Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The First Heretic By Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The First Heretic is Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s first venture into the Black Library’s iconic Horus Heresy series. His previous books have been well received within Black Library circles, but can he step up to the crease and knock his first Horus Heresy book for six? Let’s find out!

Aaron’s main protagonist in The First Heretic is Argel Tal. A Word Bearer captain who rises through the ranks over the course of the book. Argel Tal is one of those characters written you instantly like, which is a change from other Horus Hersey books I’ve read where you either don’t relate to the main character at all, or by the time you feel any empathy for them the book is over. Through Argel Tal’s eyes, we bear witness to the Emperor chastising Lorgar and his legion of Word Bearer for worshipping the Emperor as a god. Lorgar is devastated by this and returns to his home world of Colchis for some serious soul searching. After a heated talk with his brother Magnus and some serious ear whispering by his twisted first captain Kor Pheron and Chaplin Erebus. Lorgar decides that if the Emperor is not worthy to be worshipped as a god, then there must be beings worthy of his devotion somewhere in the void. Lorgar then takes Argel Tal to the ends of the galaxy and back and ultimately finds exactly what he was looking for, unfortunately at the expense of Argel Tal and a large number of his Word Bearers. The story then fast tracks back to the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V and adds the Word Bearers perspective to this epic event featuring in many of the Horus Heresy books. If you’re after plenty of Space Marine action, Primarch’s fighting to the death and deamonic possession then Aaron has really catered to your needs.

As with Aaron’s other Space Marine book Soul Hunter. Aaron writes his Space Marine dialogue with plenty of witty banter. At first I was a bit unsure how this would play out, a funny Space Marine? Surely not! But as the chapters flow, you begin to enjoy the sometimes sarcastic and sadistic conversations the Word Bearers have. I think some will not appreciate the way Kor Phareon is portrayed in The First Heretic, Kor Phareon tended to be a bit snivelly at times, which was a bit of a distraction to his otherwise fearsome persona. Erebus is still the ever scheming playmaker and is written as he should be. This then brings me to Lorgar. Lorgar was an enigma to me. Aarons writes the Word Bearers Primarch like a lost child. He seems to spend a majority of the book confused and lost like an abandoned puppy dog. I felt that Kor Phareon and Erebus were able to twist his faith in the Emperor a little easily. Could a Primarch of the God Emperor be so easily swayed by his own men? I’ll let you be the judge of that, for now I’ll just sit on my fence. I did find Lorgar to be the most Human like of all the Primarchs written thus far. He feels emotions more intensely and is far from the most physically powerful of his brothers. While some will read him as the weakling of the Primarchs, Aaron does well to counter the negativity by showing Lorgar’s inner strength and conviction. Something many of his brothers lack.

As with all Horus Heresy books, the story is divided into three parts. It was the second part Pilgrimage which really blew me away. Instead of the usual A to B style of writing, Aaron begins pilgrimage with a bloody and brutal ending, and then begins to fill you in on everything in between. Within the first few pages of pilgrimage, Aaron had me hook line and sinker as I devoured the entire middle section of the book in a few hours. In my opinion, this is by far the most revealing and interesting part of the entire book. Without spoiling it all for you, events unfolded include The Great Crusade’s first contact with the Eye of Terror, how the Eye of Terror was created including the downfall of the Eldar, how the first Space Marines where touched by Chaos and how Lorgar was fully turned from the Emperor’s path. Now that’s a lot to mentally digest, I know, but Aaron does so with a pace perfectly set to allow you to ingest huge amounts of new 40k lore without it reading like a boring Codex. Each chapter ends leaving you scanning the start of the next and thinking to yourself... ‘Just one more chapter, I promise’. Next thing you know its 2am and you have to work the next day! Damn you Aaron!

One of my favourite parts of the book included the use of Ingethel the Ascended as the Bringer of Truth to the Word Bearers. For those of you playing at home, on page 263 of the Horus Heresy Collected Visions art book is a beautiful picture of all the main players in the Heresy. To the far right was a Daemon named Ingethel the Ascended who until now, was completely unknown. Suggestions were made in 40k circles that he may even be completely written out of the Heresy series. Not only did Aaron include him in The First Heretic, he did the original art work justice and based his description of Ingethel solely off this picture. Well done Aaron, a subtle nod to people more involved with 40k lore.

I think Aaron has pulled something amazing off with The First Heretic, it’s a well paced, one way ride into the depths of hell and back again. Finally the Word Bearers have their side of the heresy revealed and come out on the other side ultimately far cooler than they were before. Aaron ticks all the boxes with this one and asserts himself as the new Black Library heavy hitter who can stand confidently beside Abnett and McNeil and no longer in their shadows. A must read.

