Surprise! I did promise at the end of my last article I’d be reviewing a version of Good Omens. But I’ve decided to change things up a bit. In 2014 BBC Radio 4 – with the help of Neil Gaiman, one of the original authors – released an adaptation which is very highly regarded. As a matter of fact Neil Gaiman received a BBC Audio Drama Award for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for his work on the adaptation. The adaptation was recently rebroadcast on Radio 4 so I thought why not review this version. Does it deserve this heaps of praise it’s received in the last five years? Let’s find out…
…Who are you and why did you break down the door!? Who are these people!? And…where did you get that hat!?
WELL…it turns out you have quite a file in the archives of the Ordo Hereticus. Now I think you’ve heard of the reputation of my friends here The Black Templars?
…Oh Profanity! I’ll get out I promise!
Be seeing you! Now…since they interrupted a movie review in-progress, I suppose I’ll do an audiobook review.
Red and Black
Now let’s see where to begin, I suppose a bit of lore. The Adepta Sororitas are the all female army of the Imperium’s Ecclesiarchy (the Imperial church), created as such due to a loop hole after a “incident” that preventing them from having a standing army. They are basically combat nuns.
In the games and lore, Games Workshop hasn’t been very nice to them. Being rolled into the Witch Hunter Inquisitor book in the third edition which brought with them whole new models but making them come off as lackeys of the Inquisition rather than their own force and then… well remember the Dark Times? No army in Warhammer 40k was worse treated than the Sisters of Battle (as is the more commonly used less fancy name) after that Third Edition Codex, not only did they get nothing (we are in 8th right now) the lore was rather… disturbing in how it treated them – continually getting slaughtered (don’t Google Khornate Knights please it’s for your own good).
This sadly often continued to the modern day. Whenever the Imperium needs to lose it’s usually the Sisters that it falls on (can’t have Ultramarines being beaten now can they?) but there is one author that in my research apparently does the Sisters justice – James Swallow, the person who is currently indisposed could tell you more about him but well, the Inquisition doesn’t let people go often. So let’s look towards the 1 hour audio drama Red and Black.
Set before James Swallow’s other Sisters of Battle story Faith and Fire (though that doesn’t really play into it much) It stars Celestian Miriya who is sent on a mission to a newly rediscovered planet that had been blocked off by warpstorms for two thousand years. Naturally since this is the 40k universe rather than any other one, bad s**t happens and really bad s**t… often done by the “good” guys.
The instigator of the story is a clone (referred to as Replicae) named Rho who is a devout believer in the God Emperor. However Replicae are meant to be servants so despite the fact she’s clearly a devout believer the regular members of the Imperium are constantly cautious around something that isn’t what they believe it should be.
The third character to talk about is Adept Nolan of the Adeptus Mechanicus who has replaced most of his body with mechanical parts to the point he even talks and acts like a machine.
Once they get to the planet, Rho greets them with great joy and welcomes them telling her people about them returning to the Imperium while Miriya is mostly focused on the fact that the replicae seem to be running things and are out right pacifists. Further complications come about when rogue and savage replicae attack and because the regular ones refuse to be violent the Adeptus Sorortas are forced to do most of the fighting while Miriya yells at them to fight.
As an audio story it worked very well. It is told from the perspective of Miriya who also serves as the narrator. This adds to that uncomfortable feeling the reader should get as her zealotry mindset looks on this new world and all the things we would find as admirable, she finds unwelcoming and wrong.
The story becomes very dark indeed but not in the sense of horrible things done by the villains of the tale, but by the actions of the “heroes” and how callously they do it with little thought to the ramifications of their actions. It’s rather a haunting image of just how zealous the Adeptus Sororitas are in their belief of Imperial Truth that it’s the almost robot Nolan, who early on Miriya pondered if he had any humanity left, is the one who questions their actions while Miriya has the more machinelike certainty of what they did being the right choice.
I’ve not given away the whole ending just that tidbit in the epilogue as I feel it would not do the review justice if I gave too much away but didn’t explain that element of the story. Through it, the Agents of the Imperium look at something that we would see as human as wrong because it deviated from what they felt was right and our protagonist gives no second thought to what has been lost from a millennium old culture other than they will accept this is better because it’s what she was taught to believe. It’s a rather haunting of ending.