Brothers of the Snake by Dan Abnett

The war-torn far-future is laid bare as Brothers of the Snake follows the exploits of the Iron Snakes Space Marines as they battle against the enemies of mankind. First appearing in the pages of Inferno!, the Iron Snakes Space Marines quickly gathered a loyal following and now they make their debut in a full-blown adventure!

What better way to start The Year of Snake then a review of Dan Abnett’s Brothers of the Snake? The first thing you should know is that unlike other Space Marine novels, Brothers of the Snake is a collection of short stories following the Damocles squad of the Iron Snakes Chapter. The format is a little unusual and I had doubts at first but on the whole I thought it turned out pretty great. It’s essentially a series condensed into one book.

The thing I found fascinating is the culture and traditions of the Chapter and how much they have diverged from their progenitors. Since Iron Snakes is such a little known chapter, this book allows Abnett full rein on making this Chapter truly his own. Just like how different the Mortifators are from the Ultramarines, the Iron Snakes too have their quirks. The Chapter’s homeworld is covered by vast oceans and water from the planet is considered sacred. Before each mission, the marines would hold ceremonies to share and anoint themselves with the sacred water. Also instead of working as a company, each 10 men squad operate independently of each other. Usually a few squads are enough to take care of most situations and only in times of crisis will you find the might of the Chapter brought together.

I’ve always been fascinated by the selection and training processes of the Space Marines. I absolutely loved those parts in Mitchel Scanlon’s Descent of Angels and Ian Watson’s Space Marine. So I was thrilled to read about the “cheese run” that the initiates have to undertake and in order to become a full-fledged squad member, the initiates must first best the existing squad members in one-on-one duels.

Even though Priad was promoted to the rank of Sergeant a little too quickly, he did make a brilliant leader. His unwavering sense of honour and selflessness is very reminiscent of the Ultramarines. Despite suffering from heavy losses which resulted in frequent replacement of squad members, the squad never lost the bond between brothers. Abnett brilliantly conveyed the relationship and camaraderie between battle brothers. New members are welcomed into the squad and given plenty of opportunity to prove their worth.

I love the connection between the short stories; especially how the first and last story wrap things up to give a satisfying conclusion. With each story we learn just a little more about this lesser known Chapter.

This a brilliant one off Space Marine novel with epic action and timeless characters. The Iron Snakes definitely deserve more stories devoted to them.

Week in Review

Books for 2013

Courtesy of Amazing Photography

What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013? io9 has compiled an extensive list of essential reads here. If you’re still stuck for ideas, take a look at Abhinav Jain’s (aka Shadowhawk over at The Founding Fields) most anticipated novels here.

Triumph Over Tragedy

Triumph Over Tragedy is an anthology organized by R.T. Kaelin, author of Progeny and Sarah Chorn ofBookworm Blues for the victims affected by Hurricane Sandy. Around 40 of today’s top authors are involved in this project, so you can expect to find a diverse range of short stories in this anthology. All the proceeds go to Sandy relief so grab your copy today at Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Gender Bending
Teresa Frohock just completed a fascinating experiment on her website. A number of authors wrote a short piece each under a pseudonym and the readers have to correctly guess the gender of the author. Try it for yourself and see how many you can get right.

  1. Bearna by Jamie Sears
  2. The Ballad of Sophie Nu by Dirigible Elephant
  3. The Education of Rebecca Cavendish by Alice Leakey
  4. Untitled by Jackson Harris
  5. Untitled by S.A. Daniels
  6. Untitled by Kyle Schuler
  7. The Hated by A.K. Reid
  8. White Space by T.J. Breckenridge
  9. The Sea-Folk’s Price by Z. Riddle
  10. Meghan’s Bike by Marian Westwood

And finally the big reveal here.

All the D&D audio books you can ever want

Hundreds of D&D adventures are now available for the first time as audio books. Head over to Audible to catch up with your favourite Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms or Eberron series.

Do you like to re-read?
In this week’s Mind Meld, SF Signal asks a number of authors whether they like to re-read and what are some of the books or series that they re-read. Take a look at this interesting discussion at SF Signal

Evolution of Sci-Fi book covers
The Atlantic has an interesting article on the evolution of Sci-Fi book covers from cartoon to pop art and back again. Which style do you prefer more?

Reading Resolutions for 2013

According to Goodreads I read 102 books last year, of which around 90 of them are actual books and the rest are comics and audio books. So for 2013, I’m going to aim for a little more at 120 actual books which means I will need to read between 2 to 3 books per week. Pretty doable I think.

I’ve been buying plenty of books during the holiday sales and while my “to read” pile is growing ever larger, I hope this year would be a productive year and I’ll make some progress in clearing the pile. So here’s my target for 2013:

Ps: before starting, I want to say thanks to Sarah, a mom blogger, who gave me many ideas for writing. Let’s visit her blog’s latest article –

Series to Finish


  • Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks – It’s been a while since I finished the first two books but I can never bring myself to finishing the series.
  • The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie – Loved the world building in the first book and can’t wait to see how everything will end.
  • Bel Dame Apocrypha by Kameron Hurley – Another great series with fascinating settings and also love the unique magic/science system.

Series to Catch up on


  • Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  • Horus Heresy by Various authors
  • Legend of Drizzt by R. A. Salvatore
I love these series. Even though there are a lot of books in these series, I hope I can catch up with the latest release this year.

Series to Start


  • Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
  • Space Marines Battles by Various authors
  • Newsflesh by Mira Grant
  • Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
  • Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky

These are all great series that I wanted to read last year but for some reason or another I didn’t start them. I already have the first book in Demon Cycle, Farseer Trilogy and Shadows of the Apt sitting on my Kindle already and I hope to tackle them soon.

Series to re-read


  • Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

I loved this series when I was younger. I would love to revisit the books and see if I understand the concepts better now that I’m older.

Any Others?
I’m sure I haven’t covered all the books that I want to read, so what else do you think I should be reading this year?

Fulgrim by Graham McNeill

Graham McNeill takes the reader to the 31st millennium, when humanity is at the peak of its powers. As the Great Crusade, led by Warmaster Horus, continues to conquer the galaxy, Fulgrim, the god-like Primarch of the Emperor’s Children Space Marine Legion, leads his warriors into battle against a vile alien foe.

