Book Review- “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill

Thousand SonsWhen you read a series of books that you enjoy a sense of complacency can start to set in. You can almost become accustomed to certain things and after you read an entry you’re left with a feeling of like, “Okay. That was fun. On to the next one.” Sometimes though an entry comes along in a series that is so good it’s like a refreshing blast of cold water or even slap in the face. It wakes you up and reminds you of why you fell in love with a particular series in the first place and shows you just how special, exciting, and powerful a book in that series can be. I just finished “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill, which is book 12 in Games Workshop/Black Library’s “Horus Heresy” (a prequel storyline that sets the stage for their Warhammer 40,000 line of novels) series, and I’m happy to report it’s just such a book.

The titular characters of “A Thousand Sons” are a Space Marine Legion and McNeill was given a gift in these characters because they’re one of the most fascinating and unique Space Marine Legions in all of 40k. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that the great thing about Space Marines novels is they allow the author to take a deep dive into the diverse martial cultures of a particular Legion, and what makes the Thousand Sons so compelling is the fact they combine the transhuman bad-assery of your typical Space Marine, with the academic bent and powers of your archetypical sorcerer from fantasy stories, and add just a hint of Marvel Comics X-Men to make things extra tragic and poignant.

That’s because unlike most Space Marine Legions that feature a handful of members with psychic powers many of the Thousand Sons are capable of incredible mental feats. It’s part of the culture they hail from, and their godlike primarch/father, Magnus the Red, is one of the most powerful Psykers in existence. Unfortunately for them though, in the reality of 40K psychic powers are linked to the unstable reality known as the Warp, a tumultuous dimension of demons, psychic monstrosities and malevolent, power-hungry, gods. So. the Sons are feared and distrusted by many of their brother Legions who label them Warlocks.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we meet an eclectic cast of the titularGraham McNeill characters and we get to bond with them and see them live, study, and of course fight. My favorite legionnaire was chief Librarian, Ahzek Ahriman, who I knew was one of the most beloved anti-heroes in 40K, but now I know why. In “A Thousand Sons” Ahriman is a charismatic and compelling character constantly questing for truth and plumbing the warp with his precognitive and astral projection powers to serve his Primarch, Legion, and the Imperium of Man.

Magnus the Red is of course is a fascinating character too, but I like that McNeill didn’t make the Primarch the focus of the story. It makes the scenes with him extra special. When Magnus makes an entrance the only way to describe it is to quote Sargent Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz” and say, “Shit just got real.” That said, Magnus remains a very human character in “A Thousand Sons.” Despite his vast power and good intentions he makes mistakes, big, powerful heartbreaking ones. He’s a tragic figure in the classical sense.

My other favorite group of characters in “A Thousand Sons” were the three Human scholars/remembrancers that are traveling with the Thousand Sons when the book begins. Each of them have a psychic gift and a unique back story that draws them into the larger world of the Thousand Sons. It’s a lot of fun to see these characters bounce of the Space Marines and observe how the behavior of the human and posthuman characters impact each other. Another cool aspect is that one of the Remembrancers, Camille Shivani, is the first LGBTQ character I’ve encountered in the world of 40K. We even get to see her with a significant other at one point in the book.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we travel with the titular Space Marines and human characters to a variety of worlds and watch as they take on a whole host of foes including one of their brother legions, the barbaric Space Wolves. The rivalry between the Wolves and the Sons is a believable and tragic one. I’m actually a pretty big fan of the Wolves so the fact that I was actively rooting against them in “A Thousand Sons” is a testament to the characters McNeill created and the narrative he weaved together.

The narrative is a fascinating one too. We get a handful of big battles, but we also get the equivalent of a court room sequence, which was fascinating and something I’ve never really seen before in a 40K book as McNeill chronicles one of the big events in the pre-history of 40K. The novel then follows a series of shocking revelations and tragic mistakes that climaxes with one of the most epic and poignant battles I’ve read about in a 40K or “Horus Heresy” book. Long time fans will know what I’m talking about, but I don’t want to say too much and spoil things.

