Daedalus – LJ Goulding

Another step on his road to world domination instalment in his ongoing Scythes of the Emperor arc, LJ Goulding’s audio drama Daedalus is a tense, breathless hour of aerial Space Marine action. Named for a particular Tyranid Hive Ship, its sees an under-strength assault squad embark on a dangerous mission to rescue a stranded apothecary and, more importantly, the geneseed he’s protecting. Still reeling from their losses at Sotha and Miral, the Scythes’ highest priority is to protect their precious stocks of remaining geneseed, but with so few brothers remaining they can only spare a handful for this risky mission.

In Slaughter at Giant’s Coffin Goulding focused on the psychological impact that the Scythes’ losses were having on the chapter, but here things are simpler. It’s a straightforward (albeit dangerou) mission – get in, get the objective and leave – and it provides an opportunity to see the Scythes taking it to the Tyranids a little. The fragility of their survival plays still plays a big part, inspiring them to great risks and heroic acts, but there’s less of the intrigue and mystery here. It’s an exciting, action-packed story, with large chunks taking place in the air as jump pack-equipped Scythes battle against winged Tyranids. What’s not to like about that?

As you might expect, there are subtle links to previous Scythes stories, most obviously to Slaughter at Giant’s Coffin and the micro-short Terminal Velocity though you might also spot a familiar character from Richard Williams’ Orphans of the Kraken. There’s not much time for the characters to develop, but in amongst the exhilarating rush of jump packs and burning flyers it doesn’t really matter. It’s enough to know that Brother Esau, for example, is only newly raised beyond a neophyte but no less brave or capable for that fact. When he’s fighting huge Tyranid flyers in mid-air, the excitement and tension is more than enough to provide suitable entertainment.

It goes without saying that the standard of the audio elements is outstanding. The seven-strong voice cast, familiar names (and voices) all, put in their usual excellent performances, but it’s the atmospheric sound effects that really stand out, the work of producer Matt Renshaw and (I assume) sound designer Howard Carter. Setting an audio drama mostly in mid-air is the sort of obvious idea that’s only obvious because of how good the sound design has got with these productions – suffice to say it’s incredibly absorbing, and if you listen on decent headphones with your eyes closed you’re entirely transported into the thick of the action. Whether you’re a Scythes fan or not, this is hugely entertaining and should be very close to the top of your list to listen to.

One final note – if you haven’t read Terminal Velocity, do yourself a favour and check it out once you’ve listened to this. Trust me.

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