From the blood of this campaign the seeds are sown that will lead this proud legion to treachery, taking them down the darkest of paths to corruption. Leading up to the carnage of the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V, this is the tale of Fulgrim’s tragic fall from grace.
Fulgrim is one action packed book with everything that you could possibly want in a Warhammer 40k novel. Primarchs, Xenos, Chaos Daemons and big battles. For me, this was an excellent book only slightly let down by not having a character that I can connect to.

McNeill does a good job describing the changes in Fulgrim as he is slowly corrupted by Chaos but due to the immense plot, not enough time is spent exploring the struggles that the Primarch goes through during his transformation. There are a few characters in the story that are not touched by Chaos but once again not enough focus was spent on them, so I could care less when they died.

What worked exceptionally well for me were the epic battles. McNeill pens with loving details the brutality and horrors of war. The book opens with the raid on Laeran temple where scores of Emperor’s Children are killed but Fulgrim pressed on just to prove that his legion has what it takes to complete the impossible.

Next we have the joint attack with the Iron Hands on the Diasporex, a nomadic group consisting of humans and Xenos. This part makes me realise what a bunch of arses the Space Marines are. All the Diasporex wanted was to be left alone but both Primarchs decided to make an example out of them just to show what happens when humans decide to live with aliens.

After this, Fulgrim is sent to explore the Perdus Region. There he meets with the Eldar Farseer, Eldrad Ulthran who tries to warn Fulgrim about Horus’s betrayal to the Emperor. However the Eldar realises it was already too late, for Fulgrim is already under the corruption of Chaos. Here we have another great scene where Fulgrim gets dirty and do some hand-to-hand combat with an Eldar Wraithlord and Avatar.

At the final battle on Isstvan V we see the final corrupted transformation of the Emperor’s Children and they no longer resemble the proud legion they once were. In their pursuit of perfection, they have allowed themselves to be experimented and changed into an army that lusts for newer and higher stimulations. Fulgrim realises too late what he has done and when he seeks for release, his body is overtaken by a Chaos Daemon who uses the new body to deal a deathblow to Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands.

This book contains plenty of disturbing imagery of Chaos and gives you a really good feel of what Chaos is truly like. Despite the lack of character progress, this book makes it up plenty by the amount of action packed into the story that can satisfy any 40k fan.

Warriors of Ultramar by Graham McNeill

The Ultramarines are, a by-word for courage and honour. They are humanity s fiercest and most devout warriors. Honour and courage are valued above all else, except the God-Emperor himself. They are the stalwart protectors of mankind and the most dedicated of all the Space Marine Chapters.

When asked to honour an ancient debt, Captain Uriel Ventris and the Warriors of Ultramar find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder with brother Marines and local Guard units defending a vital industrial system. The threat they face is as terrifying as it is alien. The tyranids take no prisoners and show no mercy — they consume all in an attempt to stave their unending hunger for bio-matter. Failure is not an option, but success requires the ultimate sacrifice.

In this second book of the Ultramarines series, Captain Uriel Ventris is ordered to defend Tarsis Ultra from the imminent threat of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan. Along with two Imperial Guard regiments, the local Planetary Defence Forces, a company from the Morticators and the Deathwatch, the defensive force wage a bloody war against the invaders.

It’s been a while since I read the first book, Nightbringer and I found Warriors of Ultramar a lot more accessible than the previous book. The plot here is straightforward. You have the good guys defending their world from the bad guys. The Tyranids make an awesome foe here because they don’t think like we do and they don’t have emotions so you don’t have to analyse why they do the things they do. All you need to know is that they are the Great Devourer and will consume everything in their path.

The first part of the story took a while for me to sink my teeth into as I’m not a fan of Void battles but things started getting exciting when the battle moved to planetside. Once on the planet, the Tyranids began to transform the environment of Tarsis Ultra to make it suitable for their species. They then advanced against the defenders by throwing everything they had while the Guards have to use their wits to conserve the number of troops against this insurmountable foe. Despite heavy losses, the valiant Astartes and Guards manage to hold off the invasion in the end. A classic tale of triumph of good over evil.

In this story, we see Uriel Ventris grows as a character and finally coming to his own as he learns not to blindly follow the Codex Astartes to the letter. He chose to go with the Deathwatch on a suicide mission to inject a bio-toxin into the Hive Queen rather than sticking to his company as dicatated by Roboute Guilliman’s teachings. As Uriel’s devotion to the Codex Astartes wavers, we are treated to his comtemplations about what it means to be an Ultramarine and a warrior of the Emperor and his observations on how different the Morticators have become over the centuries despite sharing the same bloodline as the Ultramarines. Uriel Ventris is definitely growing on me and he is slowly becoming one of my favourite loyalist Astartes.

Another character that stood out in the book is the Fabricator Marshal Sebastien Montante. At first he seemed like the typical fool character that you would laugh at because he doesn’t understand the severity of the Tyranid threat and you hope he will die in the most embarrassing way. However as the story unfolds, you realise that even though Montante is not be a warrior like the Astartes or the Guards, his heart is still set in the right place. He uses his logistical skills to ensure the defensive force has the provision it needs in the forthcoming battles. Even with no martial training Montante took up arms to help with the defence of Tarsis Ultra. He was a character that I didn’t expect I would like but end up enjoying very much.

This book packs a ton of action and plenty of heroic moments to boot. McNeill strikes a fine balance between despair and hope as the remaining defenders fight back with everything they have. The moments of downtime in between battles offer readers time to reflect on the sacrifices and costs towards freedom. Warriors of Ultramar can be read on its own so you don’t need to have read Nightbringer to enjoy this book. I would also say this is a good starting point if you have never read any Warhammer 40k books.

Brave New World: Revelation and Resolution by Matt Forbeck

The Truth Is Finally Revealed

In the aftermath of the mass breakout of superpowered deltas from New Alcatraz, fear and chaos grips the United States. Patriot — the leader of the rebellion known as the Defiance — and his friends Street, Lisa, and Charge work tirelessly to help the people in their organization’s swollen ranks.

When a madman attacks a family of rogue deltas hiding in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, Patriot and his friends rush to their rescue. What they find when they arrive forces them to grab the family and race to Denver, where they wind up in a standoff against Delta Prime, the government agency of superpowered soldiers determined to crush their rising resistance.

In the course of this, the second book of Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World trilogy, the heroes of the Defiance learn more of the truth about the disappearance of the city of Chicago back in 1976, and what they discover will change the world forever.

Revelation is the second book in Matt Forbeck’s 12-for-12 project and a fantastic and action packed sequel in his superpowered Brave New World trilogy.

