Quick Reviews: Two Black Library Audiodramas

David Annandale, THE BINARY SUCCESSION

Even as the Imperium faces the renegade Legions of the Warmaster, the ruling Council of Terra is becoming paralysed from within by increasingly petty bureaucracy. Fabricator General Kane has seen his fellow Mechanicum adepts dismissed again and again by the High Lords – with his traitorous predecessor Kelbor-Hal still at large on the Red Planet, the political status of the tech-priesthood remains ambiguous. New alliances must be forged from the old, if Mars and Terra are to survive the final battle.

Performed by: Gareth Armstrong, Steve Conlin, Penelope Rawlins, Toby Longworth, Ian Brooker, John Banks, Luis Soto, Antonia Beamish, Cliff Chapman.

This was pretty cool. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not usually going for titan-focused fiction. The first thing one notices is the quality of the production: an excellent, fairly large cast, all of whom deliver great performances; and the plentiful, good sound-effects and music do a great job of enhancing, not distracting from the story. (This is a real strength of BL’s audio-dramas in general.) I think the only things that took some getting used to were the voices of the members of the Mechanicum — a couple were so tech-distorted that they came across like irate Daleks. It does fit, though.

As for the story? Very good. I enjoyed seeing the politics behind the Mechanicum, as they maneuvered for better status among the High Lords. The characters are interesting, their interactions realistic even if they themselves are so (mechanically) alien. I’d certainly be interested in listening to more audio-dramas featuring them, or reading about them in ‘regular’ fiction formats.

If you’re a fan of the Horus Heresy series (especially the Mechanicum-related fiction), then I’d certainly recommend this. A very good Black Library audio-drama.

The Binary Succession is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interview with David Annandale (2012); Guest Post on “My Favourite Novel”; Reviews of The Carrion AnthemThe Damnation of Pythos

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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Gav Thorpe, ASURMEN: THE DARKER ROAD

It is said the Phoenix Lords arrive on the eve of great moments… Guided by fate, Asurmen the Hand of Asuryan comes to the craftworld of Ulthwé. At the behest of the head of the seer council, he joins the warriors of Ulthwé and the young seer Eldrad on a quest to the Crone Worlds in search of the oracle Hiron-athela. It is believed that this being holds an artefact that could safeguard Ulthwé’s future, but in order to obtain it the eldar must travel a dark road…

[Performed by Gareth Armstrong, John Banks, Steve Conlin, Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins and Genevieve Swallow.]

I keep forgetting to read Asurmen: The Hand of Asuryan, which I’ve had for years. The Eldar were the first WH40k army I thought was interesting. I remember reading the Codex multiple times, back in the day, and the Phoenix Lords in particular caught my imagination and attention. The Darker Road is a really interesting short story, and I enjoyed seeing how the Elder “work” together. Thorpe’s done a great job of writing interesting, alien characters who are nevertheless relatable. He includes plenty of Eldar-traits, without info-dumping, as well as some good Chaos shenanigans.

As in The Binary Succession, though, there were times when the voices came across as a little too-techno-distorted (for my taste). Not a major issue, but I think it could have been toned down a bit without ruining the story.

If you’re a fan of the Elder, then I highly recommend you check out this audio-drama. Interesting, well-performed. It also reignited my interest in reading The Hand of Asuryan. The second novel in the Phoenix Lords series, Jain Zar: The Storm of Silence, is due out in May 2017.

Asurmen: The Darker Road is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interviews with Gav Thorpe — 2011 and 2016; Reviews of The Curse of KhaineDeliverance LostAngels of Caliban

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

New Books (October)

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Featuring: Ben Aaronovitch, Ray Bradbury, Ron Chernow, Douglas Coupland, Charles Cumming, David Dalglish, William C. Dietz, Gavin Extence, Tana French, Jilly Gagnon, John Grisham, Laurell K. Hamilton, Liz Harmer, Oliver Harris, Michael Harvey, Annie Hauxwell, Tracy & Laura Hickman, James Islington, Paulette Jiles, Reed Karaim, Joseph Knox, Mur Lafferty, Mike MacDonald, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Elan Mastai, Will McIntosh, Nnedi Okorafor, J.D. Oswald, Benjamin Percy, Plutarch, Daniel Pyne, Scott Reardon, Noah Richler, Adam Roberts, James Rollins, John Sandford, George Saunders, Laurence Scott, Marcus Sedgwick, A.J. Smith, Gerard Stembridge, Gav Thorpe, Ian Tregillis, K.B. Wagers, Brent Weeks, Ronald Wright, Roger Zelazny

Above Image: Cover Crop of Bunker #19 (Oni Press)

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Review: ANGELS OF CALIBAN by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-HH-AngelsOfCalibanThe Dark Angels’ true nature revealed?

