Roughly a year after establishing contact with Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald has published a book that is part spy story, part analysis o...moreRoughly a year after establishing contact with Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald has published a book that is part spy story, part analysis of the impact of Snowden's revelations and in part a reckoning with the surveillance state his home country has become. Greenwald writes his book with the authority vested in him by the whistleblower, who reportedly chose him based on his work in the past. With this trust comes probably the most comprehensive access to Snowden's documents anybody aside from the whistleblower himself has had.
Parts of the book are direct attacks on the established media in the US, which Greenwald finds untenably co-opted by the government. This, at times, degrades into personal attacks on other journalists who criticised him in the past for the way in which he has dealt with access to Snowden's documents. I found many of these passages cumbersome, inappropriate, even cringeworthy. Throughout these bits, Greenwald comes across as self-absorbed and too proud of himself. Many of his attacks on colleagues are exaggerated and some seem wholly unnecessary.
If you're looking for fresh revelations, you're looking in the wrong place. If you haven't followed all the post-Snowden NSA news, however, Greenwald does provide a decent overview of the impact of the revelations.
Especially the first chapters, where the author tells a le Carré-style spy story of the meeting with Snowden in Hong Kong, is well worth a read. The personal tone that Greenwald sets here fits well with that kind of story, but it becomes a burden later on as it colours his overview of the scandal and causes the above mentioned bias towards his colleagues and the media at large. Another problem with Greenwald's analysis is the fact that it is very US-centric. The impact of the scandal on Germany or the UK is only touched on during brief moments.
A decent book that gives a relatively unfiltered look at the thinking of the journalists involved in breaking the Snowden story and even, to some degree, into the thinking of the whistleblower himself. As a whole, the book is somewhat dry and contains a lot of uninspired (and what seems like hastily edited) language. There's also aweful hyperbole in places. Still, it's worth a read if you're interested in the topic — if only for the unique perspective of the book.(less)
After what seems like ages, I've finally finished reading the new Imperial Guard codex. I've been a fan of this army for a long time. In fact, it was...moreAfter what seems like ages, I've finally finished reading the new Imperial Guard codex. I've been a fan of this army for a long time. In fact, it was the army I settled on when I first played Second Edition 40K as a kid in the '90s.
Even though the codex is now named Astra Militarum, the fluff — or lore — hasn't changed that much from what I remember reading as a kid. Although I could be wrong on that, because back then I was reading a German codex. One thing is for sure, though: the name change is mostly for marketing reasons. Pretty much only the rules and introductory bits mention the new name.Almost all of the fluff still calls the army “Imperial Guard”.
Overall, the book seems like a much improved presentation of the same old stories — no that that's necessarily bad. Quite the opposite: I enjoyed reading it a lot. The design of the book is top notch and it feels like Games Workshop has made steady progress on that front — even within the new generation of codexes they started rolling out with 6th Edition.
As usual, I can't say much about the rules, but I suspect Imperial Guard fans will be pretty unhappy with getting a codex refresh weeks before a new edition of the game arrived. Now their codex is instantly obsolete. I really have no idea how big the impact of 7th Edition on the book really is, though.
This book is probably worth buying, even if you're not an IG fan. It's a very popular army and it generally pays to know what the competition is up to. The codex is presented in a gorgeous way with lots of nice illustrations. On the other hand, 7th edition instantly aged this codex for what feels like a year and the fluff seems mostly old as well.(less)
**spoiler alert** When I first heard of the Sentinels of Terra codex supplement, I was quite vocal about the fact that I thought having a book for a s...more**spoiler alert** When I first heard of the Sentinels of Terra codex supplement, I was quite vocal about the fact that I thought having a book for a single company of a Space Marine chapter was a stupid idea. Having read the book cover to cover, I'm not so sure anymore.
I still think it's a weird situation that the Imperial Fists themselves do not have their own codex, while their 3rd Company does. But I guess that is the nature of the arrangement with codex-compliant chapters. You end up with a company with more lore coverage than the chapter it's a part of. As a result of this, the Sentinels of Terra supplement is a weird beast. While it is clearly focused on the 3rd Company, a lot of the things in it naturally deal with the Imperial Fists in general. The main character of the detachment, Captain Lysander, isn't even in this book but in Codex: Space Marines — and all of the lore pivots around what happens to him.
