From The Flames by Graeme Lyon – eBook Review [Bellarius]
Bellarius keeps going with the Legion of the Damned collection with Graeme Lyon’s From the Flames.
“A story with potential, but is ultimately harmed by its unusual limitations.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
The third story from this Legion of the Damned collection feels like a waste. While each story had their own flaws, they were at least stories with an obvious arc and acts to them. This one? It barely seems to even try to do that, and ultimately comes across as more insulting, especially to the eldar, than it does as a true tale.
Taking place during the Invaders assault upon Craftworld Idharae, the story follows the survivor of a squad unlucky enough to bump into the city ship’s Avatar. Having most of his squad killed, Brother Seoc witnesses other astartes emerging to combat the Warp creature…
Now, this sounds like a somewhat promising setting. Ignoring the gaping flaws which exist within its source material, an eldar craftworld is a battlefield rarely seen within Warhammer literature and the book opens up by treating the Avatar with some dignity for once. You know it won’t last, like every previous Avatar in these things it’s just there to die and buff up someone else, but it’s at least built up as a challenge throughout the first third of the story. Then it dies and it’s over. Really, that’s about it.
This is what makes it so very hard to comment upon the writing strength, pacing and such: The story itself is not even a third of the length of the other two, unlikely even a quarter of The Dark Hollows of Memory. It begins and then is over so fast that there is barely any characterisation let alone fighting against the avatar, with the story itself perhaps a thousand words in total. It just feels like a waste and that its slot among the stories here could have been spent on something lengthy or more meaningful.
What the story can be credited for is that for what it is, it’s not bad. It’s still vastly too short and ends almost as soon as it begins, but some details are actually okay. There’s an effort here to give some emotive descriptions and certain details of note are present, such as an author remembering the nuclear plant on the backs of space marine armour for once. The actual effort to present the Avatar as a major threat is also good, with it being described as “striking a starship” when in close combat. The actual conclusion has a good stylistic presentation to it as well, and does work to some degree to show the impact upon the Legion of the Damned’s arrival.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to credit this when so many corners have obviously been cut to create an extremely short tale. There is little to nothing beyond bare basics used to describe such a truly alien place as a Craftworld, or even give some insight into the Invaders themselves. They fail to really act like space marines for the short time that there is, with even a first person account not helping, and the sudden acceptance of the Legion is questionable at best. Seoc, the protagonist, sees several obviously undead marines walking through fire towards him, but then immediately ignores them regarding the Avatar as the true threat. He effectively turns his back on several beings obviously affected by the Warp itself, and doesn’t expect to be gunned down or even truly question their presence for even a second.
The actual fight itself also proves to be extremely lacklustre, with neither the Avatar nor Legion able to hurt one another. This results in a conclusion to the battle which was likely intended to be intelligent or subversive, but just opens up far too many questions and seems insulting to both sides at how easily they are defeated. Not to mention the question of whether physics would actually work on Warp created flames, or why two creatures of the Warp couldn’t hope to harm one another.
There is some obvious talent present within the story and Graeme Lyon does work with what he is given, so a bad author is hardly to blame for the faults. However, the story is very obviously cut down and compressed into as small a space as imaginable, and yet again just feels like a poor rereading of Legion of the Damned. This time cutting right to the Legion’s arrival with no build-up, but also making a poor effort to show their abilities. It seems more like a tale intended for the Angels of Death series which was hijacked and instead passed off as a part of this collection.
There’s just not enough here to warrant buying unless you’re curious enough about the battle against Idharae, but even then From The Flames is still very hard to recommend.