I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I loved the title of this story. As I read through I thought I knew why it was called that but then there was another reason. These two reasons were opposed and created an interesting tension in my mind. I can’t wait to see how these clash and live up to the title.

It was a good idea to get Abnett to write the first book in this series. He has a way of creating lots of threads that are needed later on in a series without it seeming contrived and cluttered. The story flowed nicely.

At the start of this book the empire was strong with barely a threat to the central systems in generations. The old ways being replaced with pandering politics which seems scarily like a modern British parliament to me. Not a great sign. Sure enough as soon as the veneer was pulled back there were cracks the size of my credit card bill.

Some of my favourite Abnett books have been about the Inquisition. Ravenor and Eisenhorn gave me hours of pleasure. To see this side of the Ordos was really interesting for me. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the head Assassin and the Inquisition senate representative. These two are used to performing duties that others deem unsavoury but that are required to protect the throne from enemies within, without and beyond. This created a tension to their interplay that seemed more dangerous and significant than the slaughter of a Space Marine Chapter.

I am reading this series in the form of audio books and the quality of the reading has been excellent without being hammy and overdone. I’ve already ordered the whole series. This is well worth a read.

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Doublethoughts by Akala

Doublethoughts by Akala

I tried for a while to decide on words to describe Akala. It was a lot more difficult than I expected. Best known as a Grime rapper Akala to me he represents so much more. From his TED talk and Hip-hop Shakespare Company to his articulate and intellectual dismantling of the quasi-logic of British racist politicians through to his Oxford Union history talk. I could go on and cite dozens more fascinating things that Akala has been involved in but You’ll enjoy it and learn more if you go looking for yourself. You may be wondering why I’d mention these things before talking about a poetry book. This wasn’t just a collection of Grime lyrics laid out as a poetry book. This was a genuine poetry collection.

The book itself was a paperback. Akala self-published this material to maintain control of his supply line. Could he have made more money through other channels? Possibly. I admire the way he does everything he can to be responsible for his art. It can’t have been easy. When I read a small press or self-published book I always feel the paper. The quality of the paper can often tell you a lot about how much a piece of work is valued. As expected the paper used for this book was of good quality and a great medium for this work.

There was a utopian/distopian futuristic story to the first part of this collection. It centred around the strength of ignorance as a method of control. What I liked most about this part was not only how I could see it in how our own society is developing but how the seeds that control were already present now and a long way back in the past. It would be hard to talk about this book without mentioning slavery and the control of the proletarians throughout our history. I won’t. I don’t have the skill or intellect to do it anywhere as well as Akala does. The power of his delivery also conveyed his passion and knowledge on every page.

The second section of this book was more of the kind of collection and structure of poems that I am used to. The content though was hard hitting and thought provoking. There was one poem called Yours and My Children that I read over and over again. It really hit me hard. Part of me wanted to put the whole of that poem on here to show you but that would take away from discovering it where it should be found in this book. Below is the chorus that I still have echoing through my head several days after reading it.

Chorus

Kids in Iraq: Yours and my children
Kids in Iran: Yours and my children
Afghanistan: Yours and my children
Even Sudan: Yours and my children
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them

Yours and My Children by Akala taken from Doublethoughts

The third and final section of this book showcased some of Akala’s amazing Grime. It included the lyrics to his seminal Fire in The Booth session and I found it fascinating to slow it down and really try to digest what he was saying. There was purpose and education in what he said not just in this section but throughout this collection. I’m finding it hard to be objective about this book because as with most things about Akala I found it thought provoking and belief challenging. I really hope Akala releases more material like this.

 

 

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

I didn’t so much read this as I did listen to it. I like audio books but they cost a lot more than I can afford more than once in a while. You’ll notice I didn’t say it was expensive. When everything involved is factored in I think that £20 was a fair price for this product. I bought this directly from the Black Library because I try to put money as close as I can to the content creators. This story was excellently narrated by Gareth Armstrong and had a great sense of gravitas.

This was the third book in The Beast Arises series. I hadn’t read the first two in the series and chose this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly the blurb made this sound like a book I would enjoy but more importantly it was by Gav Thorpe. For a gamer of my age the 3rd and 4th edition 40K codexes were things that I routinely broke the spines of through overuse (and that is without considering some of the really cool 40K novels written by Thorpe).

