The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform
The editor’s nephew Kyle J. Knapp was a talented poet and all round creative person until his tragic death. Fragments from his dream diary were used as prompts for short stories. The stories in this collection all stand apart but are somehow bound together by the surrealism of a dreamscape. I’m not describing it very well. These stories should not work well together and yet even the way that they jar is founded in the land of dreams. Have I even read this book or was that a dream?
I’ve said it before but it is worth saying again, any collection with a Patti Abbott short story is going to be worth a read. I’m yet to be proved wrong on this. Abbott’s story about twins was as creepy as it was enthralling. My favourite story though was Dust to Dust by Terrie Farley Moran. Dust to Dust is one of those stories that can’t fail to illicit an emotional response. It is a quality piece of writing.
I enjoyed this book immensely and I think that David Cranmer has done an outstanding job honouring Kyle J. Knapp.
Deep Like The River by Tim Waggoner
The artwork for this book is by Daniele Serra. That is always going to be a good start. There is an impressionist feel to his work that seems to add hidden depths to already creepy images. This cover shouldn’t seem all that creepy to be honest. After all it is just a woman in a canoe right? There is something there. Something I can’t quite see. Something bad. A perfect start for a horror story.
Most of the way through this book I thought I knew what the ending was going to be. I thought it was going to be rather predictable and not very imaginative. I felt that until the very end where somehow it manages to end in a much better way than I’d imagined and without a clunky twist. I do love it when that happens.
This is a simple yet powerful story that plumbs the depths of denial and regret at the heart of the mourning process. At points I was disgusted by the main character Alie but throughout the story I pitied her and wanted her to find some kind of peace.
At around eighty pages it is a nice length for a story like this. This will certainly not be the last book I read by Tim Waggoner.
40k 7th Edition
This is for me the most important part of this set. As I’ve come to expect the cover art is deceptively good. At first glance it looks simple but as you look at it further suddenly more detail pops out. I probably studied this cover for about ten minutes. The title is embossed both on the cover and the spine and gives a clue to the attention to detail in this book.
Opening up the book had me giggling like a six year old. I may have stroked it and muttered something about The Precious but that’s another system. I mentioned the clarity of the printing in the first part of my review but in the rules section it makes a huge difference. I can safely say that this is by far the clearest and easy to 40k rulebook to date. The contrast ratio is much better. Even in low light the words pop out at you. This is important when you’re playing a long game and you’re stressed and tired. Less mistakes and arguments from misreading the rules is always a good thing.
The rules themselves are well laid out and the index has worked for me every time so far. This is not the case with every game. This is a no frills book. There are a few pictures but generally this book is entirely focussed on how to play the game. I like it.
The rules themselves are iterative from 6th edition. Apart from the Psychic phase. That is new. I haven’t played Warhammer in a decade or so but I vaguely remember a time when the magic phase was all about countering your opponent and rarely did anything useful happen. That’s not the case. A Deny The Witch roll is not easy unless your psyker has been targeted by the power. Daemon summoning looks fun but I’m yet to try that. My mate intends to risk trying to get his Imperial Guard psykers to summon some Bloodletters in our next battle. I can’t wait to see if he fries himself and if I can get a lucky counter. Blessing type powers are much more difficult to counter and so multiple low level psykers across the board can be really useful. Probably the big winners in the new rules are Chaos Daemons. With Daemons being less likely to implode when summoning it makes the whole army list suddenly pop with potential. A Daemon Prince in a Chaos Marine army who is a psyker also suddenly seems like a decent points choice. I also put together a thousand point Grey Knight army where every unit contained psykers. That is a lot of potential fun in the psychic phase.
A few things have been tidied up. Cover and wound allocation seem cleaner and quicker. The cover rules also seems a lot easier to implement. One thing I can’t seem to see in the rules any more are the Bastion and Aegis Defence line. I haven’t bought some of the newer codexes so there could be something in one of those but no mention of points values in the rules (or I could be missing it). There are some ideas for special rules for specific types of area terrain. I like this. It adds character. Like the missions. Every battle will be different. It is a shame that the Tactical Objectives cards ran out so soon. I used a pre-cursor to those in a doubles tournament a couple of years ago and they really added something. Well done to the design crew for taking that on board.
There are plenty of other rule changes that I’m not going to detail here but I would say that as an overall system 7th edition is better than 6th. I guarantee that after reading these rules you’ll be looking at the psychic options for your army and how they can influence your tactical options. Despite the cost I’m glad I bought this set.
Exiles: An Outsider Anthology
I’m going to start at the end of this book. Nowhere other than at the very end of this book is it mentioned that all proceeds from this book go to the Marfan Foundation. If you don’t know what Marfan’s Syndrome is go have a look. It is a worthwhile cause and makes this book a guilt free purchase.
Jumping back to the beginning I do like the cover. It is clean, simple and most importantly I knew what type of book I was going to be reading. I knew I was going to enjoy this book by looking at the list of authors. Any collection that includes Patti Abbott and K.A. Laity is going to be good read.
At first glance the title of this collection is a little odd as noir stories are normally about outsiders, right? There are however outside of even those circles. Those quirky bit-part characters hovering on the outside that we barely notice, those are the characters these stories are about.
