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Book Review: Chernobyl Prayer – Svetlana Alexievich

I won’t lie, this is one of the most intense books I have ever read. It is a collection of memories, stories, thoughts and feelings of the survivors of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

This book pulls no punches when it comes to telling the stories of those who were involved in some way with the disaster. Some of them left me in tears, some of them left me horrified. All of them were moving in some way.

I am unsure where to begin with this one, it is not my usual read! I picked it up because I wanted to find out the personal stories of the people – to get a bit deeper than the HBO show went. This book certainly delivered that. The story of the Fireman who was first on the scene was far more graphic when told by his wife – they omitted some gruesome details in the show – and it was difficult to read from an emotional point of view.

What hit home in this book was how little the people actually knew about what was going on. They had no idea how dangerous the disaster was and that is down to the political environment at the time. It is a very alien way of thinking – to me at least – and seeing people volunteer for what was essentially a suicide mission seems insane.

Then I reached the stories of the people who moved TO the exclusion zone to escape the civil wars that was a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I think, how awful must life have been for those people if moving to an irradiated death-trap was a positive move?

The tales of the surviving children is also hard hitting. A lot of them are unwell, a lot of them spend time in hospitals and know they are going to die.

The book is certainly enlightening, and bleak, however it is very much worth reading. I’d recommend it – the translation is good and language wise, it is easy to follow. The content however, that can be difficult to swallow.

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Review: Darkness in the Blood

I don’t normally go for special edition releases, but sometimes, you just need to know what happens. I endulged in this one and I was pleasantly surprised. Before I talk about the book itself, I want to show you the extra goodies that came in the box with the book:

Continue reading “Review: Darkness in the Blood”
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Review: Spear of the Emperor – Aaron Dembski-Bowden

I have been thoroughly spoilt this year with books I have read, I’ve not had a bad one yet, and they keep getting better. This one is no exception.

I am trying to think of the best point of this book and I really am struggling to select just one. The plot, pacing, characters and language contained within this book is all fantastic.

Let’s start with the plot and pacing. The book does take a while to truly get going, but the time spent at the start of the novel is essential. None of it drags, all of it is well crafted and a good introduction to the setting of the story. The plot is masterfully crafted, twists and turns in most unexpected ways and honestly, leaves you reeling from the side-swipes it takes. I don’t do spoilers in my reviews, as you know, but I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened – go and read it, you won’t regret it.

Characters – there are some amazingly written individuals in this story. The narrative is written from the Point of View of a Chapter serf. She has an interesting history herself, and the story is told through her. I really enjoyed reading about how she uses her augmetics, and how she serves her Master. Some of the details of the Mentor Legion are left out as they are ‘secret’ and not for any reader to learn. Through her eyes, the reader is witness to exceptional interaction between some very different cultures. All the characters go through an emotional journey and are not the same as they were at the start of the story.

Technically, the novel is brilliant. None of the language is overly technical, but nor does it skimp on detail. The novel still feels like a 40K Science Fiction novel, but the details are not overwhelming. Nor are the more ‘poetic’ devices, such as simile and metaphor. The whole read is balanced and thoroughly enjoyable. There were some late night sessions because I was unable to put it down, which hasn’t happened for a while.

I also hope that there will be a follow up story to this one, it is hinted at that it is the first chapter of a longer tale, and I eagerly await the next installment!

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Review: Outcast Dead – Graham McNeill

I finished listening to this today, and I must say, I really enjoyed listening to it. Graham McNeill had really delivered a kick ass novel here for several reasons.

First off, I really enjoyed the setting of the novel. Terra, and the Petitioner’s City was really interesting to read about. It came across as a richly detailed environment without the descriptions being too heavy or too laboured. There are some really grim places that are shown, which hammer home the darkness of the 30K world setting, as well as some slightly nicer, which contrasts well between the different classes of people and the stark gulf between them. There are hints of the beaurocratic nightmare contained within Terra, the squallor as well as the social construction of the Petitioner’s City.

As always, the novel is populated with a diverse range of characters from different backgrounds. The adventures an astropath, some space marines, a custodes, and several other humans can get up to is very interesting. All of them are padded out and none of them appear flat either. Three of the Space Marine characters are World Eaters and all of them are different as well. In my opinion, this is quite a tricky feaet of achievement. The dialogue between the characters is good, it flows well and always adds to the story.

The plot is strong, the pace is good and the fight scenes are artfull crafted. The language within the story is not overly poetic or laboured, nor is it overly complex. There is special mention of the word ‘mushrooming’ which I found delightful.

I am not sure what the book adds overall to the monster that is the Horus Heresy Tale as a whole, however it allows the reader to learn of elements of Terra’s past (Thunder Warriors) and by itself is a well crafted, well penned tale – well worth reading.