I wasn’t disappointed. There was a great variety of action in this book. From personal combat and system wide ship conflict to the political machinations of the High Lords of Terra.  The multiple threads of this story converge in to a shock ending that means I can’t possibly avoid buying the fourth story in the series. Whilst the politics of the Imperial Navy and their protracted tactical battles were interesting I love anything to do with The Inquisition. Throw in Assassins and you get a story that felt made for me.

I just need to decide whether to save up for the audio books or the physical books. For those really invested in making sure they have a whole series there is an option to buy the whole series in advance at a discount. This at first might sounds silly but I personally  hate it when I’ve read most of a series and it gets canned. This way there is a pretty good chance the series will complete if people have already paid for it. There are worse things to do with your money.

Piercing The Vale edited by Adele Wearing

Piercing The Vale

WARNING! THIS REVIEW IS INHERENTLY BIASED AS I AM IN IT.

This was difficult to write. Part of me wanted to scream “LOOK AT ME”, whilst the rest of me was thinking how crap my story sounds compared to those around it. This isn’t about me though. This is about another fine book in the Fox Pocket series. I can’t talk about this series without mentioning the cover art. I love them all and this one may be my favourite one so far. I’ve asked the editor several times if there is any chance of a poster version of all the covers.  Sarah Anne Langton really makes these books stand out.

This book contained some really interesting stories. There were some very different perspectives and a nice variety of length and paces to each story. My personal favourite was by Connected by Alasdair Stuart which was short and punchy. The biggest surprise for me was the poem by Chloe Yates. I had to read it a couple of times to get the rhythm but the emotion was  powerful and serious. Yes I just said Chloe Yates has written something serious. The first time through I was expecting a cock joke at the end. I’m glad there wasn’t as it would have spoiled something quite magical.

Objectively I enjoyed this book and although not my favourite in the series there was nothing that I didn’t enjoy reading. Casting aside objectivity you should buy this book. No really, BUY THIS BOOK. Hopefully I’ve got that out of my system and will not be spamming links every hour.

Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle

Space Raptor Butt Invasion
This was a first for me. I can quite safely say that homoerotic space erotica was not a genre I thought I would ever review. I bought this book in part because of the whole Hugo award 2016 drama but mainly because when I looked up the author on wikipedia the titles of his his books were pure gold. For that alone I was willing to give this book a punt (that is not a euphemism).

Tingle has a very straighforward and to the point style, usually the point of a throbbing member. The only way I can describe it is as a short scene from an adult movie in written form. The characters and scene are set and then the erotica begins, and usually climaxes (pun intended) in a loud and messy fashion.

I couldn’t help feeling there was more too it than that. Part of me was thinking that Raptor could be an analogy to a screaming drunk female and the rest of me was wondering if the raptor in question was an anthropomorhic personification of a Velociraptor. The nasty predator that hunts in packs. That lead my mind in to further think what if there was a whole pack of them and not just one.

This story really wasn’t my cup of tea but I enjoyed it and it was something I never thought I’d read much less review. I used the term homoerotica above but I’m not sure that counts between species. This book was all about the erotica with just enough science fiction and story to get you interested.

In An Unknown Country Edited by Adele Wearing

In An Unknown Country

This book is the seventh in the Fox Pockets series of books. These books are smaller than a Kindle and fit nicely in to cargo pockets with room to spare.

This book was had a really unusual feel to me. It felt like a travel log. That is if a dark force gave Bill Bryson glimpses in to places no mortal mind should ever see and twisted the entire universe to fit the cruel and disturbing holiday wishes of an unknowable entity. I don’t think this was a deliberate theme and was all just part of my twisted little mind but it does show how reading this book got inside my thought processes.

I would normally try and pick out a couple of stories that I enjoyed the most in an anthology but I’m not going to. I found that although these stories had very different characters, themes and settings there appeared to be a cohesion and equality amongst the writing quality. There were no obvious peaks and troughs making this a smooth and easy to read book.

This is an ideal book to spend 15-20 minute chunks reading short stories without getting frustrated about having to try and pick up the plot. This was exactly what I needed to get me back in to the habit of reading new books again.

