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Book Review- “The Hunt for Vulkan” by David Annandale

September 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Hunt for VulkanIt’s been a while since I reached the halfway point of Games Workshop/Black Library’s epic 12 part “The Beast Arises” storyline. Not because I’m not a fan. It’s just life and and an ever expanding reading pile happened. So I was excited to finally get a chance to get back into the ork fighting action with “The Hunt for Vulkan” by David Annandale. It’s book 7 in the storyline. I worried though that my months away from the saga make it harder to get back into. Turns out all my worries were for nothing because “In the Hunt for Vulkan” Annandale welcomed me back into the “War of the Beast” with open arms. It was a fun tale bursting with action that made me eager to dig into the back half of the 12 part tale.

The Hunt for Vulkan” features a huge cast of characters, but it mainly follows a core cast of intriguing ones. At the center of the tale is Koorland, the last member of the Imperial Fists Space Marine chapter who we met back in the opening installment of this series. Part of the highlight of “The Beast Arises” has been Koorland’s journey as a character from survivor to Lord Commander of the Imperium. In “The Hunt for Vulkan” we get a chance to see him reflect on that journey and deal with some of the ghosts that still haunt him after the tragic loss he experienced in book one. We also get to see his growth as a political and military leader.

Annandale opens the book with a crisis on Mars that threatens to turn the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus against each other. That’s where we get to see Koorland’s mettle as a political leader tested. I was riveted watching him face off against the Mechanicus’ Fabricator General in a game of chicken. In the latter half of the book you get to see Koorland back on the battlefield as he leads a vast Imperium strike force in the titular “Hunt for Vulkan.”

The other major character of “The Hunt for Vulkan” is Thane, the Chapter Master ofdavid_annandale the Space Marine Legion known as the Fists Exemplar. We primarily get to see Thane on the battlefield in this book, but he’s a fun character to watch in a fight, and this novel also continues his growth from the previous ones. Some other character moments I enjoyed included the ones we spent with the crew of an Imperial Navy ship as it tried to survive a void battle against an ork armada and an ork Attack Moon, and checking back in with a Loyalist Space Marine Legion that’s been forced into an alliance with the Traitorous Iron Warriors Legion.

The best character moments for me though were the few ones we got to spend with my favorite Primarch, Vulkan. Annandale does let us get inside in Vulkan’s head in several powerful and inspiring moments. and he nails the character’s voice. Vulkan’s thoughts and deeds in the novel illustrate why he and the Salamanders are my favorite Loyalist Space Marine Legion and Primarch.

The other thing I loved about “The Hunt for Vulkan” was of course the wall-to-wall action of the book. The novel opens with an intense and desperate battle between the forces of the Imperium and then the latter 2/3 are an epic war on a crumbling planet. Annandale is fantastic at these scenes too. The book’s battles were full of powerful, bone crunching descriptions, and twists and turns that chilled me and made me cheer.

So, with “The Hunt For Vulkan” I was plunged back into the excitement of “The Beast Arises.” It was also another fantastic 40K book from Annandale. I’ve read three Black Library books by him now and I’ve loved everyone.

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Book Review- “Sadie by Courtney Summers

September 20, 2018 Leave a comment

SadieI don’t know why I continue to underestimate YA fiction, especially of the crime genre. I mean one of my favorite shows of all time, “Veronica Mars”, is about a teenage P.I. and it’s pretty noir. I guess I just have this weird pre-conceived notion that Young Adult prose novel’s featuring younger protagonists don’t make for hard hitting crime stories. Kristi Belcamino proved me wrong with her fantastic YA debut, “City of Angels.” And Courtney Summers once again proves me wrong with her new YA novel “Sadie.” I just finished reading it. It’s a powerful, fantastically paced, poignant, original crime novel that reads like a mash up of Andrew Vachss, the Jonathan Lethem novel “Motherless Brooklyn” and 

 

the movie “Winter’s Bone.” Yes, it’s that good.

In “Sadie,” Summers is telling a mystery story on two fronts and two formats. The first is told via the transcripts of a podcast called “The Girls” and in it we follow the exploits of host, West McCray, who is reluctantly dragged into the hunt for a missing girl. Her name is Sadie Hunters. She’s 19 years old and she up and vanished one day several months after her younger sister Mattie was murdered. McCray is called in after Sadie’s abandoned car turns up.

The second mystery is told from Sadie’s point of view. We go with her on her cross-country journey away from home and on a mysterious and very personal quest that unfolds over the course of the story. That set up, and the contrast between the two narratives makes “Sadie” an exciting novel to read. Summers used the different view points to feed into the two narratives perfectly. We’d get a chapter that cliff hangered from Sadie’s point of view and then we’d go with West McCray as he investigated the aftermath and tried to make sense of things.

Sadie” also works because the title characters is fascinating. She’s haunted by theCourtney Summers death of the one person who meant the world to her, her younger sister. She’s also tragically someone who never got to be a kid because of her family situation and some other things we discover as the novel unfolds. Making Sadie even more fascinating is the fact that she has a stutter. Since her portions of the novel are told from her perspective we get to hear how she feels about that, and how she’s affected by the way people treat her because of it. It’s something that you don’t often see in a book and it made an already empathetic character even more relatable.

