Monday, December 21, 2009

Death Troopers

Joe Schreiber has been allowed to play in the Star Wars Universe and has written the first Star Wars horror novel. It's good to see the Star Wars brand moving in new directions and showing that there is a lot more to the brand than pure Space Opera.
The story begins with a prison barge that has broken down in a remote section of space but finds itself near a derelict Star Destroyer. A small party crosses over to salvage parts for the prison barge and find the Star Destroyer has been abandoned. Only half the party return and they quickly take sick with a mysterious disease which spreads like wildfire throughout the prison barge. Soon only a handful of survivors are left and they must band together to save themselves. But then the dead start to rise ... and they're hungry.

I enjoyed reading this novel. The tone is set by the great cover artwork, and Schreiber seems to be having fun playing in the Star Wars Sandbox. An efficient horror novel that also fits well into the Star Wars Universe.


It's 2010, Elizabeth XXX is on the throne and Sir Rupert Triumff has returned from his journey in which he discovered Australia. But his return drops him in the middle of a conspiracy that threatens the throne. It's up to Triumff to save the day.
Dan Abnett's Alternative history is a fun romp. Based on the premise that Elizabeth I married Phillip II to create a world spanning empire that ran on 'magick' and alchemy. Because of the presence of magic technology has stalled and even though it is 2010 it is the Elizabethan times technology wise.

The book is a fun read full of gags and characters buckling their swash. There is daring-do and dastardly plots with back-stabbing galore. Abnett has a lot of fun with this setting and that makes it a joy to read. I look forward to visiting this world again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kell's Legend

Now that David Gemmell has past away I need to go elsewhere to get my fix of hard-hitting, action-packed fantasy. Having just finished reading Andy Remic's Kell's Legend my search is over. Remic is quite clear that Gemmell is a huge influence on his writing and it shows.
Remic's hero Kell is an aging warrior who is forced by circumstances to pick up his axe (yes an axe in involved), and fight the invaders. The parallels between Kell and Druss are numerous. Both are aging axemen who carry a famous axe, both a grizzled veterans with surly temperaments and bear-like physiques.

But despite all this I did enjoy Kell's Legend. (It goes without saying I like Gemmell's work as well.) It's bloody and the fights are epic, and I don't mind the hero as crotchety killing machine. While Remic isn't Gemmell this book will fill any Gemmell shaped hole in a fantasy fans life. A fun, fast-paced, action-packed read. Enjoy.

Pro Ball

The FreeDarko site is a place to find excellent writing about the NBA. A site that believes that basketball is important, and that it can be written about with wit and intelligence. As they set out in their book The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac they also have a manifesto which states amongst other things, "The Citizens who support it (the NBA) affirm their right to be entertained and diverted by the league, no matter what the month" and "we ask: Is there no such thing as a beautiful Loss? A noble Faliure? A compelling Train Wreck? ... We assert our right to be amused by non-Champions."
The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac extols this manifesto as it looks at the styles, stats and stars in today's NBA. Consisting of short biographies of NBA stars each entry is written with a keen eye for the game as well as a sense of fun that energises the whole book. The almanac also contains great artwork that fits seamlessly with the text.

Fans of the NBA will get a kick out of this book. It's a book written by fans for fans and it is clear that the writers care about their subjects. Here's hoping they produce many more books like this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The battle of Gettysburg is one of the decisive battles of the American Civil War. The Confederate forces led by General Lee had marched into Union territory and were threatening Baltimore and Pennsylvania. They would be brought to battle by the Army of the Potomac led by General Meade at a small town called Gettysburg.
Stephen Sears’ book Gettysburg is a detailed look at this important battle and the events leading up to it and after it. Sears describes the three days of hard fighting that took place and the mistakes made by both sides in the heat of battle. The one thing that stands out after reading this account is the amount of times important decisions had to be made with no were near complete information. Many times both sides had no real idea were the enemy forces were located, or if they were fighting how much of the enemy was engaged. The overall impression is of a group of people playing Marco Polo as they stumble around in the dark, and if they collide a battle starts.
Gettysburg is an absorbing read, Sears’ attention to detail comes through in the narrative and I found myself not wanting to put this book down. I feel I know a lot more about this important and bloody battle.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Great Patriotic War

The Soviet Union's war with Nazi Germany is probably the most brutal and costly war the world has seen. Both sides committed vicious acts in order to win in a war were surrender was not an option. Chris Bellamy chronicles this struggle in Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War. With access to the Soviet archives that were opened after the collapse of the USSR, Bellamy is able to bring new light onto this conflict. This is also more than just a military history, it is also a social and political history. Bellamy covers topics as diverse as why the Soviet Union didn't collapse economically in 1942, the role of women in the USSR army, atomic bomb research and diplomatic battles with Great Britain.
It's good to read such a comprehensive study of the country that suffered the longest and did the most to win the Second World War. Bellamy has an easy reading style and this makes this interesting book fly by. Well worth reading.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs

Chuck Klosterman is a man with his finger on the pulse of Pop Culture. He shows this in his collection of essays Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto. This collection shows how he is able to write intelligently on just about anything that takes his fancy, especially if it relates to his understanding of culture, which is pretty much everything.
In this book you will read essays on Billy Joel, Luke Skywalker as a Gen Xer, Soccer, a Guns 'n' Roses tribute band, TV programs, The Sims, Pamela Anderson and many other things. All the essays are written in Klosterman's witty style, and his intelligence leaps of the page. What is also amazing is his depth of Pop Culture knowledge and his ability to link it to all aspects of his life.