With the Dark Angels spread across a hundred systems, primarch Lion El’Jonson stands as Lord Protector of Ultramar – though his true motives are known to few indeed, and old rivalries on the home world threaten to tear the Legion in half. But when word comes of the Night Lords’ attack on Sotha, the Lion’s brutal actions bring Imperium Secundus once again to the brink of civil war. Not even the most fearsome warriors of the Dreadwing, nor any arcane secret of the Order, can guarantee victory if he sets himself against his loyal brothers.

Ah, the Dark Angels. One of the most mysterious and popular legions of the Astartes. But, sadly, also the one that hasn’t received the best novels in the Heresy series to date. The first two — Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels — were rather disappointing. It is on this foundation that Thorpe must redeem them. His familiarity with the Legion is a considerable asset for this endeavour, and he manages to make them interesting and nuanced again. I enjoyed this, but probably would have liked it more if the events on Caliban had been less prominent. Continue reading

New Books (June-July)

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Featuring: Bradley Beaulieu, Darcey Bell, Morgan Grant Buchanan, Michael Chabon, Bill Clegg, Paul Cornell, Claudia Christian, Mason Cross, Allen Eskens, Alice Hoffman, Chris Holm, Bill James, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Antonio Garcia Martinez, Stephen Metcalfe, Liesa Mignogna, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Alexandra Oliva, Laurie Penny, Andy Remic, Michael J. Sullivan, Heather Skyler, Melinda Snodgrass, Gav Thorpe, Paul Vidich, Chuck Wendig, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Kai Ashanti Wilson, Tom Wolfe, Joakim Zander, Rob Ziegler

Above artwork: Roche Limit: Monadic #4 (crop), by Kyle Charles (Image Comics) Continue reading

Interview with GAV THORPE

ThorpeG-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Gav Thorpe?

Hi, I’m a middle aged white guy that’s been fortunate enough to write about orcs and space marines and other made-up stuff since I was nineteen. I spent fourteen years as a games develop for Games Workshop, and in 2007 I left to become a full-time freelance writer, developer and creative consultant.

I live between Nottingham and Derby in the UK, with by partner Kez and our son, Sammy.

You work on a number of series for Black Library. Your next Horus Heresy novel, Angels of Caliban, will be published soon(ish). How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Angels of Caliban is a story about loyalty and honour, but more importantly how those things can be measured differently. And how those measures may change depending on circumstance. It is the culmination and continuance of several storylines that have been playing out through the Horus Heresy series, including the Imperium Secundus arc, the growing rebellion on Caliban and the ongoing homicidal feud between The Lion and Konrad Curze. But there’s also a ton of stuff about the history and organisation of the Dark Angels legion, an examination on the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate on the Primarchs and all the sort of lore you would expect from a Horus Heresy novel. Oh, and an ending that will drop a few jaws and have some folks just wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Continue reading

Review: Recent HORUS HERESY Short Fiction

HorusHeresy-2016eBooks

It’s been a while since I read anything set in Black Library’s ongoing Horus Heresy series — even longer when you just consider novels (I’m now two behind). I’m also having a rather long, frustrating bout of reader’s block. Over the past week or so, BL released a handful of new eBooks, and I thought the familiarity of the series and the slim length of the stories might help knock me back into a reading rhythm. Some of these stories were published before in other formats (as audio-dramas, for example).

Featuring: John French, Graham McNeill, James Swallow, Gav Thorpe, Chris Wraight Continue reading

New Books (Jan)

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A post-Christmas and New Year smorgasbord of awesome has come flooding in, these past couple of weeks. On top of that, there have been some I’ve bought myself (I got a lot of wonderful book vouchers and Amazon credit, this year…).

Featuring: Tim Akers, Robert Jackson Bennett, Rob Boffard, Terry Brooks, Lindsey Davis, Liz de Jager, Christopher Farnsworth, Matt Gallagher, Carol Goodman, Thomas Christopher Greene, Louisa Hall, Glen Erik Hamilton, Joanne Harris, Kristopher Jansma, Richard Kadrey, Mike Lawson, Tim Lebbon, Patrick Lee, Jill Lepore, Sean McFate & Bret Witter, China Miéville, Megan Miranda, Simon Morden, Anthony O’Neill, Adam O’Fallon Price, Camille Perri, Heidi Pitlor, Matthew Quirk, Richard Russo, Lawrence M. Schoen, A.F.E. Smith, Christopher Sorrentino, Gav Thorpe, Lavie Tidhar, Glen Weldon, Jonathan Wood Continue reading

Upcoming: THE BEAST ARISES Series (Black Library)

Yesterday, Black Library announced their next big event/series: The Beast Arises. Beginning in December, the series will see twelve novels released in twelve months, and is set 1,500 years after the end of the Horus Heresy (the epic, hugely successful series currently ongoing). It will chart the rise (and return?) of the orks as force in the WH40k universe. The first five novels have been unveiled…

AbnettD-BA1-IAmSlaughterI AM SLAUGHTER by Dan Abnett (December 2015)

As the greatest Ork Waaagh! ever seen threatens to engulf the galaxy, the Imperial Fists make their last stand

It is the thirty-second millennium and the Imperium is at peace. The Traitor Legions of Chaos are but a distant memory and the many alien races that have long plagued mankind are held in check by the Space Marines. When a mission to exterminate one such xenos breed on the world of Ardamantua draws in more of their forces, the Imperial Fists abandon the walls of Terra for the first time in more than a thousand years. And when another, greater, foe strikes, even the heroic sons of Rogal Dorn may be powerless against it. The Beast Arises… and it is mighty.