High Point: Daemon possessed Space Marines. Or more to the point, what it’s like to be one. I just loved everything about them. From the twisted gifts the warp allows, to the conversation the marines have in their heads with their individual daemons. Twisted...

Low Point: I was really searching for this one, but maybe Lorgar was a little too... human natured. At times he seemed a bit of a pushover for Kor Phaeron and Erebus. Surely a son of the Emperor of mankind would be harder to manipulate? Maybe? Maybe not? Food for thought.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nemesis By James Swallow

Nemesis is the 13th book in the current Horus Heresy series of books from the Black Library. While some books in the series run sequential or standalone to one another, Nemesis falls somewhere in the middle. While it uses characters established in previous books, it introduces enough new fresh faces to allow someone with a basic Heresy knowledge to get away with reading this as a standalone. However, as with all Heresy books, reading them in sequence allows for the best character and plot emersion and thus, the best reading experience. Well, in this reviewers opinion anyway.

Nemesis introduces the reader to the cloak and dagger world of the Officio Assassinorum, which is basically an Imperial assassin’s guild set in the 31st millennium. As Horus continues on his bloody warpath to Terra, decisions are made in secret to combine the might of all the different Assassin Clades (guilds) to form a specialised Kill Team with the single goal of dispatching Horus before he can get anywhere near the Sol system. Considering the Assassin Clades are not fans of one another at the best of times, and until now all Assassin missions have been solo ventures organised by individual Clades. It makes the joint venture quite a big deal in the world of the Officio Assassinorum. Swallow does his best to breathe individuality and personality into each of the members of the Kill Team. I was particularly fond of the Kell (Vindicare sniper), Koyne (Callidus shapeshifter) and Iota (Culexus psyker killer) who in my opinion was the best character of the Kill Team. Iota is a puzzling character, she was test tube raised and has little connection with how humans think and interact. She spends a good proportion of the book trying to understand human emotions and feelings which is an interesting twist. The fact that she’s stealthy, deadly and female further add to her ultimate coolness. I did find the characters of “The Garantine” (Eversor rage-killer), Soalm (Venenum poisioner) and Tariel (Vanus data-freak) a little clich├ęd and dull. But the way Swallow writes his interactions between members of the Kill Team allow the better characters to make up for the dullness of a few.

While the kill team go to work setting up the greatest hit in Imperial history, Erebus of the Word Bearers decides that ‘what they can do, I can do better’ and creates his own assassin, Spear. Now I won’t go into too much detail about Spear, as the unfolding of what Spear is, and how he came to be is an integral part of plot development. What I will say is Spear is badass. As the story progresses and you find out what Spear is and what he can do, it’s hard not to like... it. I often found myself rooting for Spear and enjoying the various ways he can take the human body apart... Opps, I’ve already said too much. I’ll leave the juicy details till when you read the book yourself.

The different story arc’s of the Kill Team and Spear are set on an eventual collision course on the planet of Dagonet which is in the middle of a planetary civil war. What at first appears as the perfect set up for the Kill team quickly turns into a desperate struggle to stop an even greater threat to the Emperor of man-kind than Horus... The Spear thing. If your thing is action then once you slog through the first third of the book, there is violence and mayhem aplenty. Between the Kill team and the Spear thing, the book racks up a nice body count, and as previously mentioned. Some of the things Spear can do simply boggle the mind. For all intensive purposes he seems unstoppable... or is he?

Overall, a cracker of a read! Slow to start, but comes home like a power fist to the face. It does little to advance the Heresy plot in the grander scheme of things, but I guess that’s not the point of the Assassin Clades, they work in the shadows, behind the veil of normality. And in that same way, that’s why this book works so well. So much happens on Dagonet, yet ultimately it affects the Heresy in such a small and insignificant way that it could not have happened at all. And that’s why I like it.

High Point: The paragraph where Kell the sniper takes his shot at Horus. You follow the path of the bullet from hammer fall to target in a way that makes you feel like your right inside the gun. It’s well written and very cool. Hang on... was that even Horus?

Low Point: Iota’s final outcome. I hated it so because I liked her character so much. But I guess it had to happen, this is 40K after all, and there are no happy endings in 40K.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Raven's Flight By Gav Thorpe

Raven’s Flight centres around the events after the drop site massacre at Istvaan V. Sequentially, it fits in where Galaxy in flames and Fulgrim left off. So if like me, you’re desperate to find out what has become of the Raven Guard, Salamanders and Iron Hands after Galaxy in Flames, then this audio book is the answer to your prayers. The story involves Primarch Corax and what’s left of his Raven Guard legion of Space Marines and their desperate struggle to survive against the combined might of the traitor legions on Istvaan V. You see, Corax managed to escape the drop site betrayal, and along with a few thousand of his Space Marines, is fighting a losing battle to stay hidden and alive. Meanwhile the combined might of the Iron Warriors and World Eaters legions attempts to hunt down and destroy them. The narrative jumps between Corax and his efforts on Istvaan V, to the Raven Guards homeworld Deliverance. Where a Colonel of the Imperial army is having dreams he believes are a warning that all is not well at Istvaan. Unfortunately, the small force of Raven Guard left in charge at Deliverance fail to agree with the Colonel, and an ensuring debate about whether to rush to Corax’s aid or stay put on Deliverance as ordered, slowly unfolds to the listener. I won’t reveal all the details as to the fate of the Raven Guard and Corax, but if you know your 40K history, then you’re bound to know the outcome before beginning this audio book.