West McCray is also an interesting character. At the beginning I admired him because he served as the dogged detective, but in the second half of the book you learn more personal details about him that makes his quest to find Sadie even more emotionally resonant.

Summers also populates “Sadie” with a whole host of fascinating and very realistic characters that we meet in both McCray’s and Sadie’s journeys. My favorites included Javi, a kind teenage boy Sadie encounters; Cat, a hitchhiker she picks up; and May Beth, a sort of surrogate mother to Sadie who runs the trailer park she lived in. There are also some very sinister figures who hang over the story in “Sadie.” I don’t want to say much about them because they’re involved in some of the most powerful and poignant reveals in the story.

Those sinister figures and their actions infuse “Sadie” with a compelling tone of creeping dread. As the story unfolds you want to learn more about the mysteries of the novel, but there’s a sense that those truths will be haunting and unsettling.

The book is also very moving too. It’s kind of an epic look at the power of familial love; how it can fuel us, keep us on our feet after enduring physical and emotional punishment, and consume us.

So, with “Sadie” Courtney Summers proves to me once again that YA crime fiction can be just as moving, powerful and haunting as crime stories intended for an adult audience. It’s a hell of a read.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Prospero Burns” by Dan Abnett

September 7, 2018 Leave a comment

Burning of ProsperoI love the world of Warhammer 40,000. It’s a rich and fascinating universe. I currently have two armies to play in the 8th edition of the game (I play Salamanders and Thousand Sons) I even bought Games Workshop’s newest skirmish version of 40K, “Kill Team” (Which is a great and fairly cheap way to get your feet wet in the world of 40K) The reason I’m such a huge fan though is the fabulous work done by the authors of the fiction arm of Games Workshop, the Black Library.

The work of one specific Black Library author though, Dan Abnett, brought me into the World of 40K. I was a huge fan of his comic work and I’ve been lucky enough to interview him as a journalist on several different occasions. He’s a super nice guy. So one day I picked up my library’s copy of “The Eisenhorn Omnibus” and I was hooked. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything 40K I’ve read by Abnett and I think his novel, “Legion,” is one of the best entries in the 40K prequel series, “The Horus Heresy,” that I’ve read so far. So I was especially excited to read his novel “Prospero Burns,” which is the 15th entry in the series.

Part of the reason I was excited is because the last Horus Heresy novel I read was Graham McNeill’s “Thousand Sons.” That book made me love the Thousand Sons and its a large part of the reason why I have a Thousand Sons army to play 40K. One of the most tragic and heartbreaking elements of that story was the burning of Prospero, the Thousand Sons’ homeworld, by the Space Marine legion known as The Space Wolves.

So, I was curious to see what that historical moment looked like from The Space Wolves perspective and in “Prospero Burns” Abnett gives us that, but he also gives us so much more. The result is a powerful, fun, exciting, and poignant read even if you’re a Thousand Sons fan and player (like me)

I feel the best 40K and Horus Heresy novels are the ones that take deep dives intoDan-cool the cultures that their protagonists hail from. And in “Prospero Burns” Abnett does that. You’re given a sense of the true, savage purpose of the Space Wolves. You’re allowed to appreciate their sense of loyalty to that purpose and their Emperor. You’re also allowed to feel sorry for what that loyalty does to them and angry at the tragic mistakes it causes them to make.

Best of all though is you’re allowed to see these superhuman warriors in a more human light. That’s because you learn the types of stories that entertain and enthrall the Space Wolves in quieter moments when they’re sitting around a campfire or when they’re trying to provide some final moments of comfort to a mortally injured comrade.

This exploration of Space Wolf culture is done primarily through the eyes of a scholar named Kasper Hawser. He’s a fascinating almost Indiana Jones style character and like the Remembrancer (scholarly types) characters in other “Horus Heresy” novels he’s a great character and his perspective on the actions and culture of the Space Wolves is fascinating.

Abnett also uses Kasper to provide some very cool insights into what Earth was like before and several years after The Emperor of Mankind unified it. Because throughout the book were given glimpses of Hawser’s past. Those flashback sequences are also tied into the larger plot in a way that I won’t spoil because it’s a cool reveal.

Prospero Burns” is also a fun adventure that brushes up against new and classic elements of 40K lore. Some of my favorite new characters and concepts include Longfang, the Space Wolves Rune Priest that Hawser spends some time with, and the Quietude; an interstellar empire that very much felt like a 40K version of the classic Star Trek villains, the Borg.

At first there might not seem like a lot for fans looking into insight at larger and classic 40K characters and lore. Patient readers will be rewarded though. Quite a few familiar faces, including Space Wolf Primarch Leman Russ, appear in the second half of the book. Plus Abnett adds some excitement and intrigue to big events like the Council of Nikaea and the titular Burning of Prospero.

So “Prospero Burns” is a fantastic book that is many things. It’s primarily a sci-fi adventure story and cultural study. As the book unfolds though Abnett organically adds layers to the narrative that make it even more enjoyable. So it’s also a spy/conspiracy story, a tale of supernatural horror, and tragedy in almost the classical sense of the word. All of those elements combine to make “Prospero Burns” a hell of a read.