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Review: Mephiston City of Light – Darius Hinks

So, I finally finished the the Mephiston trilogy and I must say I will be sad to see the end of it. I have thoroughly enjoyed the other tales of Mephiston and friends and the last one in the set was every bit as good. As usual, I will try not to give anything away in the review.

The final tale sees Mephiston, Rhacelus and Antros finally catching up to the demon that has been irritating them for some time. Mephiston, having survived the Primaris embiggening – the rubric that makes him bigger and less likely to lose control of himself and blast anyone who gets too close, finds out that the demon is up to hi-jinks in the Prospero system and asks to go and sort it out.

Dante agreed in a heart-warming scene so long as he takes Rhacelus with him.

What follows is a whirl-wind of events that culminate in a heart-aching scene, which I won’t say about here.

The tale flows very well and contains more interesting characters. We are treated to some wonderful interactions between the three librarians but we are also introduced to some interesting characters from the Imperial Guard. The fellow who survives is far from a two dimensional man who is only there to support the main characters. He has his own goals and works towards them in what must be terrifying situations.

The pace of the tale is good too. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened and this led to at least one late night. The language is easy to read but not too simple either. It doesn’t distract the reader from what is happening and for me, is very balanced.

I shall miss reading about these Blood Angels, they are responsible for a new army appearing in the cabinet after all. I do hope there will be more adventures around them in the future. Go and read these tales, they are well worth it.

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Review: Dante – Guy Haley

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As many of you know, I went on holiday, which was an amazing opportunity to relax and read! And read I did! I picked this up due to the portrayal of Dante in Devastation of Baal and wanting to know more. This book did not disappoint. It follows two lines of story – one of child Dante and how he became a Blood Angel, and that of Chapter Master Dante just before the events of Devastation of Baal.

I don’t put spoilers in my reviews because the details of the story are part of the joy of reading. In this story, we are treated to so many anecdotes and memories that have happened during Dante’s long life. One of the funniest was how he got into trouble when he was a scout the first time he saw rain. It is an act we can all relate to – looking up and trying to catch it with your mouth is something I think we have all done – and it shows Dante as attached to his humanity more than other Space Marines. This is just one such tale in a book filled with them.

The side characters are not neglected in the tale either. We all know that Dante goes on to become a Blood Angel, so that is no mystery to the reader, however it does not make the tale redundant. The journey is filled with characters who are interesting and their stories are just as good. None of them feel flat or as though they are there to just pad out Dante’s story. They are individual and worth reading about too! One of them had me in tears of sorrow – a difficult feat to acomplish so well done!

Guy Haley’s use of language in this novel is great too. None of the book feels like redundent description, it is all relevent and none of it is too floral or poetic. Meaning is clear and well thought out. I read this book in less than two days, which is really quick for me.

The short part is that this book made me fall in love with Dante, it is worth reading, full of emotion and just all round fabulous! Go read this!

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Review: Revenant Crusade – Darius Hinks

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Such a calm and collected Space Marine he is…

It did not take me long to chew through this novel – this is a good thing. A very good thing. I picked it up at the Warhammer Open Day and have now finished it, which for me, is good timing. There were a few late nights involved…

So, what’s good about this book?

It’s the second of a trilogy (maybe more I am not Black Library and for once I am fairly up to date with publications). Usually, when it comes to the middle book, they can be a bit slower and filled with more ‘filler’ material. Not so in this case. The synopsis is that Mephiston’s psychic abilities are being stifled by something and in order to find that oh so nasty daemon mentioned in book one, he needs to get that sorted out. Aparrently, it is a bit hard to track a daemon when you can’t ‘see’ it. Who knew. Cut to a planet occupied by some bonkers Necrons and you can probably guess what happens, at least to some extent.

Why was this book good? It has more of the Rhacelus-Mephiston-Antros dynamic which was so good in the first one. The relationship is explored further, pushed further and we learn some of the history there as well. It is gloriously well written, emotive (there might have been tears) and heartwarming in many places. No point is over laboured, but nor is it skimmed. It is well balanced and shows good character development throughout.

It also has crazy Necrons. I confess to not knowing a great deal about these xenos, and still don’t but what I learned, I really liked. It explores an old dynasty and how having a metal body does not always protect the mind! It was great to see how an ‘outsider’ Necron viewed those he had been sent to help. That said, I did wonder if they were a bit too human. I don’t know much about them though, so that might be just me not knowing things!

Another parallel I want to mention is that Mephiston, at one point, is bothered by the dead. Ghosts scream at him while he is trying to do tasks and it becomes quite the distraction. I was reminded how another Space Marine has similar problems with being screamed at *cough Abaddon* and wonder if that was intentional or not.

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Just another day at the office…

Anyway, to bring the review to a close. Read this book, its quick paced, full of interested characters and details and brings to life some less than familiar aspects of the Warhammer 40k universe.