After breaking out of prison in Revolution, Patriot is once again risking his life to save Deltas from the Primers. This time, the Primers are not going to take any prisoners and are bringing out their heavy weapons to end the wanted criminals. Patriot realises that he needs the help of the Church to buy themselves some time for the rebels to escape. However the Church has an agreement with the President not to grant any Deltas sanctuary. So now the Church must decide whether to give up the rebels knowing that they will die as soon as they walk out the door.

Much of the book focuses on the standoff between the Defiance and the Primers while the Church decides what to do next. The tension in this story is excellent here as we don’t know how far Ragnarok and the Primers would go to kill Patriot, their number one most wanted. There’s also plenty of superpowered action as both sides use the church as their battleground.

The story felt a little short, but there are plenty of things happening in the book which kept it exciting. Without spoiling anything, I’d just like to say I especially enjoyed the twist at the end.

Patriot and his closest friends in the Defiance flee the United States for the warmer and safer climes of Isla Delta, the world’s only nation in which the majority of the citizens are refugees with powers. Unfortunately, President Kennedy — still in office after decades of martial law — seems determined to not let them enjoy any respite and sends the US military to invade.

With many of his friends captured and even shot, Patriot must find a way to sneak back into the USA and break them out of where they’ve been imprisoned in Crescent City. Meanwhile, those same friends managed to make contact with the long-missing city of Chicago, believed to have been destroyed back in 1976.

At the same time, the greatest villain the world has ever known has returned with a new plan to make the world his. If Patriot and the others fail to stop him, he will destroy everything within a hundred miles of Crescent City and wipe every living delta from the face of the planet.

Now in the final book, everything comes together and we have one last standoff between the Defiance and the Delta Prime as Devastator, the world most dangerous villain makes his nefarious plans known.Resolution goes out with a bang with all the superpowered coming together to defeat Devastator and provides a fitting ending to the Brave New World trilogy.

Forbeck has done an impressive job for his first trilogy in his 12-for-12 project. Since he only has one month to write each story, you can understand why he has to limit the word count of each book. Despite each book being a little shorter than I would like, I really enjoyed the entire series as a whole. Each book reveals a little bit more of the BNW world and the variety of casts keeps the plot interesting and exciting. Forbeck really knows how to get you to root for the underdogs and to create villains that you despise.

I’d love to read more books set in this universe and I hope the author would revisit this series at a later date. In the meantime, I’ll be reading his second 12-for-12 trilogy, Shotguns & Sorcery.

You can now purchase the Brave New World entire series on Matt’s site, the Robot Trading Company or your favourite retailer.

Wild Cards I edited by George R. R. Martin

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Wild Cards is a collection of short stories by a number of different authors but woven together and edited by none other than George R. R. Martin. Yes, the same George R. R. Martin that created Game of Thrones. You see Wild Cards actually predates Game of Thrones by a good decade and it’s interesting to find some themes in this book that are also present in his later books.

Unlike other collections, the short stories in this book all share the same world, one that is recovering from an aftermath of an alien virus that caused many people to die and others given strange abilities. Some stories also share characters, so it would definitely help if you read them in the order presented in the book so you don’t miss out.

When the alien virus was unleashed in 1946, many people died. Of those lucky few that survived, most of them are transfigured into horrible beings and only a couple came out with something beneficial. Since these abilities are so random, the virus was later known as the Wild Card virus and the lucky ones who were dealt the good hands are known as “Aces”, while the bad ones are “Jokers”.

The short stories deal with the survivors of the alien virus outbreak and how the world has changed now there are Aces and Jokers running around. There are also interludes in the form of newspaper articles that act as a bridge between stories and help fill in the gap of what else is happening and provide the readers with a richer experience.

One thing that you can’t miss while reading this book is how closely these stories followed real world events and politics. Instead of just hunting Communists during the McCarthy era, the G-men are also hunting down Aces and “recruiting” them to their cause. Instead of the race riots, there’re the Joker riots because the Jokers are treated even worse than Coloured people due to their horrendous appearances.

Just like any other collections, there are some great stories and there are some duds but the overall package is impressive and provides a good variation of stories. These stories are very different in terms of style to the other superhero books that I have been reading of late.

The stories that impressed me the most were “The Sleeper by Roger Zelazny”, “Witness by Walter Jon Williams”, “Powers by David D. Levine” and “Shell Games by George R.R. Martin”.

In “The Sleeper”, Croyd Crenson is infected by the alien virus and after every time he sleeps, he would wake up with a new appearance and a new ability. The abilities aren’t always beneficial and the story shows how this kid learns to cope with his ordeal while providing for his family.

“Witness” tells the tale of the Four Aces and how they fell from grace with the American public after they were indicted with links to Communist interests. This is a political story that really captures the mood of mistrust of that era.

“Powers” is just a fantastic story of an Ace who has decided to come out of hiding and help his country to rescue a pilot that has been missing in action ever since he crash landed in the Soviet Union.

In “Shell Games”, a bullied teenager grows up to become The Great and Powerful Turtle to right the wrongs of the world and in the process helps the alien Dr. Tachyon to overcome his depression.

I really enjoyed the alternate US history presented in the stories and it was fascinating to see how the virus was incorporated into real world events. All in all, this collection of stories has piqued my interest in this series and I will definitely be checking out the other books to read more about Aces and Jokers.

vN by Madeline Ashby

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.
I was so excited about Madeline Ashby’s vN when I first read the short story, The Education of Junior Number 12 at back in Christmas. The short story provides a good foundation to the world of vN and I highly recommend you to read it before the book as it gives you a better insight into the character of Javier.

Like the androids in Spielberg’s A.I., the Von Neumann machines (vN for short) are used for pretty much everything that you can imagine. Some people truly love them and marry them whereas others use them as no strings attached sex toys. Due to the built in failsafe control, the vNs can’t help but love their human masters and will obey any given command even if it puts them at risk.

Instead of another modern day interpretation of Pinocchio’s tale, the book explores what would happen if vNs can overcome the restrictions that they were created with and how society reacts once it learns that the machines can hurt humans. Ashby describes a world where intelligent, almost human like androids are treated as third class citizens who live and die by their masters’ commands. There are times you pity the vNs and wonder why no one has demanded greater rights for them.