This collection is well worth reading. Klosterman can make you laugh, and he can make you think and sometimes both at the same time. But best of all Klosterman can entertain, and that is the best attribute an essayist can have.


Ah, the sweet lure of loot. More and more loot. I'm addicted to the need to get another item. Whatever will the game give me next. Will this revolver fire bullets that electrocute my enemies, or will this rifle fire rockets. The possibilities are endless.
Welcome to the game Borderlands, which takes place on the planet of Pandora (a real box of tricks it is to.) Drawn to the planet, like many before you, by rumours of a mysterious 'vault' that grants untold power you discover that the planet is a haven for bandits and deadly wildlife. You quickly begin to fight for your life and progress through this strange world. Killing enemies, or finding loot caches, gives you access to guns and this is one of the games highlights. The random generator means that there are literally thousands of combinations of weapons to discover. From pistols to shotguns and all the way up to rocket launchers.

Gameplay is standard FPS with a RPG engine running underneath it. The story and characters are fun in a wild-west-in-space kind of way. It's a little stereotypical but in the end they're just window dressing and the gameplay's the thing.

The cell-shaded look is also a highlight. Brought about by the artists working on the game getting sick of the generic look it originally had and leading a revolt. Well done, it looks so much better know and the looks suits the gameplay as well.

Overall this is a fun package with many hours of grinding to get through. But enough from me I've got some loot to find.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unseen Academicals

I've enjoyed Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for a long time now. I enjoy Pratchett's sense of humour, his characters are fun, the little asides in the footnotes and the banter. Pratchett's latest novel Unseen Academicals doesn't change this formula and that is a good thing. Picking up a Pratchett Discworld novel is like slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes.
In Unseen Academicals Pratchett looks at foot-the-ball in Ankh-Morpork and its effects on the citizens of the great city. When Patrician Vetinari (personally my favourite character in the Discworld series) decides to allow foot-the-ball he wants the wizards of Unseen University to clean the game up. Through circumstances beyond their control, the wizards also find that they have to put a team together as well. Throw in a dwarf fashion show, Glenda and her pies, the beautiful Juliet, a boy who can kick a tin can like nobodies business and the mysterious Mr Nutt.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Greece and Rome at War

I first discovered Peter Connolly as a child. I loved reading about Greek and Roman history, and here were a series of books that talked about their military history. Also the books had amazing artwork by the author that really brought the text to life. Re-reading the books now in the one volume collected edition I find that they are just as good as I remember.
Greece and Rome at War is by Peter Connolly a respected historian who also happens to be an amazing illustrator, and this second talent is what really sells the book. The book begins with the Greek army and talks about hoplites and phalanxs and how Greek military tactics developed. Next is the Roman Republic and its wars with the Carthaginians led famously in the Second Punic War by Hannibal. Finally Connolly discusses the Roman Empire and the role of the legionary. Accompanying these histories are the authors paintings of armour, weapons and maps of battles as well as paintings of various soldiers in their battle gear.
Overall this is a great read. You can marvel at the artwork while learning a lot about the armies of the various time periods described. This book also makes a great reference tool for wargamers trying to get a feel foe the period, or looking for ideas on how to paint their models.
Here's an example of a painting by Connolly showing Greek Hoplites in battle.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Graphic Novels I've Enjoyed Recently

Here are a bunch of graphic novels I've recently read and enjoyed.
  • Absolute Superman for Tomorrow. Writer - Brian Azzarello. Artist - Jim Lee. The Absolute format is great for showcasing reprints and this story about Superman's inner search for meaning is a great read.
  • Punisher War Zone: The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci. Writer - Garth Ennis. Artist - Steve Dillon. Ennis is the perfect Punisher writer with a story that's full of black humour and violence.
  • Wolverine: SNIKT! Writer/Artist - Tsutomu Nihei. Wolverine travels into the future to do what he does best.
  • John Constantine Hellblazer: Hard Time. Writer - Brian Azzarello. Artist - Richard Corben. Constantine is in a maximum-security prison and you just know it will end badly for everyone except him.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Collection Book 2. Writer - Mark Millar. Artist - Various. The young team find out some dark secrets about Professor Xavier as they struggle with fulfilling his vision.
  • Spider-Man/Wolverine. Writer - Brett Matthews. Artist - Vatche Maulian. S.H.I.E.L.D. hire out two heroes to track down rogue agents, which takes them around the world.
  • Lobster Johnson and the iron Prometheus. Writer - Mike Mignola. Artist - Jason Armstrong. Pure pulp fun with Nazis, mad scientists, weird creations and furious action.
  • John Constantine Hellblazer: Good Intentions. Writer - Brian Azzarello. Artist - Marcelo Frusin. Constantine goes to Doglick, West Virginia and finds himself up to his neck in all sorts of trouble.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear

If you're looking for a truly fun read, that will have you laughing out loud and reveling in the sheer chaotic craziness of it all then The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers is for you.
Bluebears have 27 lives and this novel deals with Captain Bluebear's first 13 1/2. Afterall a bear must have his secrets, "they make him seem attractive and mysterious." In this wonderfully told adventure you will also meet the Minipirates, the headless Bollogg, the Bolloggless head, the Rickshaw Demons, the Cogitating Quicksand, Diabolic Elves, Time Snails and the smell of Genff.