Another fun aspect is that McNeill peppers the novel with little Easter Egg nods to other classic tales of fantastic fiction. I’m sure I missed all of them, but two that I caught were fitting and organic nods to the works of Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft.

So, “A Thousand Sons” is one of my favorite entries in “The Horus Heresy” series For me it’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s “Legion” and Ben Counter’s “Galaxy in Flames.” It’s a big novel full of fun, fascinating and powerful stuff. Best of all it’s made me especially fired up to get to some other 40K and “Horus Heresy” novels that are sitting on my “to read” pile like John French’s Ahriman: The Omnibus,” and Dan Abnett’s “Horus Heresy” novel, “The Burning of Prospero,” which I understand is kind of companion novel to “A Thousand Sons.”

Book Review- “The Force” by Don Winslow

July 9, 2017 1 comment

ForceIn his review of Don Winslow’s stunning and powerful drug war novel, “The Cartel,” Michael Connelly said that there’s no higher mark for a storyteller than to both educate and entertain, and that Winslow is a master whose novels do both. I whole heartedly agree. Winslow’s ability to inform and inspire thought while weaving an exciting narrative full of great characters is why he’s one of my favorite authors. It’s also why I was really looking forward to reading his new novel “The Force.” Having finished that book, I’m happy to report that Winslow did not disappoint. “The Force” is another example of an author at the top of his game and an example of how powerful, entertaining, and important crime fiction can be.

While I was reading “The Force” I couldn’t help but think of the classic Nietzsche quote, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

That’s because, in the novel, Winslow tell the tales of a top cop and his colleagues in a elite unit of the New York Police Department. So it’s a very timely tale that examines the insidious and often hard to recognize path to corruption that many law enforcement officers inadvertently stumble onto while trying to serve and protect their communities.

So Detective Denny Malone, the protagonist of “The Force,” and his fellow cops in Manhattan North aren’t really the villains of Winslow’s novel. They’re not the heroes either. Part of the reason “The Force” is so compelling is because of the moral nuance Winslow gives it’s main cast of characters is. They’re capable of being both heroic and utterly despicable both to the communities they serve and the families they’re part of.

However, “The Force” isn’t just a look at corrupt cops and how a police force can don_winslowfail the community it serves. It’s also a look at how communities fail the cops that have sworn to protect it. We see how administrative brass, city officials, and corporate power players create an atmosphere that’s ripe for corruption with their emphasis on convictions by any means necessary, bending the law to suit their own interests, and drafting cops into an unwinnable drug war that forces them to triage parts of the city and transform economically impoverished areas into drug ridden war zones of misery and despair.

Winslow’s examination of his characters and police corruption unfolds as an epic, sweeping narrative with a huge cast of eclectic and fully fleshed out characters where little anecdotes and powerful turning point moments combine to create a narrative with power and momentum. I honestly don’t want to say too much more about the characters and events of “The Force” because I want readers to have the same enjoyment I did by discovering them for themselves.

What I will say is “The Force” is full of organic twists and turns that many readers won’t see coming. They’ll force you to root for and against Detective Denny Malone and his friends. They’ll also glue you to the book as you rocket towards a hell of a climax.

So with “The Force” Don Winslow proves once again that he’s one of the best crime writers working today. The book is one of the best, if not the best, cop novels I’ve ever read.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Throneworld” by Guy Haley

ThroneworldWhen Games Workshop/Black Library announced last year’s long “Warhammer 40,000” event story line, “The Beast Arises,” I was pretty skeptical. I wasn’t exactly sure how a 12 part novel series about a massive invasion by the Orks (a faction that I find interesting in a force of nature sort of way, but never really as compelling villains) could maintain momentum and my interest. The kick off novel to the series though, “I Am Slaughter,” was by Dan Abnett, one of my favorite 40K and comic writers. So I decided to give “The Beast Arises” series a shot.

