Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blood Pact Giveaway...

In honor of the forthcoming Sabbat Worlds Anthology in hard cover and the softcover release of Dan Abnett's Blood Pact, We will be giving away one softcover copy of Blood Pact on October 10, 2010.

Are you interested?

Here's what you have to do to win this brand new, hot off the press novel:

1. Answer the following question: Who killed Trooper Bragg & why? Send the answer via email to ordohereticus at gmail dot com. Be sure to include a shipping address.

2. Leave a comment on this blog containing a quote from any Gaunt's Ghosts characters in any of the novels.

That's it!
On October 10 we'll take all the correct answers, put the names in a hat and draw randomly.
The winner will be announced immediately after the drawing.

First and Only!

Jeff Preston

*Note: This is not limited to folks in the United States or anything. I don't care where you are. Postage for a single paperback novel isn't too expensive.

Review: Death and Dishonour by Davis, Kyme and Priestley

Death and Dishonour, Edited by Alex Davis, Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley
320 pages
(*Note. I actually read and reviewed this months ago, but neglected to post it. My apologies.)

The world of Warhammer is filled with stories of survival and bravery, and also with tales of death and dishonour. This collection explores those themes with stories from some of Black Library's leading authors including Nathan Long, Anthony Reynolds, CL Werner and many more...

Red Snow by Nathan Long
A Gotrek and Felix short. Mr. Long does a fine job in telling a gritty, pulpy story. A strong starter story for this anthology! My interest in Gotrex and Felix is renewed! (I'm hunting down the original tales now) 4 of 5

The Assassin's Dilemma by David Earle
A Skaven tale of treachery. I've never read any stories from the Skaven point of view before, and this was actually a pretty fun read. Enjoyable! 3 of 5

Rest Eternal by Anthony Reynolds
This one is really good. For a short story you get a brilliant picture of the characters involved that a lot of authors don't seem to achieve. This one is about a Bretonnian Questing Knight and his peasant squire and dealing with a beat on the edges of Bretonnia and The Empire. Without spoiling it, a damn fine read! 4 of 5

The Miracle at Berlau by Darius Hinks
I admittedly re-read this a couple times. It's a good story, but as I sometimes do, I got confused on what was happening. I'm not sure if it was an issue of mine or the plot. It certainly has a grim and gritty feel to it mixed with the weirdness of creepy critters. 2 of 5

Noblesse Oblige by Robert Earl
A Florin and Lorenzo tale in a pulpy style akin to Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar. The plot is doable, the intro to it amusing (and dark) and the main characters properly morally ambiguous (as is fitting in old school sword and sorcery fiction). A fun read! 3 of 5

The Last Ride of Heiner Rothstein by Ross O'Brien
A fine contrast to the previous short story: far more serious and dark. The started off exceptional: a band of pistoliers acting like ...young soldiers. Telling stories, getting a little drunk and doing admittedly stupid things. Threaded in are serious conversations and good character-building. The scene shifts suddenly and the pace quickens. Things get a little confused but ends in an appropriately "warhammer" way. 3 of 5

Broken Blood by Paul Kearney
I really liked this one. A story of two brothers ending up on different sides of the line. This would make a fine prequel to a novel.The plot is simple, no real complications here, but it plays out nicely. 3 of 5

The Judgment of Crows by Chris Wraight
Chris Wraight always tells a good tale, and this is another one. This one is steeped in magic of the Amethyst Order, undead and treachery. A fine example of dark fantasy very fitting and unique to the Old World. 3 of 5

Wolfshead by C. L. Werner
Brunner is a fun pulpy character who would easily fit in the Old West. This is another good example of a bounty hunter, anti-hero and bastard. If Brunner was made in to a film, it would have to be played by Vin Diesel. 3 of 5

An excellent anthology of old world goodness. Anyone interested in getting a taste of the Warhammer universe should pick it up. Many of the short stories in here are penned in such a manner that I wish the stories were longer. Full-fledged novels. Like most short story anthologies we get just a taste of a story rather than a meal.

3.1 out of 5 Stars.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On reviews...

Do ever wonder what the value of a review is? As an individual or as a publisher or author?
Reviews are opinions. Bottom line. At the very basic level all reviews of anything, whether books, games, movies, adult entertainment products...all opinion.

