Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bad Blood (Deathwatch 2)

Bad Blood (Deathwatch 2) by Steve Lyons. A Warhammer 40K short story, originally published by The Black Library, August 2015. Approx. 24 pages.

It has taken me quite a while to get around to reading this, the second installment in The Black Library's Deathwatch series. First of all, my experiences with Lyons' works have been squarely in the "middle of the road" mold. He has certain good ideas, and some good action setpieces, but his stories end up getting hamstrung by poor dialogue and less than engaging writing. It's never bad; it just never really justifies its existence. You walk away saying, "Ok, that wasn't so bad. But what was the point?" Or, to paraphrase an old review I read somewhere a long time ago regarding Ice Guard, his writing amounts to "a smattering a words across a range of pages".

Bad Blood is a step above that norm. Not a huge step, but a step.

Brother Antor Delassio, the Cursed Young Prince, a Blood Angel attached to the Deathwatch, sits aboard the Incontrovertible Truth, undergoing a sort of dialysis in the hopes of cleansing some of his tainted blood. As with many of the Sons of Sanguinius, he suffers from the Black Rage. And, as he sits and tries to cleanse the bitter taint from his body, he recounts the first occurrence of that berserker trait.

During his first mission with the Deathwatch, en route to Watch Fortress Erioch, the Incontrovertible Truth is attacked and boarded by an enemy perhaps more odious than the xenos they dedicate themselves to hunting: the traitorous Black Legion. Caught off guard, Antor has to rally with surviving Deathwatch Marines to turn back the traitors and save the ship.

The action scenes here are pretty good, but nothing spectacular. It is nice to see the Chapters which are name-dropped here; but they are basically reduced to their assigned tropes. Even if they weren't going to be around for a long time, they could've been fleshed out more. The dialogue is pretty poor, and the planning and problem-solving is more on par with the Scooby Doo Crew.

What does work, and very well at that, is the anticipation. You know that this is all a buildup to the release of the Rage. And when it finally does erupt, it does so to a very satisfying climax.

Unfortunately, what keeps Bad Blood stuck in the middle of the road is the missed emotional opportunities; like optimizing the wordplay parallel of the ship name to the irrefutable aspects of Antor's sanguinary lineage. There is mention, but no real delivery, of the fear of what this taint might mean for not only him, but his entire Chapter. That deep, dark secret, and how terrifyingly urgent it is that it remain so. We read it, but we don't feel it.

And that, as they say, is that. Not bad reading, but not necessary either. An extra point for the tense buildup, which was central to the storyline.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

Yes... um, well....Ah, how do I put this?

Cover Final Score:


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