This book is just fun on a stick. It is so well written that the reader flies through the chapters with a smile on their face, chuckling at the many adventures that Captain Bluebear manages to have. If you start reading this, you will want to keep going until the end, and it won't disappoint.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Quick Reviews

Some more quick reviews of books I've enjoyed recently.
  • The Dwarves by Markus Heitz. What does it mean to be a dwarf when you have never seen your own kind. Tunydil is about to find out as he attempts to save the world.
  • The Civil War. Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote. The first volume in an epic and gripping retelling of the American Civil War.
  • Wasteland of Flint by Thomas Harlan. The galaxy spanning Mexica Empire keeps discovering ruins from an ancient civilisation and sends Dr. Gretchen Anderson to find out more. Superior science-fiction.
  • The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling. In the near future environmental catastrophe has led to the collapse of nearly all nation states. Instead spheres of influence fight for control. As always a thought provoking read.
  • All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. An action packed novel that doesn't let up. For people who enjoy their science-fiction at full throttle.
  • Wireless by Charles Stross. A collection of short stories by one of science-fictions shining lights. A great read.
  • The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss. A very readable and engaging look at the gladiator revolt led by Spartacus.
  • Ravenor. The Omnibus by Dan Abnett. Join Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor as he battles the enemies of the Imperium. Balls-to-the-wall fun.

Le Tour

The Tour de France is a great sporting event, but it has had its fair share of cheating, cruelty, tragic deaths and sheer bad luck. Matt Rendell has done a great job of recording this in Blazing Saddles. The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France. The book basically follows every Tour from 1903 until 2007 and gives a brief summary of what happened. It particularly focuses on the things that set this race apart in terms of the unusual and cruel.
The early years of the race were like the wild west riders would travel on cars and trains to get an advantage, nails would be left across the road, mobs of supporters would block the road and beat up or stone competitors that were beating their favourite rider. One rider even organised a line of beer bottles to be set up on a wall on the side of the road on a long and hot stage, and when his competitors stopped to have a drink he rode on by. Now days drugs are the main form of cheating that goes on.

Overall a good little read that fans of the Tour will enjoy as it highlights some of the events that make it so unique.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Have you ever wanted to be Batman? Well here's your chance. This amazing game which I'm playing on PS3 puts you in the shoes (or utility belt and cape) of Batman as he battles with the Joker and his minions who have taken over Arkham Asylum. Along the way you also bump into members of Batman's Rogues Gallery like Bane, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and the Scarecrow. You also get the chance to solve riddles posed by the Riddler as you enter a new area.This game captures perfectly the stealth aspect of Batman as well as his fighting ability and his funky gadgets ie Batarangs, explosives, and Batclaw. Now don't worry, this isn't the movie Batman (with Christian Bale's ridiculous Batman voice), this game is firmly set in the world of the comics. Fans will find lots to like about this game and should have hours of fun capturing the Joker and his goons, before they even start on the challenge rooms.
Special comment must be made of Mark Hamill's great work as the voice of the Joker, a role he played on the animated series of Batman. Overall, a must play.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quick Reviews

Here are I bunch of books I've read recently but am to tired to review properly, instead I'll just write up some one line reviews instead.

  • The Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry. An engaging and very readable spy novel told as a collection of intelligence reports, surveillance notes, wire taps and transcripts.
  • The City and the City by China Mieville is an amazing detective novel that defies description. Read it and judge for yourself.
  • Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is a great story of revenge told by one of the modern masters of the fantasy genre.
  • The Affinity Bridge by George Mann is a wonderful steampunk detective novel that is a lot of fun to read.
  • Up a Tree in the Park at Night With a Hedgehog by P Robert Smith is a brilliant debut novel that will make you laugh out loud.
  • Old Boys by Charles McCarry. When Paul Christopher's supposed ashes are handed to the American consulate in Beijing some of his friends are suspicious and they decide to find out where he is. Another great spy novel from a master storyteller.
  • The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt. Third volume in a great steampunk adventure series.
  • The Jackal of Nar by John Marco is the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy. The story covers war, politics, love and loyalty.
  • Emperor's Mercy by Henry Zou. Chaos forces have invaded the Medina Corridor and it is up to Inquisitor Obodiah Roth to find out why. A fun read.

Game Boys

Michael Kane has written an interesting book about competitive videogaming, more specifically about the clans that play Counter-Strike in the USA. Game Boys: Triumph, Heartbreak and the Quest for Cash in the Battleground of Competitive Videogaming looks at the bitter rivalry between two of the top US clans 3D and CompLexity as they battle it out to be the top clan. 3D are the reigning champs at the time this book was written, the team with sponsorship and salaries, CompLexity are funded straight out of their managers pocket and need to keep win to maybe get some sponsorship.
It is a cut throat world where dirty tricks aren't unheard of and accusations of cheating are rife. Professional Counter-Strike players only have a relatively short time at the top, like all sportspeople, so they need to make the most of their talents, which can lead to all sorts of anxiety and stress.