You may think "Well, some are more educated than others." or something akin to it. That is only barely true. Regarding novels, some reviewers may be able to comment about some things more often like "voice" or the tense used, but really, when it comes down to brass tacks, a review is a grade based on whether one person liked an item or not based on their preferences. While I may prefer certain things, someone else will prefer others. Millions of copies sold, every reader has a unique experience to a greater or lesser degree. I don't think that a review that goes in to why The Chapter's Due has better battle scenes and a truer feel than say... Dawn of War: Ascension is better or worse than one that blathers on about formatting issues, point of view shifts, narrative voice or any of that. makes no difference at all. Both equally valuable.

I think that the best a person can do with reviews is to find a reviewer who has a style you like, and consistent tastes. Doesn't even need to really be the same tastes as you. If Cletis the Review-Guy consistently likes what I don't...then I know if he just rips a book apart, I may dig it. Reviews put you in the ballpark of whether you'll like a book/ movie/ game or not.

Authors may get a bit more out of detailed assessments on voice, tense and plot points, but again, it really depends on the author. I do think that authors prefer a good review to a bad one, but a rant piece that is totally disrespectful usually drives away authors.

Some readers like their reviews like a tabloid: gritty and rank, full of rants and raves. Some like a conscientious evaluation: your mileage may vary.

For publishers, reviews are advertising. Even if the review isn't stellar, it still works on two levels: 1. many people know that their tastes are counter to the reviewer's tastes, so it still scores a net sale. 2. Consistently high reviews (or low ones really) show a marked bias. Who cares if the reviewer graded this book as an A+, he grades them all as A to A+. Meh. I think people appreciate a curve in their grading: not weighted heavily one way or another.

For authors and publishers both, reviews and sales indicate what people dig, and what they don't. A review saying "I was expecting X and got Y" or "There was too much of Z" are important. Publishers publish/ authors write what people want to (buy) read. They don't know if they aren't told. Sales numbers only tell half the story. A strong seller doesn't necessarily mean people loved it. It means people bought it. They may have hated it and that impacts further sales. Publishers are in business and they look forward, not just at the sales numbers.

For have an impact on sales. usually not taken by themselves, but in concert with other reviews as well as word of mouth. It's not enough to post a review anymore. You need to post a review, cross-post it to twitter and facebook, spam it to Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble as well as put a blurb on the publisher's website (if possible).

Talk with the authors. Build up a rapport with them. Help them improve by giving them good honest feedback. They'll help you understand what his story is trying to say when you misunderstand it (I know sometimes I just don't "get it"on some stories). Talk with the publishers, keep good contact with them. If you are writing a rough review, talk to them about it. Reviewers should try and be a part of a team trying to pimp out good material and helping to raise the bar in whatever is reviewed. Above all, try and remain professional.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: Fear The Alien, Edited by Christian Dunn

Fear The Alien, Edited by Christian Dunn
416 pages
Advance Reader Copy

The Imperium of Man has many enemies among the stars, but none are reviled so much as the alien. Dangerous races seek to destroy humanity wherever they turn –the brutish orks, the ravening hordes of the tyranid, the unrelenting necrons and the mysterious forces of the tau and the eldar. Across the universe, humanity and their defenders, the Space Marines, seek to eradicate these xenos threats. Yet all they can hope for is another day of survival – for to stand against the alien is to enter an unending war... Featuring stories by Dan Abnett, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Nick Kyme, Juliet McKenna, C.L. Werner and many more, Fear the Alien is an unmissable collection for fans of Warhammer 40,000 and military science fiction

Gardens of Tycho by Dan Abnett
A fun shift from the norm: Abnett weaves a detective story in to the 40 'verse and does so nicely. Again Dan Abnett shows why he's easily one of the best authors in the BL stable. I loved the characters, especially the protagonist who is very dissimilar to many of Abnett's other protagonists. 4 Stars

Fear Itself by Juliet E. McKenna
A very strong tale of Guardsmen awaiting relief from a unit of Space Marines in the midst of a Tyranid invasion. Very gritty and very true in feel to the whole 40k "grim, dark future". Where many authors tend to save the good guys in the end, McKenna does a fine job in portraying the "holding on in the face of hopelessness" that is so very 40k. 4 Stars