I Am Slaughter” was pretty good, but I was kind of underwhelmed by book two, and book three had some interesting parts. Then something surprising happened with book four, “The Last Wall.” I suddenly found myself won over and invested in the conflicts and characters of “The Beast Arises” event. I’m happy to report that my enthusiasm has only grown after reading book five, “Throneworld,” by Guy Haley.

I was prepared not to like “Throneworld” because it’s cover featured a member of another 40K faction I find pretty underwhelming, The Eldar. 40K’s space elves do play sort of a large role in the opening chapters of “Throneworld,” but they are not a huge part of the novel. Haley handled them well too. It was interesting seeing them running wild on the Imperium of Man’s home turf of Terra, and their interactions with one of the series main character’s Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of the Imperium’s office of assassins, were pretty interesting. Plus those interactions set the stage for some other compelling dynamics that could be explored in the series second half.

One faction that does play a decent sized role in “Throneworld” that Haley does a pretty fantastic job with is the Adpetus Mechanicus, the Machine Cult of Mars. I used to have zero interest in the Mechanicum. I thought they were one of the most boring factions in the world of 40K. Then I read Graham McNeil’s “Horus Heresy” novel, “Mechanicum” and realized how interesting they could be, and in “Throneworld” Haley further illustrated why Mars is one of the most intriguing worlds in 40K. Quite a bit of the action in the novel involves mystery and intrigue on the Mechanicum homeworld as an ambitious and power hungry Fabricator General advances a secret plan that might lead to victory over the Orks and civil war against the Imperium. Standing in his way are several of Vangorich’s agents.

The rest of the action in “Throneworld” involves 40k’s most ubiquitous faction, the Guy HaleyImperium’s Space Marines, which is fine because Haley utilizes them in fun and fascinating ways. Space Marine stories need action and there’s plenty of really cool, intense, and apocalyptic set pieces in “Throneworld,” but like any good stories the best Space Marine tales are ones that feature strong, vibrant, fully realized characters. There are plenty of those types of Space Marines in “Throneworld.”

The most fascinating of course is Koorland AKA Slaughter, the last surviving member of the Imperial Fists. Watching him rise from the tragedy that cost him his Battle Brothers and grow and change from a front line soldier into a cunning galactic hero and leader has been one of the most satisfying parts so far of “The Beast Arises.”

In “Throneworld” you get to see Koorland kick-ass and continue to grow as he leads “The Last Wall,” an army of different Space Marine legions descended from the Imperial Fists, into battle against an Ork Attack Moon (I’ll never get tired of typing the words Attack Moon! So cool and imaginative!) and deals with the treachery and machinations of the people in charge of the very world he’s trying to defend, The Lords of Terra.

My favorite parts of “Throneworld” though had to deal with some Space Marines new to the larger action of “The Beast Arises,” the Imperium aligned warriors of the fanatical Black Templars legion and the Traitor Legion known as the Iron Warriors. Part of the reasons I find Space Marine Legions so fascinating is each Legion has it’s own cultures and customs. I have not read much about the Black Templars and in “Throneworld” Haley shows off their best and worst traits. The Iron Warriors are allowed to be equally nuanced as well. You don’t forget they betrayed humanity and the Emperor, but their main representative in the book is allowed to be both articulate in his reasons and charismatic.

Kalkator, the Iron Warriors, leader is a fun and interesting character. So is Magneric, the relentless Black Templar High Marshall and cybernetic Dreadnought that is leading a force to hunt down and destroy Kalkator and his grand company of Iron Warriors. Their scenes together are fascinating because of their dynamic as both hunter and hunted and former friends. Plus you get to see what happens to that dynamic when it’s confronted by the savage monstrosity of the Orks. I hope to see more of Kalkator, Magneric, and their respective Legions in future installments of “The Beast Arises.”

