Monthly Archives: May 2017

Getting Back On The Grind

Long-time readers of the blog know me as a prolific reader and reviewer, covering everything from novels to comics to audiobooks to television shows to movies and anime and what not. From 2011 to 2014 I was practically on an express train of consuming varied forms of and disseminating my thoughts on them. And then, all of a sudden the train went off-track and my interest in all of it just petered out. I wrote maybe one review a month, I read maybe one book a month. Same for comics. I was watching more and more television, especially once I got married and got my wife to share in my interests, but the fire of being a reviewer just left me. I had become jaded I suppose. Burnt-out even. Reading ten novels a month, approx 30-40 single-issue comics a week, writing approx 25 reviews a month. I suppose anyone could get burnt out with that kind of a performance. I was just… not into it.

And all of this is on top of doing a fair bit of writing fanfiction and working on various novel-length and novella/short-story projects. I even had a short story published as it turns out. And I submitted various pitches and samples for short stories in the meantime as well.

Somewhere along the way though, I just did not want to do any of it. Enough had been enough. In the intervening time, my most frequent posts have all been about Magic the Gathering, discussing the quarterly previews for upcoming sets or talking about decklists and events and what not. But even that has proven rather unsatisfactory, very much so. As much as I love Magic, even this felt too restrictive, too… work-like. And I just couldn’t handle it.

But something has changed this year. I am slowly getting back into my abandoned novel-length projects. Beginning last month, I am even fully back on the reading and reviewing train as well. As of writing this, I have read five full-length novels, fourteen shorter novels, and a whole bunch of short stories. Even right now, I’m in the middle of an 8-part short story series. And in April I read four full-length novels alongwith at least 13 graphic novels and a whole bunch of single-issue comics. I amaze even myself.

Of course, most of this reading has been from the publications of Black Library as I dip my toes back into the wonderful world of Warhammer 40,000 but all the same, it feels so utterly liberating. The reading catharsis has a hold of me again, you could say, and I love it. I’ve missed so much and it feels great to be back like this. I’d forgotten how utterly awesome it used to feel, and I feel rather grateful that I’m back like this. Not the least of which is that I’m back to regularly blogging/reviewing as well. That’s something I’d thought just a few short months ago that I wouldn’t be able to handle again, but here we are.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back on the grind and I love this feeling.

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The Last Son of Dorn by David Guymer (Book Review)

The Beast Arises has been steadfastly moving towards an epic conclusion for the last several books. Everything changed for the Imperials once the long-lost Primarch Vulkan was rediscovered, bringing true hope for the first time in the ongoing losing war against the Orks. The lord of the Salamanders led a massive army drawn from across the Segmentum Solar against the Ork world of Ullanor, once the site of the Imperium’s greatest triumph, now reborn as the hellish homeworld of the Beast and its new Ork armies. With The Last Son of Dorn, the end truly begins now.

This is the tenth novel in the series, and perhaps the most poignant so far. Armed with new weapons and arms, both physical and otherwise, Lord Commander Koorland leads a second massed attack against Ullanor and the Beast, hoping to end the threat once and for all. The novel, more than any of the others before, is a true homage to the character and culture of the Imperial Fists, even though only one of their number now remains, and David Guymer writes perhaps the best novel of his that I’ve read so far.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Watchers In Death by David Annandale (Book Review)

Off the bat, you may not realize it, but a lot of what has been happening in The Beast Arises is all a precursor to the status quo we know from the M41 era. There have already been rumblings about the division of specialities in the Inquisition and we also know that there are some High Lords among the High Twelve who do not have that seat by those familiar times. So in many ways, this series is charting out the history of the Imperium and no book does that more than Watchers In Death by David Annandale, his third book in the series.

As its name implies, Watchers In Death is all about how Lord Commander Koorland forms the Deathwatch Kill-Teams that are so famous and ubiquitous in M41 lore. It all begins with a need to fight the Orks on a different axis, brains over brawn essentially, and I absolutely loved how it all turned out. It made for some stirring reading, especially since it was all used to strike back against the Orks with immediate effect. And the Deathwatch aren’t the only ones to have made their mark here, for we also see the return of some of the most badass Imperial warriors from the Great Crusade era.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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The Beast Must Die by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Legends beget legends. But they all have to begin somewhere. In David Annandale’s The Hunt For Vulkan, we saw the beginnings of the latest legend-in-making when Inquisitor Veritus sent Chapter Master Koorland to a planet of legend to find a living legend in the form of the Primarch Vulkan. In the process, the novel itself became a legendary story about honour, oaths, duty and service. As I’ve said so many times in reviews of the previous novels, The Hunt For Vulkan laid the foundation of what was to follow.

