Saturday, July 25, 2009

GENERAL: Bi-monthly book update bonanza!

I'm over the halfway mark in terms of New Years resolutions and I've stuck to my promise not to buy any Black Library novels for the whole of 2009. Unfortunately my acquisition of novels has only slowed down, not stopped. How, I hear you cry in some imaginary part of my brain.

Well, I won the two latest Ultramarine books by Graham McNeill in an online competition, and I've only bally well gone and done it again by winning Salamander in a similar competition on Graeme's Fantasy Book Review. Oops!

Salamander is the first full length 40k novel by Nick Kyme, who is also an editor for Black Library. It deals with the Salamander chapter of Space Marines (duh!) attacking an Iron Warriors outpost and then confronting an ancient prophecy. I followed Mr Kyme's blog as he wrote the novel and it is well worth a read if you haven't come across it before. He talks about re-retconning (is that even a word?) the Salamanders physical traits of having jet black skin and burning red eyes, which has caused some controversy amongst Salamander Space Marine fans.

I look forward to reading the book in the near future.

I rattled through the Imperial Guard codex in short order. As I mentioned in my last book update, the fact that I was reading this rather than the 5th edition Space Marine codex which I've had lying around for months was telling.

There are several different things to judge a new codex by. One of the most important is the strength of the list; both in terms of raw power and also in flexibility. I think the IG codex scores highly in both areas. The Guard now have some much needed mobility to allow them to compete in 5th edition missions, but they also have a number of ways to achieve those missions. The list is good, allowing several styles of competitive and casual play, from ground-pounders to armoured companies.

Another aim of the codex is to showcase the army itself; it's key themes, the model range and paint schemes. Some of the art in the codex is distinctly ropey (Penal Legion Troopers I'm looking at you) but in contrast the character portraits are great. The new models are pretty uniformly excellent with the Valkyrie and advisers stand-outs in particular for me. The continued support of Catachans is a good thing in my opinion.

Many people hate them but they will always have a soft spot for me as I put them in the context of films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Commando, Rambo and countless others. Sure, the infantry plastics are a little tired and over muscled but the newer heavy weapons and the command section plastics in particular look great. I have a stack of old Catachan models I'd love to turn into a proper army someday.

I also managed to (re)read Imperial Armour three - The Taros Campaign. This was the first IA book to contain a full campaign with the new rules and vehicles slotted into the conflict, rather than just a collection of random rules and models. For this it should be applauded as all of the latter books have also used this format. I liked the force organisation charts and some of the technical drawings and photographs.

There was much to hate, though. The maps were shockingly bad. There were loads of annoying typographical errors. And the writing was just terrible. Awful. I understand that there was a mix up at the printers and that an earlier draft of the manuscript was used, but I bought this book in 2008 and the book was first published in 2005. Could some of the spelling mistakes not have been corrected in the meantime?

I had actually started reading this book last year but never got through it, partly because of the poor writing but also because of the sheer size of the book. Reading it in bed felt like a wardrobe had toppled onto me. Just saying.

Planetstrike is the latest tome I have read. It felt a bit thin compared to the Apocalypse expansion and even the recent codexes. Although I enjoyed Apocalypse because of the fantastic photography and model porn in it's pages, I didn't get the same enjoyment from the Planetstrike book.

The purpose of the book I suppose is to flog the new terrain which accompanies it. And the terrain is fantastic. It has inspired me to finish off my siege table for 40k and I have bought the new Bastions, Craters and landing platform to go with it. These kits are excellent, they seem easy to put together and they look great.

I like the concept behind the 40k expansions as it is good to get a new way to play the game. You can then revisit your codex anew and it feels like you can rediscover your army. It shakes up the tired old rankings of good and bad units, weapons and wargear. The best thing is that it appeals to numerous armies simultaneously, so virtually everyone can feel like they got something new.

The games seem very dramatic, with action right from turn one, so I am looking forward to getting a game or three in when I get my table finished.

Dark Apostle was the only Black Library novel I read in the past two months. It got off to a great start with a tight narrative and lots of action. Anthony Reynolds was not afraid to play with my expectations of the characters, some of them dying hideously unexpected deaths and some suffering worse fates. I think this is one of the plus points of writing from the bad guys perspective; all normal bets are off!

The only criticism I had was the end of the book. It wanders around a bit, not entirely satisfying the narrative that has unfolded so far. Obviously this is because it is the first of the series so the future conflicts need to be constructed, but it felt a bit clunky. Still, I enjoyed this book and will seek out the next in the series.

The last book on my books read list is Soldier. I only included it on the list because I thought it might be of some use to provide background material for my IG. And that is all it was good for as it was a poor read. It was very dull, ultra-conservative and toes the (Conservative) party line - to be expected I suppose.

That's all I'll say on that other than I won't be adding such books to my reading list in future. They are of limited interest to other readers anyway and just clog up the list. The last such book on there is Bomber Boys, so once that is read it'll be GW publications only.

Whew, that was a lot of books!

It feels good to have crossed the titles off my list, though, and reduced the reading pile.

Books read
  • Imperial Guard codex
  • Dark Apostle
  • Imperial Armour Three: The Taros campaign
  • Soldier
  • Planetstrike

Books bought
  • None

Books wanted
  • Red Fury
  • Planetkill
  • Titanicus
  • Imperial Guard Omnibus Volume 1
  • Creatures Anathema
  • The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
  • Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project
  • Tales of Heresy
  • 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
  • Emperor's Mercy
  • Fallen Angels
  • Heart of Rage
  • Dark Disciple

The reading pile

  • Liber Chaotica
  • Storm of Chaos
  • Imperial Infantryman's Primer (Damocles Gulf edition)
  • The Life of Sigmar
  • Faith and Fire
  • Cardinal Crimson
  • Kill Team
  • Annihilation Squad
  • Space Wolf
  • Ragnar's Claw
  • Grey Hunter
  • Soul Drinker
  • The Bleeding Chalice
  • Crimson Tears
  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Warriors of Chaos army book
  • Disciples of the Dark Gods
  • Bomber Boys
  • The Killing Ground
  • Courage and Honour
  • Salamander
The book review will be back in two months.


  1. Sorry, gotta say - you need to buy Ciaphas Cain Omnibus now. I've just re-read it for the third time and it's still genius! Great expose on the life of the luckless guardsmen combined with the self-centred exploits of the protagonist! Laugh out loud at many many moments.

    My particular pleasure is that Alex Stewart (Sandy's real name) isn't afraid to throw out the conventions. Orks and Khronites aren't scary (as they generally just run at you yelling their heads off) whereas Necrons, Tau and Slannesh are terrifying.

  2. Yep, that's definitely on my 'wanted' list. The problem is the same as my painting pile - I have far too many books/models already to justify buying more. I need to knuckle down and read what I own before I can justify new purchases. Roll on 2010!