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Catechism of Hate and Spear of Macragge (Novella Review)

The Ultramarines are the premier Space Marine Chapter in Warhammer 40,000. Over the years, they have been built up as a Chapter that other Chapters aspire to be like, for they are the best example of everything a Chapter should be and could be. Sometimes that has been executed well, sometimes not, and often times the fandom has portrayed them as far too… vanilla, too boring because of their straightforward nature, whether in the lore or in the tabletop gaming rules. And designers and writers have often tried to change that around as well, to mixed success.

In 2012, if I recall correctly, Black Library launched its first Space Marine Battles novella, Catechism of Hate, which focused on one of the Ultramarines’ defining hero, Master of Sanctity Ortan Cassius, and the story focused on one of his missions against the Tyranids. And then late last year we had Spear of Macragge, which continued the story of the Second Company and its efforts to defeat the Necron legions on the world of Damnos as told in the Nick Kyme’s novel Fall of Damnos. Having just recently finished reading both novellas, I can say that they are both fantastic,and well worth the time spent reading them. They portray very different attitudes to war among the Ultramarines, and cover a broad range of characters, mixing some really great stories with really good execution.

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The Tranzia Rebellion Eps 1-2 by C. Z. Dunn (Audio Review)

Black Library has had a fairly strong audio range for several years, thanks in part to the excellent work done on the Horus Heresy audios. Two years back the publisher began releasing short 8-10minute audios as well, in addition to its longer range, and they too proved fairly successful. First with Big Finish and then with Heavy Entertainment, several characters and stories have been brought to audio life by the publisher, whether we talk Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and it has been a truly great experience, with very few missteps along the way.

Joining the publisher’s ever-growing audio catalog is this month’s The Tranzia Rebellion radio play. Where this is now audio format differs from the usual audio dramas and audiobooks is that there is absolutely zero narration. Everything is with the characters with no narrative commentary or some such. The first two episodes, penned by C Z Dunn (formerly editor at Black Library and now working for the parent company Games Workshop) and produced by Heavy Entertainment, are really good. They are scene-setting installments of course, but still they quickly establish the characters and the story, with the voice-acting being diverse and enjoyable.

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Horus Heresy: Templar by John French (Audio Review)

Black Library’s Horus Heresy range has been notable since its inception to turn out some really high quality audio dramas. James Swallow began the great trend with his various Garro audio dramas, spinning out of his novel The Flight of the Eisenstein and other authors since have taken great steps forward with the format as well. Some along the way haven’t been as good as I wanted them to be, but by and large, the Horus Heresy audio drama range is quite a good one and I would definitely recommend readers of the novel to experiment with these and give them a chance.

One of the latest audios in the series is Templar by John French, which focuses on the Imperial Fists First Captain Sigismund as he leads a strike force of Imperial Fists against traitorous Word Bearers within the Sol System itself. Sigismund has largely been a background character in the series thus far, but under John French, I think the character is set to become a major player, as he should be, given how large a character he is in the lore. Produced by Heavy Entertainment, this is one of their finer audio dramas for Black Library, and voice-actor Gareth Armstrong remains as great as ever.

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Horus Heresy: Mark of Calth by Laurie Goulding (Book Review)

In the wake of Black Library switching and changing the printing schedules and formats of its flagship Horus Heresy series back in late 2012, I fell off with the series in early 2013. Where before I read the publisher’s novels pretty much as soon as they were released or just prior, months went by before I read anything, and this applied more so to Horus Heresy since I preferred to wait for the regular paperback editions. As such, I am significantly behind in my reading, though the experience of catching up has been fairly delightful thus far, especially with their various audio dramas. I got back on track back in May with Nick Kyme’s Vulkan Lives, and that reignited my interest in the series, though I haven’t been able to read another Heresy novel until just a few days prior.

Mark of Calth is the twenty-fifth novel in the series and to read this one, there isn’t a lot that someone needs to have read already, which is great really. The anthology kicks off from Dan Abnett’s fairly amazing Know No Fear from 2012 and it expands upon a lot of the minor arcs in that novel, as well as setting the stage for more future stories. Guy Haley, David Annandale, Graham McNeill and Anthony Reynolds deliver some really good stories, with lots of action packed in, while the stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, Rob Sanders and John French are good but do miss the mark in some ways.

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Best of 2014 Part 1a: Novels

This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.

With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Howl of The Banshee by Gav Thorpe (Audio Review)

It is no secret that Gav Thorpe is one of my favourite authors. Whether we talk about his work for Games Workshop and Black Library or his original novels for Angry Robot, he has always impressed. And one of his specialty areas is audio dramas. He has penned two of my favourites, the Warhammer Fantasy audio Aenarion and the Horus Heresy audio Raven’s Flight. Both audios are superbly written, and also superbly voice-acted, which is another great thing about them. He has penned others over the years, and his latest is one that focuses on the Eldar for a change, particularly one of their more interesting Aspects, the Howling Banshees.