A very well written book, Kane doesn't patronise his subjects, nor does he dismiss what they are doing as simply wasting time. By taking them seriously, Kane is able to show the many sides of the members of 3D and CompLexity as well as the other clans he talks to. Overall an intersting read. For more information visit the GotFrag eSports homepage.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tales of Heresy

Tales of Heresy is a collection of short stories set during the Horus Heresy.

  • Blood Games by Dan Abnett takes place on Terra and involves the Custodes as they guard the Emperor's Palace, and Terra, against traitors.

  • Wolf at the Door by Mike Lee deals with the Space Wolves 13th Company as they liberate the Lammas subsector.

  • Scions of the Storm by Anthony Reynolds is about the Word Bearers Space Marines.

  • The Voice by James Swallow concerns the mysterious Sisters of Silence.

  • Call of the Lion by Gav Thorpe loos at the Dark Angels as they explore system DX-619.

  • The Last Church by Graham McNeill tells the story of the Church of the Lightning Stone and it's last priest Uriah Olathaine.

  • After Desh'ea by Matthew Farrer looks at Kharn of the World Eaters Space Marines.

This is a great collection of stories that further expands events taking place during the Horus Heresy. Well worth reading, especially if you have read any of the other Horus Heresy books.

Here is Grasping the Winds famous SF/F/H Reviewer Linkup Meme 2nd Edition.

All the blogs below review SF, Fantasy and Horror. Click away.


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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.' And so it begins. Seth Grahame-Smith has decided to embellish Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with zombies and turn the novel into a roller coaster thrill ride where anything goes.
Elizabeth Bennet is a young woman being trained in the martial arts by her father to help fight back against the hoards of undead roaming the countryside. When a handsome, but arrogant, Mr Darcy arrives Elizabeth finds herself distracted as the two spar on the dance floor and on the battlefield. Add to this mix ninjas, romance, comedy, sword fights and zombies and it's a winning formula.

I had lots of fun reading this novel, sure it is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it is still an enjoyable read all the same. This book may not be for everyone, but Austen fans with a sense of humour as well as zombie fans should enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colours in the Steel

K J Parker is an amazing writer who has a great ability to construct a believable world for her characters to inhabit. Parker writes with a style and humour that makes reading her a joy.
Colours in the Steel is the first volume in Parker's Fencer trilogy which follows fencer-at-law Bardas Loredan. In Perimadeia, the centre of the known world, legal disputes are settled by duels between professional fencers. Loredan, a former soldier, has been doing this for a while now and is starting to grow tired of his life. He dreams of retiring and opening a fencing school, but events intrude upon his dream as Perimadeia finds itself under siege from the vast hordes that live on the plains.

As I said before Parker writes with such a flowing style that you just want to devour her books in one sitting. The world she has created sucks you in. I can't wait to read the rest of this series.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tales From the Dark Millennium

Tales From the Dark Millennium is a collection of short stories inspired by the short lived Warhammer 40,000 collectible card game. Set in the Pyrus Reach Sector which is under attack by Chaos, Ork and Eldar forces, it is up to humanity to stem the tide.

              • The Fall of Marakross by Steve Parker sees Dark Angel space Marines helping defend the city of Scala from a Chaos cult, but the Dark Angel's have their own secret reasons for helping.

              • Vindicare by C S Goto involves a Vindicare Assassin as she patiently waits to kill an Eldar leader on the planet of Orphean Trine.

              • The Prisoner by Graham McNeill deals with a visit to the prison on Orina Septimus by Inquisitor Lord Syphax Osorkon who has come with some Grey Knights to see a very dangerous prisoner.

              • The Invitation by Dan Abnett is about Cannonness Olga Karamanz and her Sister's of Battle and Catcher of Men Lowen Tegget as they hunt the same renegade.

              • A Balance of Faith by Darren-Jon Ashmore is about Sister Hospitaller Verinas' fight with the forces of Chaos.

              • Gate of Souls by Mike Lee sees Inquisitor Alabel Santos fight Chaos on the planet of Dirge.

              • Fates Masters, Destiny's Servants by Matt Keefe follows the Ultramarines on Elysium.

              • Tears of Blood by C S Goto deals with Eldar in the Tyrine System.

              A good collection to dip into, it is also small enough to read in one sitting.

              Tuesday, August 11, 2009

              Cruel and Unusual

              Daredevil is one of my favourite superheroes, but I'm glad I don't live his life. Writers seem to spend their time thinking up new ways to put him through the emotional wringer. Ed Brubaker is no different in this regard as he finds more ways to torture Matt Murdoch in Daredevil: Cruel and Unusual.
              After Murdoch's wife Milla is put into hospital Murdoch spirals into a world of pain and misery and takes to the streets as Daredevil to beat up on crooks in Hell's Kitchen. An old friend drags Murdoch back to reality by presenting him with a case that sparks his interest. A known criminal has pleaded guilty to a crime he didn't commit and is hiding something. As Murdoch and his friends dig deeper it becomes clear that there are organisations involved that do not want the truth to come out including the CIA, FBI, and a former Mob boss. Murdoch uncovers the truth, but not before another friend is hospitalised because of his actions.

              Brubaker is a great writer of Daredevil and really gets the character and his supporting cast. I just wish he could have some fun now and again.