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Review: The Dark Tower series.

I have had a long and lasting love affair with The Dark Tower series; it is one of the novel series that has resonated with me, and still does so. When I first read it about ten years ago, I was captivated by the characters and world setting, and that hasn’t changed. Periodically, I have gone back and read the first three and a half books, but usually stopped part way through the fourth. Now that I listen to audio books while painting, I found the perfect opportunity to listen to the whole tale again.

Let’s get a picture of The Gunslinger in here, for it is his story after all:

Good points of the story the second time around include how amazingly well written the characters are. From the smallest role to the largest, all the characters have a surprisingly well developed sense of purpose and self. I remember taking nearly three books to decide whether I liked Roland and that when I did, it was a whirlwind. The same applies on the second reading, though perhaps not as intensely. The pace of the first four books is intense and keeps you reading, or listening, even when you know what is going to happen.

What surprised me too is the amount of phrases I use in day to day language that come from this series. Language I had forgotten the source of, phrases like ‘never in life’ and ‘say true?’ just became part of my language. It has a poetic ring to it certainly, and the different accents and nuances contained within the Dark Tower are wide and varied. The world setting is dense, detailed and wide, it is a real treat to read about and journey through. Nothing in this story is coincidence. Everything happens for a reason and the smallest detail in book one unfolds into a big part of the later story. The forward thinking of the author is incredible.

I’m still not sold on Stephen King writing himself into the story.

Everything else about the tale is great, I laughed, I cried and was taken along an emotional journey with the characters; still caught up in their lives despite knowing what happened. If you only ever read one (set of) books again, make it The Dark Tower!

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Book Review: Blood of Sanguinius – Darius Hinks

It’s been a while since I have done a book review, though that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I have indulged in a lot of short stories, which would take forever to review them all. It doesn’t mean they are not good, or engaging and they certainly are worth reading however I would be here forever if I posted about them all.

One group of short stories has led me down a rather delightful path, and those feature the oddity that is Mephiston. Recommended by a close friend, I decided that it was time to venture out if the realms of chaos and see what the Imperium had to offer. I must say I was very well surprised with the two short stories: Eclipse of Hope and Lord of Death by David Annandale, however the character really comes into his own when penned by the capable hand of Darius Hinks.

Technically, the language is beautiful. While reading, there were no clumsy sentences, wonderfully crafted metaphors which were wrought in a careful, considerate way. Hinks’ choice of language complimented the carefully crafted world he created for the story and it was neither heavy handed or awkward. The pace of the novel was excellent and it kept me turning the pages until many a small hour – always a successful point. I was gripped.

What truly seized me however were the interactions between the three main protagonists. After reading a lot of novels set in the realm of chaos, it was a true pleasure to read about characters that liked one another. The dynamic between the young Antros, the older, sterner Rhacelus and the enigmatic Mephiston is expertly executed. The three compliment one another, even if they often do not understand each other. I never felt as though there was deceit between them and it was clear that although there was definite fear of death, none of them would die alone.

I don’t post spoilers in my reviews, but I want to discuss one point at the start of the book that was refreshing. Antros seeks the aid of a guardsman in locating a position in a dangerous place. When the inevitable danger occurs, he is desperate to ensure the guardsman survives. The fact that there are Chapters that still regard mortals as valuable and worth saving was brought into this novel clearly, however it never forgot the elements of Grimdark that are associated with Warhammer 40 000 either.

Darius Hinks has done a wonderful job with this novel, and I do look forward to reading the next one, right after Devastation of Baal, which is what I am chewing through rapidly at the moment.

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Talon of Horus – An Audio Book.

I will freely admit that in the past I have denounced the fact audio books exist and that I have no love for them. I always thought that it detracts something from reading, the characters have their own voice and hearing them in your head is a large part of the enjoyment of reading – for me at least. I always felt that in order to get close to the characters, you need to read them for yourself.

That said, I have started to listen to some while I am painting, as I got fed up of the radio and found watching Youtube too distratcing. When I saw Talon of Horus for the princy price of £2.99, I thought I had nothign to lose.

It was a most enjoyable experience. I really like the story anyway and have read it a few times since my first review some years ago when the blog started out. I felt Jonathan Keeble did a good job of giving the character’s voices and none of htem were far wrong from what I imagine them to be. Abaddon’s voice was gravelly, the World Eaters had mild cockney accents which worked really well in my mind, and Khayon came across was affably evil as well. He is still whiny, he still likes to lecture but it’s the Khayon we all know and love from before.

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Champion of Lectures: Khayon the Black

I think it helps that I already love The Black Legion, if I didn’t I’d not have a long running comic based on it’s Warmaster, but I did enjoy listening to the story and I am veyr glad they got the voices right – this is always my concern when listening to audio books.

Have a picture of Abaddon because I feel this needs to be in this post!

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This is his happy face…