The lore itself is presented differently in this book. Where the Iyanden and Black Legion supplements mostly covered the general back story of the force in question, this book tells more of a story of a band of characters. It mostly coveres a span of a few years right up to the end of the 41st Millenium. While it touches on Lysander's imprisonment by the Iron Warriors, most of it is concerned with the Crusade of Thunder and its individual engagements. Thus, the book reads more like a campaign addon than a codex supplement.
In the description of these battles, the Imperial Fists are characterised as a crusading army that uses small strike forces and swift, butal orbital strikes to bring worlds back in the Imperial fold that everyone has given up on. I much enjoy this return to the old ways of the Fists and I think de-emphasising the much belaboured siegecraft aspect of the chapter goes a long way to making them more interesting as an army. Judging from this book, the 3rd Company especially excels in planetstrikes.
One thing that isn't de-emphasised, though, is the stubbornness of the Imperial Fists. The 3rd Company apparently was wiped out completely on several occasions and was on the very brink of it a few times more because their commanders refused to yield a position or, in one case, because Lysander was too proud to call the Ultramarines and Blood Angels for help even though their forces were already at hand. A decision he later regretted and made good one.
What I didn't appreciate at all about this book was Shon'tu, the magical Iron Warriors Warpsmith who keeps popping up. Every action the 3rd fights in this book was somehow instigated by him. And in the end, he dies — of course — by Lysander's hand. That is boring. It reads like the author was running out of ideas. I like variety in lore books, otherwise they read like a short story that has been blown up as a quick way to provide content.
As usual, the rules don't concern me that much, but it seems to me that they give you some nice stuff to play with that fits the lore quite well. Considering the limitations Games Workshop seems to have imposed for the supplement format, that is. You actually do get a special character this time (even though Lysander himself is in the Space Marines codex), but he's rather run-of-the-mill and not very exciting. It's not like they'll ever produce a special model for him or anything. But I think that's exactly the scope they are going for. Games Workshop obviously doesn't plan to have special character models for supplements — that's codex territory.
To conclude, I think I changed my mind about having a book for a single company — that works. What didn't really work in this book was the campaign-like way the story of the company was told over such a relatively short amount of time when compared to the other supplements. While the actual content isn't bad, the focus seems off to me.(less)
Due to being interested in all things Chaos in Warhammer 40K, I just had to get the Black Legion book. As with the Iyanden codex supplement, I am once...moreDue to being interested in all things Chaos in Warhammer 40K, I just had to get the Black Legion book. As with the Iyanden codex supplement, I am once again pretty happy with this offering.
There's a lot of lore here, easily enough to rival a proper codex. All of the Black Crusades are detailed and so is the story of how Abaddon turned the Sons of Horus into the eponymous Black Legion. I also very much liked the extensive timeline and four pages on Black Legion splinter warbands.
To me, the 30 pages of lore very much compensate for the fact that there are no special characters and only two pages of actual, vanilla 40K rules. But then, I'm primarily in the hobby to imagine cool stories and paint miniatures. If I had bought this book for the rules, I am pretty sure I would have been disappointed.
The miniatures gallery is pretty lame too, nothing to write home about. And the rest of the book is filled with a collection of missions that seemed pretty average. None of them particularly stood out to me. To sum it up, I got a lot out of this book, but others probably won't like it much.(less)
I've just finished reading Games Workshop's latest codex release for the Tyranids. This is my review. While reading it, keep in mind that I am a lore...moreI've just finished reading Games Workshop's latest codex release for the Tyranids. This is my review. While reading it, keep in mind that I am a lore person — you don't come here for rules advice.
The new Tyranids codex is probably the most well written codex Games Workshop ever came out with. At the very least, it's on par with the Space Marines and Dark Angels codices which were already excellent.
From start to finish, the background sections of the book are captivating. They convey the horror of facing a planetary invasion by the Tyranids perfectly; down to the last detail. This is some of the best "fluff" to come out of Games Workshop in ages — it's comparable in quality with, and might even eclipse, the Horus Heresy books from Forge World.