              Final Crisis

              WOW! Just WOW! I was always going to wait and read DC's Final Crisis when it was released as a graphic novel collected edition and now that I have I'm glad I did because it was a wild ride.
              Grant Morrison always writes big. Everything he does has multiple layers and needs to be read more than once to get the full effect, and Final Crisis is no different. As the heroes of the multiverse fight to save their existence a plot is revealed that could change everything. As the blurb says: "Men of steel, and women of wonder, dark knights and lantern lights, those who ride the lightning and those who call it down - none of them can escape the shadow of the dark side - as it reaches out to extinguish the human flame forever. A hell without exit. A death that is life. An end to all stories. A Final Crisis." I can see that when this finished things in the DC universe would be different as a major hero dies, lives are changed and Superman proves why he is the ultimate superhero.

              What a read, it was like having me head filled with amazing ideas and watching scenes rush past at the speed of light. I need to read this again just to take it all in. Morrison has hit it out of the park, WOW!

              Monday, August 3, 2009

              6th June

              Antony Beevor has written a very readable account of the D-Day landings and the bloody battle for Normandy in his latest book D-Day. You might think that another book about WWII is redundant but Beevor has done a good job of making the material and sources seem fresh as he delves into the experiences of the soldiers and commanders on both sides.
              Beevor starts by looking at the planning behind the invasion and the build up of forces before the big day. We are then shown how tough the landings were especially on the American side. The expansion of the beachhead and the gradual advance into the bocage make up the bulk of the narrative as Beevor gives us an insight into the tough and brutal fighting that developed. Beevor also looks at the tensions between commanders on both sides.
              I like reading military history and have read I don't know how many books on the battle for Normandy, but I still enjoyed this new book. One for history fans and WWII buffs, or people looking for a very readable introduction to D-Day and what went on after it.

              The Flight of the Eisenstein

              Captain Nathanial Garro is a loyal follower of the Emperor and leader of the 7th Company of the Death Guard Space Marines. When Warmaster Horus' treachery is revealed on Istvaan III, Garro takes control of a ship called the Eisenstein and sets of to warn the Emperor about what he has witnessed.
              James Swallow tells this story with gusto in The Flight of the Eisenstein, which introduces us to Garro and shows us aspects of his character that lead him to wanting to warn the Emperor about the treachery of Horus, and the threat that Horus is to the Imperium. While the Eisenstein is fleeing from orbit around Istvaan III it is fired on and sustains dangerous amounts of damage, despite this it jumps into the warp where the Chaos Gods begin to play with the ship. Garro and his men must survive if they are going to warn the Emperor, but the longer they stay in the warp the less likely it is that they will be able to.
              Swallow does a good job of raising the tension and putting Garro through the wringer. If Garro succeeds maybe the Imperium can defeat Horus, but if the Eisenstein is lost in the warp Horus will most likely win. A good entry in the Horus Heresy series that focuses on the Space Marines themselves rather than the Primarchs for a change.

              Wednesday, July 29, 2009

              Black Magic Woman

              I like a good supernatural thriller so I'm very glad that I decided to pick up Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis, which deals with investigator Quincey Morris and white witch Libby Chastain.
              Morris is called in to help protect a family from a curse that goes back to the Salem Witch Trials and enlists the help of Chastain. Their quest takes them across America all the while the target of a powerful black witch.
              Gustainis has a great writing style that skillfully mixes fictional characters with his 'real' world. Quincey Morris for example, is the great grandson of the Quincey Morris who helps Van Helsing defeat Dracula, and other characters from fiction are woven into the narrative.

              The story has it all with black magic, white magic, voodoo, Zulu magic, demons and succubi. It is also quite brutal, characters die and not in a pretty way either, usually it is quite violent which adds to the gritty nature of the story. An impressive book and I look forward to reading more about this duo.


              Scandinavian crime novels are almost a subgenre all their own. Every year more and more novelists are being translated into English so that we can enjoy these wonderful stories.
              I have just finished Nemesis by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo and starring Detective Harry Hole. Hole is your typical fictional detective, he smokes, is a loner at work, has troubled relationships, is a recovering alcoholic, is a little overweight, and tries to understand the meaning behind evil and why it is committed.
              In this novel (number four in the series but the third one translated) Harry is brought in to help a bank robbery investigation where the robber kills the cashier. While this investigation is ongoing an old flame of Harry's arrives in town and they catch up. The next day she is found dead and Harry begins to receive threatening emails. Someone is trying to frame him, and while Harry tries o clear his name the bank robberies continue.

              Nesbo has written a great thriller that is full of twists and red herrings. Harry is a great character and the reader wants him to succeed, if only because it will annoy certain people on the police force. Overall an amazing read and I'll look forward to reading more of Nesbo's novels.

              Tuesday, July 28, 2009

              Galaxy in Flames

              Horus' treachery is now fully revealed in Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter, as Horus' plan is put into action on Istvaan III. Horus has decided that the Space Marines who will not follow him will be killed in the front line in the invasion of Istvaan III, so that he will then be free to turn on the Emperor and attack Terra.
              Again Loken is one of the main characters as we see him struggling to be true to the Emperor as seemingly all around him plot treason at every turn. Loken is sent to the surface of Istvaan III with the other loyal Space Marines and fights the bloody war against the Istvaanians in their capital city.

