The Death of Intregrity

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Death of Integrity by Guy Haley.

Guy Haley The Death of Integrity

This novel is pretty good to read, if you’re looking to sympathize with transhuman fascistic killers. Certainly, Warhammer 40,000 space marines are more interesting than their Star Wars “storm trooper” counterparts, and this may be a consequence of the marines’ origins in gaming. They are certainly characters in the game sense, if not always so strongly in the literary novel sense.

The central plot of Death of Integrity is the conquest of the eponymous “space hulk,” a moon-sized agglomeration of derelict ships, asteroids, and other debris, that has been drifting in and out of warp space for millennia. It therefore contains the basic scenario of the Space Hulk board game and its little cousin Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game. The proximate foes in this book — as in the Space Hulk games — are the “genestealer xenos” (hive-social interstellar creatures reminiscent of the monsters in the Alien film franchise) that infest the derelict. But key complications arise from the involvement of the Imperial priesthood charged with maintaining and acquiring “archeotech.”

This particular book also highlights the cultural idiosyncrasies and differences between two space marine chapters: the Ultramarines and the Blood Drinkers. Each book chapter is headed with an insignia representing the marine chapter with which it is most concerned: the burst-haloed skull of the Ultramarines, or the blood-drop and cup of the Blood Drinkers. There is one passage at very nearly the center of the book that provides a neat liturgical comparison and contrast as the two chapters ceremonially prepare themselves for battle.

In Death of Integrity, even more than in the single other Warhammer 40,000 book I’ve read, women are thoroughly absent, and sex is never acknowledged as a conscious reality. Still, all of the far-future vampire imagery and the penetrative gore of the battles provides a sexual subtext that is all too obvious to an un-blinkered reader.

There are some basic editorial problems. A multi-paragraph passage occurs twice verbatim in the same chapter — I couldn’t figure out where it actually made more sense. There are some (rare) issues with subject-verb agreement and other scruples of English grammar.

Still, within the confines of a fairly limited plot scenario, the book did a good job of communicating the gist of its setting. Even though its scope and scale were more constrained than in The Blood Angels Omnibus, it gave a better sense of future-historical depth. The Empire in The Blood Angels Omnibus could almost have been a “peak” multi-national civilization of the classical world, while in Death of Integrity, it is much more implicitly clear (even before an antagonist’s climactic jeremiad to this effect) that the Empire is a superstition-riddled medieval degeneracy, something of a “space hulk” itself. [via]