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.
The last audiobook that I remember listening to from Black Library is Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns, one of the two books alongside Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons that told the story of the fall of Prospero, of Magnus, and the Thousand Sons Legion. I’d tried to read the book before many times but always gave up, the only such Horus Heresy novel I’ve struggled with so much to date. The audiobook was a better experience but the story was still too problematic for me. Fortunately, Dan’s next big Heresy novel, Know No Fear easily proved to be a much better experience in all respects and is one of my favourite Heresy novels to date. So there’s some balance.
Dan’s latest Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire is my first Heresy audiobook since spring 2012 that I have experienced primarily in the audio format. I listened to the novel back in September, supplementing it with reading the ebook on and off, and I liked the dual experience. The Unremembered Empire is one of the better novels of the series, but it is also one of the more weaker ones since it is a branching novel and it attempts to do too much with too many characters. Taken in the context of the series at large, it is a pretty decent novel, but taken on its own merits, if fails to satisfy as much as it should. There’s just way too much going on in the novel and that works against it. Had it been trimmed of a few plotlines, it would have been one of the best novels of the series.
Note: This review contains spoilers of varying degrees.
When I compiled my list of “51 Most Anticipated Novels of 2013“, I put Chris Wraight’s Blood of Asaheim on it because I had really liked his first full-length 40k novel, The Battle of the Fang for the Space Marines Battle series. He gave a really nice depth to the Space Wolves with that book, and he brought together the disparate portrayals of the 40k Space Wolves by William King’s classic novels and Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy piece, Prospero Burns. I love the former, but I detest the latter. Chris Wraight gave me a nice middle ground between the two and that’s what I hoped that Blood of Asaheim would be. It wasn’t.
Blood of Asaheim isn’t tied to Battle of the Fang in any direct way. They are both novels about the Space Wolves Chapter, but where the previous novel is set 1,000 years after the Horus Heresy, Blood of Asaheim is set in the current 40k timeline, one where Ragnar Blackmane is the Wolf Lord of his own Great Company, as per the character’s history as set in the tabletop lore. Chris Wraight offers up several new characters and the premise itself is an interesting one, but unfortunately the execution turned out to be pretty flawed because it was essentially repetitive material.
In the last installment of this series, it was Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Gav Thorpe, Rob Sanders and John French. This time it is Matthew Farrer, Nick Kyme and Chris Wraight. As it turns out, this past weekend we’ve also had the first ever Black Library Weekender, a two-day weekend event at which there was a ton of information released about the Heresy: more audios, more novels, more anthologies, a new author joining the ranks, and more time-limited edition novellas among other things. So instead of what I thought I’d cover for the fourth installment, It’ll be how the new stuff announced matches up with what I had envisioned. But anyway, here’s today’s writeup for you all.
If you have been following my progress on twitter for the last week or so, you can find me at @abhinavjain87, then you’ll know that work on the novel has been steadily progressing. In fact, it is better than steady because I’ve clocked an average of 2,900+ words over the last four days, which is my strongest performance ever. That average does kind of fall down to a measly 2,200+ however if I take into account the actual six writing days I’ve put in the project because the first two days weren’t really that good.
But, that is not the point of this post. Sure, I want to bask in the pleasure of doing so well on the writing front and share it with the world at large (and end up being accused of word e-peening in the process in which case you all haters can go take a hike) but I want to share just how I managed to do this.
So let’s see what really went down, huh?
There were Wolves left alive and they were hunting.
– Battle of The Fang, a Space Marines Battles novel by Chris Wraight
The first thought that comes to mind, for a lot of people it seems, when they hear the words “Space Marines Battles novel” is that it is going to be little more than endless scenes of gratuitous action scenes. It is a view that hasn’t been discounted by some of the already published novels as it were.
Both The Hunt for Voldorius and The Fall of Damnos are mostly just that, with the former being the more pronounced in this respect.