I love the concept of the Tyranids and the whole idea behind the army and as such I enjoyed reading the book a lot. If you're even remotely interested in 40K lore, you should probably get this release. Together with the Space Marines codex, it plugs right into the old school writings from the '90s, takes what was best in them and elevates them to a whole new level. Story-wise, these new codices are a new golden era in the hobby — I love it!
It's a shame that Games Workshop seems to not list individual authors on these books anymore. This is probably because of all the backlash these people tend to get from the community because of the rules part. It is nonetheless a shame, because the writing in this book is a bloody masterpiece and the author (or authors) deserve the credit for it.
Keeping in mind that I know next to nothing about actually playing 40K with a Tyranid army, it's no secret that the new rules are highly controversial. To me, it seems like GW reacted to the previous Tyranids book being pretty powerful — so powerful, in fact, that it was still fairly competitive even when this new book came out. Or so I am told.
I think the designers simply adjusted the power of the army downwards a bit. Since they usually make new releases more powerful, this created the huge backlash in the community. To some extend, I can understand that — if it happens to your army, it really hurts. The few new goodies they added in the new codex can't compensate for that.
The rewritten rules mostly seem to have neutered abilities and made some stuff more expensive. And they've streamlined some things. Everything considered, however, it doesn't seem that bad. Tyranids still are a very playable army and one that is extremely evocative and fun.
And at the very least, the army has some excellent lore. And that's the most important part of the hobby anyway — or should be.(less)
All in all, the book was an OK read. Not great, but I wasn't bored either. Most of its issues could have been avoided with more variety — especially w...moreAll in all, the book was an OK read. Not great, but I wasn't bored either. Most of its issues could have been avoided with more variety — especially when it comes to the antagonists that the Space Marines are fighting in the different stories. Too many of these plots center around fights against the forces of Chaos. I understand that this is Games Workshop's favourite theme, but in places it got too much. I even had to put the book down for a while in some cases because I craved more variety and had to read other stuff for a change.
A lot of this could have been fixed with proper editing. As it is, they basically stitched three existing omnibi together and added an introduction and a few additional stories. With a little bit of proactive sorting of the included stories, the monotony of everyone fighting Chaos all the time would have been broken up somewhat. It would also have evened out the quality of the writing across the whole volume.
As it stands, the book is a good enough read if you want lots of different Space Marine stories in one place. Even though it feels a bit like it's the "omnibus of the other guys" as they seem to have saved stories from the well-known chapters for their own compilations. If you're not so hot on that, you might as well skip it. There are probably a lot of other Black Library books out there you should be reading first.
What follows are reviews of the individual stories in the book:
Introduction, Christian Dunn: The book starts off with a glaring error in the non-fiction introductory text about the concept of Space Marines. It's not a huge mistake, but the fact that it is present on the very first page is pretty annoying and starts the reading experience off on the wrong foot. «The Skull Harvest», Graham McNeill: This Iron Warriors story from Graham is an excellent start to the book. I would have expected the omnibus to start off with a story about a loyalist chapter, however. Nonetheless, the story made me want to read more about Huron Blackheart and set the tone for the book nicely. «Gauntlet Run», Chris Roberson: This one starts out a bit weak, but ends absolutely fantastic. Even though the twist at the end is pretty cheap, it's still a lot of fun to read. «Renegades», Gav Thorpe: A really depressing story, but well written. When the author makes you sympathise with character who are actually the bad guys, you know it's a good yarn. Gav certainly pulled it off well here. «Honour Among Fiends», Dylan Owen: A high point in the early part of the book. The first truly creative piece of storytelling and one of the few stories, that manage to give a plausible sense of motivation for Chaos Space Marines. «Fires of War», Nick Kyme: This one was just awesome. Judging by its length, it's basically a novella and it sports a full novel's worth of content. The first story in the book that actually makes me care about what happens to its characters. I want more of this! «The Labyrinth», Richard Ford: A weak story with predictable twists and a plot that isn't particularly inspired. At this point I started to first get wary of all the Chaos-related stories. «Headhunted», Steve Parker: This is how it's