Despite one chapter of the audio book dedicated to a battle between the remaining Raven Guard and an armoured Iron Warriors force. The book surprisingly does not contain much action. Instead, Thorpe uses this time to reflect on the history of the Raven Guard and in particular Corax. This is done mostly by flashbacks and Corax’s memories as he contemplates the fallout of Istvaan. For those of you interested in Raven Guard history, it’s a fantastic insight into Corax before the Emperor’s intervention on Deliverance, and also into the thinking and rational of the Raven Guard Primarch as he stands now during the Great Crusade. I did find the alternate storyline back on Deliverance rather boring. Most of the time I was just waiting for it to be over so the action would shift back to Istvaan which was far more interesting and engaging. The one battle that is described is unique in that it’s told from Corax’s point of view. If you think a Primarch couldn’t take out 3 Thunderstrikes, a predator tank, a terminator squad and several squads of tactical marines single-handedly, then I’m afraid you’re dead wrong.

The voice acting in Raven’s Flight is quite good. The narrator Toby Longworth does a commendable job of differentiating his voice to make the reader believe they are listening to several different characters speak. I’m pleased to say that unlike in previous Horus Heresy audio books, the Primarch doesn’t sound like he hasn’t hit puberty yet (see my review regarding Rogal Dorn in The Dark King/The Lightening Tower). Primarch and Space Marines voices are deep and resounding like you would imagine them to be, although one of Corax’s veterans could use an asthma puffer. The sound effects for this audio drama have also improved over earlier versions, not so much the battle effects. More so the general sound effects in the background during non-action sequences. In particular, listen out for great shower, shaving and dressing effects as Colonel Valerius gets prepared in the morning. You really do feel like you’re there with him, well not directly in the shower with him as that would be a little uncomfortable.

Overall, I did enjoy the audio book. Some parts did get a little boring, but the ensuring action back on Istvaan does more than enough to make up for these slower parts of the story. The history regarding Corax is the real treasure here, as until now, Corax has been a very absent figure from the Horus Heresy series. However, some plot holes regarding the extraction of Corax and his men from Istvaan V did bother me, and despite all the action centred around the Raven Guard Primarch. There is no dedicated describing of Corax’s appearance, so the entire time he’s speaking it’s hard to imagine how he looks, because of this I found his appearance more of a mental blur in my mind rather than a defined figure. A bit disappointing.

High Point: Learning about Corax’s unique and very secret special ability. I will say no more.

Low Point: The plot hole regarding Corax’s rescue from Istvaan. How did one single Raven Guard ship slip past all the Traitor Legion fleets anchored around Istvaan V, make an aggressive rescue drop and get back out alive again? I just can’t see how this is plausible. And there is no description in the audio book as to how this was achieved.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rynn's World By Steve Parker

Rynn’s World is the first in a new series of Space Marine Battles novels from the Black Library. Essentially, the new Battles series is the retelling of famous battles the Space Marines have participated in over the time since the Heresy, the series will involve many different chapters and will all be stand alone titles with no sequential reading needed. Rynn’s World involves the historic battle of the Crimson Fist’s Space Marines chapter against a massive Ork Waaagh!(a massive Ork crusade for those playing at home) descends upon their homeworld. Imaginatively called... Rynn’s World.

For the first time, The Crimson Fists chapter finally get to have their moment in the spotlight, Author Steve Parker spends the first few chapters of the book really delving into the chapter’s inner most workings from structure, doctrine and important characters to describing their fortress monastery Arx Tyrannus. Unfortunately, you don’t get much time to get acquainted with many of the chapter’s characters as before long an Ork Waaagh! of unseen proportions, descends upon their homeworld and goes to work on systematically reducing it to a burnt cinder. Without spoiling the plot too much for you, a chance event renders the Crimson Fists chapter to ruins with the majority of their number dead and Arx Tyrannus a smoking crater in the ground. What’s left of the chapter remains fighting off the Ork horde from the planets last bastion of defence, the homeworld capital New Rynn City. Much of the book centres around the fighting at the capital city, but to break up the action, a parallel side story involving the survivors from Arx Tyrannus gives the reader an experience of the Ork Waaagh! from a more up close and personal perspective. If you don’t already know, which as a 40K fan you should, the Crimsons Fists only barley survive the Ork Waaagh! and are left with a Chapter and homework in tatters.