Prometheus Requiem by Nick Kyme, a companion story to the Tome of Fire trilogy
Fantastic characterization! I loaned out Salamander by Nick Kyme and it never returned home, so I didn't end up reading it. After this, I went and bought it at Barnes and Noble so I could catch up. 4 Stars

Mistress Baeda's Gift by Braden Campbell
I admit it, I groaned when I saw this was a Dark Eldar story. DE tend to be so over the top evil it is hard to empathize with them. They aren't really very sympathetic characters. So I started out and I was very surprised. Braden Campbell does a fine job in telling a kind of Dark Eldar fable, complete with the moral at the end of the story. Well played!  3 Stars

Iron Inferno by C.L. Werner
Iron Inferno is a story told from two sides of the same fight: Imperial Guardsmen and Orks. Orkyness is fun, but gets old fast, but CL Werner does a fine job in making it readable. I loved how he delved in to what both sides were thinking, and as the reader getting a laugh, seeing that they were both very wrong. 3 Stars

Sanctified by Mark Clapham
This is an interesting take on an Ad Mech "John McClaine" taking on some invading Dark Eldar. It's easy to forget just how massive some of these ships are, and how nobody really knows what is going on in every nook and cranny. 3 Stars

Faces by Matt Farrer
I didn't realize until the last part of this short story that this was a [redacted] story. Honestly, "listening" to the weird madness that gripped the humans in this, I was largely lost until it all came together in the final several pages. 2 stars.

Unity by James Gilmer
This is a fantastic telling of a few guardsmen and a Raven Guard astartes on the run on a world lost to the Tau Empire. This is probably one of the best depictions of the Tau and the author does a fine job in making the reader guess how it all will end. 4 Stars

The Core by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, a companion story to the Night Lords trilogy
I know a lot of folks have been anxiously awaiting this one, and it is worth the wait. Every taste of the Night Lords trilogy, whether a whole novel or short story is a tasty morsel. 4 Stars

Ambition Knows No Bounds by Andy Hoare
A fine tale of a Rogue Trader who delves in to things far beyond their pay-grade. Rogue Trader plus Alien Artifacts plus Greed the math. A fine intro for anyone considering playing Rogue Trader. 3 Stars

A very solid anthology of Xenos devilry. I don't recognize some of these author's names, but these were all excellent: I'd love to see more by them.

3.4 out of 5 Stars.
(*Thanks to Ross/ Narry for editing help.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The First Heretic- Trailer

This is really fantastic: best intro/ explanation of what The First Heretic is about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A Horus Heresy Novel
512 pages
Advance Reader Copy

Amidst the galaxy-wide war of the Great Crusade, the Emperor castigates the Word Bearers for their worship. Distraught at this judgement, Lorgar and his Legion seek another path while devastating world after world, venting their fury and fervour on the battlefield. Their search for a new purpose leads them to the edge of the material universe, where they meet ancient forces far more powerful than they could have imagined. Having set out to illuminate the Imperium, the corruption of Chaos takes hold and their path to damnation begins. Unbeknownst to the Word Bearers, their quest for truth contains the very roots of heresy

*Note. This review is pretty early as the novel doesn't hit the streets until November. However Pre-orders are important, and while I tend to review novels in order of street date, even I get hooked by my own excitement and have to jump ahead. Forgive the early peek at this wonderful novel. I'll be posting additional reviews/ excerpts all over the web as we get closer to the street date. Cheers! JP*

Take a look at the cover art by Neil Roberts: A red mutated Astartes about to open up a Custodes like a can of baked beans (or get opened up). Like the rest of the Horus Heresy…we can see where this hand basket is going. It’s a train wreck in slow motion. The Imperium of Man is going to Hell…almost literally.

A bit of back-story on the XVII Legion, the Word Bearers and the Great Crusade etc.:
The great crusade is an effort by the Emperor of Mankind to reclaim the lost worlds of humanity and bring it under one flag after a dark age of technology where humanity was spread to the corners of the galaxy then cut off from Terra. One of the core tenets of this crusade is to reclaim mankind from mysticism, religion, gods, heathenism and restore the primacy of logic.

