Vulkan Lives – Audio Book Review

Vulkan Lives

Tackling Black Library’s Horus Heresy series can be daunting. Fortunately, Black Library also produces books in the series as unabridged audio books, which helps to mix things up.

Vulkan Lives is the audio book version of Nick Kyme’s Salamanders entry to the Heresy, read by Saul Reichlin. It is a slightly unwieldy story (though Nick Kyme did a lot better compared to Promethean Sun), but it works surprisingly well as audio book.Vulkan Lives (Unabridged Audio Book) by Nick Kyme:4 / 5 stars      

In the wake of the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V, the survivors of the Salamanders Legion searched long and hard for their fallen primarch, but to no avail. Little did they know that while Vulkan might have wished himself dead, he lives still… languishing in a hidden cell for the entertainment of a cruel gaoler, his brother Konrad Curze. Enduring a series of hellish tortures designed to break his body and spirit, Vulkan witnesses the depths of the Night Haunter’s depravity, but also discovers something else – a revelation that could change the course of the entire war.

The following review will inevitably contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.

#1 – Vulkan Lives – The Product

This is the audio book version of Vulkan Lives, written by Nick Kyme and read by Saul Reichlin. I have the “physical” CD-version (it also comes as MP3 download, I believe), which consists of 12 CDs (~13 hours of audio) in a nice, sturdy CD-sized box.

It is priced at £30.00 by Black Library, though it sells for about £24.00 or so on Amazon.

The cover art on the CD box zooms in on Vulkan’s face, rather than showing the scene like the book. That is not doing this particular piece of art any favours.

Minor art-complaints aside, the Vulkan Lives audio book is very well made and the robust box will keep the CDs in good shape for a long time.

#2 – Vulkan Lives – The Story

Spoiler warning!

I liked the story of Vulkan Lives overall, more than I thought I would. On the face of it, it’s a somewhat convoluted book, which jumps between several timelines (Great Crusade, Isstvan V – ~25 books into the series they’re still doing Isstvan?? – and post-Isstvan), as well as several plots, characters and places, including a fair bit of “Perpetual”-exposition.

The two main strands of the book are…

  1. Vulkan’s post-Isstvan torment at the hand of Konrad Curze, complete with Great Crusade flashbacks of a previous clash between these two Primarchs, and
  2. the tale of a group of Isstvan V-survivors, led by Salamanders Captain Numenon, who continues to hope and believes that “Vulkan Lives” and eventually runs into the Perpetual John Grammaticus (who is himself running from Erebus’ minions) and his quest to either save or kill (?) Vulkan.

Both sides of the story were interesting to follow. Curzes sadistic torture of Vulkan was well done. I expected a more gruesome version, and was pleasantly surprised that Nick Kyme took a more “mind-games” approach to the idea.

The interaction, thoughts, doubts and hopes of the Isstvan V survivors, who face the possibility of their Legion’s death and the, possibly false, hope stirred by the Perpetual, was likewise well written. They are an interesting set of characters, not to mention that these parts add a bit of old-fashioned Space Marines actions (fighting Word Bearers) to the book.

The problem, with both parts, is that, once again, nothing truly “moves forward” and Vulkan Lives, by and large, is mostly exposition to later books, including The Unremembered Empire.

Well written exposition, but exposition nonetheless.

#3 – Vulkan Lives – The Audio Book

As just the story, I might have rated Vulkan Lives with a good 3 or perhaps 3.5 stars.

However, I really enjoyed the reading by Saul Reichlin, which pushes the experience up another notch. The varied structure of Vulkan Lives – different places, different perspectives, different narrative styles – also favour an audio version.

  • The chapters and sections on Vulkan being tortured and held captive by Curze are told from first person perspective. Read aloud, it has the nice effect of seemingly hearing Vulkan tell “his story” to the listener.
  • The parts involving the Isstvan V-survivors and John Grammaticus are told in a 3rd person narrative. Saul Reichlin does a great job voicing the different characters, however. All the character, Artellus Numeon and the other surviving Marines, John Grammaticus himself, the Word Bearers, etc.. , are instantly recognizable, making these parts of the book fun to listen to.

No matter how talented Saul Reichlin is as a reader, there are parts where he iss straining to get the occasional overlong and convoluted sentences across, which admittedly appear in most Black Library novels (not just Nick Kyme’s).

Vulkan Lives the audio book is not “perfect”, but it is a good mix of a story suited for audio and a good reading by Saul Reichlin.

#4 – Vulkan Lives – The Verdict

It is never easy to recommend these kind of products.

If you aren’t reading the Horus Heresy series in one form or another, you want to stay away from this one. Vulkan Lives is heavy on some of the more exotic subplots of recent Heresy Books (Perpetuals, etc..).

On the other hand, if you are reading the series and want to switch it up with an audio book, Vulkan Lives is an excellent choice. It is well produced, well read and a better-than-I-expected tale to boot, even if it doesn’t “move the story forward” all that much.Vulkan Lives (Unabridged Audio Book) by Nick Kyme:4 / 5 stars      

I’ll give Vulkan Lives solid 4-stars!