Thursday, July 2, 2009

Daemon World by Ben Counter

Daemon World by Ben Counter has an ambitious goal, to provide you a story based on a Chaos world. To allow you to experience and see Chaos first hand through the eyes of its followers. The story is set on a special Chaos world in the heart of the Eyes of Terror. Apparently it has some special significance to Chaos, a prized jewel that Chaos fights itself for possession. The story itself is told from a variety of viewpoints. Ben Counter has done an excellent job provide a very diverse set of viewpoints. You are presented with a warrior on a quest for revenge, a hedonistic depot, mysterious wanderer and a small contingent of Word Bearer Chaos Space Marines. The silent third perspective is a quasi narrator speaking of the legend of Torvendis and its greatest myth, the battle between Arguleon Veq and The Last.

Ben's narrative structure is impeccable. The books has a steady pace, there are no slow points to be found. The characters are believable and enjoyable to read about. Naturally, there is more occurring than originally presented and by the end of the book, you witness a galaxy shaking event that alters the course of history. Daemon World is a great read but, I think it also fails at its primary goal, to show you Chaos.

The primary problem I have with this book is that the characters and the setting are so very rationale. They all operate with a rationale code of honor. If you had set this story on a feral world, swapped out some story details it would still work. There is nothing innately "Chaotic" about the characters or story. If anything the story feels like a dark tragedy, almost Shakespearean. All of the characters are striving towards a particular goal; whether it be revenge, power, even honor. They all exhibit some flaw that becomes their downfall. There is nothing unique or different than novels set in a non-Chaos setting.

Even the world of Torvendis seems less a Chaos world than it should. Yes, it does change on a daily basis, the trees move around, the planet has some questionable laws of physics, The City is suitable odd but nothing insane. In fact, I would say Torvendis is fairly tame compared to the description of other Chaos worlds. The greatest conceit in the description of Torvendis is that there have been so many wars that the very crust of the planet is made of the bones of the fallen, fused into stone. The ruler of the planet mines these bones so as to leech out their memory of their agonizing final moments and serve up these memories in worship of Slannesh.

In the end, Torvendis doesn't seem that surreal or dangerous. It doesn't even seem up to par with an average Death World since there are tribes of people living on all corners of the planet. Jungle tribes in the jungle, seafarers on the sea, mountain people in the mountain, etc. On a Death World at least people are crammed into tiny outposts of humanity under seige. Torvendis appears to be a fairly populous planet and needs to be in order to feed the insatiable desires of Slannesh.

Honestly though, how do you describe Chaos. Chaos is inherently irrational. A coherent rational story is inimical to the irrationality of Chaos. In providing us an excellent and well structured story, Ben Counter stamped out Chaos. Perhaps writing a book showing the true nature of Chaos is impossible. Perhaps that is why the historians of Torvendis all go insane. Regardless, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. But, I do not think it achieved its goal and honestly, a book truly depicting the experience of Chaos would be gibberish.

The Black Library: Daemon World by Ben Counter
Image Source: Scanned Cover
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 978-1844167036