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SandersR-BA-PredatorPreyPREDATOR PREY by Rob Sanders

After centuries of peace, the Imperium is thrown into panic as human worlds everywhere are menaced by orks.

After centuries of peace, the Imperium is thrown into panic as human worlds everywhere are menaced by orks. In a relentless tide of slaughter, ork attack moons destroy planet after planet with gravity weapons of unstoppable power. On Terra, the High Lords are paralysed by the scale of the threat, and fail to take any effective action. With entire Space Marine Chapters missing, or known to have been wiped out, does anyone have the will and the power to rise to the Imperium’s defence?

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ThorpeG-BA-EmperorExpectsTHE EMPEROR EXPECTS by Gav Thorpe

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair. The High Lords become desperate to prove that victory is possible, no matter the cost. A massive Navy fleet is assembled – their mission to make a definitive strike against the orks at Port Sanctus, an area of enemy-held space. But when the Imperial armada arrives, they find themselves outclassed and outmanoeuvred – can human courage and faith possibly prevail against such terrible odds?

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AnnandaleD-BA-LastWallTHE LAST WALL by David Annandale

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wrecking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra.

Despite the Imperium’s best attempts to forestall the ork plague that is wrecking havoc in human space, an ork attack moon now hangs over Terra. As its malevolent presence gazes down at the Imperial Palace, terrified citizens run riot in the streets. In a last-ditch attempt to destroy the attack moon, a proletarian crusade is launched. Thousands of ships large and small head to the moon carrying billions of citizens, all eager to take the fight to the enemy. It seems the attack has a chance of success as the invasion force lands safely, but the orks have yet to spring their trap…

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HaleyG-BA05-ThroneworldTHRONEWORLD by Guy Haley

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space.The Adeptus Astartes, armed with the knowledge of how to defeat the greenskins, must now travel back to Terra through a galaxy teaming with orks.

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space. To make matters even worse, eldar strike at the heart of the Imperial Palace, forcing humanity’s defenders to fight on two fronts at once. Though it seems nothing can stop the orks – neither brute force, science, nor faith – an unlikely alliance in the furthest reaches of space uncovers the first clue how to defeat the greenskins. The Adeptus Astartes now face an almost impossible task – taking news of this discovery back to Terra through a galaxy teaming with orks.

[For some reason, the cover available through Amazon — the only place so far where I could find an image to include here — has L.J. Goulding as the author, but the listing itself identifies Haley as the author, as does Black Library’s website.]

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I’m quite looking forward to giving this series a try. It’s also nice to know that there will be a finite, clearly-defined number of novels — the Heresy series, while I’m thoroughly enjoying it, is just becoming so vast… Anyone else interested in reading this series?

Review: THE CURSE OF KHAINE by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-TheCurseOfKhaineThe Elves prepare for the End Times…

The End Times are coming. With Naggaroth besieged by the hordes of Chaos, the Witch King Malekith makes the decision to abandon the Land of Chill and make one final attempt to seize the throne of Ulthuan. As the druchii march upon the soil of their ancestral home once again, long-laid plans come to fruition and treachery blooms, bringing Malekith closer than ever to his goal. All that stands in the Witch King’s way is the Regent of Ulthuan, Prince Tyrion, and the darkness within Malekith’s own soul, the call of the Curse of Khaine.

This was an interesting addition to the End Times story. Taking a step away from the Empire and “main” thrust of the Chaos invasion and campaign, The Curse of Khaine focuses exclusively on the actions of the High and Dark Elves (with a bit of the Wood Elves). While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Return of Nagash and The Fall of Altdorf, it is nevertheless a very good, engaging novel. Continue reading

New Books! (August)

MirrenBooksContainAdventure

Featuring: Matthew de Abaitua, Stephen Aryan, Bradley Beaulieu, Ben Bova, Lila Bowen, Zen Cho, Robert DeFranco, Seth Dickinson, Tom Doyle, Peter Facinelli, Charlie Fletcher, Vince Flynn, Ryan Gattis, Derek Haas, Sam Hawken, Andrew Michael Hurley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rajan Khanna, Andrew Klavan, Julia Knight, Mike Lawson, Alison Littlewood, Barry Lyga, Ian McDonald, Kyle Mills, Seth Patrick, T.R. Richmond, Adam Roberts, Lilith Saintcrow, Kieran Shea, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, David de Sola, Gav Thorpe, Ben Tripp, Anna Waterhouse, Andy Weir, Ian Winwood, Max Wirestone Continue reading