Fortunately, we have the example of The Gildar Rift, reviewed here by yours truly, and another SMB novel I have just finished reading, Battle of the Fang.
Last night, the Black Library Open Submissions Window for the spring ended and I am happy to say that I managed to submit all five of my planned short stories. I ended up dropping Project Long Hunt in the end because while the plot idea was something I would have dearly liked doing, the synopsis and sample didn’t quite come together into anything properly coherent even though it had what the editors generally, at first glance, require us new writers to do: bolter-action. Ah well, it is going to be on the backburner till next time.
These last three months have been one of the greatest learning experiences ever and I am quite grateful to a number of people who have contributed to this.
The most important of these people is Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyroriffic who, after the official Black Library forums closed down ages ago, started the Bolthole for people like me who love the twin GW universes and can endlessly debate them and have an interest in creatively contributing to them. If I had not found the Bolthole when I did, life would indeed have been quite dull and I would be struggling along with totally half-assed submissions.
Next up would be Narrativium, another fellow Boltholer and moderator, whose experience and feedback has been very, very valuable to me, for he pointed out plot-holes and details and other things that I generally missed mentioning in my pitches or did not even consider. I dare say that he knows all my pitches nearly as well as I do, since I pestered him repeatedly for critiques 🙂
Then there is everyone else who, at one point or another, helped me with more feedback across the whole line-up of my pitches, including Project Salvation. Big shout-out to Tyrant, Colonel Mustard, BaneofKings, LordLucan, Pipitan, CommanderShadow, Malcador, Raziel, Phalanx and all the others who helped me and contributed their various insights to my pitches so that in the end I had 5 top-quality submissions. (EDIT: I forgot Paul!!!! You are awesome too dude)
I owe all these guys a lot for all their help. You guys rock!
All in all, my five submissions covered three separate Space Marine chapters, none of which have figured at all in the limelight of GW/BL/FW published material, barring one.
The Angels of Retribution got two short stories dedicated to them this time, both very different in terms of settings and entirely different cast of characters. As my own chapter, that I would love to get ‘identified’ with, I sincerely hope that at least one of these is definitely picked up. I am really proud of the Sons of Corax.
The Invictors, who I have portrayed as Ultramarine successors, got one short story dedicated to them which, in my opinion, is absolutely pure blood-and-guts 40k mixed with what I sort of in-my-brain call ‘homage grimdark’. If this one gets published, you will be the first ones to find out what that means.
The Executioners got two short stories dedicated to them for this window, both very different pieces but ultimately connected with the prologue and aftermath of a single event. Set in completely different times and with different characters, I had a ton of fun coming up with the ideas for these two, and a big thanks to one of my Bolthole friends who gave me the idea for the first of these.
And the final week of the Spring Open Submission Window has arrived. As you can see in my related thread over on the Bolthole, people are starting to submit their short stories and novels, stuff that they have been working on for the whole length of the window. It’s nice to see so much creative output and I hope some of these people get in (obviously not all will *wink*wink*).
Just like Project Honour, the sample for Project R&R is proving to be a pain to write as well. I have already discarded over 800 words (collectively) for two different versions of the sample. With the final lap in play now, I’m really short on time too. Not to mention that Project Long Hunt is still MIA. That piece needs a lot of work but I am struggling to find the right inspiration.
Going to be referring to TerribleMinds’ err, umm, suggestions over here to push through this week. Definitely recommend reading that article in full. Beware that the language is quite ‘adult-oriented’. Don’t blame me if you can’t handle a little cursing.
However, none of that means that I have only been letting my soul be sucked away by the submissions window! Hell no!
Take a stroll over to the Bolthole’s General Warhammer-verse FanFic section to check out my new forum project. A WIP of course. Having finally read through all the twelve (now thirteen) sections of LL’s 60k alternate-verse setting, I present to you the Sons of Corax. It is set in the early years of the Age of Dusk, ten thousand years after the fall of the Imperium and the descent of the galaxy into the Second Age of Strife. It’s a pretty cool setting conjured up by crazyman LL and if you read all his background sections for the setting, you see how well this guy can channel his inner Tolkien in setting up the whole stage. Amazing stuff.