Throughout Amy’s adventure with Javier we see the contrast between a vN with functioning failsafe control and one without. The failsafe not only affect their behaviour but also their entire outlook and the story uses this to offer a fascinating look into the issue of self-identity. In the case of Javier, it explains why he abandons his young as soon as he’s able to and his reluctance to relate to other beings.

The writing, especially the parts surrounding the growth of Amy is excellent. We see the once naive and innocent Amy adapting to the world as circumstances force her to part with her parents and escape from the authorities. However there are a couple of times in the book where the scene suddenly jumps and I have to go back to check if I have not missed anything.

Despite the slightly awkward transitions in the book, Ashby’s writing is still promising and I look forward to the sequel. On the whole, vN is an impressive début that brings a much needed human aspect to the tried and tested robot stories.

Ravenor: The Omnibus by Dan Abnett

In the war-torn future of the 41st millennium, the Inquisition fights a secret war against the darkest enemies of mankind – the alien, the heretic and the daemon. The three stories in this omnibus tell the tale of Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his lethal band of operatives, whose investigations take them from the heart of the Scarus Sector to the wildest regions of space beyond, and even through time itself. Wherever they go, and whatever dangers they face, they will never give up until their mission succeeds.

Contains the novels Ravenor, Ravenor Returned and Ravenor Rogue, plus two short stories and an introduction by the author.

In my previous review of the Eisenhorn omnibus I likened Gregor Eisenhorn to Jack Bauer of the 40k universe. Well Gideon Ravenor would definitely be Professor X of the universe. That is because like Xavier, Ravenor is a crippled but talented psyker and of course a natural leader of his retinue. However I did feel that sometimes Ravenor is too powerful and nothing seems to challenge him much in the stories.

Unlike the Eisenhorn books, the stories in the Ravenor omnibus all take place in the same time period dealing with the birth of a powerful daemon named Sleet, which Eisenhorn warned Ravenor about in the audio drama Thorn Wishes Talon. Thankfully this story also appears in the omnibus so you won’t be missing out if you have not heard the audio drama.

Having read this series after finishing the amazing The Emperor’s Gift by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, I was dying to see what role Zael Efferneti plays in the story. Even though Zael doesn’t appear much in the second and third book, I think it’s great to see how such an important character began his life.

I’m also glad to see the other references to Ravenor in The Emperor’s Gift, especially the psychic gift possessed by Hyperion where he reaches down to the planet’s inhabitants and feels what they feel.

The omnibus begins with the Inquisitor and his team investigates a new Warp tainted drug that is quickly gaining popularity within the Imperium in Ravenor. As the investigation deepens, Ravenor discovers that there is a far more nefarious plan afoot and he and his team must do everything they can to save the Imperium.

Like the Eisenhorn stories, what started off as a routine investigation quickly goes out of control as the Inquisitor unravels the real puppet master that is behind the scenes. So the twists in the story aren’t that surprising but entertaining enough to keep you reading on.

Despite being disabled, Ravenor has the ability to ware other people, that is control them and often enhances their ability to give the people he controls more mobility and faster reflexes. He also uses his powerful mind to fight psychic battles with other psykers. Even though these psychic battles are lovingly described, I still prefer to read about fights involving real blood and sweat.

Ravenor Returned
Having surviving the plot to eliminate his entire team in Ravenor, the Inquisitor now returns to Eustis Majoris in secret to destroy Contract 13 and rid the corruption in the planetary government. In this book, Ravenor also knows that a powerful daemon will be born and one of his team will somehow be involved.

The story is a great continuation of the first book and the stakes are now much higher with the entire planet at risk. The pace is fast and unrelenting, and you can feel the urgency all the way through.

Even though the 40k universe as described by Abnett is vastly different to the lore that I know, I think the author did an excellent job putting his unique mark into this shared universe.

Ravenor Rogue
The final book of the series and things get pretty weird as Ravenor chases his arch-nemesis Molotch across space and time. This is truly a fantastic ending to another great series by Abnett.

One of the great things about this finale is the unpredictability of story and it keeps you guessing what is going to happen when Ravenor and his team enters through that door.

Maybe I’ve played too much Diablo 3 lately but the description of Sleet as he is coming into the material world reminds me of the Dark Thrall. What do you think?

On the whole the series offer another fascinating look into the operation of the Inquisition in the 40k universe. I found Ravenor to be too uptight and not as complex as Eisenhorn but still nonetheless interesting in his own way.

As for Ravenor’s team, both Harlon Nayl and Kara Swole are the more well rounded characters of the lot. I wouldn’t mind reading further novellas involving these characters. In fact, I want to know more about what happened after Ravenor was involved in that tragic accident at Thracian Primaris and how he overcame his disabilities to become the renowned Inquisitor that he is. Patience Kys has her own short story featured in the omnibus but she still remain pretty much an enigma and it would be great to see her develop more in the future.

Having read both these Inquisition stories, I am extremely psyched to learn that there will be a new novel titled Pariah coming out that will pit Ravenor against Eisenhorn. I can’t wait to see how Ravenor will deal with his old mentor. I will be even more thrilled if the story completes the connections and Hyperion makes an appearance in the novel.

Brave New World: Revolution by Matt Forbeck

Ask Not What Your Country Could Do For You. Ask What It Could Do To You.

John Cruise — better known as the superpowered delta Patriot — only wanted to serve his country, which has suffered under martial law since the assassination of the First Lady back in 1963. For years, he did so as a member of Delta Prime, the federal paramilitary organization dedicated to keeping deltas and the rest of the population in line. Then, during the Bicentennial Battle, Chicago disappeared in a blinding flash of light, taking the world’s most powerful deltas with it, along with Patriot’s wife.

Today, in 1999, Patriot leads a group of rebel deltas known as the Defiance, all of whom are on the run from Delta Prime. He hopes to find a way to break scores of their imprisoned friends out of New Alcatraz, the only place on the planet strong enough to hold them all. But then, while rescuing college student Lisa Stanski from a pack of Primers, the unthinkable happens.

Patriot gets caught.

Now it’s up to the rest of the Defiance, including Lisa, to figure out how to break Patriot out of New Alcatraz before his old pal Ragnarok, now the leader of Delta Prime, has him executed without trial, under the direct orders of President John F. Kennedy himself.

Brave New World: Revolution is the first book in the Brave New World Novels and also the first novel released from Matt Forbeck’s 12 for ’12 Kickstarter project. I didn’t know what the books would be like or if superhero stories would be any good in novel format but I supported the project anyway because I believed that Matt knew what he was getting into and he would do a good job of it.