              Other loyal Space Marines are also trying to foil the plans of the Warmaster in their own little way against the large forces turned against them. Also the Cult of the Emperor has grown with the addition of a Saint and an Apostle.

              Counter has produced a fast paced read that has to bring together a lot of the threads from the previous two novels. Overall a great read.


              Heroes of the Space Marines is a collection of short stories dealing with ... you guessed it, Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines.
              • The Skull Harvest by Graham McNeill shows how to raise a Chaos raiding party.

              • Gauntlet Run by Chris Roberson is about Imperial Fist Space Marines vs Orks.

              • Renegades by Gav Thorpe tells how the third company of the Avenging Sons Chapter became traitors.

              • Honour Among Friends by Dylan Owen looks at Black Legion Marine Scaevolla and his endless quest to kill Imperial Fist Marines.

              • Fires of War by Nick Kyme follows the Salamanders as they try and cleanse the city of Cirrion of Chaos cultists.

              • The Labyrinth by Richard Ford tells of the Sons of Malice.

              • Headhunted by Steve Parker is about the Deathwatch as they cleanse an Ork ship.

              • And They Shall Know No Fear ... by Darren Cox deals with Black Templars and their crusade against a Chaos cult.

              • Nightfall by Peter Feheruari is about Chaos Marines.

              • One Hate by Aaron Dembski-Bowden deals with the Crimson Fists as they help the Imperial Guard retake the world of Syral from the Orks, or so it seems.

              Overall a great collection to dip into and read bit by bit.

              Tuesday, July 7, 2009


              My favourite urban fantasy series is easily Simon R Green's Nightside series starring John Taylor. Luckily for me then that he has released the latest one called Just Another Judgement Day.
              John Taylor finds himself called in by the new rulers of Nightside who want him to tackle the latest threat they are facing, the Walking Man. The Walking Man is a creation of God, a mortal who has sworn vengeance on all evil things in revenge for a tragedy they suffered and is granted certain powers in return. These powers include invulnerability, the power to open any locked door by touching it and unerring aim with the pistols he carries. It is up to Taylor to work out how he can stop this literal killing machine from wiping out the Nightside.
              I enjoy Green's take on noir writing but I did have one small problem with this novel. The Walking Man is too similar to The Saint of Killers from the Preacher comics. Same look, same MO, even a similar background, though I suppose it is probably true that they are based on the same cliches from westerns and popular culture and therefore they are similar. This wasn't enough to stop me from enjoying the roller-coaster Green takes Taylor on though, as Taylor finds himself facing a seemingly impossible task. I can't wait for the next one.


              Harriet Harvey Wood has written an interesting and informative book which deals with the lead up to and aftermath of the battle of Hastings in The Battle of Hastings. The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England. Wood documents the events which led to William invading England, and why he won the eventual battle.
              This was a complex time period in English history with multiple claims to the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor, with William and Harold just two of many who believed they had good reason to be crowned king. It must be remembered that at this time England was quite a prize with an established legal system and untold wealth.

              Woods writing style is very engaging as she examines different sources and weaves them into an interesting narrative. History buffs should get a kick out of this book, as would anyone hoping to find out more about this important part of English history.

              Monday, July 6, 2009

              The Road to Chaos ...

              The Soul Drinker Space Marines are loyal to the Emperor who they have served for thousands of years helping to push back the darkness that threatens to engulf the Imperium. While trying to recover an artifact called the Soulspear which is sacred to them, the Soul Drinkers watch it get stolen from under their noses by the Mechanicum who want it so they can study and reverse engineer it. The Soul Drinkers obsession drives them to attack their allies in an effort to retrieve the Soulspear, but they cannot and are forced to flee into the warp.
              The Soul Drinkers soon find themselves declared Excommunicate Traitors and all the forces of the Imperium are turned against them. Meanwhile inside the Chapter the Space Marines themselves are changing and showing signs of mutation, and have begun to worship the Architect who they see as the Emperor without the corruption of the Imperium. But things are not as they seem and it is revealed that the God they are worshiping is very different to the one they believe they are following.

              Ben Counter's series about these Space Marines who aren't part of the Imperium but refuse to follow the Chaos Gods begins in Soul Drinker and continues with the Chapter trying to regain their lost honour and be welcomed back into the Imperium. I'm interested to see where Counter goes with this series in the future.

              Friday, July 3, 2009

              On the box

              Watching television for a job would be fun for a little while, but the sheer monotony would eventually get to me. Being a critic for the paper would be a reason to keep watching a little longer, but even then boredom would win out. Despite my problems with this job, A. A. Gill has collected together some of his best writing about television in Paper View: The Best of the Sunday Times Television Columns.
              In this book Gill applies his blowtorch wit to such topics as costume dramas, sport, cop shows, soap operas, the news and quiz shows. All the time arguing that what is on television is important and should be treated as such, rather than a vehicle to sell ad breaks. Gill is quick ti identify things he doesn't like, and even quicker to take them down a peg or two. Nothing is safe from his gaze, not even nostalgia which also comes in for a kicking.

              Overall this book is a fun read, even if Gill has an unnatural love for the word soporific. I enjoyed dipping in and out of this collection, and had a ball as Gill tore strips of some poor bugger, or sinks the boot into another crap program.

