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Rate what you Read, or the fight against Necromancy

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#801
Fedor

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I just get jacked up on cocaine and speed, then read all the books while pacing about like a maniac. An old shmup transcendency technique the video games industry taught me well.

 

This tends to get me past any issues with a vulgar prose stylist.


Edited by Fedor, 12 May 2021 - 04:17 PM.

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#802
Roomsky

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Audiobooks are also a drug-free alternative to removing the quality of prose from the equation. Gate of Bones was excellent as a listen but would probably not do as well on the page.

 

Alternatively, drugs.


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#803
Noserenda

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What Roomsky said :D I havent read much from Clarke but Gate of Bones was excellent as an ebook in the main, some sections i drifted through but some of the early bits are great, especially the things in the catacombs :) 



#804
A Melancholic Sanguinity

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Celestine

by Andy Clark

 

Another Black Library work covering one of the setting’s named characters, Celestine frustrates me because I really enjoyed about half of it. This short novel is comprised of two parallel narratives: one following Celestine in the warp – presumably – as she undergoes her resurrection process, the other atop a crusade she leads on a planet under siege by Chaos. The narrative alternates between the two a chapter at a time.

 

One of these is a trippy allegorical personal spiritual journey packed with wonderful 40k high fantasy imagery. The other is a cliched mash of two-dimensional characters, unconvincing arcs, and tepid battle porn.

 

You can probably guess which of these I liked.

 

I’ve already said more than my piece about Clark’s prose; my experience and opinion remains unchanged by this.

 

Celestine is at its best when focusing on the titular character’s mystic journey. I hope it’s not a spoiler, but Saint Celestine’s shtick is that that she doesn’t stay dead, reappearing in another warzone whenever she falls. Part of this book delves into how that process happens from her perspective, offering a peek behind the scenes as it were.

 

Without giving too much away, the core gist of it is that after each death Celestine wakes up in a spirit realm (I’m assuming the warp, though it’s not explicitly stated here) with no memories, no possessions, and only a vague intuition of a light and warmth off somewhere in the distance she has to reach. She has to piece herself together – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The process entails a series of trials and encounters while she makes her way towards the light, rediscovering herself, her motivations, and her capabilities along the way along the way, and reaching the light sends her off to the next place in the galaxy she needs to be.

 

I loved this stuff. Call me a sucker for mythological allegories and meta-physical journeys of self-discovery. Add in a healthy does of the hero wandering the underworld thematic archetype. There’s also just something about sublime (in the archaic sense) angelic women with longswords that spikes my brain’s happy center.

 

The nature of where/not where this is happening opens the door for some delightful fantastic imagery. Mountains formed from the bones, armor, and weapons of uncountable slain. Great decaying cities raining burning ash. Immense worm-burrows of trapped souls. Unimaginably vast seas of every color, where leviathan things lurk just beneath the surface.

 

Furthermore, compared to Clark’s prior Shroud of Night (of which this is an indirect sequel to), Celestine actually gets to be a character here, as she relearns not just who she is but also what she has to give up in pursuit of her eternal, Sisyphean task.

 

At its best, Celestine reminded me of Dante’s Inferno and C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce – fantastic mythological imagery as the backdrops for journeys of personal discovery and epiphany.

 

And then the chapter ends and we go back to cliched cutouts of Battle Sisters and Imperial Guard and Khornate cultists charging gunlines and hamfisted characterization and tedious battle scenes and I pull a Darth Vader at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

 

This entire plotline did not need to exist. Showcasing Celestine’s effect on the faithful and doubtful from the perspective of the not-saints is probably the biggest waste here, as basically everything else GW has published with her has focused on that aspect. If you want a story of ordinary soldiers coming face-to-face with the numinous quality of a living saint and the ecstatic awe and terror that experience compels, the Gaunt’s Ghosts Saint arc does it way better. All this does is eat up page and word count from the far more compelling narrative of Celestine rediscovering herself.

 

And that’s what’s so frustrating – what’s good here is really good, and the raw potential of what could have been something magical shines through like the sun behind a veil of clouds. I would have loved to have seen this expanded, focusing just on Celestine’s personal Inferno-Purgatorio-Paradiso journey with some more personal flashbacks as she wanders the spiritscape, more trials and temptations (say, by each of the Chaos gods?), and written by the likes of Harrison or Wraight or French.

