Yet another installment in the saga of the Horus Heresy, one of the key story elements to Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. Like most of the...moreYet another installment in the saga of the Horus Heresy, one of the key story elements to Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. Like most of the works set in the grim darkness of the far future this is a tale of gothic action (if such a thing exists, if not I just coined it), focussing primarily on conflict of the physical sort, and like most of the material being published by the Black Library I have learned to expect entertaining but not particularly ground-breaking literature. No one can ever accuse the Black Library authors of inducing boredom, at least in me, but no one can compliment them as titans of literature either.
The book is set on several worlds simultaneously, and as one of them is Earth (or Holy Terra as it is known to it's 41st millennium inhabitants), it is interesting to see how the author distorts familiar places, both in terms of their appearance and in what they are called. Most of the references are easily interpreted, but if anyone can tell me who the warriors of Nihon might be (they are notable for not sheathing their weapons until they have drawn blood from an enemy) I would be grateful. The other worlds are brought to life not so much by detailed descriptions of their landscapes and biospheres, although there are a few of those to be had in the course of the story, as by the lack of wonder exhibited by the characters walking around on them for the fact that they live on an alien world. A great deal is left unsaid, of course, as these planets are not single-environment places like so many sci-fi worlds and the characters tend to be clustered in significant locations rather than being spread out over the entirety of the planets involved. Nevertheless the settings are as well unfolded as they need to be, without pages and pages being devoted to descriptions.
Similarly the characters are not flat, but they are fleshed only exactly as far as they need to be in order to justify the action taking place. In some ways this is quite natural as most of the protagonists are either indoctrinated or outright mind-altered (by techniques that are hinted to be more than a little nasty) subjects of a totalitarian regime, and so not really very prone to massive character development or deep philosophical thought, but on the whole characters seem to lurch from one crisis point to another in the story with little time devoted to their backstories and that left me rather unsatisfied. The author had a golden opportunity to offer insight into the workings of some of the murkiest organisations in existence in the 40k universe and to delve into his characters' back-stories and he just let it sail right past him.
Probably the biggest positive of the book is the writing style. Swallow is clearly not squeamish about painting a gruesome picture when the occasion calls for it, and it frequently calls for it. He also makes battle and combat scenes leap right off the page and into your head, which is pretty much a requirement for any 40k author. His attention to detail is, when he wants it to be, exceptional and there are quite a few little easter eggs for the discerning in the pages of this book.
All in all I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to anyone who has played in and enjoyed the 40k universe. However for those not yet familiar with Games Workshop and its huge universe, I recommend starting elsewhere, probably with a visit to your nearest store or, at a push, with the first installment of the Horus Heresy Series Horus Rising. Finally I must warn you that anyone with even a passing familiarity with the universe and the Horus Heresy storyline knows how the protagonists' overarching mission and the some of the secondary objectives they pick up along the way must turn out in the end, which can nullify the suspense factor somewhat, but that doesn't have to stop you from enjoying the rich action scenes and the extra insight into this most famous of all the 40k backstory elements.(less)
An intriguing start to what appears to be a planned series. This is the first time that I have encountered a sci-fi setting that is devoid of humanity...moreAn intriguing start to what appears to be a planned series. This is the first time that I have encountered a sci-fi setting that is devoid of humanity, and it is interesting to see robot protagonists that do not come off as just seeming like humans in metal shells. The effort that this must surely have taken on Ballantyne's part says to me that this world is a long term creation. In spite of the clear differences in aesthetics and sensibilities, the characters of this setting are still very well developed and for the most part easy to relate to once you get over the sometimes jarring differences in their lifestyle and values compared with contemporary Western morals.
I also found the setting to be engaging, the robot ecology is quite detailed, even when it starts to incorporate organic elements later on in the book. The history conveyed is also quite striking, and you are left with the belief, like the robots themselves, that it is quite plausible that this world occurred on its own rather than being constructed by some outside force short of a deity of some kind (and the robots even seem to have one of those too!).