              Wednesday, June 24, 2009

              Collected Visions

              The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions by Alan Merrett is a fabulous book that tells the story of the Horus Heresy as well as showing off heaps of amazing artwork. This book is a collection of the art used in the Sabertooth Games collectible card game called Horus Heresy. Merrett was one of the key figures in developing the original timeline for the Heresy for Games Workshop, and here gets to flesh out these events which are now being fleshed out by the Black Library series of novels.
              The real star of this book though is the artwork, amazing pictures from artists like Adrian Smith, Wayne England, David Gallagher and many more fill this book. Pictures of space Marines fighting, the Primarchs, and massive tanks are a joy to look at, especially for fans of Warhammer 40k. The book also contains concept art from the very talented John Blanche.
              Fans of Warhammer 40k will find masses of background material here, with enough inspiration for hundreds of models, as well as finding out more about the Horus Heresy. Fans of good science-fiction art will also finds lots to enjoy in this book. Now if only I had the time and skill to paint and convert some models for my Warhammer 40k games ...
              Below is an example page and some John Blanche concept art:

              Monday, June 22, 2009

              Scott Pilgrim

              I discovered Scott Pilgrim only recently, but I'm very glad I did. Dripping with pop culture references this graphic novel is influenced by any number of things. visually it owes a lot to manga, it is structured like the video games Scott is always playing, and there is also an undercurrent of music running through the series.
              Bryan Lee O'Malley's series tells the story of Scott Pilgrim. Scott is dating Ramona Flowers, but before he can become her boyfriend he has to defeat in combat Ramona's 7 evil ex-boyfriends. This leads to lots of hilarity as Scott battles for his life through fight after fight. Like a computer game each of the evil ex-boyfriends is a level boss and each has a special power and when defeated confer a bonus on to Scott. For example, Todd Ingram has vegan psychic powers, but when Scott beats him Scott gets an extra life. Added to all this Scott's old girlfriends start turning up to complicate things further.

              I had a lot of fun reading this series and am looking forward to reading more. Look for the first volume called Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

              Friday, June 19, 2009

              Warrior Monks

              The Grey Knights are the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus. Unknown to most members of the Imperium, the Grey Knights are the front line when it comes to fighting daemonic incursions. shielded in their armour and protected by wards and a hard core of faith in the Emperor, the Grey Knights use their storm-bolters and Nemesis weapons to send the forces of Chaos back into the warp.
              Grey Knights by Ben Counter shows the effort these warriors will go to while trying to foil the plans of the demon Ghargatuloth. Following a trail that leads to the planets in the Trail of St Evisser they find a myriad of forces arrayed against them. The Grey Knights soon find themselves fighting for the very survival of the universe.

              Counter's fast paced writing style pushes the story along, without pausing to catch its breath. This is a great read that provides a lot of information about these elite warriors of the Warhammer 40K universe.

              Monday, June 15, 2009


              The NBA draft of 1984 was probably one of the most talented ever. Four players from this draft would be named in the NBA's fifty greatest players of all time. In his book Tip-Off: How the 1984 Draft changed Basketball Forever Filip Bondy looks at the events that led to the draft, and how it unfolded. Bondy looks at various players taken in the draft, how they performed in college, before and during the draft, and their careers after being drafted.
              The book starts with the number one pick Hakeem Olajuwon, the most talented big man in the draft who also had unlimited potential. Discovered in Nigeria, he would be drafted by Houston and would win two championships with them. Next was Sam Bowie who went to Portland at number two. Bowie was the second best big man in the draft, but unfortunately he spent most of his career injured and was never able to show off his talent. Bowie of course become more famous as a trivia question because he was drafted before Michael Jordan. Jordan went at number three to Chicago and the rest is history. little needs to be said about arguably the greatest player of all time. Pick number five was Philadelphia's and they choose Charles Barkley one of the greatest rebounders and scorers to ever play in the NBA. He only stood 6' 4" but regularly outplayed opponents who were up to a foot taller than him. A reporter described his game in college as "Porky Pig going berserk on a trampoline." Finally at pick sixteen the Jazz selected John Stockton who became one of the best pure point guards in the NBA. When he retired he had more assists and steals than any other player.
              Bondy has written an interesting and readable book that explores the reasons behind the picks and the individuals that made the decisions, and the players they were deciding on. A great read for any basketball fan, I feel lucky that I was able to watch these players do what they did best.

              Wednesday, June 10, 2009

              Blood Angels

              The Blood Angels are just one of the many Space Marine chapters that defend humanity. They also carry a dark secret that they hide from the Imperium. When their Primarch Sanguinius died defending the Emperor from Horus this event leaves a psychic scar on the Blood Angels gene-seed, which is used to create the Space Marines. This psychic scar leaves the Blood Angels prone to reliving this traumatic event, which in turn makes them go mad with rage.
              James Swallow in Deus Encarmine and Deus Sanguinius has told the story of these tragic fighters. On the remote cemetery planet of Cybele a group of Blood Angels clash with traitor marines from the Word Bearers. But things are not as straight forward as it first seems, as there are plots within plots as the Chaos forces have their own agenda for engaging the Blood Angels.
              Within the Blood Angels events are also happening that threaten to split the whole Chapter. Battle-Brother Arkio performs heroic acts in battle that have his comrades talking about him being blessed by Sanguinius. Arkio's older sibling Rafen believes that something is amiss. This feeling is shared by experienced Battle-Sergeant Koris. Amongst this turmoil the trusted friend of the Blood Angels Inquisitor Stele of the Ordo Hereticus is playing his own game which may or may not relate to what is happening to Arkio.
              this series has a slow build up but once it got going it was hard to put down.

