I know, I know it feels like Chris Wraight week, between Jen reviewing Unification and now I’m reviewing Child of Chaos by Chris Wraight. What can I say? The guy knows how to capture our interests and he writes really damn well on top of that. I got snagged with a short story about Word Bearers. Well, really it’s about one Word Bearer—the one everyone loves to hate.
I don’t know what my fascination with the Word Bearers is. I suppose it’s because they were always steeped in religion and I’m a religious person? It’s hard for me NOT to be intrigued by this Legion, since they’re so subtly named after the first verses of John. Maybe it’s also because I find Lorgar to be a tragic character? We’ve firmly established on the podcast that I tend to lean toward them tragic characters.
After reading The First Heretic, I started to understand a little about how Lorgar fell. After reading his primarch novel, it’s no surprise that he fell at all. With a “father” like Kor Phaeron, who needs Chaos and daemons to warp minds? Argel Tal’s story broke my heart. The short stories that have flitted around about the other Word Bearers falling were just as heartbreaking. Would Child of Chaos provide the same heartbreaking insight?
Wraight Has a Message for All of You About Erebus
To be honest, I just saw the words “Word Bearers” and “Chris Wraight” and “short story” before hitting buy now on Amazon. For those who have already read this short story, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered this is Erebus’ story.
Here it all is, everything laid bare for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about Erebus. Where he came from. What his motivations are. Who he really is. I can summarize the first and last without spoiling anything: Colchis and who knows.
I can say that if you were looking for some real insight into Erebus’ character, such as learning the true moment when he fell, it ain’t here. Wraight lays it all out in the open in the first paragraphs. The story is written in first-person from Erebus’ point of view (although you don’t know who it is for a few pages), and he tells this story as if it is me, personally, asking him why he’s such an asshole. He asks the reader what they want from him. Suggests maybe they are looking for a reason he is the way he is so that the reader “might loathe me a little less than you do at present.”
Then he drops this big bomb that there isn’t one.
Stop Looking for Redeeming Qualities
Erebus, sensing that you, the reader, want a real explanation, he dives into his story from the very beginning to when he was a boy on Colchis. Spoiler alert: he was a bad kid back then. He takes you through his time with Covenant, when they tossed Kor Phaeron out, when KP returned with the Golden Child, when the Emperor came, when he became a Space Marine, and all the way to manipulating Horus.
He tells all with the remorse and moral fiber of a true psychopath: he has none. I’m not sure he even has true emotions, which, unsurprisingly, is a psychological trait of a psychopath. Everything he tells is so matter-of-fact, like none of it was a big deal. It’s just something he did. It’s something he continues to do. It’s something he will do until the end of time.
He Is of Bad Clay
Sometimes people are just assholes. There’s no rhyme or reason why; they just are. It’s just who they are. Erebus is one such horrible person.
Please note that neither Wraight nor I are saying you should hate Erebus and you’re a bad person if you don’t (*coughcoughJKRowlingcoughcough*). All Wraight has explained in this excellent short story is that Erebus isn’t a tragic character. His parents weren’t murdered in a dark alley right in front of him. He wasn’t beaten as a child. He simply has no reason or backstory as to why he’s a truly awful person. He just is.
As Michael Caine so eloquently put it:
Now does this mean there’s nothing in Child of Chaos worth of note? There’s no reason to spend the $3.99 and an hour reading this short story? Far from it. Erebus has so many little nuggets to share, including the massive truth [spoiler] of who he really is [/spoiler]. Plus it’s another chance to enjoy Wraight’s writing, and that’s always worth the $4.