Sunday, March 29, 2009

GENERAL: Bi-monthly book update

Another big blog entry today, so grab yourself a cuppa before you read on.

I've posted another Imperial Guard after action report up on my battle reports blog. In this 1500 pointer I took on Gary's Eldar once again, using an Imperial Guard army that I can confidently say will never have been used before and will never be used again. When was the last time you saw a mortar squad, Ogryns and Cypher with a squad of Fallen in the same army? Read all about this strange game here.

Now then, here is the book update.

I read most of my novels on my lunch breaks at work. I also create the written versions of my battle reports in notebooks on my lunch break the day after the game. If I'm really enjoying a book I'll read it in my very limited spare time in an evening, but that time has largely been taken up with writing up my battle reports for my blog. I've also been playing a lot of games lately so my reading has been curtailed somewhat.

Still, I have finished some books.

Dead Sky, Black Sun is the third Uriel Ventris Ultramarines book by Graham McNeill. I was anxious to finish it so that I wouldn't have to carry it around with me anymore - those Games Workshop trilogies are heavy!

This book is bonkers! That is both a good and a bad thing. After the Ian Watson Inquisition War books Dead... is the most experimental piece I've read by a Black Library author. Graham really goes for it in terms of the plotting, characters, setting and even the writing itself. This is to be commended, as far too often GW publications are cliched and dull.

Ventris is banished from the Ultramarine Chapter following the events of Warriors of Ultramar and ends up in the Eye of Terror on the homeworld of the Iron Warriors. Through an increasingly bizarre set of characters and circumstances he ends up confronting Honsou, McNeill's anti-hero from Storm of Iron.

McNeill has a decent stab at recreating the feel of being on a Chaos-wracked planet and some of the descriptions are disturbingly gory and gruesome. The text even breaks down in places to reflect the impact the surroundings are having on our protagonist.

And yet...

For all the good points there are major problems with this novel. The plotting is very loose, an unusual thing in Graham's reads so far, and therefore necessarily contrived in places. He has to come up with some fantastical characters to shift the plot along and many times I felt my eyebrow raising and thinking to myself uh-huh.

I also have a very real problem with the way that the Marines are written- they are far too human. It's been a problem with all of the books so far and shows that Graham has under-imagined his characters.

More than once our Marines have been approached unawares to add dramatic impact to a scene, but what about all those auto-senses in their helmets? Speaking of helmets, there is a major continuity problem with helmets on/helmets off and other armour related shenanigans. Often the characters 'feel the sun on their skin' despite wearing their power armour in previous scenes, they shake hands with unarmoured humans, place caring hands on their shoulders and the marines sometimes manipulate delicate objects. In Dead... one of the characters sneaks around with a jump pack attached to his back!

These Marines leap and roll in combat and sit in regular chairs - how heavy is power armour anyway?

And don't get me started about the logistics of capturing Space Marines! Letting them keep their armour on is like locking up a tank commander with his Leman Russ.

I had noticed these little niggles in the previous books and largely dismissed them but in the third they are so noticeable that it actually jars you from the tale.

If you've already read the first two books in the trilogy and plan to keep with it you're going to have to read this book; indeed McNeill has not long released the fourth book in the series The Killing Ground.

Dead... is a flawed book with redeeming features.

Imperial Armour Model Masterclass Volume 1
(IAMM) is a great book. I'm probably exceedingly naive when it comes to modelling having approached it from entirely within the 'Games Workshop hobby' so some people may be surprised when I say that this book really taught me a lot. The book covers a lot of ground in its 130 pages.

The first section describes the tools and supplies which are used throughout the book, ranging from airbrushes to floor varnish.

The painting and modelling of a renegade Medusa takes up the next 20+ pages and introduces many of the tricks and tips that are used in the rest of the book. Some are very simple. Adding paint chips with a sponge is simple but extremely effective and I have already tried this on a number of my models. Others are more complex and require expensive kit and some practice, such as airbrushing camouflage patterns and weathering the model.

More examples follow then the focus switches to dioramas. I was blown away by Phil Stutcinskas' Death Korps of Krieg artillery diorama. It includes vehicles of course, but also shows you how to build up terrain too. More examples follow and then we move on to terrain pieces.

An Aeronautica Imperialis airbase is constructed and then regular 40k battlefields are put together to represent part of the Siege of Vraks. The are visually remarkable and would be an absolute joy to play a game upon, adding so much richness to the game.

The AI/40k tie in continues with 40k scale aircraft painted and modelling using techniques explained previously.

I thought that this was a superb book and would recommend it highly to anyone wanting to take their modelling and painting to the next level.

On to purchases.

I caved and bought a book, although I can still claim I haven't broken my New Year resolution because it is not a novel. I picked up a copy of Disciples of the Dark Gods, a Dark Heresy RPG supplement by Fantasy Flight Games. It's a meaty tome, almost 250 pages of dense text and gorgeous full colour art. I'm wading through it at the moment and might just have finished it for the next book update!

I've also added some more tomes to my books wanted list.

Books read.
  • Dead Sky, Black Sun
  • Imperial Armour Model Masterclass Volume 1

Books bought.
  • Disciples of the Dark Gods

Books wanted.
  • Red Fury
  • Planetkill
  • Titanicus
  • Imperial Guard Omnibus Volume 1
  • Creatures Anathema
  • Horus Heresy Collected Visions
  • Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project
  • Tales of Heresy
  • The Killing Ground
  • The Grey Knights Omnibus
  • Heroes of the Space Marines
  • Scourge the Heretic
  • Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium
  • Rogue Star
  • Star of Damocles
  • Lord of the Night

Here's what I already own and still need to read:
  • Imperial Armour Three: The Taros campaign
  • Liber Chaotica
  • Storm of Chaos
  • Imperial Infantryman's Primer (Damocles Gulf edition)
  • The Life of Sigmar
  • Faith and Fire
  • Dark Apostle
  • Cardinal Crimson
  • 13th Legion
  • Kill Team
  • Annihilation Squad
  • Space Wolf
  • Ragnar's Claw
  • Grey Hunter
  • Soul Drinker
  • The Bleeding Chalice
  • Crimson Tears
  • Soldier
  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Warriors of Chaos army book
See you again in two months.

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