Response in terms of readership to Sons of Corax has been quite well and I am really happy with the whole project so far. Ideas just come into play and I write them on the screen. Feels really natural! I already have two sections of the story up, coming in at about 3300+ words. Chapter 3 shall be up today or tomorrow. Come check out the progress!
And hopefully once all the madness of the submissions window ends, I can get back to all my other neglected works which include:
Looking forward to getting back in the groove for War Engagement!
It is done. Complete. Poora. Finito.
Project Honour that is. The summary and synopsis are as tight as I can get them and the sample is pretty much done as well. It is slightly heavier on the word count, being a little bit over the 1000-word mark but its not an issue since the sample is fairly well-put together and everything flows from A to B. Lots of critique went on for this one and I am quite pleased with the feedback. Never underestimate the importance of feedback. It makes you think of things you never would otherwise, because they seem so obvious to you that you never bother to explain them. That can happen a LOT.
So yeah, value the feedback you get. Big shout-out to all the people who’ve helped me with this one. The Bolthole rocks!
All that remains is to send off the collective sample/summary/synopsis off to BL, which I will do at the end of the month. Going to work on my other shorts now, which brings me to the following. This now nicely brings my completed submissions to number three. A nice round number, which I like, and coincidentally, is half my lucky number, 6.
Project Long Hunt is proving to be quite an elusive beast. I still can’t get the synopsis nailed down even though I know what I want to write about and what the plot is. Its all clear in my head, yet I can’t get any of it down on the screen. Very, very frustrating. Especially since this is my most unique piece in terms of plot and larger ramifications for the characters involved. But, I still have a whole two more weeks to go so I still have time to get it done.
Work has also begun on Project Oath & Duty which is a somewhat related piece to Project Honour, but not directly. It is somewhat like a short story I read recently but not much. It will be quite a dialogue-heavy final piece though, which is going to be a good enough challenge. I am really growing to love this particular faction.
Further on about submissions, I have now finally decided to stop work on Project Salvation, my Deathwatch novel, for this submissions window. I would like to very much get my game on with my short stories rather than my novel. The submission is nowhere near done, and with my current workload from IRL and other things (read below), I am not so sure I can get it done in time and still have it be of good quality. And like Long Hunt, I still don’t have a proper and clear synopsis down in my head, let alone on paper. So yeah, that’s that.
Which reminds me. NO WAY ONLY FOURTEEN DAYS LEFT! Actually thirteen for me since I am not counting the last day. I will be submitting my shorts before midnight on July 30. Just to be safe.
Sadly, I’ve been procrastinating a fair bit though. And the source of this soul-sucking activity is Lord of Ultima. Click on the link to find out more about it. Essentially this is a free MMO from EA that involves empire-building in the form of cities, armies, trade, and resource management. It is quite an involved game, especially once you get past the rookie stage and into the big leagues. Which is where I am now, or rather, quite a bit past that. For the interested, I play on world 19 (Empire score currently 105k+) mostly with a little tampering on world 29 (Empire score currently 61k+), under the name shadowhawk20. Thanks to Christian Dunn, the friendly neighbourhood BL editor for recommending this game. And curses too, for the distractions 😀
Anyways, moving on.
I have now finished reading Victories of the Space Marines and Legends of the Space Marines. Extremely impressed with the quality of short stories in the former, not so much from the latter.
The entirety of Victories is an absolute gem of awesome ass-kicking, bolter-action, xenos-killing and deeper stuff. If I have to nominate one short from this anthology for some kind of an award, it has to be Ben Counter’s Sacrifice, which features our favourite Grey Knight, Justicar Alaric, and is about the sacrifices the Imperium makes to protect itself. Absolutely amazing, grimdark, 40k short story that is perfect in the setting.
