Warhammer 40,000: Severed [Novel]
It is perhaps a failing on my part as a fan of Warhammer 40,00 that I haven’t been keeping quite so up to date with the developments surrounding the Necrons as I should have. I’ve read the older codex entries and a decent amount of the more modern lore, but I couldn’t tell you as much about them as I could the Imperial Guard or Tyranids for example.
For the unaware, the short version is that the Necrontyr once underwent a transformation of sorts called Biotransference, which placed their souls into undying bodies of metal (Necrodermis) where they were stripped of all emotions etc. Nowadays, Necron Warriors remain emotionally dead combat constructs; Immortals are a little brighter and are able to hold a conversation and make arguments; the Lych Guard are much smarter than your average person and have a sense of duty, and the Necron Lords and Crypteks, are hyper aware superintelligences with fully emotive faculties.
Going into Severed, written by the two time INFERNO published author and writer of The Enemy of my Enemy, Nate Crowley, I was honestly expecting a fairly dour story that was going to grind along at a snail’s pace. Oh, how wrong I was. Mr Crowley has single handedly ignited an interest in the Necrons within me, and I can only hope that other authors do them justice as he has done. Rather than finding the metallic husks of a thoroughly depressing race of once-mortals, I found the characters to have real depth and their campaign in the deepest reaches of the Ghoul Stars to be one of a twisted morbidity that is quite unique to the Necrontyr. But even though the story doesn’t have much in the way of depth, this tale really is all about the characters of Vargard Obyron, Nemesor Zahndrekh, and Setekh.
First of all, the plot. It’s not terribly inspired, and you’ve probably read some iteration of this story in some other piece of fiction. An ancient ruler arises long before their time and spends the long passing years spiralling into insanity that ultimately becomes the downfall of their people. But, as I said above, the plot is really just there to give the characters some structure to work upon. Deep in the dark regions of the Ghoul Stars, a corrupted Necron tomb is awakening, led astray by a mad Cryptek who has woven themselves into a mysterious machine. Nemesor Zahndrekh, and his Vargard Obyron, are personally dispatched to the region by Imotekh the Stormlord (Phaeron of the entire Sautekh Dynasty) where he meets up with the Necron called Setekh, who has went through some considerable changes since I last read anything about him. In the past, he was basically a weapon, but now he’s a scheming warlord with unfathomable technology under his command, with abilities that can best even the Nemesor’s most effective technological counterparts.
Nemesor Zahndrekh and Setekh are expected to buddy up in the subjugation of this rogue Necron element to try and kill it off before it grows too large to defeat conventionally. Imotekh the Stormlord wishes to see the rogue faction destroyed to prevent the rise of another “Empire of the Severed,” a Necron Dynasty who had all of its memory banks erased in an unexpected radiation storm which caused them to become mindless drones of the Tomb World Sarkon’s Master Program. This would see the Dynasty spread itself across other planets, both Necron and non-Necron alike, with the Sarkoni Emperor (the Master Program) making the decisions.
So, with the simple story outlined within the first handful of chapters, it’s easy to transition to a character-driven story where honor and duty come into conflict with loyalty and friendship, something that I’m personally not acquainted with when it comes to stories of the Necrons. Vargard Obyron has been a long-serving and loyal companion to his Nemesor, but he tires of hearing the old madman talk about tales of war through his ravaged mind, which is incapable of understanding that he is no longer a mortal Nectronyr, but a living machine. The endless prattle of campaigns and history irks the Vargard, but still he stands by his master, only sometimes considering letting an Assassin get closer to his liege, if only to break the monotony.
But as the story goes on, and make no mistake, this is definitely Obyron’s story, certain events unfold that make it seem as though the best move would be to finally put the ancient warlord out of his misery for the greater good of the Dynasty. This idea comes from none other than Setekh, Nemesor Zahndrekh’s oldest companion, who is revealed to be quite the dastardly Necron. Obyron initially goes along with the idea, going so far as to take time away from the frontline to contemplate what this would mean for himself and the Dynasty at large, before his faith in his leader is re-solidified as the eccentric old warlord returns with more vim and vigor than before.
You’ll have noticed I’m trying to be a bit vague about what actually goes down between everyone in the story, and that’s because it would be the peak of spoiler territory to tell you. And this is one story that you should definitely experience for yourself, even if it’s only to get a taste of nuanced characterization on the part of the Necrons. Perhaps you’re more accustomed to it than I am, or perhaps you were as ignorant of it as I was, but Severed is an excellent example of using characters as a narrative driving force, opposed to a twisting storyline. I strongly recommend this one.