Overall I loved this book just because it was very fresh to me, not at all like Asimov's robot novels, and not like any other sci-fi that I have read. The plot was engaging and the style of writing was a good match to the story being told with a (dare I say it) machine-like economy and precision of wording. I look forward to the next instalment of the Penrose series.(less)
A solid addition to this new arc of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Omen's major contribution to the Fate of the Jedi series is to introduce the Lost...moreA solid addition to this new arc of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Omen's major contribution to the Fate of the Jedi series is to introduce the Lost Tribe of the Sith, potentially the new main villains of the series. Otherwise it follows well in the footsteps of Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi: Outcast, advancing the established storylines apace. Goloden's work on Ben Skywalker as a character deserves a special mention because for the first time I actually cared about him rather than just caring about how his demise might affect his father so soon after losing his wife.
Otherwise, Golden's book is essentially more of the same swashbuckling derring-do that the Star Wars Universe is founded on. The heroes struggle with oppression by the Galactic Government, unexpected enemies in their midst and the quest to restore the Jedi to their full status as the Guardians of Peace and Justice throughout the galaxy. However like most Star Wars books in the Expanded Universe, I recommend this one for established fans only. Newcomers should at least watch the movies first, and probably read some of the other major story arcs of the Expanded Universe first (the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force cycles are pretty much a must, and the Thrawn and Jedi Academy Trilogies would probably be useful as well) so that they have a handle on the background of relationships and events that underpins this new chapter in the Star Wars universe.(less)
The next guided reading book for my class at school (I hope), the language and storyline are both rather simplistic from an adult point-of-view. The c...moreThe next guided reading book for my class at school (I hope), the language and storyline are both rather simplistic from an adult point-of-view. The characters are somewhat shallow in their development, but the bleak wonder of Mars is very nicely unfolded as part of the story. There is no question that this is a book directed at young children.
However at the heart of the book lie some very adult questions and issues, such as the comparative value of life and the tension between a belief in science and a belief in God. While the format is unusual in its simplicity, it may be worth adult readers taking the time to read this book as these issues are interesting and thought-provoking enough that no input into them is a waste of time.(less)
Another excellent addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe by one of its most veteran authors. The story sheds more light on one of the many legend...moreAnother excellent addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe by one of its most veteran authors. The story sheds more light on one of the many legendary endeavours of the Galactic Republic, an exploratory mission to seek out life in another galaxy. Long-time fans will of course already know what fate lies in store for the Outbound Flight, but even so Zahn crafts an entertaining plot with plenty of suspense to it, and if you look very carefully, and you know enough about the Star Wars universe, then your opinion of Emperor Palpatine may just get a little better. There are also plenty of connections and in-jokes for hard-bitten Star Wars fans to enjoy, like a certain blue-skinned future Grand-Admiral, a missing Jedi whose name should be familiar and the way Darth Sidious rags on Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to one of the Chancellor's aides.
Zahn's style is one particularly well-suited to the Star Wars universe (probably one of the reasons he keeps coming back to it), his action scenes are well crafted, but never overloaded with details. He develops his characters within the flow of the story rather than alongside it, and his scenery descriptions are as picturesque as they should be, and not one word more so. All in all it makes for an entertaining read. However it is probably not the best place to start if you have never read the Expanded Universe before, mainly because of the references and in-jokes I mentioned above. I advise reading elsewhere first, especially the Thrawn trilogy and the New Jedi Order cycle, you'll get more out of this book with those under your belt.(less)
A close match to the movie, so if you've seen it you will already have some idea of whether or not you will like this book. David stays close to the e...moreA close match to the movie, so if you've seen it you will already have some idea of whether or not you will like this book. David stays close to the events of the movie, but really goes to town on expanding things by way of the characters' thoughts. Reading this will give you a whole new understanding of the motivations behind the action and new insight into these excellent characters. Not being a fan of the comics, I can't say whether David's interpretation of the characters is in line with them, but he does make them very human with desires, fears, moments of selfishness and other things that make them much more real.(less)