done! Amazing work by Parker. Immediately made me want to read the rest of his Deathwatch stories. I was also happy that we were fighting xenos for a change. «And They Shall Know No Fear», Darren Cox: More Chaos. At least the story is a good one. After a slow start, it did develop into an excellent read at about the mid-way point. Really made me want to start a Black Templars army. I always loved that chapter — what a shame that they don't have their own codex anymore. «Nightfall», Peter Fehervari: Refreshingly different. More Chaos, but I didn't really mind that here. A well executed short story all around. «One Hate», Aaron Dembski-Bowden: Not the best story, but not the worst either. Where it really succeeds is in driving home the point about exactly how stacked the odds are against the Crimson Fists after Rhynn's World. This story concludes the first part of the omnibus (originally entitled Heroes of the Space Marines) and up until now, we've only been fighting Chaos and orks. «Hell Night», Nick Kyme: A bit of a ghost story. Not exactly one of my favourites in this book. The plot is a bit weak and I don't think the whole thing fits into the 40K universe particularly well. «Cover of Darkness», Mitchel Scanlon: The description of the dreadnought was probably the best I have read so far. Otherwise it's pretty run-of-the-mill Space Marine action. Way too many clichés. «The Relic», Jonathan Green: This is a bad one. Even more tropes. «Twelve Wolves», Ben Counter: I'm not a fan of the Space Wolves in general but even when completely ignoring the chapter this is about, I can only come to the conclusion that it is a bad story, too. The writing style is terrible and the characters and plot are too contrived. Ben has definitely written better stories. «The Returned», James Swallow: It was good to see Tarikus again. The whole thing fits nicely with the the stuff from the second Blood Angels omnibus. For a Jim Swallow piece, however, it is rather weak in general. It feels to me like he is a lot better at long form writing. «Consequences», Graham McNeill: A story with zero action, but it's still a gripping read. Well written. At this point, the second half of the omnibus is finally picking up speed. «The Last Detail», Paul Kearney: This one is very unlike all the other stories in the book. Probably one of the best 40K short stories I have ever read, certainly one of the best in this book. Space Marines vs. Chaos again, but with a very refreshing new perspective. «The Trial of the Mantis Warriors», C. S. Goto: This does not have any action at all. And even though it does not reveal anything significant about the backstory of the Badab War, it's still a fun read that uses the setting well. It does feel a little bit like this is only a part of a bigger tale, though. «Orphans of the Kraken», Richard Williams: This must be the first story where we are fighting neither Chaos or orks and it took us over half the book to get there. While the first person perspective seems a bit clumsy, it is still a very cool story. I love the insight about the tyranids that is dotted throughout. «At Gaius Point», Aaron Dembski-Bowden: An average story. Not incredibly interesting, but not badly written either. Makes you want to know what happens to the Flesh Tearers after the report of the Inquisition. A shame that ADB doesn't reveal that. With this, we have finished the second part of the omnibus which turned out to be very much in the vane of the first. The tyranids story was refreshing but all in all, I think the stories in the first part where better than those in the second. «Runes», Chris Wraight: I really enjoyed this story, even if it had the stupid Space Wolves in it. Nice mix of action and an interesting plot. This one really shows off how great Space Marine stories can be when they are written well. A good start into the third part of the book. «The Rewards of Tolerance», Gav Thorpe: More excellent stuff. Nice to see the renegades from his earlier story again. This time, the tone is less depressing. I really want to know how these characters continue on their journey. «Black Dawn», C. L. Werner: A decent story with some nice twists. «The Long Games at Carcharias», Rob Sanders: Very nice to see the bad guys winning for a change. I liked everything about this. Very well executed. The Alpha Legion at its absolute best. I especially liked the convincing depiction of different Chaos Space Marine warbands working together. An excellent read from the very start to the bitter end. «Heart of Rage», James Swallow: I already read this in the second Blood Angels omnibus. A gripping short story and well worth a read. I hope we see Brother Kale again some time. «But Dust in the Wind», Jonathan Green: Not a bad tale, but not great either. Especially the ending was not convincing to me at all. Space Marines would act like that, but I don't believe a second that the human defenders would go along with it. I think what happened here is that the author got too stuck in the ways Astartes think to convincingly explain the reactions of the normal humans. «Exhumed», Steve Parker: Steve Parker is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Black Library authors; I need to