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

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

Guest Review: PROMETHEAN SUN by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Kyme-HH-PrometheanSunReviewed by Abhinav

The Horus Heresy series has proven to be rather spectacular, right from the very beginning with Dan Abnett’s game-changing opener, Horus Rising. As an exploration of the entire origin-mythos that defines the Warhammer 40,000 setting, the series has done well in exposing how this galactic civil war happened, and how all the players reacted to it, each in their own way. Being a multi-author series (projected to go on to roughly 50 full novels and anthologies, plus additional novellas, short stories and audio dramas), the quality hasn’t been entirely consistent, and there have been some let-downs, or books that don’t seem to fit into an ongoing arc.

Two years ago, Black Library changed the game once more, by offering direct exclusive limited-edition novellas set as interstitials within the larger narrative at work. Being limited to a select few thousand copies, these hardback stories with extra content (such as special faux-skin and illustrations) gave way to a lot of controversy with regards to pricing for the series. This was compounded last year by the publisher’s inexplicable decision to change formats mid-series and offer books in hardback and hardback-sized trade paperbacks before the regular and familiar mass market copies were made available.

As such, novellas like Promethean Sun and Brotherhood of the Storm among others have had to field quite a bit of negative criticism completely unrelated to the actual fictional content within. And that’s what I wanted to focus on in this review. Promethean Sun was re-released a few weeks ago as a non-limited hardback with an accompanying eBook, which is what I got. The two-year wait in between definitely didn’t hurt my enthusiasm.

So, on to the review itself. Here’s the synopsis…

As the Great Crusade sweeps across the galaxy, the forces of the Imperium encounter a world held in thrall by the alien eldar. While the Iron Hands of Ferrus Manus and Mortarion’s Death Guard battle against the hated xenos, it is the Salamanders who brave the deepest and most deadly jungles, encountering monstrous reptilian beasts and foul witchery along the way. Ultimately, it falls to their primarch Vulkan himself to thwart the sinister designs of the eldar, if the Legions are to liberate this world and bring illumination to its inhabitants.

Promethean Sun does one thing really, really well: it delves deeply into Vulkan’s psyche and explores his character through the present and the past alike. That’s what the entire story is about. The Primarch of the Salamanders Legion has been a fairly unknown quantity so far, outside of extremely brief cameos in other stories, most notably Graham McNeill’s Fulgrim, if I recall correctly, and so it was great to finally see more of him. Continue reading

On Meeting Other People’s Expectations… [A Response]

Over on his website, Abhinav (a great fellow who I have got to know as a reviewer and friend these past couple of years) has written another good post about reviewing and being a part of the online book community. I agree with most of the piece. There was, however, one comment he made that I have long had issue with – he is by no means the only person to have articulated it, but he was the latest to use it. It is also something I think needs to be addressed (and, hopefully, purged from reviewers’ and prospective reviewers’ minds…)

The comment in question:

“You often have to meet people’s expectations of what you should and should not be reading, reviewing, discussing, and so on. I’ve gone through this several times, and is something I’ve blogged on about as well. Because we put ourselves on a pedestal, it gives people the license to call us out. I’ve seen plenty of cases, personally and second-hand, where these instances have gotten out of hand. Not a fun thing to deal with.” [Emphasis mine.]

The text in bold I disagree with. Not because bloggers and reviewers don’t think this, but because they really shouldn’t think this, or approach their blog through other people’s expectations.

Shakespeare-ToBlogOrNotToBlog

See, Shakespeare knew what he was about.
[Image shamelessly pinched from Abhinav’s post…]

A blogger should not review/cover books they think they SHOULD cover. It should only ever be what they WANT to cover. It happens, certainly, that bloggers will take the road that they think is expected of them, and this can manifest itself in a number of ways (one example: praising popular books and authors, regardless of whether or not the reviewer likes their work).

The apparent belief among reviewers (perhaps especially newbies?) that they have to feature certain books and authors is probably why it is so easy to find reviews of certain novels and writers. Sure, it’s nice to be able to engage in discussions about the books a lot of people are talking about, but when you feel you have to keep up with the Joneses? Fuck that.

Read and feature what you WANT to read and discuss. Following the herd, by only reviewing all the hot-topic books, or writing about the latest hot-button issue (whether or not you are able to articulate an interesting and intelligent position or not) is a terrible strategy. It’s also boring: Why become a clone of all the other blogs? Sure, no blog can really hope to be 100% unique (except in voice, perhaps), but there’s no need to follow everyone else in everything.

In the comment thread, some people are also talking about the rate of hits they get, and being one of many shouting into the void to be heard. [Something I discussed in this post, three weeks back. Much of this response is an outgrowth of stuff in that post, actually…]

Cardinal Rule of Blogging/Reviewing: don’t blog/review for attention. It won’t work. Do what you want, how you want. If you’re good at it, then people will come to your site organically and through word of mouth. Honesty – in your opinions and also taste – are the only expectation of others’ that you should keep in mind.

As for “we put ourselves on a pedestal”… I’m not sure if I’m getting Abhinav’s meaning right, but I don’t believe (most) bloggers do this. Others may put their favourite, or prominent bloggers on a pedestal, or hold them in high regard but, as I mentioned in the above-linked post, we should always be considered, first and foremost, as fans who have taken the time to write about what we love. We’re a vocal lot, basically, and the internet allows us a platform to publish what we want to say. If people like what they find on our various blogs and platforms, then great. But I don’t believe we hold ourselves in any great position of esteem or influence. [At least, I don’t, and I think it would be very unhealthy for others to do so…]

But yeah. Otherwise, a great post, and I think a lot more people should be reading Abhinav’s stuff – he produces a hell of a lot of quality content, from reviews (fiction and comics) to editorials/opinion pieces. Some of his comic reviews have appeared on Civilian Reader, too.

***

Most recently, Abhinav has also had his first piece of fiction published, in the Manifesto UF anthology.

Various-ManifestoUF

The collection features stories by Lucy A. Snyder, Jeff Salyards [review], William Meikle, Teresa Frohock [review], Zachary Jernigan, Betsy Dornbusch, Kirk Dougal, Karina Fabian, Adam Millard, Timothy Baker, Ryan Lawler, Andrew Moczulski, R.L. Treadway, Abhinav Jain, TSP Sweeney, Nickolas Sharps, Jonathan Pine, Kenny Soward, Joshua S. Hill, Jake Elliot, Lincoln Crisler, J.M. Martin, & Wilson Geiger

Go check out his site, you’ll probably find something you like.