Sources of Inspiration: Black Library Audio

Black Library Audio Books and Audio Dramas

During my high school years I became fascinated with early 20th Century culture to such an extent that I used to check out from our local library recordings of 1920s radio broadcasts and shows.  I loved the genre and it feels like something that has become lost as we’ve become a more screen-based society.

When I heard that Black Library produced audio dramas and audio books it immediately piqued my interest and I tried one.

The first one I bought was Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe as it was the most prominently displayed on the website at the time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d listened to audio books before where it is merely an author or a celebrity reading the text.  In some cases, as with some Star Wars books the reading was accompanied by sound effects as well.  In the case of the Black Library audio books and dramas it is far more like the radio shows I found as a teenager.  They are acted rather than read, the sound effects are integral and take place during the performance as though you were listening to a film rather than watching it.

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Since then I’ve obtained all of the audio dramas that sounded the least bit interesting and I’ve never heard a bad one.  There have been one or two where the plot took a turn that made me less of a fan of it, but none have been poorly made, badly written, or subpar in performance or production.  As last time I’ll list some of my favorites and/or favorite aspects of them, again in no particular order:

Chosen of Khorne by Anthony Reynolds: This one had such an impact I spent weeks drawing a picture related to it.  Chris Fairbanks’ performance as Kharn is incredible, the story is tight, and the production is excellent.  I’m a staunch 40K loyalist and even I loved this traitors’ story!

Trials of Azrael by CZ Dunn: As a Dark Angels fan I have a lot of options for audio dramas but this one has remained my favorite.  While it has a few plot questions, the resolution and acting is so good I can ignore them and just enjoy it.  Plus Dark Angels story + Chris Fairbanks as Kharn + Pandorax campaign make it extra appealing.

The Garro series by James Swallow: One of the best series and follows on from the Horus Heresy novels (Flight of the Eisenstein to be specific).  Garro, former battle captain of the Death Guard now servant of Malcador the Sigillite has a number of excellent stories and some of the best-produced dramas I’ve experienced.  Toby Longworth if by far my favorite voice talent in the Black Library audio drama pool and his Garro is tight, grizzled, and fiercely passionate about his cause, even when it runs counter to his masters’ goals.  By all means listen to them in order but Sword of Truth remains my favorite.

Veil of Darkness by Nick Kyme: I’m not an Ultramarines fan nor am I a Cato Sicarius fan but this story is one of the best.  Very well acted (Sicarius has a youthful arrogance to his voice that matches the character perfectly) and with one of the best single-stories I’ve heard it has been in my car’s CD player a number of times since I first gave it a listen.

Caiphas Cain – Dead in the Water & Caiphas Cain – The Devil you Know by Sandy Mitchell: Toby Longworth strikes again turning in a tremendous performance both as the elder Cain narrating his adventures and the youthful Cain experiencing them (as well as all kinds of characters in between) mixed with the great production, Sandy Mitchell’s wry writing style comes off perfectly and provides an excellent complement to the written character.

The Sigillite by Chris Wraight: This one is actually two parallel stories, one told in flashback the other taking place as the same character discovers the importance of his previous actions.  Once again Longworth shines, this time as Malcador, giving him a voice full of power, age, weariness, fear, and awe.  It’s a remarkable story.

Censure by Nick Kyme: A Horus Heresy story about Sergeant Aeonid Thiel and his experiences on his return to destruction-ravaged Calth.  He faces not only the remnants of abandoned Word Bearers but the environment itself.  His penal legion companion and he have an almost Lethal Weapon level of interaction.

Deathwatch: Mission Purge by Gav Thorpe: A wonderful single-story of a Deathwatch inspection led by Captain Artemis himself on a rogue trader’s ship.  Of course everything goes wrong and the motley xenos hunters have to fight their way out of danger.  It has a very unique feel and one of the best climactic music stings I’ve ever heard…

The Glorious Tomb by Guy Haley: A surprisingly moving story from the perspective of a fatally wounded Black Templar kept alive to continue his fight for centuries from inside a dreadnought.  You hear his confusion over the passage of time, his distance from the outside world, his pain and mental anguish.  It extremely potent and very well performed…you guessed it Toby Longworth is back to give one of the most powerful performances I’ve heard to date.

Shorts:

  • Warmaster: An amazing soliloquy. The now fallen Horus justifies his actions to a silent audience.  If I had to do a reading for an acting class I’d choose this one.
  • Veritas Ferrum: a small story-driven by the main character of Durun Atticus as he navigates his strike cruiser Veritas Ferrum into the catastrophe as Isstvan V. The performances and productions shine again as wily tactics and loss of humanity take center stage.
  • The Eightfold Path: Chris Fairbanks as Kharn in the fighting pits. It’s Kharn narration for 13 minutes and as glorious as one would expect.  Worth it just for his rueful bloody laugh if nothing else.
  • With Baited Breath: A Raven Guard captain finds a dying guardsman and listens to his story. Great deeds…

There are countless others that have been spun repeatedly in my various CD players and queued into a playlist on my various devices.  If you’re a new 40k fan these stories are EXCELLENT for mood and storytelling; setting the tone for the Grim Dark in a way more accessible than some weird people may find the dense omnibuses or the numerous, long-running series.  For established fans they are a great way to hear well-known stories brought to terrific life with care and thoughtfulness.

Black Library Audio Link!

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