A little over seventy-five minutes long and with a nine-strong voice cast, David Annandale’s Horus Heresy audio drama The Binary Succession was described at a Black Library event as ‘Brexit with Titans’. That’s not far off; it takes place on Terra and deals with the growing tensions between the High Lords of Terra and the representatives of the Martian Mechanicum, who feel mistrusted and under-appreciated by the Imperium. Ambassador Vethorel, representative of Fabricator General Kane, has the difficult job of negotiating her way to a position of strength for the Mechanicum, while endeavouring to hold together her increasingly fractious fellows.
The central idea of the story is that the Mechanicum, normally ruled by rigid processes and cold logic, is struggling to deal with the problem of there being two individuals claiming the title of Fabricator General – the traitor Kelbor-Hal, and the loyal Zagreus Kane. The Binary Succession – the process of the title moving from one person to another – cannot proceed, and as a result the Mechanicum is fractured, just when it needs to be at its strongest to cope with the demands of the Imperium at war. Vethorel must find ways to both resolve the equation and to find a voice and a place for the Mechanicum…and the Collegia Titanica.
Annandale constructs a careful flow to the plot, based around a ritual observance of Mars’ nightly orbit and the revelation of the spiritual harm caused by the Martian schism, along with Vethorel’s recorded memories of various conversations with Kane as her plans are gradually revealed. We experience the hubbub of the Council of Terra and its attendant hangers-on, and the chaos of Mechanicum in-fighting, and get a glimpse of the stunning power of the Collegia Titanica, all brought to life by the always-excellent voice cast and some genuinely impressive music and sound design (courtesy of Howard Carter). The varying levels of mechanical SFX applied to their voices, depending on how augmented each character is, are a particularly nice touch.
It’s a fascinating concept, which results in a story that’s heavily dialogue-focused with action scenes few and far between. This is A GOOD THING. There are any number of action-oriented Horus Heresy stories available, so something that focuses on intrigue, on infighting within the Mechanicum, on the workings of the Council of Terra, on how the Titan Legions fit into the Mechanicum…it’s all good! When that’s an audio drama that brings it all to life in a more immersive fashion, then even more so. Look elsewhere for Titan battles, despite what the cover might imply, but if you like a bit of Imperial politics and want to see the beginning of something important…check this out.