Guest Review: DARK IMPERIUM by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-WH40k-DarkImperiumA new WH40k era begins…

Fell times have come to the galaxy. Cadia has fallen, destroyed by the onslaught of Chaos. A Great Rift in the warp has opened and from its depths spew daemons and the horrors of Old Night. But all hope is not lost… A hero, long absent, has returned and with him comes the wrath of the Ultramarines reborn. Roboute Guilliman has arisen to lead the Imperium out of darkness on a crusade the likes of which has not been seen since the fabled days of the Emperor. But never before have the forces of Ruin amassed in such numbers, and nowhere is safe from despoliation. From the dreaded Scourge Stars come the hordes of the Plaguefather, Lord Nurgle, and their pustulent eye is fixed on Macragge. As the Indomitas Crusade draws to an end, Guilliman races to Ultramar and a confrontation with the Death Guard.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

One of the biggest criticisms that fans have leveled at Games Workshop for the Warhammer 40,000 setting is that the clock is always stuck at ten minutes before midnight. There is no forward momentum in the overall story, since the narrative is always stuck in year 999.M41 and we’ve already seen tons of stories and supplemental lore in that year. Going back and visiting the decades and centuries prior is all well and good, but many have clamoured for a change in the status quo. This picked up steam some two/three years back when the Warhammer Fantasy setting met its demise and was then reborn as Age of Sigmar. But that, too, caused problems since the new setting was a complete and total shift from what had come before and fans didn’t want that either. Continue reading

Quick Review: MONSTER by John Gregory Dunne (Vintage)

DunneJG-MonsterUSAn entertaining, engaging memoir of screenwriting

In Hollywood, screenwriters are a curse to be borne, and beating up on them is an industry blood sport. But in this ferociously funny and accurate account of life on the Hollywood food chain, it’s a screenwriter who gets the last murderous laugh. That may be because the writer is John Gregory Dunne, who has written screenplays, along with novels and non-fiction, for thirty years. In 1988 Dunne and his wife, Joan Didion, were asked to write a screenplay about the dark and complicated life of the late TV anchorwoman Jessica Savitch. Eight years and twenty-seven drafts later, this script was made into the fairy tale “Up Close and Personal” starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Detailing the meetings, rewrites, fights, firings, and distractions attendant to the making of a single picture, Monster illuminates the process with sagacity and raucous wit.

This is a fascinating, unreserved memoir of John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion’s long, often frustrating experiences writing Up Close & Personal. It’s engaging, entertaining and illuminating. Continue reading

Review: SLEEPLESS IN HOLLYWOOD by Lynda Obst (Simon & Schuster)

ObstL-SleeplessInHollywoodAn excellent follow-up to Hello, He Lied

Over the past decade, producer Lynda Obst gradually realized she was working in a Hollywood that was undergoing a drastic transformation. The industry where everything had once been familiar to her was suddenly disturbingly strange.

Combining her own industry experience and interviews with the brightest minds in the business, Obst explains what has stalled the vast moviemaking machine. The calamitous DVD collapse helped usher in what she calls the New Abnormal (because Hollywood was never normal to begin with), where studios are now heavily dependent on foreign markets for profit, a situation which directly impacts the kind of entertainment we get to see. Can comedy survive if they don’t get our jokes in Seoul or allow them in China? Why are studios making fewer movies than ever — and why are they bigger, more expensive and nearly always sequels or recycled ideas?

Sleepless in Hollywood is an excellent, accessible explanation of the ways in which Hollywood has evolved since the 1980s. This is an account of emergence of the “New Abnormal”, as Obst calls it: the shifting practices and ideologies that dictate how the movie and TV industries operate. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE LAST WITNESS by K.J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-LastWitnessAn interesting short fantasy about memory and guilt

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I’ve ever mastered. But now, I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.

Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I’m trying to bury…

I’ve had a rather mixed history with K.J. Parker’s novels. There’s never been any doubt that he is a great writer, but sometimes his novels have felt too plodding for my taste. With his short fiction, however, I have had a completely different experience. I loved The Devil You Know, another novella published by Tor.com, for example. Each new piece of Parker fiction I read, I become ever-more impressed at his creative range. Continue reading

Review: AZRAEL by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-SML-AzraelPBThe Chapter Master’s ascension, and the secrets of the Dark Angels

The Dark Angels Chapter sprang from the First Legion of Space Marines to fight and die at the Emperor’s side. But over ten thousand years, even the most staunchly loyal warriors of the Imperium can fall from grace, and the Dark Angels guard their own murky secrets most carefully — only Supreme Grand Master Azrael knows them all. A legend among Space Marines, he has fought for centuries and ever at the forefront of battle. Now, with the enigmatically alien eldar as his uneasy and unlikely allies, he must tread the fine line once more between the pursuit of victory, and keeping the Chapter’s past safely buried…

Continuing my new-found interest in loyalist Space Marine fiction, after thoroughly enjoying Guy Haley’s Dante, I dove into Azrael with pretty high hopes. It is, after all, written by Gav Thorpe — a long-time, excellent author of Black Library and, especially, Dark Angels fiction. This novel has a lot to offer fans of the chapter and setting as a whole. Continue reading

Review: GOLDEN PREY by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD27-GoldenPreyUSLucas Davenport’s first mission as a US Marshal

The man was smart and he didn’t mind killing people. Welcome to the big leagues, Davenport.

Thanks to some very influential people whose lives he saved, Lucas is no longer working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but for the U.S. Marshals Service, and with unusual scope. He gets to pick his own cases, whatever they are, wherever they lead him.

And where they’ve led him this time is into real trouble. A Biloxi, Mississippi, drug-cartel counting house gets robbed, and suitcases full of cash disappear, leaving behind five bodies, including that of a six-year-old girl. Davenport takes the case, which quickly spirals out of control, as cartel assassins, including a torturer known as the “Queen of home-improvement tools” compete with Davenport to find the Dixie Hicks shooters who knocked over the counting house. Things get ugly real fast, and neither the cartel killers nor the holdup men give a damn about whose lives Davenport might have saved; to them, he’s just another large target.

In this, Lucas Davenport’s 27th novel, our hero shows no evidence of slowing down. Sandford also shows no evidence of running out of ideas. Davenport is now a US Marshal (albeit, one with a special classification), entering a larger jurisdiction populated by the worst of the worst. Tightly-plotted, excellently paced, Golden Prey is another superb addition to the series. Continue reading

Guest Review: CALGAR’S FURY by Paul Kearney (Black Library)

KearneyP-WH40k-CalgarsFuryThe Ultramarines Chapter Master steps into battle

The Realm of Ultramar stands as a shining beacon of order and strength in a galaxy wracked by war and torment. Custodian of this realm, and Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, Marneus Calgar has fought many foes and won countless wars to ensure its borders remain safe. But when an immense space hulk emerges into the Ultramar system, carrying with it the threat of something ancient and terrible, it is Calgar once again who stands in defence of his realm, prepared to meet whatever horrors are aboard and discover the mystery at the heart of the ship dubbed Fury.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

The Ultramarines have been the poster-child for WH40k’s various Space Marines Chapters for multiple years. The blue-armoured warriors can be seen on most of the primary packaging for the tabletop models and rulebooks as well. As the typical example of Space Marines, over the years their image has morphed into one that says, “These are the boring old Space Marines who do everything and are just perfect little warriors.”

While true to some extent, this is also wildly generalistic. Graham McNeill, especially, has done a lot over the years to change that image with his various Captain Uriel Ventris stories. Now, Paul Kearney offers a distinctive look at Marneus Calgar, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Calgar’s Fury is a no-holds-barred action story, set on a derelict space hulk, the most classic of all 40k settings, and really delves into the psychology of the Chapter’s warriors at all levels of command. Continue reading