So with “Throneworld” my investment and excitement over “The Beast Arises” series has grown. I look forward to reading the next entry in the series, and more books by Guy Haley. I believe this is my first book I’ve read of his and I can’t wait to read his return to “The Beast Arises” with “The Beheading” (The final book in the series) and “Dark Imperium,” which moves the timeline of 40K forward in some directions that sound exciting.

Book Review- “Tales of Heresy” Edited by Nick Kyme & Lindsey Priestley

Tales-of-Heresy-Neil-RobertsThe world of Games Workshop and Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 universe is so huge and rich that it’s easy to think all of it’s best stories would be big, sprawling epics. That’s by no means true though. I’ve certainly read some fantastic novels, trilogies, and multi-book series, but “Tales of Heresy,” the 10th installment in “The Horus Heresy” series that chronicles the galaxy spanning civil war that shaped the current 40K time line, is a great reminder that some of the most powerful and entertaining 40K tales are shorter fare. The seven tales that make up the book provide some fascinating insight into the most celebrated heroes, villains, and organizations of the Imperium of Man. We get to see some of the pivotal events that shaped them and how they react to the initial fires of a war that will turn into a conflagration that will eventually envelope the entire Imperium.

I’ve never actually reviewed an anthology before. So this is something that I’m still trying to get the hang off, but overall I thought “Tales of Heresy” did a great job fleshing out some of the more interesting characters and organizations that didn’t get a whole lot of coverage in the first nine books of the series, which detail the outbreak and initial skirmishes of the Horus Heresy. I also liked that the tales that were included in the book were incredibly diverse. Readers are taken to a variety of locations and given tales of desperate battles to conquer and liberate planets, a spy mission on Holy Terra, an investigation into a missing ship, a Space Marine trying to reach his mentally unhinged Primarch, and best of all, a simple conversation about the inspiring and destructive power of faith between the priest of one of Earth’s last churches and a representative of the secular Imperium.

That story is Graham McNeil’s “Last Church,” and there were a number of reasonsThe_Last_Church_on_Terra_by_Noldofinve why I loved it. The first is because of how different it is from your standard 40K fare. Essentially it’s two guys talking about religion. It’s almost a one act play. That structure makes the story fresh and pretty powerful since the two characters are talking about the ways religion can hurt and harm society. The second reason I really enjoyed the story was that it gave some more insights into life on Terra and the history of the Unification Wars where the Emperor came to power. The third reason is the story has some great twists and turns that I’m not going to spoil here. It all came together to make one of the best 40K short stories I’ve ever read.

Another favorite of mine was Matthew Farrer’s “After Desh’ea.” It’s another story that’s essentially just two people talking, but in this case it’s the Gladiator Primarch Angron and the Space Marine who will go on to become one of Chaos’ deadliest warriors, Kharn. What’s especially great about this story is Farrer manages to both humanize Angron and still make him seem godlike and horrific. That’s because he shows us that not even Primarchs are immune to the psychological damage caused by a lifetime of violence. In the story we see Angron fight for and lose control over his body as Kharn tries to talk his Primarch out of beating him to death and into his role as leader of the XII Legion of the Emperor’s Space Marines.

Rounding out my top three favorite stories in “Tales of Heresy” is Dan Abnett’s “Blood Games,” which takes readers deep inside an organization I wasn’t too familiar with, the Adeptus Custodes, the Emperor’s elite body guards and agents. Their world is a pretty fascinating one too since they’re genetically injured super soldiers like the Space Marines, but they’re also supremely cunning. So Abnett’s story is essentially about the Space Marine versions of Jason Bourne pulling off two very different undercover missions. The story is full of bad ass action, intrigue, and fun.

The other stories in “Tales of Heresy” were also pretty entertaining as well. So when you add them together with the three standout ones I discussed above you have a collection of fun and powerful stories that showcase how fascinating and deep a world Games Workshop and Black Library have created. Kudos to editors Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestly for putting together such a great anthology.