 

Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds

Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds

A little while ago I decided to go back and read some Chaos Marine fiction to inspire me to start painting my army again. What better place to start than the first Traitor Legion. As a Warhammer 40k player it is really easy to see the universe in terms of good versus evil or to add in a pinch of politics by viewing armies as either authoritarian or libertarian. As with just about everything worthwhile there is a lot more to it than that. The most inspiring and fascinating thing about this book for me was how the author managed to portray the devotions and fervour of the Word Bearers in way that was eerily similar to those of the loyalist chapters worshipping the rotten corpse atop the golden high chair. Sorry I may have got a little caught up and paraphrased one of my favourite lines from this book.

There is only war! That means every 40k novel has to have battles. This book deals with battles on two levels. The overt and frankly huge pitched battle between the Imperial Guard and Scions of Mars and the Chaos Legion of the Word Bearers. The brutal and attritional nature of warfare was hammered home like an orbital bombardment but that wholesale slaughter is just a means to an end. There is a secret buried within the heart of Tanakreg. The Magos is determined to keep the Wordbearers away from the secret he thought forgotten two millenia ago. The warp fueled visions of the Dark Apostle on the other hand have driven him to sacrifice an entire warhost for the opportunity to retrieve the prize he has glimpsed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already bought the second and third parts of the story. Unfortunately I’m now going to be to busy reading to start my painting yet. Oh and I just ordered a couple of codexes too.

Emily Nation by Alec McQuay

Emily Nation by Alec McQuayAlec McQuay is an author who’s work I’ve enjoyed. This though is very different from his book Spares. It did recognize the setting instantly from his short story Bunker Buster (that story can be found in the book reviewed here). This made me happy as I’d enjoyed that story.

I like the cover of this book. There is a simple quality that appeal to me. I Can’t help feeling that it should have been photo-realistic and sepia though. This book is set in a post-disaster Cornwall. It somehow manages to avoid being Steampunk story and reminding me more of a western. A western with energy weapons and artificial intelligence engine that ensure mankind never again has the destructive capabilities to destroy the planet.

Emily Nation is an assassin. She’s a sociopath that takes great delight in her profession. She also happens to have a great grounding at home with her wife and daughter. What seemed like a normal job destroyed Emily’s life and everything that mattered to her. This is more than a simple revenge or justice tale though. There is an entirely different story unfolding just beneath the main one. What is the Custodian doing? Why does it have a deal with Emily? What does the Custodian suspect about Mr Silvine? The bigger of these questioned do not get answered in this book. Which I’m hoping means that there will be a sequel to this story.

In  short this book is like Tank Girl, Mad Max and DOOM mashed together and set in the old west. Except in this case the west in question happens to be Cornwall.  What’s not to like?

Carnosaur Weekend by Garnett Elliott

Carnosaur Weekend by Garnett ElliottWhen I first saw this cover I instantly thought it was the inside of a space ship. It was more interesting than that though. It was the inside of a time-share apartment. I loved the not so subtle play on the phrase time-share. What do the ultra rich do with all their money? They go golfing in prehistoric times of course.

This book was different from most of the science fiction books I’ve read. There were no lengthy expositions on how things were different. There was no social history essay. This story was as clear, concise and hard-hitting as the noir stories Garnett Elliott produces. It really worked. Most of the setting was in my head. I’d wager that if you asked ten people to descibe the locations and characters in this book you’d get ten different answers. Everything in these stories servers a purpose, there was no waste, no fuss and above all no faffing. These stories hit me in the face and ran off before I got the chance to see them coming.

This book was a great example of how a noir style of writing can work in the science fiction genre.

The Velocity Of Constant by Hardeep Sangha

The Velocity Of Constant by Hardeep SanghaI’ve spent the last week trying to work out how to describe this book. I’ll start with the easy bit. The cover. Daniele Serra. I could look at Serra’s work all day long. I don’t think I need to add to that.

At first I thought this was going to be beat poetry in a science fiction setting. That doesn’t quite describe it though. For me it sits somewhere between beat poetry and the beat literature of writers such as Burroughs. That for me is what makes this book different and almost indefinable. It is only seventy five pages long but reading this book takes a lot more time and effort that a book of that length normally does. I had to read some parts of this book three or four times and I’m still not sure I’m bright enough to understand all the subtleties.

The big difference for me was the layout. The little boxes of text on the page seem to laugh at linear progression and flip the bird at convention. I should have hated this but I didn’t. I found it fun and refreshing and most important thought provoking.

If you want a safe and simple read this is not the book for you, but if you want something different and challenging this book will be well worth your time and effort.