I have long made my distaste of John Grammaticus (aka Johnny Gram) known. From his smug demeanor to his rambling thoughts on characters and places in the lore, he is the bane of the Warhammer universe. If I could undo any piece of lore within the universe, it would be the addition of perpetuals to it. But why do I dislike these characters so much? I’m glad you asked! Because I’m not just blindly hating over here, I promise.
He’s here, he’s there, he’s every $@&$-ingwhere…
The universe is an awfully big place. We are constantly reminded, in the intro to every Warhammer novel, that the universe is that of untold billions of planets and people. During the Horus Heresy, the Emperor used his larger-than-life warriors and legions to forge a larger-than-life empire. Once Horus kickstarts said heresy, this galactic theater of war descends into chaos. Literally. And yet through impossible odds, John Grammaticus and his ilk manage to be at every single important event. All of them! John, in particular, doesn’t miss a good shindig. Just like Forrest Gump, John is present at every major event in the heresy, and has a hand in shaping it.
But how. And before you say, “They explain how he gets there, in every book,” no, they don’t explain him. They handwave him. The Aeldari sent him! With a magic knife that cuts through reality! That just happened to bring him to a Major Event! Which is perhaps my biggest complaint. Every. Single. Major Event. Has a perpetual present to either encourage said event or stop said event. Look, the perpetuals are 100/100 on landing at a major event due to some nonsensical explanation. “We foresaw the event because it was WE who planted person/place/thing to make sure the event happened!” Just thinking about some of the explanations makes my eyes roll themselves.
The further and further we get into the Horus Heresy, the more these people are embedding and rooting themselves into the mythos. Thanks to John French, Ollanius Pius/Ollanius Persson is now integral to the Emperor’s entire history. I’ve no problem with the revelation that the Emperor has, throughout history, needed to lean on experts to make his plans come to fruition. I do have a problem with a perpetual following him throughout history and having an integral role in new revelations to his works. C’mon.
Rhymes with Gary Clue
Perhaps my biggest gripe with John Grammaticus is that he is, in every definition of the term, a “Mary Sue.” He’s an author insert who is overpowered, over-connected, and very important to the plot. The Emperor thinks he’s so cool, he played regicide with him! He’s so smart and witty*! This extends to the rest of the perpetuals, as well. They have the coolest toys, a wealth of knowledge, and a shadow organization (or two) to which they are connected. I get the desire to insert yourself, as an author, into a book; I don’t like it, but I understand. But at this point it’s just getting out of hand.
The entire concept of immortal beings who pull the strings of fate brings nothing to the universe. The whole concept is straight out of comic books, and it’s one of the worst thing about comic books. The purpose of shadow organizations and immortal chess players in comics stems from the constant need to reboot the world. Comics are so long in the tooth that they need to handwave away the reasons for yet another alternate dimension, time travel, or reboot. Or because comic authors have to find a way to keep readers engaged with characters who have been around since the 1970s (hi, Wolverine!) and keep them fresh. So shadow organizations revealing themselves to have secretly been behind x, y, or z event makes a kind of sense for Marvel and DC. It doesn’t fit in Warhammer.
Part of the charm of WH40k is that it’s so far in the future, everything from our time has been forgotten. A character reminiscing about killing Martin Luther King Jr. is not only in bad taste (and it is that), it’s wholly unnecessary to the mythos. These people have lived for 35,000+ years and the most important thing that happened to them was on Earth, in the 1960s (m2.960)? Guilliman’s blood, no.
What is ya’d say ya do here?
Perhaps the worst offense the perpetuals (especially John Grammaticus) commit is that they really don’t do anything. As much as I am loathe to reference the %$#@-ing Big Bang Theory, the perpetuals are the Indiana Jones argument brought to life. On some occasions they act as a quicker catalyst to conversations and events, but by in large they have zero influence on the plot itself. How many books prominently featuring perpetuals end with the perpetual failing utterly? Or changing their mind? Or having a very mixed result that did not change the events in a meaningful way? I’ll give you a hit: almost all of them.
They are overpowered, at every single major event, and yet somehow they don’t DO anything. If you removed them from the plot of every book in which they appear, the events would STILL occur. There are a couple of exceptions, but even then I get the impression that the events would have occurred in another way. They are Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Worse, they are implied to have been super important throughout history, and yet, producing nothing now. Kind of like the Dallas Cowboys. We need to let them out to pasture, and make sure we never have to hear about them again. Kind of like the Dallas Cowboys.