read more of his stuff. His Deathwatch stories are really, really good. Two short stories in and I am already completely invested in these characters. «Primary Instinct», S. P. Cawkwell: Not a fan of this one, the backstory makes little sense. «Sacrifice», Ben Counter: Nicely written. I enjoyed this one quite a lot. And with it being about the Grey Knights, it makes sense that we are back to Space Marines vs. Chaos after a number of stories that finally dealt with other adversaries. This concludes the third part of the book that was previously released as its own publication. This part was definitely better than the second and picks up the pace from the first. What follows is a collection of additional stories exclusive to this book. «Eclipse of Hope», David Annandale: I am torn on this story: I can't decide if the writing style is tedious or really good. In any case, I do want to know how it all continues, and that does count for something. The depiction of Mephiston was spot on — and he's not exactly the easiest character to write. «Torturer's Thirst», Andy Smillie: An excellent short story. But then, the Flesh Tearers are always good for an excellent story. «Tower of Blood», Tony Ballantyne: Nice idea, but I couldn't help feeling that it could have been executed on better. As it is, the story feels a little too simplistic. With a bit of editing and additional refinement, it would've turned out a lot more fun to read. The book also includes three comics on its last pages:
«Last Man Standing», Dan Abnett & Mike Perkins: Even though it is written by Dan Abnett, this comic is very corny. It's also pretty boring. «The Chosen», Kieron Gillen & Steve Pugh: Leaving aside the obvious spelling mistakes that they never fixed, this is a very nice little story in comic form. Kieron clearly beats Dan Abnett's effort. «The Pilgrim», James Peaty & Shaun Thomas: With this, the whole book ends on a low point. Very disappointing. This isn't a story, it's hardly a sketch of one. The accompanying drawings are also pretty bad and almost impossible to see, the way they are printed here.(less)
Visually, this is easily one of the finest codex books Games Workshop has ever published. The illustrations are beautiful and follow on perfectly from...moreVisually, this is easily one of the finest codex books Games Workshop has ever published. The illustrations are beautiful and follow on perfectly from the Dark Angels Codex. Most of the lore is, as would be expected, a rehash of older stuff but it is well packaged and it was a lot of fun to catch up on things, especially with the beautiful presentation.
I'd say this codex is an absolute must have for anyone playing 40K. The Space Marines are by far the most iconic army of the hobby and this book does them justice.(less)
This book, including the comprehensive lore section for the Third Armageddon war, is almost on the level of the 40K rule book. Very well executed and...moreThis book, including the comprehensive lore section for the Third Armageddon war, is almost on the level of the 40K rule book. Very well executed and well worth a read, even if you're not necessarily into playing Apocalypse. A significant chunk of the book is taken up by full-page Apocalypse formation and unit cards, but I think the Warzone Armageddon section is worth buying this book on its own. Having the Apoc rules handy is great too, of course. Not that I will have enough miniatures to play that kind of game in the next few years, but it does sound fun and reading their descriptions of Apoc games definitely made me want to take part in one.(less)
A very nice short story; I liked it better than "Cold Blood". It tells another side of the same conflict but I think it mostly worked for me because o...moreA very nice short story; I liked it better than "Cold Blood". It tells another side of the same conflict but I think it mostly worked for me because of the character of Drax who is really cool. I hope David brings him back for more adventures.
A minor nitpick that bugged me is the fact that Drax can exist in the first place. Having read the "Imperial Infantryman's Handbook", you'd think they'd have shot him by now. It seems unlikely that the IG would even bother with solitary after what he did.(less)
**spoiler alert** Not a bad story. Well executed, although I didn't understand the choice of pitting the Chaos Space Marines against Necrons. Maybe "C...more**spoiler alert** Not a bad story. Well executed, although I didn't understand the choice of pitting the Chaos Space Marines against Necrons. Maybe "Cold Steel" will make it clearer. I might also be coloured somewhat by my dislike of the Lord of Skulls model.(less)
A great little novella for what it is. Definitely worth picking up. It has totally made me determined to pick up Haley's novel "Baneblade" too, which...moreA great little novella for what it is. Definitely worth picking up. It has totally made me determined to pick up Haley's novel "Baneblade" too, which this is a sequel to.
I noticed a tiny problem at the end: I don't think Marines of the Deathwatch wear the helmets of their individual chapters. Other than that little detail, the story was perfectly executed. Very well done!(less)