While I did kind of enjoy the book, there were things I did not love about Rynn’s World. Firstly I found that I had some trouble connecting with a lot of the Crimson Fist characters. To some degree this is due to most of the characters dying very quickly. But even the characters that manage to make it to the end only started to grow on me by the last third of the book. By the time I found myself actually caring for their welfare, the book was over. I wonder if that comes down to the actual way it is written by Parker, or the Space Marine chapter itself, which tended to be lacking some uniqueness. The story could have easily been about the Imperial Fists or Ultramarines... just with different colours.

Secondly, what I felt the story was crying out for is a known 40K conundrum. With such a heavy Ork influence, the book begs for a chapter or two from the Ork’s perspective. The major problem with this being, writing such a chapter would be near impossible considering humans are supposed to have no idea how an Ork thinks or feels. This is further compounded by the fact that reading Ork language for any long periods of time gives most readers headaches. Yet, I just kept feeling like a few small chapters telling the same story from the Ork’s perspective would have made what is an ok book into a good book. On the positive side, Steve Parker does his best to describe in detail Ork culture and warfare from the eyes of the Imperium. In this respect he does a commendable job.

Besides the above problems I had with the book, the series is called Space Marine Battles for a reason, if you love fighting, fighting and more fighting. You won’t be disappointed by this book. Once the first few chapters are out of the way it’s basically action all the way to the finish and beyond. While some readers may love this, others may like their 40K with engaging dialogue and complex plots. Although I enjoy the latter, you can’t pick up a battles novel and expect it to be the next Horus Rising can you? In that respect, Rynn’s World delivers exactly what it intends to. The telling of a famous event in Imperial history with a dump truck of action thrown in. Just don’t expect an emotional roller coaster.

High point: Space Marine death match with a power armoured Ork Warboss (basically a Terminator equivalent Ork). And just when you think it’s done and dusted, someone makes a surprising comeback.

Low point: Not getting to see some Titan vs Gargant action!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Up Coming Horus Heresy Releases

If your like myself and live and breathe Warhammer 40k fluff you will no doubt be drooling with anticipation waiting for the next book in the the current Horus Heresy series. I know I am. A quick look on the Black Library website today reveals a few up coming releases for the Horus Heresy series of books over the next 12 months. They include:

Nemesis By James Swallow - Due August 2010

Should be a cracker of a book! As the Imperium sends Assassin's to take out Horus before his rebellion can get fully undeway. Horus himself sends an Assassin(s) to take out the Emperor! looking forward to seeing how this all plays out against the back drop of events post Istvaan V. Till now, Assassin's of the Imperium have been very 'cloak and daggers' and little is know about how they operate or their structure. This book should shed some light on their (until now) mysterious existance...

Aaron Dembski-Bowden's first entry into the Horus Heresy. Finally we get a look into where the whole Horus Heresy began. Within the ranks of the Word Bearers Legion! Look forward to characters from the Word Bearers such as Primarch Lorgar, Kor Phaeron and Erebus really getting fleshed out. Should be dark and powerful... Well we can only hope!...

If your like me you'll be wondering what ever happened to poor Nathanel Garro of the Death Guard after the events of Flight of the Eisenstein. Well as it turns out... A LOT! Not sure what will happen in this audio book but rumours are around Garro may be the first ever memember of either the Inquistion or the Grey Knights! Can't wait to find out what...

Prospero Burns By Dan Abnett - Due January 2011

The long overdue twin book of A Thousand Sons. Tells the same tale as A Thousand Sons but from the side of the Space Wolves and Primarch Leman Russ. Look forward to many questions from A Thousand Sons being answered and Dan Abnett's new take on a less 'beer drinking viking cliche ridden' Space Wolves, something Bill King created with Ragnar in Space Wolf and its accompanying series. Finally the battle of Prospero comes to its thrilling conclusion.

As said earlier, This audio book looks to further flesh out Garro after the events of Istvaan V. Read into the blurb in the link what you will.

Not sure about this one, may be a collection of short stories centered around the events between Istvaan V and the Seige of Terra. This 'Age of Darkness' if you will took around 7 years and many events took place between this time period. Should be a bit like Tales of Heresy, but set after Istvaan V. Not much info on this book yet so all I have said is of my own opinion. REALLY looking forward to this one, even if it is nearly 1 year away.

