Archive for universe

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

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ORBUS By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the third book in the Spatterjay series, although this one doesn’t take place on the galactic version of Australia (ie the most dangerous planet in the universe!). If you’ve read the other books in the series you will know that Orbus is one of the old captains, the rulers of Spatterjay, a virtually immortal group of Captains who sail the leech-infested seas. But after the events of the second book, Orbus is happy to head off-planet, and takes a cargo ship travelling to a place known as the Graveyard, a no-man’s land between the Polity (human) empire and the Prador empire. And everything is going fine with this routine pick-up until a couple of war drones stow away on Orbus’ cargo vessel, a rebel Prador attacks at the pick-up, a civil war starts in the Prador empire, and a mythological nightmare creature proves to be very much real and alive…

Asher write SF with a good amount of action, with some of the characters already set up in previous books he has a chance to let rip without having to explain who and what they are. His books always contain great details that make them seem more real, and Orbus is no exception.

The different setting makes this barely a Spatteray novel, but the characters are what connect it to the other books in the series. This one works well enough by itself, but there’s a lot of history and backstory you would miss out on if you skipped the first two books.

The exciting SF adventure continues. The Spatterjay series is remarkable and unique. This slight change of direction for the series works well, bringing in a new environment, and further developing the  interesting characters, particularly the war drone Sniper.  I’ll be coming back for more in the fourth book in the series. The story of Spatterjay rocks!

LEGION OF THE DAMNED By William C. Dietz – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Set in a far flung future where the Human Empire has colonised a number of planets, including the Legion’s adopted home planet of Algeron, and lives in a cosy and comfortable peace. Until the war-like Hudatha race obliterate an entire planet, the first in their deadly space-bound march towards Earth, intent on destroying every human being on their way.

Baldwin is a traitorous human guiding the enemy’s hand in his lust for vengeance; Booly is a Legionnaire injured on Algeron and left for dead but really a prisoner of war captured by the indigenous population; Chu Chien is a rich merchant intent on bringing his son home safe from one of the rim planets soon to be hit by the Hudatha’s deadly swathe; Scolari is the head of the Navy, hoping to persuade the Emporer to pull his troops back to defend Earth against invasion…

So Dietz provides various political intrigues and power-plays to go along with the more meaty action of the fighting and battles. Well, when I say more meaty, I mean more interesting, but Dietz spends a little too much time developing the machinations of not only the human powers but also those of the Hudathan, and the Naa (the natives of Algeron).

But the Legion and its history is much more in keeping with this book of battle, and really helps with backstory and characterisation (of which there is little). There is a lot going on and the lack of decent characters to grasp on to mean you can flounder around wondering who is what for the majority of the novel. Having characters called Booly and Baldwin doesn’t help, how about characters with names beginning with a different letter for a start.

If anything this book is a little too ambitious. Likely it is the set-up book for a possibly long-running series, and Deitz wanted to get as much in and introduce as many characters as possible in the first book. But ultimately there is too much in here, and it feels crammed in, and a little crammed down your throat, and it makes it a little hard to chew.

There are good bits, particularly the Legion’s history, and the story builds nicely but to a climax that takes just a couple of pages and feels a bit of a let-down.

It’s such a shame, I was so looking forward to this book, and it failed to enthral me, although it did marginally entertain it. I won’t be back for any more.

LEGION By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by stanleyriiks

The action writer who started off the Horus Heresy series returns to familiar ground in this, another novel of the expansion of the Heresy “Universe”. While the first three novels is the series set up the Heresy, this and the previous novel in the series (Descent of Angels) set up/explore other parts of the unsuspecting human empire in which the terror of the Heresy will take place.

In this novel, for the first time we are focussed on the Imperial Army rather than the Space Marine Astartes. Soneka and Bronzi are het (kinds of sergeants) in the Imperial war effort on Nurth, a lost planet, one previously colonised by Terra, but lost over time. The army has invaded and fights against the resistance to get the world of Nurth to comply. Matters are complicated by a spy called Konig Heniker, but is he a double agent? And what are the mysterious Alpha Legion keeping secret, apart from their presence? And who are this strange Cabal that is pulling the strings in private?

This is an intriguing novel, more double-crossing, spies and secrets, than action and violence. Of course, there is some action and violence, but a bit more rather than the politics and intrigue might have been nice.

I understand why Gamesworkshop and The Black Library are expanding this incredibly successful series into an entire universe of books, but I would like them to focus more on the pivotal characters within the Heresy Horus: the Emperor and the Primarchs.

This is another instalment that feels a little like padding.

There’s plenty of story still to take place from the main characters in the Heresy, the central protagonists, so why are we getting a story like this? Are these characters going to be playing a part in the conspiracy at a later stage? If they are then fine, but can’t it be as part of a shorter series, like a trilogy of books, like the first three books in the Heresy series.

I can’t help but think the story is being expanded to fill the wallets of Gamesworkshop rather than to tell the story that needs to be told, the story of the actual Heresy.