Now having read the first book, I can honestly say that I’m proud to have supported him in this project.BNW: Revolution is just one entertaining and solid superhero story with pretty much everything you would want in the genre. With all the superhero movies coming out in recent years and Avengers breaking box office records worldwide, Forbeck couldn’t have picked a better time to turn his superhero RPG into novels.

Like other books by Forbeck, BNW: Revolution is an enjoyable and engrossing read. The story is broken down into bite-sized chapters and you will find yourself reading through them quickly. My only complaint is that the chapters often jump to another character’s point of view and if you don’t pay attention to the tag at the beginning of each chapter, you may find yourself confused as who is telling the story. I remember there was this one chapter where Lisa was being chased by the government and the one immediately following began with an interrogation and I thought for a while that it was Lisa who was captured.

The world building in this novel is of course excellent as it was used as the background for a number of RPGs. It is a superhero universe that is similar yet distinctive enough to not clash with other franchises. The heroes in this novel have cool superpowers but not too powerful to seem broken. You wouldn’t be disappointed to learn that there are plenty of scenes in the book where our heroes put their powers to use.

The characters have a very comic book feel to them and not overly complex which is perfectly fine for a superhero novel. Patriot is the dark brooding hero, Lisa is the new kid and Ragnarok is the mean villain of the book. They all live up to their roles in the story and are extremely fun to read.

BNW: Revolution is an excellent start to the trilogy, one that would make any superhero comic fan happy and I can’t wait to see how events will unfold in the next story.

Kingdom by Anderson O’Donnell

In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project—codename “Exodus”—has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation’s collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead—an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution….closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus—and one man’s dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.
Kingdom is the debut novel from author Anderson O’Donnell. A fantastic dystopian science fiction thriller with some concepts that reminds me of the film Gattaca as well as the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke shortlisted novel The End Specialist/The Postmortal by Drew Magary.

In Kingdom, Morrison Biotech has spent the last few decades perfecting the recipe to create the ultimate human being, one with the charisma and leadership skills to run a country and yet someone the corporation can control. The one thing they can’t decipher is the “Omega gene”, a gene that appears to have no functions but when omitted, the subjects all breakdown within a couple of years.

One man seems to know the answers though. Jonathan Campbell, once co-founder and mentor of Morrison, thinks that the “Omega gene” is the key to human soul, the antenna that receives instructions from above. Without it the drones will always remain soulless. Campbell has had enough but Morrison needs him to finish what they started.

Meanwhile a young man is discovering a secret that would rock the foundations of his world…

O’Donnell vision of the future, especially where our science would take us isn’t rosy at all. What if we progressed from using our knowledge to treat genetic defects to using it to fulfil our narcissistic needs? What would happen to our world then? Can the world really be sustainable with all these perfect and healthy beings running around? This leads to the interesting Tiber City itself, a sort of heaven and hell rolled into one place. The rich has their glamorous and glitzy district while the poor lived in the city’s slums.

Another interesting part of the book is the flawed characters. Jonathan Campbell is drowning himself in an alcohol induced stupor over the events he has set in motion and Dylan Fitzgerald is going through a self destructive phase trying to come to terms with his own identity. O’Donnell does a good job in exploring the turmoil and emotions going through these characters.

This novel is a good and fast read with an ending that alludes to the birth of a new age and I can’t wait to see how things will turn out in the other stories. Recommended to anyone who is looking for a bit of grimness in their science fiction.

PS. I have recently interviewed Anderson O’Donnell and I will be posting up his answers shortly. In the meantime, please visit his blog tour and have a chance at winning a Kindle Fire while you’re at it.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke

Charles Dickens lived and breathed London in a way few authors ever have, before or since. In his fiction, his non-fiction, and even his own life, Dickens cast an extraordinary shadow over the city he so loved – so much so, indeed, that his name has become synonymous with a certain image of London. A London of terrible social inequality and matchless belief in the human potential; a London filled with the comic and the repulsive, the industrious and the feckless, the faithful and the faithless, the selfish and the selfless.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke is dedicated to bringing together original short stories by some of today’s finest genre authors – stories about London and inspired by Charles Dickens, the self-styled Sparkler of Albion.
Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke is a collection of highly imaginative short stories inspired by Dickens and his London. There is a great variety of stories in this collection with works by both established and emerging authors. There are plenty of gems in this book and I’m sure everyone can something that they like in this collection of Dickensian short stories.

The stories that stood out the most for me were Inspector Bucket Investigates by Sarah Lotz, The Hound of Henry Hortinger by Michelle Goldsmith, An Unburdening of the Soul by David Thomas Moore, andAye, There’s the Twist by James Wallis.

Inspector Bucket Investigates is a wonderful mix of science fiction and the Dickensian world. Set in a theme park based on Dickens’s stories, Inspector Bucket must investigate who is killing off the clones in the park. The Hound of Henry Hortinger is an atmospheric and unrelentingly fast-paced story about the demise of Henry Hortinger. An Unburdening of the Soul paints a great picture of the poverty faced in Dickens’s London, although a little short and Aye, There’s the Twist is a modern day Dickens story with great twists and turns.

Recommended for anyone who is looking for something that is a little different to their usual science fiction and fantasy.

For more information on the Pandemonium series, please visit Pandemonium Fiction.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 17

Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The hunters have become the hunted. The Night Lords flee to the dark fringes of the Imperium to escape their relentless pursuers – the eldar of Craftworld Ulthwé. Their flight takes them to the carrion world of Tsagualsa, where their primarch died and their Legion was broken. There, history will repeat itself as a deadly assassin stalks the shadows, and the Night Lords are drawn into a battle they are destined to lose.
Hopefully if you’re reading this review you should have at least read Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver. If not, why haven’t you picked up a copy yet? There’s a lot of reviews of Void Stalker out there on the internet already so I will instead focus on the parts that I enjoyed the most.

Void Stalker brings an epic end to what has been a fantastic set of trilogy from Black Library. I don’t think there are many authors who can write complex and engaging characters quite like Aaron Dembski-Bowden. The Night Lords 10th Company contains some of the vilest and most sadistic bastards alive but somehow Dembski-Bowden still manages to humanise them into characters that you care about.

Just look at the First Claw. Each of them is a cold blooded killer that revels in the fear of those they kill but at the same time they each have a character flaw that readers can connect with. In this book, the Night Lords do some awful things to the citizens of Tsagualsa to draw attention to themselves but I find myself forgiving these traitor marines even after the monstrosity they caused.