 

So do I recommend Celestine? For half of it, hell yes (heaven yes? Warp yes?). The other half, not so much. On balance then, call it a halfhearted recommendation. Let me echo and contrast what I said about Clark’s Shroud of Night.

 

You probably won’t regret reading it – but it does change your idea of what a 40k novel could be. It’s just a shame it does so more in the conceptual potential it hints at than the execution achieved.

 

 

Arbitrary rating:

6.6 7 due to personal preferences angel swordswoman simping/10

 

 

P.S.: Could some game studio please make a 40k rogue-lite a la Hades where we play as Celestine busting out of the warp? Pretty please?


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#805
aa.logan

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The Master of Mankind.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

I was a tad underwhelmed by this the first time round, so was looking forward to revisit it because plenty of folk enthused about it and made be feel I’d missed something.

They were right.

Other people’s reviews put it better, but it’s really very good. Yes, it explains why so much of 40k is why it is in terms of events but it also does so in terms of mentality. From the very start of the book it makes it clear that the Imperium only functions because it consumes it’s citizens- from the children of defeated rulers being turned into Custodes to the lowliest grunts being windwiped to function as servitorsthe Imperium ran on human sacrifice long before the Golden Throne started feeding on psykers; this thematic throughline would be enough to set The Master of Mankind apart from much of the HH series even if it wasn’t for the great character work, wonderful world building and cracking action scenes. It sets the context for the Heresy almost as much as The First Heretic and for the entirety of 40k better than anything I can currently think of.

10/10, essential.
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#806
byrd9999

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The First Wall, by Gav Thorpe.

 

Wow. This far exceeded my expectations. Gav's best work to date, in terms of plotting, prose, characterisation.

 

The lore developments of the proto-Commissar and the cult of the Emperor were handled well. An unusual subtlety from Gav, which shows how he has really grown as a writer.

French, Haley and now passing the baton onto Thorpe, they have all raised their game in the Siege of Terra.

 

Spoiler

 

9/10


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#807
SkimaskMohawk

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A contentious rating to say the least lol
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#808
Roomsky

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Ciaphas Cain: Duty Calls (Audiobook) – Sandy Mitchell

 

I think this is the last Cain book I’ll be reading/listening to. The audio performances are still great, the humour is still snappy, and this is probably the best plot since the series began in For the Emperor. But, as has been said by sharper minds, every book in this series is the same. If I have to listen to Vale apologize for Sulla’s prose or Cain reflect “if I’d known how bad X was going to be” one more time I’m going to stab something.

 

To Taste – you’ll have infinite patience for Cain or you won’t

6/10

 

 

re: byrd9999. I flip-flop on that book a lot, but I don't think it deserves all the :cuss it gets. I'd rather Zenobi have been in her own novella, but I did really enjoy her parts of the book the most.


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#809
SkimaskMohawk

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For me, it has nothing to do with the Zenobi arc. I actually rather liked it and thought it was the best written part of the book.

First wall just has too many things that are dumb in it, from characters to the entire premise of the Lions Gate port still being intact. Forrix, Khârn, perturabo, abbaddon, Sigismund, zardu, dorn; Thorpe mangled them all.
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#810
cheywood

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Zenobi’s arc would’ve made for a decent novella, but overall I’m meh on The First Wall. Very by the numbers for me. I seem to only like Gav when he’s writing in first person.

Edited by cheywood, 27 May 2021 - 07:24 PM.

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#811
aa.logan

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A contentious rating to say the least lol


I agree with every word of the review; it’s really odd how polarising the book is.
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#812
DukeLeto69

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My two pence - I recently finished The First Wall (bit behind but reading SoT 1-5 back-to-back).

I enjoyed it but found it a bit hard going in places and started speed reading some sections.

The SoT books were always going to be hard going for me as I am ironically not that interested in the “war” element of warhammer. That is why books like Farrer’s Calpurnia, Abnett’s Eisenhorn etc, Wraight’s Vot & WotT, Fehervari stuff, and the WH Crime books are my favourites.

So I found it was the Astartes sections, the Iron Warriors stuff, ie the actual siege stuff, that I started skipping.

However, I really enjoyed the Zenobi stuff and the Amon/Keeler stuff. Thought those bits were excellent, really excellent.