The Emperor created 20 super-beings based on his own genes and through super-science (et cetera) made generals to lead his vast legions. These legions are made from the diluted genetic stock of these super-beings, The Primarchs. Being near demi-gods themselves these legionaries, these…Space Marines are bred to be superior in every way, stronger, faster, tougher, smarter, armed and armored the best.

Something went wrong, and through some warp-spawned mishap the 20 Primarchs were spread to the stars, slowly recovered by the Emperor and placed at the heads of their legions. Each Primarch was raised on a foreign planet and shaped by the environment and cultures they found. All the Primarchs are vastly different in look and outlook and subsequently so are their legions.

The XVII Legion is the Legion of Lorgar Aurelian. The Word Bearers. As all Legions are unique in some fashion, what makes the Word Bearers unique is that their home world is extremely…religious. The Word Bearers are devout, pious in extremis in their belief in the Emperor as well as The Emperor’s godhood: something he has always denied.

So. We have a crusade made to bring together all mankind and in the meantime purge the trappings of religion as they go. One of the largest and most loyal legions, practicing the very religiosity they are supposed to be stamping out. See the problem here?

So the Emperor of Mankind comes down on the XVII Legion and Lorgar. Hard.
Lorgar is castigated and Custodes sent to observe and report as the Legion returns to the Crusade.

That is all stage dressing for a really fantastic story delving in to the psyche of people (super-men or not) who are all extremely pre-disposed towards faith…and how a sort of conversion takes place.

The story is beautifully crafted. Mr. Dembski-Bowden really digs deep and crafts a remarkable tale of how important religion is to some people, and how something so important, so central to their character can be rebuked, deceived, and the response to having beliefs turned on their head.

Of course…central to this is how they discover what lurks on the other side of the veil. Chaos does a fine job in twisting and distorting the truth so that the only thing that remains is confusion.

I won’t spoil the story for you. ADB does a fine job really selling Lorgar, Argel Tal, Xaphen, even Kor Phaeron and the vile bastard everyone loves to hare…Erebus. I have to admit, I love it when an author can challenge my prejudices and get me thinking. That in a novel is a total win, and Aaron Dembski-Bowden does it.

The novel itself is not as fast paced as Cadian Blood or Soul Hunter (Soul Hunter is far closer in pace) but it is certainly a “Thinker” novel. Lots of moments of conversations, revelations (boy, there ARE some whoppers in there), contemplation, etc. Yes, there ARE battles. Violence DOES ensue. Actually, while I love ADB’s depictions of melee, he’s good about using violence as garnish instead of the whole entrĂ©e…which I greatly appreciate as a reader.

Like all of the Horus Heresy novels with traitors in the protagonist role, you know where the story ultimately goes and it’s akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion. You can’t help but feel for the characters, which are well developed, make poor decisions based on misinformation, lies, and emotion and want them to stop, turn around…”Don’t do it!” and hear the slo-mo “Nooooooooo” in the background.

Where Graham McNeill crafted a tale of dealing with the Emperyan from an attitude of hubris and arrogance from a false sense of control and security in The Thousand Sons, Aaron Dembski-Bowden deals with the Emperyan from the perspective of devout believers in a crisis of faith having recently been chastised by their very god, showing how fast love can turn to hate. Actually, I recommend readers of The Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill to read The First Heretic for a beautiful contrast.

In reading the novel I found it a little slow starting, but it got stronger and stronger as the pages turned. I have no complaints about characterization, plot, or pacing.

I would like to comment that there are some really smooth formatting tricks done to keep the ‘voice’ straight for the reader: there are several instances where the reader sees flashbacks, changes in POV, awkward lurches in time and voice that are deftly handled by use of italics/ parentheses, and bold text. I tend to get lost when the ‘voice’ changes but I had zero issues with it this time. I don’t know if this is the author or an editing choice but it worked. Very clear. Good job!

Also, there are all kinds of nuggets of info knocked loose from the pre-history of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. We get a lot of nifty reveals in this novel.

Easily one of the best of the entire Horus Heresy series!

4 out of 5 Stars.