And follow Gav Thorpe’s The Beast Must Die did. With the return of Vulkan to the highest levels of the Imperium, the stage has been set for an explosive confrontation with the Orks and their new warlord, the Beast. Legend must now fight legend at a location that is itself legendary. As Vulkan often says in this novel, there is a certain pattern to events, and those who are attuned to these patterns stand to benefit the most. Following on from his last outing in the series with The Emperor Expects, Gav delivers yet another masterpiece that does justice to the characters involved.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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The Hunt For Vulkan by David Annandale (Book Review)

When politics gets in the middle of prosecuting a war effectively, then that usually spells doom for the good guys. As we’ve seen in The Beast Arises over the last six novels, this has been a central theme, something that has let the resurgent Ork threat run wildly rampant across the Imperium. And those who must fight this untenable war have grown ever more disillusioned of those who run the Imperial government, their incompetence a direct threat to the safety and security of the Imperium. But now that’s about to change.

In David Annandale’s The Hunt For Vulkan, we see one of the biggest turning-points in the conflict. The Last Wall is sent on a mission to locate the last known living Primarch, Vulkan of the Salamanders, and bring him back to the larger Imperial fold so that he can lead the resistance against the Orks. The how and the why of it is wrapped in multiple mysteries, and that’s part of what made this novel so damn good. As before with The Last Wall, David really captures the essence and motivations of his characters, telling one hell of a story here.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Echoes of the Long War by David Guymer (Book Review)

First and foremost, the Warhammer 40,000 novels have always been about visceral action first and foremost. It really wasn’t until the Eisenhorn and Ravenor novels by Dan Abnett that we began to see something much wider, in my experience. I know that books like Inquisition War existed before, but those have long been declared non-canon if I’m not mistaken, so they don’t count. And of course, the Horus Heresy novels have been about Imperial politics on a galactic scale as much as they’ve been about the battle scenes. But it hasn’t been until the Beast Arises trilogy that we’ve really gotten to see Imperial politics up-close and personal on Terra itself among the Imperium’s highest elite.

David Guymer’s Echoes of the Long War is the sixth novel in the series and one which is perhaps the most focused of them all so far. Following on from Throneworld, this novel had a lot of baggage coming in and some really high expectations, not all of which it was able to meet unfortunately. It was, in effect, far too focused on one particular event to the detriment of the other narratives, and that definitely hurt the series overall. However, it was still a decent novel and did keep the story progressing somewhat so there’s that.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Throneworld by Guy Haley (Book Review)

A galaxy-wide Ork invasion that heralds the rebuilding of their lost empire on an even greater scale yet. Political bureaucracy and infighting that paralyses the Imperial response. Secret and possibly traitorous experiments being carried out by the Cult Mechanics. Terra itself directly threatened. A Chapter lost. Entire sectors lost. Possible Chaos interference. The Beast Arises series has it all it seems. The previous four novels have been rather revolutionary in many ways, and as the story progresses there’s always another big twist just around the corner.

With Guy Haley’s Throneworld, the series marks the third straight novel which is among some of the best works to come out of Black Library in the past five years. I’ve read a fair number of novels from Guy Haley and he’s always impressed me with his narrative styles and his plot twists. That all holds true for Throneworld as well, in which we see the Eldar themselves getting involved with the Ork-Imperium conflict, even as the larger narrative progresses well beyond the weirdness happening on Terra, for the stalwart sons of Dorn have managed to consolidate their power and beginning anew their campaign against the Orks.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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The Last Wall by David Annandale (Book Review)

We are now getting to the point where the series is starting to pick up some momentum. The first three novels have laid out the conflict and we now are starting to see some real movement every which way. Leading up to the fourth novel in the series, we are now in that particular mode where you can start to predict how certain characters are going to react to certain situations and that anticipation is what is driving this series more than anything else because in the meta-sense, these characters and their strife really do leave a mark.