While I’m on the subject of cold blooded killers that you can sympathise with, I’m sure anyone who reads this book will see Uzas in a new light. In this ultimate book Uzas finally snaps out of his bloodthirst to reveal what truly happened that night with the Void Born’s father. Dembski-Bowden really knows how to tug your heartstrings even with the most despicable criminal.

Talos remains one of my favourite characters in the 40k universe. He is still the reluctant leader of his warband in this book but has stepped up nicely to fill the void left by the Exalted. You think you understand Talos but he suddenly does something so shocking that makes you reevaluate his character. I like it that there’s still something new to discover about Talos even after finishing the previous two books.

Septimus and Octavia’s relationship also takes a step up to the next level. I know Black Library frowns upon romances but this love between Septimus and Octavia shows that there is still hope for mankind no matter how dire a situation is. Who knows, maybe Black Library will relax now and let ADB do his Eldar love story.

Besides the amazing character build up, this novel contains plenty of thrilling battle scenes. Xarl engages in one of the longest and bloodiest duels and proves once again why he is the best fighter in First Claw. There’s also the brutal battle between the 10th Company and Void Stalker, the eponymous character of the book.

I can keep praising ADB in this review but everyone by now knows how great a writer he is already. To sum it up the Night Lords trilogy have given me new insights into the traitor legions and remind me that they are not all Chaos worshipping maniacs. This trilogy will always be one of my favourite series from Black Library.

Night Lords: Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 16

Spirits Of Glory by Emily Devenport

One morning the people of the North woke up and the people of the South were gone. That s the first thing every child learns on the colony world of Jigsaw. But for one girl, knowing about The Disappearance is not enough. Hawkeye wants to know why.

That’s why she spent half her life researching The Disappearance. And that’s also why eight Neighbors show up on her doorstep, demanding that she accompany them into the Forbidden Cities ruled by the Southern gods to speak with the Spirits of Glory. Everyone thinks Hawkeye is an expert on Neighbors, these almost-humans who move, talk, and think as if they were born inside one of the Time Fractures. But she can’t imagine what they want to ask the ghosts of their ancestors, or why they need her to go along. The Southern gods caused every human inhabitant of the Southern cities to disappear overnight :- what else might they do?

But the Northern gods say Hawkeye should go and her curiosity won’t let her refuse, even though she’s going into more danger than she can imagine. Pain and puzzlement wait along the broken interstate, along with scavengers who want to kill them all. Hawkeye’s questions only generate more questions as they move farther and farther into the South, right into the heart of the Disappearance, until Hawkeye’s questions have all been answered.

Even the ones she was afraid to ask.

Spirits of Glory is a short yet interesting and thought provoking science fiction story about a young girl’s quest to discover why people disappeared from her planet. Initially the girl Hawkeye is a little timid and is reluctant to go on this journey with the mysterious Neighbors. However as the story progresses Hawkeye grows more confident and learns to handle herself better in different circumstances.

In Spirits of Glory, Devenport has created an intriguing world that I very much enjoyed. The planet that Hawkeye lives on is called Jigsaw because it suffers from a number of Time Fractures. A Time Fracture is basically a time bubble that traps everyone within it in the present, which means that everything takes longer to complete in the bubble than outside of it. This also has the side effect where people on Jigsaw are more mature than their appearance.

As for the general theme of the book, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of eeriness throughout the story. You know something had happened on Jigsaw and caused the disappearance of half the planet but you’re not quite sure what. There are also talks of spirits and gods that punished the inhabitants for the wrongdoings and yet you never quite see them. Devenport does a great job in conveying these points in her writing and helps the readers become familiar with them at a steady pace.

Devenport writes with wonderful and compelling prose that keeps you hooked on the story but I felt the pacing is a little slow for my liking. However the story as a whole more than makes up for this minor complaint.

Spirits of Glory is a YA novel that is different from what’s currently popular on the market. It is a coming of age story that focuses on self-discovery through knowledge rather than physical/supernatural power or through beauty. A recommended read if you are looking for a unique YA novel with deep meaning.

Challenges read for:

2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 5


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 12

Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon

The next instalment in the ground-breaking Horus Heresy series by Mitchell Scanlon, telling the tale of the civil war that nearly tore the human Imperium apart, ten thousand years ago. The novel explores the dark and mysterious history of the Dark Angels Legion and their Primarch Lion El’Jonson.

When the Imperial fleet rediscovers the planet Caliban, the Emperor is reunited with his missing son the Primarch Lion El’Jonson. As Dark Angels old and new join the Great Crusade, a chain of events is set in motion that will change Caliban, its people, and the Legion forever.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book and I think I know why. As one of the books in Horus Heresy, Descent of Angels really doesn’t deal a lot with the Heresy itself. I think it would be more apt to call this a pre-Heresy novel.

Maybe at that point in time, Black Library wanted to do something different and decided to show what a pre-Imperium world would look like. For fans coming to this book with the expectation to read all about the Dark Angels’ role in the Heresy, I understand the disappointment. Whereas for me, I’ve always been fascinated by what the Primarchs were like before they met the Emperor so I’m pretty happy with the setting of this book.

The first two thirds of this book depicts what life was like on Caliban before the Emperor arrived. It’s basically a Feudal world with a collection of knights to protect its inhabitants from the vicious beasts in the forests. The book follows Zahariel and his cousin Nemiel as they join The Order and partake in quests to rid every beast from Caliban. Lion and Luther make an appearance here but we are mostly told how great they are through heresay and from Zahariel’s idealisation of those two characters. It would have been more rewarding if the book showed us more of the relationship between the Lion and Luther rather than so much time on the young initiates themselves. Even after reading this book, I couldn’t say I know Lion any better than before.

The last third deals with Caliban’s intergration into the Imperium and the Crusade. Zahariel and the other initiatives are now promoted to full Astartes while some of his older brothers still join the legion but without the full power of a real Astartes. I found it fascinating that fully grown adults can still become part of the legion. I guess Lion just couldn’t abandon some of his most trusted battle brothers.

In the last section we finally get to see some real action from the Dark Angels as a legion. If only this happened sooner, the book might yet be saved from all its scathing attacks!

I’m not sure if Black Library always wanted to tell the Dark Angels’ story in two parts but I feel that it just went too far back and left all the juicy details till the last minute. I think the story would have worked better in a non-linear way with the first section as Zahariel’s flashbacks.

