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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