Well there you go, plenty of Horus Heresy stuff churning out of the Black Library as we speak. The Horus Heresy is my favorite series of books and i look forward to the next release of each installment. Keep posted on DSM as i will be reviewing each and every one. Review of Raven's Flight should be up within the fortnight if i can fit it in between changing nappies!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dark King / The Lightening Tower By Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett

The Dark King/The Lightening Tower is the first Audio book from the Horus Heresy series of books. As a matter of fact, it’s actually two short stories combined, but in typical Horus Heresy fashion they are both intertwined through mutual characters, settings and events. This was the first audio book I have ever listened to and I must be honest and say I was quite concerned I wouldn’t like the format. Why you ask? Well readers love to... well, read. So to then be ‘read to’ can be quite an adjustment without it all feeling weird and uncomfortable. So after copying the disc to my iPod, I headphoned up and prepared myself to be disappointed. I could not have been more wrong.

Firstly, this audio book isn’t simply ‘read’ to you, it’s ‘unfolded’ before you much like you’re right there watching it happen and hearing the characters interact with one another. Characters voices are differentiated through pitch and tone to make them appear they are different people (to the best of voice actor Tony Webb’s ability). Critically, Webb’s non-Primarch characters do appear to sound a little the same but Webb makes good of his vocal range to easily distinguish between the central characters of Konrad Curze and Rogal Dorn. I found Curze’s voice fantastic. Dark and brooding just like it should be. On the other hand I wasn’t that impressed with Dorn’s voice, it sounded high pitched, nasal and a little fast paced. A bit like your high school math teacher if you will, not really the Primarch of a Legion of super human warriors. Following Webb’s vocal exploits are a multitude of sound effects from bolter fire, battle and power weapons to even just footsteps when walking. These sound effects really add to the atmosphere of the story telling and if you can get over their Dawn of War origins, they work extremely well. Just remember to give yourself five minutes of listening before passing judgement on an audio book as that’s how long it took me to adjust to the different format. Now, on to the actual stories!

The Dark King by Graham McNeill

This audio book was by far my favourite. It tells the story the Primarch of the Night Lords legion Konrad Curze (Night Haunter) and his inevitable fall from grace with the Imperium. Before you even utter the word ‘Chaos’... don’t. Without giving too much away, let me just say Chaos has nothing to do with Curze’s decision to split with the Imperium. In fact, you’ll find it has a lot more to do with the Emperor being hypocritical of his most misunderstood bastard child. The story begins with Curze hunched over a bleeding and beaten Dorn and ends light years away with the well known destruction of the Night Lords homeworld Nortramo. Everything else in between is totally immersing; McNeill tells the story so well you would be surprised to know he’s had little to do with the Night Lords till now. The whole story is set nice and dark, just like 40k should be. I loved the arguments between the Primarchs as they both debate their own reasoning for their actions on the battle field, but most of all I loved the battle scene where Curze goes on a rampage and tears apart a few of Dorn and Fulgrim’s best warriors. Let’s just say that these Space Marines learned the hard way that they are no match for a Primarch. Furthermore, McNeill does a fantastic job of describing the intense turmoil boiling away in the thoughts of the Night Lords Primarch as he comes to the conclusion that the Imperium is ultimately flawed. In fact, if you consider the Night Haunter as a villain in the 40k universe then by the end of this short story you may just change your tune, or even agree with him. As I said in my opening sentence, I loved this short story, but it’s only half of the whole audio book so let me tell you about its sister story.

The Lightening Tower by Dan Abnett

In contrast to The Dark King, The Lightening Tower is a very different book. The story centres around Rogal Dorn as he struggles with his inner deamons on Terra. Dorn has been ordered back to Terra to fortify the Emperors palace against Horus and his allies. Problem is, Dorn adores his father’s palace. To him it signifies all that the great crusade is and ever will be. A shining beacon to human kind. Unfortunately for Dorn, each time he smears his father’s holy palace in turrets, trenches and pill boxes he feels his belief in everything he has done thus far start to waver. Basically the story is Dorn walking around the Palace of Terra contemplating everything from Horus and his motives, to which of his brothers he fears the most. Abnett’s story gives us a real and honest look into the psyche and thoughts of a demi-god, and we find that although they are far from human, their thoughts and feelings are not. There is a great cameo from Malcador the Sigillite, who helps Dorn delve deep into his feelings of Horus and his traitorous brothers. For those of you playing at home there is a small but very important mention on the two lost legions and their unknown Primarchs, but I’m afraid the information you receive only adds to the mystery behind these two expunged legions. I know some will find this book relatively slow and boring compared to the previous story, and at times... it is. But for the real 40k buffs, the information you get from this story more than outweighs getting through the slower parts of the story. But don’t listen to The Lightening Tower before The Dark King as events from first story transfer over to the second. I did enjoy The Lightening Tower, but not to the same extent that I did The Dark King which is the more superior story.

High Point: The Night Haunter tearing apart Dorn and Fulgrim’s marines like they are play things. I promise you it’s a chapter you WILL listen to again for its utter coolness.