At times this collection was a bleak and uncomfortable read but there was just enough hope and justice to keep the reader smiling. These stories were fascinating and unusual. That was due to the characters. If you are looking for something different and refreshing then the characters herein will ignite your imagination.
Warhammer 40k 7th Edition
If you haven’t seen the new rules it comes in three parts. This review is the part that I call The Pretties. Everything about this book screams quality. From the hard cover and awesome cover through to the very last image this book is high quality. The paper and printing quality are really good. The crispness of the images throughout this publication is just fantastic. The first section of this book introduces the artistic parts of the hobby in a really engaging way. I have to admit that I looked at starting a new army. I really liked the way that there was a great picture of an army and then it was followed up with some close-up shots and details of each unit. This gave me some really good ideas for my own armies. Both in terms of a theme and in documenting each unit.
There are some adverts for the digital editions (still no Windows mobile version for me) and other Black Library products like the awesome audio dramas they produce. Although these are present there are not too many and it takes nothing away from the superb quality of the book.
There is then a very small section on basic painting ideas before the pictures take over. Page after page of high resolution pages with no text just stunning imagery. At times as I turned a page and rotated a full-page spread I felt like a teenager again. This is seriously one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It was like picking up a Giger book and that is high praise indeed.
This book is going on my coffee table and is likely to stay there for a long time.
I haven’t bought the new rules yet but my mate has. I have to say that I like the three book format and that although it is a lot of money I can see why. The rules are sharp and crisp on the paper. It is a very easy to read book. The index works too. Believe me that is not always the case in a gaming system. For me the thing I most wanted to test out was the addition of the psychic phase. I used to remember my powers out of phase on a regular basis so this for me is a good thing. What better way to test this than to create a Grey Knights list. Unfortunately after building a fun looking list with nine psychic levels (gotta love psychic pilot) I couldn’t actually get to the case with the figures in without moving three large pieces of furniture. I cursed the building works for a while and then mourning my inability to get Mr Stampy in to the fray. I had a dig around and decided that Eldar would be fun to take on the Imperial Guard army that my mate does so well with.
I had to take a Farseer and I chose to have a single Warlock too. I also had an Autarch on a Jetbike with his bike mounted missile launcher because, well because I like it alright? I’m not going to bore you with the rest of my list. It wasn’t an optimal one and I will be changing it significantly.
The mission type chose was Relic. You get three victory points for having the relic under your control with minor objectives of Slay the Warlord, First Blood and The one where you score for being in the enemy deployment (my memory is failing me). You can win without the relic but with it is the easiest way.
I got first turn so I decided to go for it. I powered the Autarch on a bike with his Windrider guards straight in to contact with the relic and started shuffling back to a hiding place out of visibility. Very important with the number of nasty shots an Imperial Guard army can bring to bear. Then my first psychic phase. It was quicker than I expected and I didn’t once forget about powers on a psyker which is a first. I’m a convert and a fan for sure. The next time I play Eldar I will be adding at least a couple more Warlocks. They can make a huge difference. Not just to the unit they are with but the generated dice to help the Farseer.
I’ve played every version of the rules since Rogue Trader. Yes I am that old. This set of rules has several little changes which took a little while to process but in the first game we didn’t come across any obviously weird ones that made us scratch our heads and wonder how much catnip the designers were on.
I didn’t plan on buying the books. I had hoped for a boxed set with a slimline rules guide but on seeing the rules I want, actually I need a copy. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the other two books yet. It is in my opinion a faster and more flexible rule-set than previous ones and is well worth giving a go. If you are not sure, go and bug your local store for a rules demo game. The one thing that has always been true about GW stores is that the staff are always friendly and helpful. I’m fairly sure you’ll be swayed. It is going to be very hard for me to walk past GW without buying a copy tonight.
Critical Dawn by Wearmouth and Barnes
Although the cover for this book is not stunning it is a Ronseal cover. It does what it says on the tin. I looked at that cover and I instantly knew it was a post-apocalypse near future science fiction story. Job done. The other thing I instantly thought of when I saw this cover was the film Independence Day. At times it did feel like the plot was mirroring that film. Thankfully it avoided the cheesy parts but did have the action and tension parts in common.
This story starts with the invasion of earth. There is an early twist though. The aliens have been watching and planning this for thousands of years. In fact their advance force burrowed deep in to the earth long ago. On a pre-determined date they rose to the surface and heralded the attack. It was a nice way to start the book.
I’m a big fan of Colin F. Barnes (not a stalker honest) and was a bit worried about reading a collaborative book like this. For me this kind of story needs a consistent voice. I have to admit that other than a few places I couldn’t tell what parts were written by which author. It flowed really well and the tension didn’t get choppy as a result. If it didn’t say so on the cover I’d assume it was written by a single author.
The characters in this book are believable and more importantly I wanted to find out more about them. The main character Charlie Jackson really appealed to me and there is plenty about his back story I still want to know. What exactly happened during the war? What exactly happened with Pippa? How did the nuclear arsenal of the entire world get neutralized? There are others too.
This is a gritty and engaging post-apocalypse novel that will keep you reading until the explosive finale.