As for the ending, I still don’t quite understand why Lion decided to take Terran born warriors with him on the crusade instead of his Caliban brothers. This book doesn’t make it clear what Lion is thinking most of the time.

This is still an enjoyable book and provides some interesting history of the Dark Angels. The problem is that it just doesn’t fit into the Horus Heresy series. Skip this if you’re looking for a Heresy story but definitely read this if you want to understand the worlds in 40k better.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy – from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts, to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars. Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons – the Dilemma Prison – against countless copies of himself. Jean’s routine of death, defection and cooperation is upset by the arrival of Mieli and her spidership, Perhonen. She offers him a chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self – in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed…

The Quantum Thief is a hard SciFi novel that has received plenty of praise and has been on my radar for quite some time now. So I immediately jumped to it when Fantasy Faction chose this book as its March book club read.

Now having finished reading this, I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand this book is packed with some brilliant ideas that can fill many books on what future could hold for humankind. What if we are no longer bound by our mortal bodies and that we can simply live forever by uploading our minds and spreading our consciousness across the galaxy? What if we can share our memories and our most intimate information with others as simply as sending an instant message?

However on the other hand, I felt these ideas are wrapped in what is essentially a weak story, one where I never cared about the characters at all. At certain points, the book has the reader buried in so many unfamiliar concepts and terminologies that makes identifying with the characters less of a concern. Maybe the author wanted to keep the story short and snappy and decided to sacrifice depth for a fast-moving pace?

The problem is that the story doesn’t guide you by the hand but rather expect you to figure out everything by yourself. I come from a science background so the concepts weren’t that hard for me to figure out but at times you just feel so overwhelmed and lost that you want to give up. Luckily there is also a glossary available on Wikipedia. Even with the glossary at hand, I didn’t have much idea of what was happening in the story until I was in the final chapters when everything finally clicked and realised what a clever ending this is. I felt my “Eureka” moment came too late and spoiled my enjoyment of the story.

This is a book that will definitely benefit from rereading. By the second or third time, you will already be familiar enough with the concepts and can just focus tackling the story. I will let you know if my opinion changes if I ever decide to reread this book.

The Quantum Thief is a book full of potential but not quite getting there yet. Let’s see how the sequel,The Fractal Prince will do when it comes out in September.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 7

Eisenhorn Omnibus by Dan Abnett

In the grim far future, the Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down daemons, aliens and heretics with uncompromising ruthlessness.
This is my second year reading Black Library novels and I consider myself still very inexperienced in the 40k lore. So to broaden my perspective, I decided to visit one of the all-time classics, the Eisenhorn Omnibus by Dan Abnett.

For those who don’t know already, the Eisenhorn Omnibus is about the exploits of Gregor Eisenhorn, Imperial Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos. Eisenhorn was originally just a character in Games Workshop’s Inquisitor game but Dan Abnett found the concept artworks and liked them so much that he decided he must write the backstories for the character.

The omnibus consists of three books and two short stories. The books are all named after the three major orders of the Inquisition, Ordo Xenos; Ordo Malleus and Ordo Hereticus and the general theme of each book echoes its title.

Before I get into the details of each story, I must say that this omnibus is an absolutely amazing and exciting piece of work. I don’t know why I waited so long before I picked up this series. There are explosions, plenty of deaths and battles with Chaos Marines, daemons and even a Titan! I can see why it is held in such high regards by the fans.

After giving some time to reflect on these stories, I came to the conclusion that Eisenhorn is the Jack Bauer of the 41st millennium. Eisenhorn and Bauer are alike in that they have both given their lives to serve a greater purpose, which is to protect the lives and stability of those around them. They both have to make morally ambiguous choices and plenty of people die along the way but everything they do is for the greater good. Also they both suffer a fair amount of brutal injuries but still manage to pull through in the end.

Coincidentally, Eisenhorn’s retinue is like the CTU. He always has someone with the right skills close-by and the members rotate like clockwork. If they die, Eisenhorn will just pick someone else to do the job and continue with his mission. So as a word of warning, don’t get too attached to Eisenhorn’s crew.

The pacing of the entire omnibus is excellent, fast and action-packed, and never a moment that left you feeling bored. All three books begin with a scene that leaves thousands dead and the stories follow Eisenhorn’s journey as he gathers the clues and searches for the masterminds behind each of the mass destructions.

In Xenos, we are introduced to Inquisitor Eisenhorn, young and in his prime. During his investigation on Gudrun, Eisenhorn is captured and the torture leaves him permanently expressionless. The subsequent chase leads Eisenhorn to an alien world where he realises that there’s more at stake than he imagined and even Chaos Marines are involved.

I think it’s an excellent touch to add Chaos Marines in this story. Reading about the fear induced by the Chaos Marine on Alizebeth Bequin reminds me just how truly fearsome and terrifying these creatures of Chaos are.

In Missing in Action, the short story that follows, Eisenhorn investigates a series of ritual murders on Sameter. The story again is wonderfully written and tells the horrors of war and the lasting effects it can have on you.

After this we come to Malleus, the Inquisition thinks that Eisenhorn is consorting with daemons and declares him Heretic and Extremis Diabolus. Eisenhorn decides to go rogue in order to gather the evidence needed to prove his innocence.

This story surprised me in a few ways. First the story begins ninety eight years after the events of Xenos, which is a pretty big time jump and somewhere in the middle one of the crew members have died but not much is said of that particular event. Second, in this book we also meet Eisenhorn’s protégé, Interrogator Gideon Ravenor. I know there is another set of trilogy featuring Ravenor and thought he would play a bigger part in the story but didn’t expect him to be taken out so quickly. Maybe it was done on purpose but I felt there wasn’t enough time to become familiar with him and the other new characters and their dismissal doesn’t have that much of an impact on the story.

My overall thoughts for Malleus is that it’s a little too predictable and the ending wrapped up too perfectly but it’s still a satisfying and exciting story.

Afterwards we have another short story, this one titled Backcloth for a Crown Additional. Eisenhorn investigates the mysterious death of an old friend which appears to be a simple open and shut case. However with further inspection, Eisenhorn and his retinue finds that there is a certain pattern leading to the death. This is another entertaining short story, one with a little less action but more than makes up for it with its eeriness.