Low Point: Danny Webb’s interpretations of Rogal Dorn’s voice. Webb could have done a lot better than the high pitched, fast, nasal Dorn his gives us in this book. It makes him sounds a bit... wimpy.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Soul Hunter By Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Unlike many Space Marine (SM) or Chaos Space Marine (CSM) novels, Soul Hunter doesn’t start with a bolter round to the face. Instead, Aaron Dembski-Bowden (ADB) eases us into the inner workings of the Night Lords, setting up characters and relationships before ploughing ahead with the action, which believe me does come! We are introduced to Talos, makeshift leader of the rag-tag ‘first claw’ of the 10th Company Night Lords Legion. Through Talos and his merry band of men we quickly learn of the dire situation the Night Lords are left in 10,000 years after the heresy. Without delving headfirst into it, The Night Lords are unique in that they do not worship Chaos (well the majority of Night Lords don’t), yet they wage war against the Imperium, putting them somewhere in the middle ground... a bit like the Soul Drinkers chapter.... but all chaosy and stuff. Problem is they are still using old crusty equipment from before the heresy, and without the blessing of chaos, all their gear is starting to fall apart. Yet worst of all, as their numbers dwindle in combat, they are not being replenished from their homeworld as they blew that up long ago. Sounds like a pretty scummy situation yeah? Well you’d be right. Ok, scene set? Let’s get back to it.

The whole back drop of this story revolves around the struggle for power between Talos or ‘The Prophet’ so called as he gets visions of the future and such, and his Captain of the 10th Company Vandred or ‘The Exalted’. Problem is, Vandred lost his mind a while back and has been basically taken over by a daemon of Tzeentch (well I suspect Tzeentch), who now controls Vandred’s warping body like a puppet. As the Night Lords despise the ruinous powers, Talos gets his grumpy on and decides to bring the company back to its former glory. Meanwhile Vandred is more than happy to maintain 10th Company’s high attrition rate as long as he looks good in front of Abaddon the Despoiler (who gets a cameo!). I won’t let you know the conclusion for this struggle for power, or even if it is resolved by the turn of the last page, but I will tell you that characters you initially consider the enemy do grow on you by the end of the book and you may find yourself changing your mind on who you want to ultimately win. Other notable mentions include an appearance by the Blood Angels, Night Lord Squads taking on a Warhound Titan and a tasty Dreadnaught vs Dreadnaught death match.

An interesting point I noticed early was the way the Night Lords interacted with each other during their conversations. After reading a wheelbarrow load of SM and CSM novels by Abbnet, McNeill and Counter etc, something that has been lacking is humour. Space Marines, particularly loyalists, are rather boring and wouldn’t make for good conversation over a few beers and some Nintendo Wii. ADB seems to have removed the pole from their asses and introduces an amount of sarcasm and wisecracks between his Night Lords 10th Company. I’m still not sold if this is better or worse than traditional hardcore SM/CSM conversation, but it does work very well in this book. Just remember not to compare styles too quickly to Abnett or McNeill when reading. ADB isn’t a clone of these guys and doesn’t try to be. It feels more like a breath of fresh air has come to SM conversation rather than someone trying to force a laugh. Being somewhat a sarcastic fellow myself, I related well to the witty banter.

Something I loved in the novel was the way it meshed with Lord of the Night by Simon Spurrier. Simon wrote his novel way back in 2005, and really laid down the Night Lords fluff as far as post heresy. He also created arguably one of the best Night Lord, if not CSM characters in Zso Sahaal. Rather than pretend this book never happened, ADB interwove his story with the fluff created in Lord of the Night. Sahaal even gets a mention/small cameo which is fantastic for all those hardcore Night Lord fans out there. (Silently raises hand.) I was so thrilled ADB went this way as I loved Lord of the Night and it really worked well to subtly pay homage to it in his own novel. I’d recommend reading Lord of the Night before or after Soul Hunter. Either way, they work really well together despite 2 different authors and 5 years difference.

Overall I really enjoyed the read. Interesting, dark and brutal yet tongue in cheek funny at times. It sets the scene for a Night Lords trilogy which is something many fans have been begging for. This was my first novel by ADB and I must say I’m impressed and looking forward to what he can do with his upcoming Horus Heresy novel.

