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

Quick Chat with JOSEPH HELMREICH

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Joseph Helmreich?

I’m a New York-based writer and this is my second book and first novel. I also play in a band called Honeybrick and I’m a ventriloquist, though I never mention that last part except at the start of interviews.

Your debut novel, The Return, will be published by this year by St. Martin’s Press. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s a sci-fi thriller about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship during a live TV broadcast and then turns up years later and claims it never happened. It wasn’t planned to be part of a series, though I’d certainly be open to doing a sequel. Continue reading

Quick Review: GARRO — WEAPON OF FATE by James Swallow (Black Library)

swallowj-hh-garroThe formation of the Knights Errant, and the start of a new religion…?

From out of the shadows of the Silent War, a hero emerges. Clad all in grey, an errant warrior of the Legiones Astartes kneels before the Regent of Terra, and accepts a solemn new duty – Battle-Captain Garro, once commander of the Eisenstein, now Agentia Primus of Malcador the Sigillite. From the desolation of Isstvan to the halls of the Imperial Palace itself, he stands as a paragon of loyalty and protector of the innocent, ever ready to strike back at the traitorous allies of the Warmaster. But Garro is walking a path of his own, one that may lead him to question his own place in the Imperium… and what if he, too, should falter?

This book collects a number of James Swallow’s Nathaniel Garro stories. (Swallow confirms that there will be more, in his Afterword.) Those stories that were originally released as audio dramas are presented in expanded prose versions, with additional scenes and woven into a chronological, continuous narrative. The book ends with the momentous Vow of Faith, originally published as a limited edition novella. For fans of the Horus Heresy series, this is a must read. Continue reading

Quick Review: ARHIMAN SORCERER by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-A4-AhrimanSorcerorAhriman’s planning something twisty…

Ahriman, greatest sorcerer of the Thousand Sons and architect of the Rubric that laid his Legion low, continues to walk the path towards salvation, or damnation. Searching for a cure for his Legion, he is forced to consider – was the great ritual somehow flawed from the very beginning? The answer may lie within the mysterious artefact known as the Athenaeum of Kalimakus, a grimoire of forgotten knowledge that is reputed to contain the exact words of the lost Book of Magnus… or, perhaps, even a transcription of the primarch’s deepest and most secret thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed all of French’s Ahriman fiction: he does a great job of adding layers to the character, and presenting him as a conflicted, ambitious, and driven actor in the WH40k universe. Ahriman: Sorcerer, while suffering a few middle-book issues, is a good continuation of his story. Continue reading

Interview with GWYNETH JONES

jonesg-authorpicLets start with an introduction: Who is Gwyneth Jones?

Of Irish descent, despite the Welsh name, I live in Brighton, on the south coast of England, but I was brought up in Manchester, a city in the north west. I’ve been a storyteller and a writer of stories for as long as I can remember which is now quite a long time. I overcame the fact that I can’t write legibly, or in a straight line, and can’t spell, by being born conveniently close to the development of computers with keyboards (my first was a BBC B). I’ve won a few awards in my time, but I don’t let it get me down. I have one husband, one son and two cats, I love reading, thinking, playing the piano, playing fantasy games; being outdoors, walking in the hills and tending my garden.

Your new novella, Proof of Concept, will be published by Tor.com in April. It looks rather interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s about a huge cavern, called the Giewont Abyss, a drained magma chamber that’s been discovered deep, deep in ancient rocks, in Poland. The Abyss is the ideal venue for a Post Standard Model Physics experiment called “the Needle”, which might remotely have something to do with the feasibility of mass faster than light travel. A team of scientists goes down there, locked in for a year with a team of TV entertainers, from a hugely popular reality show, who are allegedly “training as starship crew”.  With the scientists is a Scav-kid called Kir, (Scav as in scavenger, she’s from a Dead Zone), whose chief claim to fame is that her brain hosts the most advanced quantum computer in the world. The “quaai” is called Altair (quaai = quasi-autonomous artificial intelligence). Things don’t go according to plan. Or maybe they do, it depends on who you think was doing the planning. Continue reading

Interview with MUR LAFFERTY

laffertym-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Mur Lafferty?

I’ve really tried to get “Mur Lafferty, Space Ranger” to stick as a nickname, but it’s not working yet. So I’m just Mur, long time podcaster and writer or urban fantasy, space thriller, and Christmas stories. I’m a dog person, a wine person, and a Star Wars person.

Your latest novel, Six Wakes, is published by Orbit. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Six Wakes is a locked room clone murder mystery in space where the characters aren’t sure who the murderer is-including themselves. With its use of flashbacks, it’s been called “LOST in space.” (LOST as in the 2004-2010 deserted island tv show, not Lost In Space with the hand waving robot.)

It’s not part of a series yet, but I do have several places I can go with it. Continue reading

Quick Reviews: EXTINCTION and FATESPINNER (Black Library)

Two new Chaos Marine short stories.

EXTINCTION by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The Sons of Horus are hunted by their brothers…

The Horus Heresy is over. The traitorous Warmaster is dead, his allies defeated, and the Sons of Horus are a dying Legion, fled now to the furthest reaches of the galaxy… and beyond. First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon, always among the most devoted and bellicose of his brethren, is now set adrift – who will rise to claim the title of Warmaster? Who will lead them in their long war for vengeance? And will that hallowed champion of the Ruinous Powers be able to reunite the old XVIth before they embrace extinction?

This is an interesting short story, continuing Dembski-Bowden’s growing Black Legion story. This one is set shortly after the collapse of the Horus Heresy, and is made up of a series of vignettes: in each, Sons of Horus legionnaires are being hunted down by their former brothers (traitors and loyalist). Abaddon doesn’t feature as much as I had expected, but he makes an interesting appearance at the end. Extinction doesn’t move the story along too much, but it’s a good piece to keep our interest high in advance of the next novel in the series, Black Legion. [If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading The Talon of Horus, which started the series with a bang.]

Extinction at Black Library, Amazon (UK)

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wraightc-wh40k-fatespinnerFATESPINNER by Chris Wraight

The Thousand Sons be tricksy…

In the underhive depths of Rigo V, the Sorcerers Ramon and Phaelius of the Thousand Sons seek proscribed knowledge. They are hunted, these witches, by the Rune Priest Thorskir who has tracked them across the length and breadth of the galaxy. At last after an arduous search, Thorskir has found where his prey will be and means to end them. But the plans of those allied to the Great Architect of Fate are not so easy to unbind and a secret lurks beneath Rigo V, one that has been long in the devising, a twist of fate and a plan so foul it is worthy of Tzeentch itself.

This is an interesting story. I’ve always liked the Thousand Sons Legion, and Fatespinner has everything one could want from them: daemons, sorcery, a great twist. Wraight’s writing continues to get better, and this is perhaps one of his best short stories. I would certainly be interested in reading more stories (short or novel-length) featuring Ramon and Phaelius. An excellent, highly recommended story — all fans of WH40k fiction should read it, and it’s a must for fans of Tzeentch and the Thousand Sons.

Fatespinner at Black Library, Amazon (UK)