Review: Helion Rain (audio drama)

I've been going a little insane at work the last week or so, as I'm in a maintenance phase of our release cycle. That means reading 500+ pages of inane documents, and replacing small fragments of text and large sections of graphics/images...and then doing it all again for a slightly different version of the product. The life of a technical writer.

When I get into those maintenance ruts, I get distracted easily and end up spending hours surfing instead of working. I'd normally listen to music, but I can't find my old iPod and don't have a PC with iTunes on it anymore. Instead, I decided to try out a Black Library audio drama.

In the past, I thought audio dramas would be an odd thing to listen to, and I H-A-T-E audio books (I can't stand being read to, I prefer to visualize in my own head using my own voice). I did some brief Google searching for reviews, and 95% of the impressions of BL audio dramas were good. I bought Helion Rain because I wanted some more insight into the Raven Guard for my upcoming Shadow Captain project.

I was floored.

Let's start with a description of what an audio drama is in BL terms: it's like the cinematics of a video game, but without the video game. Ever listen to a TV show or movie from the next room, and imagine the scene in our head as you listen along? That's what these audio dramas are for.

Helion Rain (pronounced HEE-lee-on) follows the Raven Guard as they attempt to defend the fleeing remnants of a planetary populace from a Tyranid invasion. There are two main characters: Veteran Scout Sergeant Grayvus and Shadow Captain Koryn. Each has a separate mission in the story. grayvus leads a small Scout squad, and Koryn (his commanding officer) is overall leader of the Raven Guard on the planet. You don't get a real sense of Koryn in the story, as his scenes are largely scene-setting, exposition, and pure action. Grayvus is a little more fleshed out, with some backstory and character traits.

I can't give a ton of plot details without spoilering the whole thing, but rest assured it's a simple story with some nice twists. The action scenes are of believable odds, instead of single Marines striding unscathed through waves of Nids. The scout scenes have some really great tension.

The drama is narrated and voiced entirely by a single person, Toby Longworth. I was skeptical about that when I first stated, but the man is a very talented voice actor. He manages to make all of the characters sound slightly different.
The story also contains sound effects and light background music. You get to hear what a chainsword sounds like (just like the chainsaw in my garage at home), what Tyranids sound like, and the noise of Scout armor as the Marines run. None of the sounds are front and center, but more behind the narration as support. The overall effect is great.

The whole thing runs just over an hour, which is a pretty good value for the $16 I paid for it. I've already started listening to it again this morning! I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes to visualize a story as it's being narrated. I plan to push the mp3 file over to my Kindle as well, so I can listen to it at my painting desk.


  1. I've been considering getting some myself, the audio dramas, and you've now sold me.

    1. I'm about to buy another one. With Baited Breath, another Raven guard story.

    2. I've been looking at the Heresy stuff. They have a bunch of them and originally I was hoping they would release them in book form but they are only in audio form. They aren't must-haves, more like short stories to just fill in gaps and give extra detail, but I'm a completest and have wanted to get them for that fact if nothing else. With your positive review of this one I figure the others are, hopefully, just as good.

    3. You can listen to some of the excerpts on the BL pages for each one. There's a super-shot one called "Strike and Fade" about Salamanders immediately after the Dropsite Massacre that sounded neat. The production values on them are all consistently high, so I don't think there'll be any bad ones.