In conjunction with The Eagle’s Talon by John French, David Annandale’s Iron Corpses continues the tale of the Battle of Tallarn in audio format, either as an MP3 or as part of the upcoming joint audio CD. This follows on directly from The Eagle’s Talon, as a lone Iron Warrior strikes out through the blasted devastation created when the troop transport hit the surface of Tallarn. Having survived through sheer chance, Warsmith Koparnos knows he is slowly dying on the virus- and radiation-scarred surface, but sees an opportunity for both survival and vengeance in the shape of an intact Titan.
The Tallarn arc has been notable for its variety of protagonists and storytelling styles, and this continues the variation with Koparnos and his determined, focused desire to spit in the face of the Imperium who he feels belittled him and his brothers. It opens with Koparnos battling his way through the toxic air of Tallarn, shouting his defiance into the wind before taking sanctuary in the Titan and realising that he has more than just defiance available to him. The horrific environment and conditions that he faces are brought to life brilliantly by both Annandale’s language and the audio soundscape, and the sheer hopelessness and desperation of Tallarn are powerfully portrayed.
Once Koparnos kicks into gear with his plans however, the story loses a bit of forward motion. Annandale keeps the listener guessing as to exactly what Koparnos has planned, but with events confined to the interior of the Titan there’s an over-reliance on narrated descriptions and little for the audio to provide other than the occasional footstep or door opening. There’s an appealingly bleak sense of inevitability that grows throughout the story, but it just lacks a little bit of excitement and pace towards the end.
What Iron Corpses does is provide a traitor viewpoint on the war that shows the difference between the two sides, psychologically. Where the loyalists are fighting to survive, the Iron Warriors are fighting out of spite, and to make a point (given that most of them don’t actually know the real reason for them being there). In a conflict of this size, nothing Koparnos does will really make that much difference, but he’s driven by a determined fury to keep fighting and make the most of every moment. It’s ultimately futile, but he doesn’t care. This is brought home really well, and there are some standout moments that remind the listener why audio can be such a powerful format. While it doesn’t maintain its momentum and interest for the whole time, it’s still a powerful, enjoyable story that adds another layer to the complex whole that is the Battle of Tallarn.