Audiobook Review:The Last Church by Graham McNeil – Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Short Story

audiobookNephrite’s Month Of Heresies

“My name is not important.” Said the man. “But if you wish to call me something, you may call me Revelation.”

“Oh! An unusual name for one who professes a dislike of priests.”

“Perhaps. But one that suits my purpose for the time being.”

We exit the warp somewhere unusual for myself this time do we not? Rather than appearing during The Horus Heresy itself or the period shortly before, we have appeared during the dying days of The Age Of Strife. When The Emperor decided enough was enough and began the removal of the Terran warlords using powerful warriors. But they were not the Adeptus Astartes that my readers will be familiar with. Shall you be the one to enlighten our readers regarding the Thunder Warriors, my chaotic companion?

Ah yes their predecessors, a group which once they served their purpose were left to die. Make a claim of some flaw in them as much as you can but with the power of your Emperor could it not have been possible to save them? Perhaps it was always his intention to kill them. Perhaps even the same could be said of their successors.

Indeed. It is rather sad what became of the Thunder Warriors. However we don’t want to get too distracted now do we?

I see it up on that mountain. The Last Church on Old Terra. Our story begins with a faithful priest. An old priest. Uriah Olathaire. Believer in the faith of The Church Of The Lightning Stone. As he prepared for his usual midnight services the priest was joined by a man in crimson robes. A man by the name of ‘Revelation’.This night was of great importance, for it was time for a discussion. The last philosophical debate on Terra before the dawning of the future Great Crusade that was to come. However much more was to occur on this night.

The Last Church by Graham McNeil (author of False Gods as well as one of the other tomes under discussion in this upcoming Month Of Heresies) is somewhat different to usual Warhammer material.

Rather than being a story of mighty Primarchs battling Chaos incursions, Imperial Guard standing firm to the best of their ability against alien xenos or something similar, we have here an attempt made by ‘Revelation’ to debate Uriah on matters of religion and politics. And by extension the rightness or wrongness of the Emperor’s Imperial Truth and his underlying goals. It must make interesting listening for one of Chaos? Considering all that has happened since?

Uriah was a good man. I would argue a much wiser man than ‘Revelation’ was. I wonder, for all the Emperor’s claims about not wanting to be a god, could he not have wanted such a title? He makes claims against such things here and elsewhere but…even before Horus he didn’t do such a good job of stopping the notion. He just used violence…and they call us monsters.

This story counts as a two hander since although other characters and places are implied in the narrative or are put under discussion – such as the Battle of Gaduare – only Uriah and ‘Revelation’ actually take part in the debate.

I don’t wish to give away anything more than I have to as The Last Church is a story that has much meaning and symbolism and every listener and reader’s reaction to it will be different. However I will say that both Uriah and ‘Revelation’ are characterised very well and put forward their personal beliefs strongly. It is clearly shown that both men have certain flaws – be they in personality or in argumentation.

The story was originally published in a collection of short stories in book 10 of the Horus Heresy known as Tales of Heresy which is now available in audio. However it is also available separately as its own individual release. The narrator for this audio recording is none other than Jonathan Keeble who was the narrator for Helsreach as well as part of the team that narrated The First Prince. This particular recording is one I absolutely cherish! Keeble does a perfect job of bringing Uriah Olathaire and ‘Revelation’ to life. Their debate – taking place as it does over wonderfully aged alcohol – is performed beautifully by Keeble’s silken tones. As well as giving voice to the intellectual aged priest and the powerful warrior, he matches the tone of McNeill’s elegant prose wonderfully. McNeil on this occasion is at the height of his powers and harnesses the power of the short story to tell a tale that could only take place in this format. It is stories like The Last Church and A Thousand Sons that make me consider McNeil one of the greatest authors in the Black Library.

I honestly hope we can persuade some of you to listen to or read this glorious story. One argument I’ve heard against this story which I disagree with is the belief of some readers that one side or the other of this debate – I won’t say which – comes away the clear ‘winner’ of the discussion. I disagree chiefly because of the fact that the discussion that takes place in the narrative can itself never have a true winner and each listener or reader’s personal beliefs will affect how they see the discussion between Uriah and ‘Revelation’ and how they take the ending.

Such a wonderful tale, think back to the tale of The First Heretic, do you not see? The Imperium was flawed to begin with. Their Emperor destroyed all faith while parading as though he was a god himself.  When the people make the logical decision to fill the void he left by worshiping him, he acts out. We were there with open arms for all those lives he left empty, he threw them to us and we welcomed all who came, not with anger or repression but with love, a love he would never give.

Does my Chaos companion have anything they wish to say or perhaps debate with myself on before we leave to our next destination? I believe you said we were to head deep into the Heresy? The home territory of Malcador The Sigillite? Malcador the Hero?

Ah yes Malcador we know of that name too. Some whisper of him being the true architect of your Imperium although even we know that question is up for debate.


Nephrite and Sgathaich

The Last Church audiobook Horus Heresy

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