Am I being impatient? I am over-reacting?

Possibly. This is good stuff from Abnett, who is always good value. It’s not his best work, Horus Rising or the Eisenhorn novels are excellent, with tons more action, adventure and excitement.

I hope that this novel of secrecy and intrigue is an integral part of the tale of the Heresy, otherwise I’m going to feel a little bit cheated.

DESCENT OF ANGELS By Mitchel Scanlon – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by stanleyriiks

This is not your normal Horus Heresy novel. It doesn’t read like a Horus Heresy novel at all, and by the end I was wondering how this fitted into the massive tale of betrayal and treachery. Having read all the other books in the series so far this came as a bit of a shock. I realise that since the original trilogy many of the books have told related but connected only marginally tales of the Heresy.

This book tells the tale of Caliban, a feudal-like world, and former Terra colony that has been out of touch with Earth for hundreds of years.

This feudal land is a dangerous place of deadly flora and fauna, and the knights of the orders that run the world have had enough and set out to rid the world of the beasts. Lion El’Jonson, a strange and mighty warrior, mysteriously found deep in the jungles of Caliban, takes charge of the largest order and sets his sights on removing the danger of the beasts.

Then the Imperial fleet arrives, after almost two hundred pages and the world of Caliban is gradually reconverted to the Empire, whether they like it or not.

This is a tale of friendship and brotherhood, and is a riveting. It shows a different side of the Empire we are familiar with. For the most part this doesn’t feel like an 40K universe book at all. The feudal world of Caliban is remarkably well portrayed, and two young trainee-knights are our protagonists, and we follow them as they struggled with becoming knights, and becoming men. It’s a quite fascinating tale, a fantasy that actually slides perfectly into the 40K universe. Brilliantly inventive for the series, but does it actually fit into the Horus Heresy sequence? And the next book in the series, Legion by Dan Abnett, doesn’t follow on the story of the Dark Angels either… It’s a perfectly good book, exciting, adventurous, cleverly plotted and inventive, and as a stand-alone novel is works well within the 40K universe and offers something different. My problems rests entirely on it’s fit into the Horus Heresy. Otherwise its one of the best 40K novels.

FILGRIM By Graham McNeill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by stanleyriiks

The next instalment of the Horus Heresy shows us the other side of the massive conspiracy, which will see the Imperium at war, brutal treachery and betrayal, and the birth of chaos.

Up until now we have seen bare glimpses of chaos, but only hints at the power and control it will eventually have. We have seen brother fighting brother, massive and brutal betrayal. Now, with Fulgrim, we get to see more of the other side. The chaos side of what will be an epic battle. Fulgrim picks up a weapon from an alien planet after a massive battle to subdue it, a sword imbued with evil. But the changes are subtle and gradual, and we also get to see Saul Tarvitz and the lead up to the massive slaughter on Isstvan III. But this is the gradual unfolding of chaos as it slowly and cleverly ecks its way into the cracks, finding a home for itself in the egos of those weak or easily manipulated. It isn’t until the final hundred pages that we see the true power of chaos to corrupt in a massive orgy of violence, and then we have another massive battle as the forces of the Emperor realise they have been betrayed.

Despite a slow start the end of this book is huge, brutal and devastating. It’s utterly shocking, just like the first book in the series, the hurt and pain as brother fights brother is palpable.

McNeill’s second book in the series provides another great instalment. The Black Library is doing very well with this series. Such a massive story to tell, a grand job is being done of telling it. Brutal, murderous, worth buying for the final one hundred pages alone.

THE FLIGHT OF THE EISENSTEIN By James Swallow – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by stanleyriiks

How do you top the tremendous trilogy that started the epic tale of the Horus Heresy?

Erm, you don’t is the simple answer. This starts near the end of the last book, but from the perspective of Captain Garro and his team of Death Guard as they take to the Eisenstein and become aware of the traitorous activities of Horus and the lodges. But they only find out too late to do anything about it. Unable to help their massacred comrades on Isstvan III, Garro must leave the battle fleet and escape to warn the Emperor of the Warmaster’s treachery.

Ok, so some of this is old ground seen from a different perspective, in fact almost half the book is taken up with this rehash, and I found myself urging the book on faster, wanting to get to the real role the book plays in the series: the moment the treachery comes to light. And it does, but not quite in the way one might expect.

There are some great chaos-infected moments, but the grand battles of the first three books aren’t echoed here. This is much more understated and shows the struggle as Space Marines encounter Space Marines, and you begin to realise the scale of this vast and nasty conflict.

Not as exciting as the other books in the series, this is still a pivotal and necessary step to take on the way, but it feels a little workmanlike. Not because of Swallow’s writing, which is fine, but because of the plot, and the masses of information we need to be given that will lead to the next book. Like all the books in the Horus Heresy series this is a massive teaser, drawing you further into the entire epic tale, but this stepping-stone feels rather less important than the others. A shame, but we shall see what happens with the fifth book in the series: Fulgrim.