David Annandale’s The Last Wall had a lot to deliver on, given how Gav Thorpe ended The Emperor Expects. It was certainly a very unexpected ending, and the questions that it raised got me to push through this novel, finishing it in less than a day, as the clock counts. It is full of some amazing action and tons of intrigue all of which deepens the mysteries behind the resurgent Ork threat and I feel that it is a great addition to the series as a result. David definitely didn’t disappoint in any way.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Star Trek: Legacies Trilogy (Book Review)

On September 8, 2016 the Star Trek fandom marked a significant milestone, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series, the groundbreaking show that changed television and science-fiction forever. In fact, all of last year was dedicated to this celebration in a number of ways, such as the release of multiple novels from Simon & Schuster as well as the release of the third movie in the rebooted franchise, Star Trek: Beyond. It is indeed a celebration like none other because what Gene Roddenberry and others created all those years ago still has huge ramifications for all of us.

The Legacies trilogy is part of this grand celebration, bringing together fan-favourite writers like Greg Cox, David Mack, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore to present a riveting story that goes all the way back to the core history of the series itself and features none other than Number One. An away mission gone-wrong in hostile territory, a promise fulfilled after eighteen years, interstellar conflict, spies and espionage, Legacies has everything that has come to define Star Trek over the years and is a great series to read, even for any newcomers to the franchise.

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The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

The first two novels in the Beast Arises series proved themselves to be a good introduction to an Imperium that is drawn into a massive galactic conflict against the resurgent Ork threat some 1500 years after the Heresy and after the Emperor broke the Orks in the Ullanor Crusade. With Dan Abnett’s I Am Slaughter we met a lot of the early players and with Rob Sanders’ Predator, Prey we saw their narratives develop even as more characters were added and the story increased vastly in scope.

Gav Thorpe’s novel The Emperor Expects is the third in the series and definitely the best novel so far. Both Dan and Rob are very good at depicting big battle scenes, but Gav takes things up a few notches in this novel, not to mention that he also gives us a fantastic naval battle to read about as the Imperial Navy finally take the battle the Orks. Even outside of the set-piece action we have some extremely well-written narratives for all the characters as the politicking on Terra deepens and the Space Marines of various Chapters prepare to respond as well.

Note: Some spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Predator, Prey by Rob Sanders (Book Review)

The post-Heresy mega project The Beast Arises kicked off with I Am Slaughter by Dan Abnett, telling a fascinating new tale of how a resurgent Ork threat threatens the very foundations of the Imperium. Although we start fairly “low-tech” and the Orks aren’t brought out right until the end, the build-up to that moment certainly kept me glued to the pages, and the novel was a great way to get back into the swing of reading Warhammer 40,000 fiction again, as I’d dropped off some years back.

The next installment in this multi-author series, Predatory, Prey is written by Rob Sanders, who has delivered some of my absolute favourite books of the last decade. The novel continues the story of I Am Slaughter, picking up in the wake of the events that followed therein and sets the stage for the return of the Orks as the biggest threat to the safety of the Imperium since the Heresy. While not the knockout I expected it to be, it was still a spellbinding read that touches on many different facets of the conflict and transitions to the larger conflict.

Note: Some minor spoilers from the previous novel and this novel are mentioned here.

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Conan Vol. 2: The God In The Bowl and Other Stories (Comics Review)

With Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories, Dark Horse embarked on a bold strategy where the classic Conan stories were shaped anew, with writer Kurt Busiek putting together a continuous narrative that charted the rise of Conan from a simple Cimmerian warrior to the King of Aquilonia. With the addition of fantastic artists like Cary Nord and Dave Stewart, the series began well with the first volume, establishing a clear frame of reference for the characters and his adventures in a way that would always leave you wanting more.

In Conan Vol.2: The God In The Bowl and Other Stories we see more of the same as Conan now sets out for the Nemedian city-state to learn more of the world, to hone his skills as a thief and see more of what the world at large could offer someone like him. Kurt’s writing is very much on point in this volume, as it was in the previous one, and now that the Cimmerian is in more familiar circumstances, the story becomes all the more enjoyable. And along the way, artists Tom Mandrake, Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates and Dave Stewart add a particular vividness to the visual aspect, enhancing the story in every way possible.

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