Book Review-“The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel” by Mark Frost

Secret History of Twin PeaksOne of the great things about David Lynch and Mark Frost’s “Twin Peaks” is that it’s a mystery that gives you enough clues to formulate your own ideas about what’s going on, but it never definitively answers the main seemingly supernatural enigmas plaguing the fictional town they’ve created. So when you watch the series there’s this fun and fantastic feeling of mysterious dread; like something sinister is out there waiting in the woods of Ghost Wood Forest and you can almost make it out. I’m happy to report that feeling was a big part of Frost’s novel “The Secret History of Twin Peaks.” It provides plenty of new and fun ways of looking at things that can serve as clues and context for watching old episodes of “Twin Peaks” or Showtime’s current “Twin Peaks: The Return,” but it also raises just as many questions as it answers.

“The Secret of History of Twin Peaks” may not be for every fan. If you’re not looking for clues or have no interest in a novel that’s just as much about the strange real history of America and the world as it is about the events in Twin Peaks this probably isn’t for you. Also if you’re looking specifically for a book that is only about the central characters of Twin Peaks (many of them are here and play a large part) or fills in the 25 year gap between the original series and the current Showtime revival (I believe that comes later this year in the form of Frost’s “Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier”) this isn’t for you. If you though are looking to see how things like the Black Lodge and Owl Cave rings impact real world historical figures or have your memory refreshed on important details relevant to the current series this is definitely a book you’ll have fun with. You’ll smile as connection are made and context is given to current events in the Showtime series.

In “The Secret History of Twin Peaks” Frost weaves together connections between the titular town and its residents and weird and very real moments in American and world history. The end result is a novel that feels like Twin Peaks meets Robert Anton Wilson’s “Illuminatus” trilogy or the historical fantasy novels of Tim Powers. I want to get more specific and talk about what’s in there, but I really don’t want to spoil any surprises. Let’s just say if you’re familiar with some of the strange events of American history or conspiracy theories you’ll come across some recognizable faces in the book. If you’re not up on those details google some of the names. You’ll discover some very real and fascinating characters and events.

Those wide historical details will certainly appeal to fans of weird history like myself.Mark-Frost Some passages may feel like they belong in an “X-Files” book, and if that bothers you or feels long I’d advise just be patient and enjoy the ride. Frost takes you to an interesting destination. Also I think it’s safe to say there’s a huge crossover between “Twin Peaks” and “X-Files” fans. Both are weird mysteries where charismatic and eccentric FBI agents play central roles.

The citizens of Twin Peaks aren’t short shifted in Frost’s book either. Some characters play central roles throughout the entire novel. Plus there’s several chapters that deal with the often sordid dealings and machinations of the town’s central figures and families.

Another fun aspect of the “The Secret History” is Frost’s use of the Epistolary method to tell his story. The book is a collection of files, essays, journal entries, and other documents from a variety of authors. There are two central narrators. Agent Tamara Pierce (who is a minor character in the Showtime series) provides fun annotations on the documents presented in the book. It’s especially cool to see her thoughts when weird events are discussed. Much of the narration and documents though come from a mysterious figure named the Archivist. Deducing his identity was a central goal of Pierce and will be the reader’s goal as well. It’s a mystery that’s answered and as a long time “Twin Peaks” fan I thought the answer was highly satisfying.

So if you’re looking for a book that deepens an enriches the mysteries of Twin Peaks by weaving them into the mysteries of America history “The Secret History of Twin Peaks” is definitely a novel you need to pick up. It’s a fun and highly satisfying read that has only increased my excitement and enthusiasm for the new Showtime series. I’m also very excited to read Frost’s follow up book “Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier,” which is currently scheduled to hit on Halloween of this year.