Now reading Saturnine and, it really is another level. Abnett is a fine writer and even the battles are interesting (to me).
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#813
byrd9999

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Sons of the Selenar, by Graham McNeill.

 

Definitely in the "meh" camp, but at least it was quick to read and didn't mess up the main Siege narrative.

 

Tymell and Dark Chaplain summed up my thoughts about the contrivance and frustration involved in this book in the main SotS thread, so I won't bother to repeat what essentially they said first and said better than I could, but McNeill does his usual job of tooth-grindingly shoddy writing.

 

Three examples that really ground my gears:

 

1. "Snapped". Space Marines act like petulant children when McNeill needs to create dialogue, so they act passively-aggressive and "snap" at each other. Thankfully this only happened a mere 4 or 5 times in this novella.

 

2. Loyalist Space Marines are well-trained, highly disciplined, masters of combat with minds and visual feeds that help them parse difficult tactical situations quickly. So when the bone-headed Sisypheum crew find out that the traitors have covered the "main entrance" to the Luna labs, they are flummoxed and cannot think of how to gain access. Thankfully the bene gesserit luna witch is there to tell them there is a side entrance.

 

3. Numen spends the first half of the book acting like a child and refusing to accept Tyro's return, even staring off into the distance and pretending not to hear when being spoken to, but is later described as "ever the pragmatist". It's like McNeill doesn't even know what words or characterisation or continuity mean.

 

Petty rant over...

 

 

5/10.


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#814
Roomsky

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Of Honour and Iron - Ian St. Martin

 

This is an odd one. I read plenty of books that I'd say are pretty decent, despite the author not really getting 40k. Of Honour and Iron is the rare opposite. It's also the Space Marine Conquests book that probably delivers the closest thing to an Indomitus-era Space Marine Battles book, and I don't think that's a good thing.

 

I really liked Slave of Nuceria and Lucius, so I expected this to deliver a lot more than it did. There is certainly a lot here I like. It's a much more sober look at Indomitus Era Guilliman and the Ultramarines than is given in Dark Imperium, and I like it much better. Guilliman makes quite the impact despite his very short appearances, and is depressed but driven in a way I find really convincing considering his situation. I know there's some contention about the religiousness of Helios, but it doesn't bother me at all because it makes him a: the most compelling Ultra in the book and b: I never bought into the idea that astartes didn't get religious in the first place, I don't think it's believable at all.

 

The primaris too are handled well conceptually, being met with caution upon arrival and, despite their physical superiority, having a lot to learn from their vanilla astartes brethren. There's even a reference to the Thunder Warriors! Despite how incredibly well the loyalists do here considering their numbers and resources, the whole book seems set on smacking the Ultramarines in the face with the realities of this era, even if they win. Altruism and courage are often met with futility and death, and it makes for a great tone. 

 

Unfortunately the plot and characters are pretty weak. We don't know what either side is looking for until near the end, and it's neither competent intrigue nor a compelling reveal. Side characters often get a one or two chapter spotlight with no real follow-through or payoff. The main cast outside of Helios is an amorphous blob of Primaris Ultramarines with no individually identifying features. And without a strong cast the book is far too full of action scenes to be compelling. Lucius, by contrast, had a load of interesting characters and that's why the book succeeded despite being nearly all set piece battles.

 

The exceptions were Helios and the Iron Warriors. Helios is just too extra to not be compelling, and his single-mindedness combined with the surprisingly astartes-relevant "five or one" lesson made him a lot of fun to witness. The Iron Warriors are just so single-mindedly hateful I can't help but find them entertaining. I definitely believed they've had a good 10,000 years to ferment their bitterness into something much worse, but are still just barely clinging on to a few old principles. 

 

But the highs aren't really enough for me to say this was good. St. Martin understands 40k, and I wish more books would have this tone, especially in Era Indomitus. There are some interesting characters here and there, a few fun tidbits, but overall it's just a bland book about a bland battle. I love it conceptually, but it doesn't deliver on its promise.

 

5.5/10

Diehards Only


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#815
aa.logan

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Like you I’d really enjoyed Ian St Martin’s other works and was rather disappointed by this; it was a real slog to finish it- were it not for the Iron Warriors I’d struggle to say a single positive thing about it.
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