Since I made a point last time to mention how excited I was to read Sarah’s Primary Instinct, got to say that I wasn’t disappointed one bit with it. I knew the larger story of course because of reading spoilers on Warseer, but it was still fun to read. Very enjoyable. Would love to read more from her.
In comparison, Legends mostly fell flat on its face. Only two of the stories can compare to the quality of those found in Victories: The Returned by James Swallow of Blood Angels fame, and At Gaius Point by Aaron Dembski-Bowden of Night Lords fame. Mr Swallows continues the tale of Tarikus from Black Tide, giving his story a proper closure for the moment while the newly married Aaron took something sacred to the Blood Angels and their successors, and gave it a very gripping, tense, and rewarding execution. The Flesh Tearers are quickly rising high on my list of favourite Space Marine chapters.
I firmly give Ben Counter’s Twelve Wolves an honourable mention as well. It is about two Space Wolves fighting off an invasion of their homeworld by renegade Imperial/Ecclesiarchy forces. Absolutely brilliantly done and focusing something that has largely been an obscure part of the chapter’s background. Ben Counter seems to be going from strength to strength recently and I love his work. His Grey Knight novels featuring Justicar Alaric are some of my favourites from BL. You can follow and pester him on twitter @BenCounter.
The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America did a recent guest post on their site titled: 60 Rules for Short Science-Fiction and Fantasy, which you can find here. There are some interesting points there, and a few I agree with and some I don’t agree with. I’ll let you read them and form your own opinions of them, but just keep in mind that while these may be some good guidelines for writing general SF/F, some of them do not really apply to writing for Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t attempted to write anything for Warhammer Fantasy so I won’t comment on that but I trust it is the same for both settings.
That’s all for now people. Stay tuned.
Finally finished the sample for this today. So far, of my three submissions, this has the most dialogue by far. Initial feedback has been quite positive and I am quite happy with how it turned out as well. Like I mentioned previously, picking the the scene I wanted to write for this sample was a real pain but in the end I just picked one and started writing. Actual writing time was perhaps about two hours but I spent about a week agonizing over the scene from start to finish.
But now it is complete and once I get all the proper feedback in, that will short story three sent off to the BL towers. Mission accomplished.
Now that just leaves Project Long Hunt, which is still in flux regarding the synopsis so forget the sample, and Project Salvation, my novel which I haven’t touched in a while because I haven’t had any creative urge for it. Which is slightly depressing really.
I keep wanting to tackle some other short stories rather than my novel which, frankly, is not a good idea. I need to see this through by the end of the month or else it will hang on my head as an incomplete pitch. And I hate incomplete pitches.
So that’s that.
In other news, my second film review is up on 24FPS. I have started a review series that me and Paul are calling the DC Animated Universe Film Reviews Spotlight. Basically I will be tackling the direct-to-DVD animated films starring various DC Comics superheroes as released by Warner Bros. You can find the series write-up here.
My first review in the series is Green Lantern: First Flight and you can find the review here. Paul has already reviewed the film in preparation for the live-action movie Green Lantern 3D, so my review is a second opinion article. You can find my review here and Paul’s review here. Next up in the review series will be Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.
Sarah aka Pyroriffic, our former-and-still Grand Overlord of the Bolthole shared this link today. It is quite an informative piece on what fan-fiction is, its various sub-types and people’s reactions to fan-fiction. I heartily recommend checking out the link. A lot of you aspiring fan-fiction writers will find it quite useful.
A fellow Boltholer, Grenadier has been published! It is a short story titled Heavenbloom from Books To Go Now and I recommend people to give it a go. The direct link is this, and for the Amazonians among you, you can all go here. If you are on facebook, don’t forget to ‘like’ his page here. It’s great to see the folks from The Bolthole getting published, no matter the genre/setting so yaya! If you get the story please don’t forget to review it on Amazon as well! Let’s get the word out there people! Chop, chop.