Categories: Book Review, TV Thoughts

Book Review- Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry

Dogs of WarOne of my favorite aspects of heroic fiction is the protagonist that refuses to stay down. When the forces of darkness knock them to the canvas they always get back up because the safety of the city, country, or world is on the line. Those stories are even more powerful and poignant when there’s a cost to getting back on your feet and continuing to fight until the day is won. Jonathan Maberry demonstrated that with his last Joe Ledger novel (the eight in the series), “Kill Switch” where Joe and his fellow soldiers, scientists, and support staff at the Department of Military Sciences dealt with a scheme that almost shattered them and their seemingly invincible organization. They endured the worst their enemies threw at them though, and saved the world. The result was one of the best entries in the series.

Unfortunately for Joe and his comrades though their job is to wage a never ending war against the forces that would terrorize innocence whoever and wherever they may be. So how do you come back to the fight after surviving a conflict that took the lives of many of your comrades, robbed your organization of it’s stellar reputation, and nearly robbed you of your sanity and your life? That’s one of the central questions in Maberry’s latest Ledger novel, “Dogs of War,” and the journey towards answering it was pretty fascinating and a whole lot of fun.

When “Dogs of War” picks up Joe, his enigmatic boss Mr. Church, and the surviving250px-JonathanMaberry members of the Department of Military Sciences are in rebuilding mode. They’re trying to repair the devastating damage done to their ranks, reputation, and morale that was done in “Kill Switch” and it’s easier said than done. So right away in “Dogs of War” they’re on their back foot, and it’s an interesting place to be because the characters and us readers are not used to it. That position also gives the story some extra poignance and resonance. We’re not used to Joe and the DMS being underdogs. So as “Dogs of War” moves along you’ll find yourself rooting for Joe, Top, Bunny, and all your old favorites more than usual. Watching them rise up and try to get back to where they were is especially fun.

Another way in which “Dogs of War” is enjoyably unique is its narrative and structure. Many of the previous Ledger books were action thrillers with a variety of genre elements and an immense scope and scale. “Dogs of War” has all of those hallmarks, but to me it felt like a novel that was just as intimate as it what “wide screen.” For much of the story the cast is paired down to just Joe, his best friend and the DMS’ resident mental health specialist, Dr. Rudy Sanchez, and his brother Sean, a homicide detective with the Baltimore Police.

So in a lot of ways “Dogs of War” is just as much a detective novel as it is an action thriller. It’s also a novel of sci-fi and horror. That might sound radical and off putting to some fans, but trust me it’s not. That’s because just when you think you’ve got the plot and the rhythm of the novel worked out Maberry hits you with an organic and well placed twist that turns the story up to 11 and shows all the things you thought you might be missing were brewing in the background.

The nature of the threat that Joe and company face is also pretty compelling. Before “Dogs of War” even begins Maberry states that all the scary science that his characters run afoul of in the book is either in active development, field testing, and or already in use. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying much more than that, but I will say much of the horror in the novel comes from the truly terrifying applications a shadowy conspiracy devises for things that used to be science fiction, but are now science fact like nanites and robots.

The villains behind this conspiracy are also quite fascinating. One of them I started off hating, but the more and more Maberry revealed about her tragic life the more I empathized with her. That was a pretty grand accomplishment to because I started off hating this villain.

The other chief antagonist of “Dogs of War” turns out to be a great villain as well. Especially when you find out what’s really going on with the character. Again I’m not going to say much, but it ties back into some of the cooler genre elements that have been percolating in the back of the Ledger series for some time now. It also offers up more tantalizing clues into the past of one of the mosts mysterious characters in the Ledger series.

So you get some long term plot and mystery payoff, but you also get plenty of great character moments as well. Joe spends much of the book separated from the founding members of Echo Team, Top and Bunny. Those characters get their moments to shine too though. Plus we get to check in with sniper Sam Imura. Some of my favorite moments though came in scenes where the DMS support staff got some time to shine and show that, while they might not be highly trained soldiers ,they’re still very much heroes in their own right. I particularly like the scenes with computer specialists Bug and Nikki, and forensics analyst Jerry Spencer.

