tale of how High Marshal (Chapter Master) Helbrecht of the Black Templars suffered a crushing defeat, and lost his hand (I'm actually surprised this wasn't put under the banner of Lords of the Space Marines or Space Marine Battles). This is a fairly engaging story, but some choices in execution plant it firmly as a middle of the road tale.

The story kicks off as Helbrecht and his command squad are embroiled in yet another massive onslaught by the Necrons on the mining world of Schrödinger VII. All the while, they are receiving reports of other detachments of Templars faring not too well at all.

To make matters worse, at the end of the battle, a cryptek steps in and takes off with Helbrecht's standard and standard bearer. Truly enraged at the loss (but also needing to get back to the main outpost), Helbrecht guilt-shames his champion into undertaking a geas with the purpose of retrieving them.

To be fair, it really is worth hunting down...

And so, here Dishonoured bifurcates. Helbrecht and the last of his command team start to head back, and champion Aergard heads off to retrieve standard and bearer.

What works here are the ways Harrison pens her action scenes, and her depiction of the necrons. She etches them out in very vivid detail, which is crucial because there is very little you can do with them in terms of personality.

Unfortunately, emotion, which should have been a linchpin of this story, is not realized. There is anger, rage, etc., yes. But we really needed to see the pits of despair at the sheer losses, and the peaks of rage from injured pride.

The dialogue here, while not bad, is pretty generic. In any situation, you get some bold declarations, moral statements, and jocular quips. That's pretty much it as far as emotive tools. Well, there is also a scene where a human gives one of the Templars a token of faith that is an almost word-for-word parallel of a scene in Rynn's World.

The taunting in the climactic duel between Helbrecht and Necron Stormlord Imotekh is pretty stilted as well. Honestly, I'd have no idea how to pen goading dialogue between a commander of an ancient alien race and the Master of a Chapter of genetically-engineered superhumans. But this mockery is on a direct-to-VHS action movie bad guy level.

Yet, again, for all the issues I have with Dishonoured, there are still the elements which work. For example, Harrison effectively portrays an atmosphere of time and spatial distortion when the rescue party is searching within an Necron monolith.

In the end, Dishonoured is a decent actioner. It should have been a tale that conveyed the roots of rage, and the need for redemption (springing from heavy underpinnings of shame). Instead, it is a historical footnote that reads as "oh, so that's how it happened. Cool."

Here's what it is:
How Helbrecht lost his hand. Nice Necron scenes too.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

One of the nicer pictures of Marshal Helbrecht. Wish they would've cropped it so I could see the full sword. What is a Templar without his sword?

Cover Final Score:



  1. Ray Harrison is 'she'? How that could be? I thought, Ray is a 100% male name and there is no information about this author whatsoever - nj photos, nothing.

    1. Hi Lucius-
      Yes, I had originally assumed Ray Harrison was a man, but in the "About the author" section, they reveal the truth!
      Then again, before I found out she was Ms. Dan Abnett, I had assumed that Nik Vincent was a man.
      I think it's normal to assume that, 99% of the writers have been men so far, right?

    2. Yes, and they're all very manly, with that baldness and beardness of them. Nic Vinsent aside, I can remember only Sarah Cawkwell, Silver Skulls' novels woman-author.
      BTW, once I thought that Laurie Goulding is a woman. I mean, Laurie, right?

    3. Very true, Lucius. Lots of bald, beardy machismo going on at BL.
      And I think most people though from the bat that Laurie Goulding was a women. Well, when I used to see "edited by L.J. Goulding", I didn't think anything. Then I saw Laurie and oh, yeah, must be a girl. Apparently no.