High Point: First Claw vs a Warhound Titan. Further proving the proverb: “The bigger they are the harder they fall”. Or should it be “The bigger they are, the bigger guns they have to kill you with!”
Low point: The whole scene with Abaddon. He seemed far too chatty and polite for my liking. Considering the way Talos speaks to him and the amount of power Abaddon wields in the 41st millennium, I thought Talos was lucky to get away with his head still attached after their first exchange of words. I always imagined Abaddon as a no question, no quarter, no mercy Warmaster of Chaos. Not the way he was portrayed in Soul Hunter.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fallen Angels By Mike Lee

Fallen Angels is book eleven in the Horus Heresy series, and after turning a few pages I instantly realised it had been some time since I read the Horus Heresy book Decent of Angels (number six in the series) which is the book that Fallen Angels follows on from, and before you ask. Yes, you will have to have read Decent of Angels before you can read Fallen Angels. I began to feel nervous that I wouldn’t remember all the characters involved, or their individual emotions and personalities. Luckily for me, Mike Lee does a really good job of catching the reader back to where Decent left off, catching us back up with Zahariel, Nemiel and all the Dark Angles gang after the events of Sarosh and the fallout from that.

What I really loved about this book, was it seems Mike Lee has actually taken some criticism of Mitchel Scanlon’s slow paced and at times tedious to read Decent of Angels and really stepped it up a gear, both in terms of relating events to the Heresy and setting a cracking pace. What I think was the best factor about this book was its dual story lines. I loved the way they leap frogged each other throughout the book, almost to the stage of having two completely different stories but intertwined around a common Space Marine chapter and timeline. I often found i’d be more interested in one storyline more than the other, and would finish a chapter only to be faced with events on another planet between me, and finding out what happens next! Jumping between Caliban and Diamat was quite fun and Lee does a good job of leaving you hanging at the end of every chapter, but just when one story gets a bit bogged down, the other steps up and makes you keep smashing those chapters like a power fist through an ice cream cake.

I really enjoyed the development of extra characters, it was finally good to see the Lion in on the talking action and Luther as well, although I think he could have darkened Luther up a bit more myself, not an emo's eyeshadow dark, just a little darker. The battles were up to the standard we expect from Heresy novels, so no qualms there either. Well written, bloody and brutal, just as 40K should be!

The best bit for me was the way the book finished! The best ending/cliff-hanger I’ve read in a book for a while. I just loved it. I actually think I said the words ‘oh you’re kidding me!’ out aloud as I read the last few lines. Such a good way to finish a book, I can’t wait for the third one in this Heresy’s Dark Angels story arch now, but I guess I’ll just have to wait like the rest of us. I would have liked a bit more ‘Daemon’ action from the events on Caliban, I think Lee probably could have done more with that, but i guess I’m just nit picking.

Overall I have to say Lee did an excellent job. Fun, fast and gripping. It would have been hard to take over someone else’s story (Mitchel Scanlon wrote Decent of Angels) let alone take over from a story that copped a lot of criticism about being boring, dull and unrelated to the Heresy story line. But well done Mike Lee, I loved it.

High point: The last page... finally! A twist that isn’t obvious and you don’t see coming! And honestly left me shocked.
Low point: The fact that both story arches never meet in this book


Storm of Iron By Graham McNeill

First and foremost, this novel is essentially a siege novel. The entire story centres around the siege of Hydra Cordatus by the Iron Warriors chaos space marine legion and the defence by the local imperial forces of their 'supposed' impregnable fortress. What I loved throughout the book is McNeill's details on the siege techniques of the Iron Warriors, at stages I found myself looking up actual siege techniques used by invading forces (thank you Wikipedia) as McNeill’s tactics seems very accurate and make a lot of sense! You end up thinking "Hey that’s quite smart" or "Yeah, I’d do the same thing". It should be just the thing you need next time you consider laying siege to your next door neighbours home.

The great thing about this particular book is the way it shares itself between the Chaos Space marines and the Imperial forces equally. You end up liking characters from both sides, and McNeill does a great job of making it very hard for you to decide who you want to win, I found myself constantly shifting between favourites as the battle progressed! Also, you never quite know who’s going to win as McNeill makes sure that just as one side gains an advantage, the other seems to strike back.

McNeill introduces several new Iron Warrior characters that you instantly seem to like (but dislike at the same time as they are filthy chaos scum remember) and the ensuring inter squabbling between all of them keeps the action within the Iron Warriors camp as hot as the bloody trenches of the Hydra Cordatus Citadel! I loved seeing the battle field and war tactics through the eyes of a Chaos Marine instead of a loyalist Space marine for a change, their hatred of Imperials and utter loathe of human life does make for a nice (but brutal) change of pace over the sometimes ‘goody two shoes’ way a loyalist Space Marine sometimes operates.

For those of you not in the know, you may like to read Mechanicum from the Horus Heresy series before this (It’s almost a standalone so you don’t need to read the Heresy books first if you don’t want) as some of the titan action from that book crosses over here with some notable 'building size' appearances.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat (well chair) and was a great introduction to the mighty Iron Warriors, in particular it introduces the Iron Warriors character Honsou. Who in this readers eyes, is probably the best bad ass baddie ive ever read from the Black Library. Plenty of surprises and twists! A must read in my humble opinion.