Generally, Black Library doesn’t put out a whole lot of fiction featuring the multitude of alien species. Gav’s Eldar trilogy and Andy Chambers’ Dark Eldar trilogy are exceptions, although I cannot speak to the quality of either as I have not read any of them. Yet. But, if Gav’s novels are anything like this audio, then I will definitely give them a chance. Howl of the Banshee is also notable because it has an all-female cast of voice-actors, which is pretty dam rocking in itself, since it just doesn’t happen with BL’s audios! So that’s another win for this audio.

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Best of 2013 Part 2a: Books

Since 2013 is now over, its time to do my second “Best of the Best” list, for the second half of the year from July-December. There were some really good reads in this period, and as always, picking the best has been a chore. I always try to keep these lists as diverse as I can and hopefully you agree.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then! Read the rest of this entry

Publishing and Marketing 08: The Black Library Marketing Maze

I’ve been a fan of Black Library for a long time, going on about 11 years now, roughly. It all started with a copy of William King’s third Space Wolf novel, Grey Hunter, and was soon continued on with the first six novels in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Since then, I’ve read a lot of the novels, and the short stories, and the anthologies, in all the different formats that have been put out. I took a long break in the middle, around late 2008 however, and didn’t get back into the swing of things until later 2010, by when there had been some big changes to everything, new series, new authors, new formats even (the Hammer and Bolter eZine). It was an exciting time

Right up until late 2012 that is. For someone just getting back into BL fiction, those two years were well-spent, catching up on a lot of the stuff that had been put out in the intervening years, and during that period. I repeated often last year and the year before that, that BL was enjoying very much a golden year since the Horus Heresy series continued to gain more recognition, with each book going on the New York Times Bestsellers List, with lots of new authors coming in, some truly amazing artwork from a whole new generation of artists and so on and so forth. BL had even embraced digital publishing wholeheartedly and were making some great inroads.

But then, they started dropping the ball with their marketing. Curious, inexplicable decisions were being made. And a lot of it was coming together at the same time. And it baffled me. Still does. Which is why I’m writing this post at this time, and not before. Because by now I’ve seen a lot of the fall-out from all the decisions that they’ve made in the last year or so.

So read on, and enjoy. And if not, I welcome any opinion that differs from mine. Also, authors are welcome. Any time. You can find all previous Publishing and Marketing posts here.

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Best of 2013 Part 1

I did two “Best of the…” lists last year, one for the half-year from January to June, and the other for the half-year from July to December. The lists proved to be quite popular, and I was recently asked if I was going to be doing any more. To which I said yes. I like putting together lists like this. It gives me a chance to reflect a bit on all the good stuff I’ve been reading in novels and comics, or listening to in terms of audiobooks, audio dramas and so on.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Middle East Film and Comic Con 2013

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Year-long (at least) readers to the blog will remember that last year in April I attended my first ever major con, the inaugural Middle East Film and Comic Con. It was a fantastic event, and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since. I got the chance this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. I am told that where the attendance last year had been upwards of 13,000, this year it was predicted to be in the 23,000-26,000 range. That is unbelievable, an almost 100% increase over and above the first year. I will say that the show absolutely deserves it. The organisers put on a terrific show, and it was certainly a few notches above last year.

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Reviewing Milestones

Today I hit a huge milestone, mere days after I hit another big one.

On September 3rd, I posted my 100th review to day, the Dark Angels novella Dark Vengeance by C Z Dunn. The novella was written as a tie-in for the release of the 6th Edition ruleset the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game by Games Workshop, and is based upon one of the scenarios in the mini-rulebook contained within the starter set, and uses pretty much the full model range in it from what I can tell. I had a ton of fun reading the novella and I would definitely recommend it to everybody.

Today, I posted my 100th review of the year, the Young Adult novel Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings, published by Strange Chemistry which is Angry Robot Books’ new YA imprint. Just as with the novella, this was a really, really fun book, a great story that echoes all the popular magic-based TV shows like Charmed, Buffy etc. This is another highly recommended book from me.

On the reading side, this really has been an incredible year so far and the reviewing even more so, barring a few odd blimps here and there. Bring on the end of the year!!

Middle East Film and Comic Con

So this past weekend Dubai hosted the first ever Middle East Film and Comic Con, an event the likes of which is usually seen in the States in its various guises as the San Diego Comic Con or Dragon Con or what have you. I found out about the event quite incidentally, at my local gym like two days before the event kicked off. It was like a surprise right out of nowhere, a good one I assure you, and also exciting because if I could make it, then this would be my first major convention ever, Blizzcon 2009, Games Day Los Angeles 2008 and Games Day UK 2011 notwithstanding since they are quite focused.

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