Forum regular and moderator Vivia does a review of an old and classic 40k novel by Barrington J. Bailey.
A decade ago , Eye of Terror was my first Warhammer 40k novel after reading Into the Maelstrom and I didn’t know anything at all about the 40k universe. It left a great impression on me and I knew then that I had read something significantly different in sci-fi. I was left in shock after the ending, thinking that stories like this could exist.
The first story is about a rogue trader named Rugolo, who encounters a psyker whom he believes to be a navigator. The not full-trained navigator, Calliden, is deadly scared of the Warp after suffering a strange and traumatic experience which has made him into an outcast. Soon they travel together to the outskirts of the Eye of Terror where they meet many strange people and aliens, among them a man who carries strange goods and his mysterious sister. They claim to have travelled into the Eye of Terror and returned, albeit changed. Rugolo and Calliden are uncertain of how, but they fear that something is wrong with the strange duo.
The second story takes place within the Eye of Terror and we follow the travels of a lone Space Marine. A lone Space Marine is an indication that something isn’t right. His story is incredible and very much a mystery, even to him. He is one the most memorable characters I’ve ever read in a BL story. This story is a window into the psychology and behaviour of a post-human super-soldier and the story lets us decide whether it is all for good or evil..
The Space Marine in question meets a lone battle-brother of his own chapter and he senses that there is something not quite right about him. As a character the protagonist seems hopelessly naive, and when I read the story I came to understand that a Space Marine was someone special, but it wasn’t clear to me as to how, as I hadn’t read any background at that point. There is another reason for this and it took me around 9 years to get it. It could be a total surprise or incredible obvious to the reader. It was secondary because in the Eye of Terror nothing is what it should be and nothing happens without a purpose. His comrade, the mysterious Captain Abaddas does one of the most calculating cruel deceptions that could ever be done to an Astartes. If the death of a primarch is horrible then this possibility is enough to make them crumble from within, something the captain is well aware of. For some reason, the Captain isn’t particularly concerned with how he is able to meet one of his old battle brothers; he accepts it without any evidence or effort, such is the Eye of Terror.
The third story is one of the rarest; we get a POV of a Chaos Daemon and not any daemon but a very special one, which made me all happy inside. From within the warp the daemon is trying to force itself into our reality to manipulate it for a greater purpose, a scheme within a scheme. It contains one of the coolest fights between Chaos daemons, and it was so awesome I read it several times. As an experience, it has forever coloured my view of how Chaos should be written.
All of these characters get woven into one epic story that has one of the cruellest and heart-wrenching fates in BL history. I reread it again recently after all these years, and it still brought tears to my eyes, written in the beautiful prose of Bailey. It’s a very bleak story and with an ending where there are no winners or losers, no good and evil, no heroes or enemies. Some of it is too incredible, but that’s why the setting of the Eye works so well. We are thrown into a world where normal rules don’t apply. Anything is possible. Planets shaped as flowers exist, beauty hides horrible creatures, all mixed into a nightmare world, very Alice in Wonderland in nature, but exceedingly darker, much darker. The inhabitants are literally puppets of the dark gods. Mortals are disposable creatures and there is plenty more where they came from, that’s the main philosophy.
To live in the future of 40k is to be among billions, and nowhere else is this more evident than in the Eye. There is a feeling of hopelessness throughout the novel that tickled my fancy for dark fantasy. Don’t expect anything good things happening to the characters.
In the early 2000s, Barrington J. Bailey was a very interesting BL writer. He wrote a 40k novel that manages to capture the essence of an alien and faraway future, and allows his voice to shine through. He doesn’t overload his story with too much information and background, he only tells a fascinating evil fairy tale.
I would say it’s a beginner’s book in the same way as the Space Wolf series by William King is. Since it takes place outside the Imperium it has more time to explore other sides of 40k. I wonder how I would have thought about 40k if I had read another book first. The Gaunt’s Ghost books left me disappointed because I knew too little to really appreciate them, Pawns of Chaos was difficult to get into and so on.
Read and enjoy!