Also, It fits in perfectly between book two of the Ultramarine series Warriors of Ultramar and book three Dead sky, Black sun, both books are also by McNeill. In fact, the events straight after Storm of Iron is where Dead Sky, Black Sun takes off. So if you want to slot this book in here during your Ultramarines Saga reading then it’d be very worthwhile as characters from Storm of Iron are reintroduced within the first two pages of Dead Sky, Black Sun.

High Point: Guardsman Hawke evening up the battle with a well timed cyclonic torpedo! take that Forrix you douchebag!
Low Point: The ease at which some of the Iron Warriors seem to kill other Space Marines (not saying which legion, but if you know who the Iron Warriors bitter rivals are you can figure it out)... but seriously, aren’t they supposed to be somewhat evenly matched? hhmmm...


Mechanicum By Graham McNeill

Mechanicum is book nine of the Horus Heresy series of books by the Black Library. Before we get into it, I must explain that although the Horus Heresy books are ideally read in sequence. Mechanicum can be read as a standalone. As long as the reader has some knowledge of the Heresy and its timeline, it can be enjoyed without reading the previous eight books. However, to maximise your reading experience. I recommend reading them in sequence. Now, let us begin.

I initially found this book very hard to get into, in retrospect I suppose this came from a distinct link I had made with space marines and the inner workings of the Astartes over the course of the last nine or so Horus Heresy novels. Mechanicum is a vastly different book, it throws you head first into the inner workings and politics of the Mechanicum of Mars, with little regard for your unfamiliarity with them. One of the hard things I found to pick up was the terminology used by the Mechanicum, from the name and ranks of members (adepts, forge masters, magos and so on) to the very locations within the story area, I found myself referring back to the map page at the front of the book quite often throughout the book, not to mention the cast list until I got the hang of the main characters and where they fit into the Mechanicum hierarchy. A great way to ease yourself into this book is to not only read the Heresy books in sequence as i mentioned earlier. But also read the short story The Kaban Project by Graham McNeill from The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions Artbook. Not only was this McNeill's first venture into the Mechanicum of Mars, the story also overlaps this book with some characters even making the cross over to Mechanicum.

The start of the book introduces and develops characters quickly, it’s just they are somewhat... ‘unfamiliar’ and hard to digest compared to what we are all used to with the space marines. But if you stick with it through the first few chapters (you could even say the first Act) the story really begins to develop and characters being to jump off the page more. The turning point for me was the first time the titan legion ‘Legio Tempestus’ walk the surface of Mars. Once the Titan Legion’s enter the storyline it all starts getting exciting and the story really begins to accelerate. McNeil does a great job of describing the world through the eyes of a titan princeps (something i was again unfamiliar with), and his description of the ensuring battles are even better. Without wreaking the story for you, the politics and ensuring civil war between the Mechanicum and newly formed ‘Dark Mechanicum’ really suck you in as you watch the lines get drawn in the red sands of Mars, and Forge Masters and Titan Legion’s take their sides for the upcoming climax that would change the surface of Mars forever.

The climax I have to say left me a bit wanting, well not the final confrontation, more the lack of a rounded off ending after it. I checked my book several time to make sure the final chapter had not fallen out on to the floor. But alas, it was never there. Yes, there could have been that last chapter to really finish out the book and answer you last dying questions (such as what happened after pretty much everyone gets pwnd). But if someone asked me to write it, I wouldn’t even attempt to, as I don’t really know how I would want it to end myself... that’s why I guess McNeil left it there as well. The Mechanicum are a mysterious bunch, so I suppose so should be the ending to their book. well, that and i guess there would be no perspective to write it from seeing 90% of the characters are dead. Thats right, when i said pretty much everyone gets pwnd... i meant it!

Overall, I loved it. The beginning was a bit of a slog, but once you get into it it’s quite hard to put down. And it was a nice change of pace to the space marine story we've had so far.

High point: Legio Tempestus Vs Legio Mortis Deathmatch
Low point: The Emperor's grand secret... kind a lame


Friday, April 16, 2010

DSM begins!

well well well... as this is my first blog and my first post within my first blog, i guess i better explain myself. Ryan is my name and reading 40k fiction is my game. over the last year i have developed and unhealthy addiction to Black Library Fiction, specifically 40k. i have in the past completed a number of book reviews on my fav 40k forum 'Heresy Online', which ill transfer over to here. what i intend to do with this blog is to chronicle and review my journey though the BL's treasure trove of 40k books and audio books. as i complete each book, ill write up an indepth review (and before you whinge ill try and be as spoiler free as i can!) so give you guys an insight into whats good... and whats not in the 40k universe. all opinions will be my own so if you dont like it... deal with it.

where will DSM go from here? i dont know. for now lets just get this party started with a few reviews of titles ive read a while ago.

Death to the false god!