              Monday, June 1, 2009

              The Story Continues ...

              Graham McNeill's False Gods continues the story of the Horus Heresy, and what a story it is turning into. Picking up shortly after Horus Rising finished, we are once again shown events through the eyes of Garviel Loken as Horus's crusade begins to change direction and evolve into something else all together.
              We are also introduced to Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters, and Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor's Children, and we get to see how different to Horus they are. Angron, barbaric and bloodthirsty and Fulgrim, proud and patrician. And of course we see Horus as he begins to question the Emperor's plans for the Imperium, and how Horus is now beginning to think that he should play a larger role in the Imperium's future. Loken, meanwhile, is caught between his duty as a Space Marine, and his feelings that something very wrong is going on.
              In the final part Horus begins to make his move against the Emperor and enlists the help of some fellow Primarchs and the Mechanicum and so the die is cast. As Horus states, 'I will set the Emperor's Imperium ablaze and from the ashes will arise a new Master of Mankind.'
              I'm very much looking forward to reading the next part of the story. Great read.

              Wednesday, May 27, 2009

              Teen Titans

              Geoff Johns reboot of the Teen Titans is a great run, and shows what a great writer he is. It is hard to take a team of sidekicks and make them interesting in their own right, but this is what Johns does. He makes the characters three dimensional and people who you care about. Sure Tim Drake as Robin is pretty fleshed out, and so is even Superboy to a certain degree, but Johns gives these guys enough of the spotlight to show that they hate living in the shadow of their adult mentors and namesakes, just like others on the team.
              This run is as much about growing up as about anything else, and what it means to be a hero. I really enjoyed reading these comics, and it just further reinforced my belief that Johns is one of the greats when it comes to writing comic books.

              Friday, May 22, 2009

              The Magician's Apprentice

              Trudi Canavan writes big fantasy novels. Inside you will find war, magic, family conflict and a quest, and The Magician’s Apprentice is no different. Set hundreds of years before Canavan’s best selling The Black Magician trilogy we follow Tessia as she tries to find her place in the world.
              Tessia wants to be a healer like her father, but her mother and society would rather she settled down. A chance visit to the local magician changes everything when it is discovered that Tessia has magical ability. She then becomes his apprentice and a whole new world opens up before her, one she never dreamed possible. While this is going on, events in the outside world are coming to a head and they will have far reaching consequences for everyone, and Tessia finds herself in the middle of it all.
              The Magician’s Apprentice is good solid fantasy and should appeal to genre readers, and fans of Canavan’s previous books. Don’t be put of by the large size of the book as the pages quickly go by as the story builds.

              Tuesday, May 19, 2009


              Karen Traviss knows how to write military science fiction, and this is very evident in the Star Wars Republic Commando series. While these books take place within the official Star Wars timeline the books stay away from the well known characters and this is to their benefit. Instead we get to know these overlooked characters from the movies, the foot soldiers. While not as wild as ARC (Advanced Recon Commando) troopers, the clone commandos are more skilled than regular clone troopers.
              Doing the work deemed to hard for ordinary clone troopers, the clone commandos come to the rescue. We follow Niner, Darman, Fi and Atin as they get a chance to display their unique talents for battle, courtesy of their genetic father Jango Fett, and the special training from Fett's hand-picked associates.

              The books also look at the human side of the clones, and tries to show what is going through the minds of individuals grown for one purpose only, to fight and die.

              Well worth picking up and reading if you are a Star Wars fan or like military science fiction.

              Monday, May 18, 2009

              So it begins ...

              The Horus Heresy is the biggest event in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and Games Workshop are now telling the full story of how this happened. The story begins in Horus Rising by Dan Abnett and is told through the eyes of one of Horus' loyal Captains Garviel Loken, leader of the 10th Company of the Lunar Wolves. We follow the Lunar wolves as they continue the Great Crusade the Emperor has sent all the Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) and their Primarchs, like Horus, on.
              Horus has just been named Warmaster as the Emperor has decided to return to Terra (Earth) to let Horus prosecute the Great Crusade as he sees fit. But this new found power and prestige has started to change Horus as his idealism begins to be slowly warped.

              As the short preface states:

              "The vast armies of the Emperor of Earth have conquered the galaxy in a Great Crusade - the myriad alien races have been smashed by the Emperor's elite warriors ... First and foremost amongst these are the primarchs, superheroic beings who have led the Emperor's armies of Space Marines in victory after victory. They are unstoppable and magnificent, the pinnacle of the Emperor's genetic experimentation. The space Marines are the mightiest human warriors the galaxy has ever known, each capable of besting a hundred normal men or more in combat ... Chief amongst the primarchs is Horus, called the Glorious, the Brightest Star, favourite of the Emperor, and like a son unto him. He is the Warmaster."

              The parallels with Milton's Paradise Lost are very evident, but Abnett does a good job of not making it seem like a simple retelling.

              Overall Horus Rising is a pacy story that left me wanting to read the rest of the books in the series. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 will enjoy the background material these books contain, and fans of military science fiction will also get a kick from this book.