Maberry also gave readers an insanely cool new member of the DMS to root for in the form of ex-cop and soldier Tracy Cole. She wasn’t in as much as the book as Joe or even Top and Bunny, but the scenes we got with were awesome and she was so bad-ass. I can’t wait to read more about her.

So it’s incredibly difficult to keep a book series and its characters interesting after nine entries, but with “Kill Switch” and now “Dogs of War” Maberry demonstrates that the Joe Ledger series is in no danger of running out of steam. In fact it’s becoming an even more fun and fascinating with each entry. I can’t wait until spring 2018 for the next installment.

Categories: Book Review, Joe Ledger

Book Review- “The Last Wall” by David Annandale

Last WallI took a bit of a break from Black Library’s year long event storyline “The Beast Arises” after book 3, “The Emperor Expects.” Not because the series was bad. It was quite entertaining. It wasn’t as epic as I wanted it to be though. I got the rest of the series this past Christmas so I decided to go back to it with Book 4 “The Last Wall” by David Annandale. I’m glad I did because in this book Annandale turns things up to 11 by taking all that stuff that works in past books and amping it, as well as adding some new and very interesting twists.

One of the most interesting elements of “The Beast Arises” series has been the political intrigue and maneuvering. You get more of that in “The Last Wall” as Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of the Imperium of Man’s Officio Assassinorum tries to protect his ally in the Inquisition and deals with the petty posturing for power of the High Lords of Terra. Annandale does a fantastic job drumming home how awful, narcissistic, and power hungry the various High Lords are in the novel. By the end it was clear that they’re just as big of villains in the story as the invading Ork forces are.

The political elements of the novel also stretched out to some other returning characters that weren’t part of that type of intrigue in the past like Koorland, the surviving Imperial Fist. In the few chapters he appears in you see him having to make nice and navigate the egos of the leaders of the Space Marine chapters that had descended from the Imperial Fists. You don’t often get to see that type of interaction between the martial minded Space Marines and it was pretty interesting to see.

Annandale also introduces a number of new characters and forces into the conflict. david_annandaleI would love to talk about one of the new forces, but it’s a big spoiler. I’ll just say that a major Warhammer 40,000 player I never thought I’d see facing off against an Ork invasion is forced to deal with an Ork attack moon (man that’s such a fun and METAL thing to type) in “The Last Wall.” It made for some really cool and interesting scenes and I never thought I’d be cheering the members of this faction on, but I was!

The bulk of the new characters introduced in “The Last Wall” are the humans of the “Proletariat Crusade” that a High Lord of Terra creates in order to deal with the attack moon hanging over the Imperium’s home world. Much of the action in “The Last Wall” involves the formation of the crusade which is composed of thousands of ships and the billions of average citizens and Imperial Guardsmen those ships are hoping to land on the attack moon.

So we get scenes of chaos on Terra, people coming together, and intense fighting, and all of them work. Along the way we meet some characters that I grew attached to like the crew of the Merchant ship Militant’s Fire, and my favorite new character Galatea Haas, of the Adeptus Arbites. She’s got a great arc that involves which duty she should devote herself too, and she’s part of some really nice action scenes. So she’s both very human and a bad-ass like a lot of the best characters in the Warhammer 40K universe.

The other element of “The Last Wall” I really enjoyed addressed one of my biggest criticisms of “The Beast Arises” storyline, the Orks. For the first three novels the Orks really felt monstrous, but they also felt like a force of nature. So instead of feeling like an epic tale of interstellar war “The Beast Arises” almost felt more like a saga of cosmic disaster, which was still fun, but not as cool or as epic as I felt the story needed to be.

Annandale changes that in the “The Last Wall.” There were several scenes where the Orks really did start to feel like a sinister invasion force. The most powerful and just plain “HOLY SHIT I DIDN’T EXPECT TO EVER SEE THAT IN A 40K NOVEL” though comes at the end of the book. I don’t want to say what it was, but that scene fully invested me in the characters and larger conflict of “The Beast Arises.” I can’t wait to plow into it, and finish the last 8 novels in the series.