Last but not least, we have Hereticus. In this book we witness Eisenhorn’s change to radicalism, almost crossing over to becoming heretical as he goes against the very thoughts he once believed in and uses the power of the Warp against agents of the Warp. We see him struggle with his choices and the decisions over the use of the tainted knowledge. His organisation is destroyed and is hunted by a man know as Khanjar the Sharp. To make things worse, Eisenhorn is once again declared as a Heretic by the Inquisition for his involvement with the Malus Codicium.

There is great deal of emotion in this book, we see a man who is pushed too far and finally breaks because of it. Eisenhorn finally gets his revenge but at what costs? His former friends and allies are now gone or dying and he no longer has a place he can call home. A sad but satisfying ending that fits well with the grim dark future setting of the 40k universe.

This omnibus is really a great solid piece of work and once again shows why Abnett is considered one of the best writers at Black Library.

Finally I leave you with this wonderful drawing depicting Eisenhorn’s past and present retinue by Nicolas R. Giacondino aka Aerion-the-Faithful.

The Past Recedes by Aerion-the-Faithful

Empire State by Adam Christopher

The stunning superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.

It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.

When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist.

Adam Christopher’s stunning debut novel heralds the arrival of an amazing new talent.
I actually read Empire State a while ago but it’s taken me over a month to gather my thoughts and to finally write a review on this book. It’s a book that I found really hard to write a review for. I’ll start by saying that Empire State reminds me a lot of Fringe and The Thirteenth Floor. The stories are about people crossing over to another world that looks similar to the original but yet with many things different. Since I love both Fringe and The Thirteenth Floor, the thought of a detective novel set in a parallel universe with superheroes during the prohibition era should be the sort of thing that I would also love. However the story just didn’t work for me. The ideas presented in the book are neat but I couldn’t buy into the characters and felt that things were too easily explained away by saying that it was the pocket’s effect.

Really the laws of the pocket’s effects are just strange. Some people in the parallel world is completely opposite to their real world counterparts whereas others only in name. Some require special breathing apparatus to crossover but others can manage fine without them. Some land on the otherside having missed a few decades while others immediately crossed over. To me it just felt like the laws were whatever fitted with the needs of the story.

As for the characters, I initially enjoyed reading about the detective Rad. I liked the journey he goes through as he discovers the true nature of the Empire State and what is ultimately at stake. However I lost interest in him when it is revealed that Rad is the way he is all because he is a reflection of his real world counterpart. Nevertheless I carried on but by that point, I couldn’t find anything else that gripped me and in the end I just gave up on the struggles of both worlds. Even the outcome of the final battle felt a little too easy and convenient with everything wrapped up too perfectly.

Although the story didn’t live up to my expectation, the redeeming feature for me is the prohibition-era setting with superheroes that is reminiscence of the Golden Age of comics. Adam Christopher has written a story that blends multiple genres and created something that is truly unique, and is a fabulous addition to Angry Robot’s genre bending catalogue. If you want to explore more of this setting, you can head over to the Worldbuilder project where readers can share their own contribution to this fictional universe.

Empire State is a book that I desperately wanted to love but couldn’t. Despite this, Empire State is still a strong debut with many great ideas and concepts that should be further explored in the Worldbuilder project. Adam Christopher shows a lot of promise and I am interested to see what else he has in store in the future.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 5

Reality 36 by Guy Haley

Something is amiss in the renegade digital realm of Reality 36. Richards—a Level 5 AI with a PI fetish—and his partner, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside an artificial reality. Richards and Klein must stop him before he becomes a god – for the good of all the realms.

Reality 36 is a thrilling mystery novel set in a world run by Artificial Intelligence. Richards, a self-aware AI and his partner Otto Klein, a German decommissioned cyborg are approached by EuPol Five to investigate a case most peculiar, the apparent deaths of one of the world’s most renowned AI scientist, Zhang Qifang. That’s right, the good professor has somehow managed to die twice. Things get stranger as the duo probes deeper into the mystery of the deaths and soon they unravel a massive cover-up that would shatter both the physical and virtual world.

Sure there are plenty of action and humour in this book. The banter between Richards and Hughie comes to mind. However what makes the story exceptional is Haley’s vision of the future and the thought provoking questions he asks.

The title, Reality 36 is actually a collection of 36 virtual realms that used to be the playing ground of people. The world’s governments have ruled that the self-aware artificial intelligence within these realms can be considered as real life forms and humans should be trialed as they are in real-life for committing any acts of murders in these realms. The governments have also ruled that if intelligent agents like Richards and his kin are to have the same rights as humans, they should be bound by the same laws. This means they have to exist as a singular identity and no form of duplication of themselves are allowed. So, is AI life and do these entities have souls? These are some great questions to ask the future generation of scientists as our world grow more reliant on intelligent agents to do our work.

Despite the excellent vision of the future, there are some problems that I have with this novel. One, the story just took too long to get started. The first third of the book was used to introduce Richards, Klein and Veronique Valdaire and what their lives are like before the main events of the story kicked in. While it’s interesting to know that Richards is tracking down a human trafficker, this little subplot isn’t related to the whole scheme of things. Second, the subtitle, A Richards and Klein novel indicates that Reality 36 is perhaps a standalone story in a series of novels like the Sherlock Holmes stories. It really threw me off to find out the book ends in a cliffhanger! There’s nothing wrong with cliffhangers but maybe I feel cheated because of the misleading subtitle.

On the whole, I think the good points outweigh the bad and that there should be more Science Fiction writers like Haley who asks these thought provoking questions on what it means to be alive.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 3

Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver were my first foray into the realm of Chaos Marines and wow, not only are these books really great, but they also changed my view of the traitor legions. Last time I read about the Chaos Marines was in Fulgrim when the Emperor’s Children first became Noise Marines. I just thought they were a bunch of elitist arseholes that deserved what was happening to them. In contrast, the 10th Company of the Night Lords has some of the most sympathetic Astartes that I’ve ever read. They got stuck in their current predicament all because they chose a different side to fight on.

The first novel, Soul Hunter, centers around the fate of the First Claw of the 10th Company, a squad that has existed since the Horus Heresy. They have hidden in the Eye of Terror since the defeat and due to some effects of the warp, they find themselves in the 41st millenium lacking the vital resources to operate.

At the middle of it all is Talos, the unoffical leader of the First Claw. He is gifted with the same prophetic power as the Night Haunter and is a valuable asset to the Chaos legions. However Talos is unlike his brethern, despite the temptations, he is still able to cling to his own ideals while refusing to name any of the ruinous powers as his master.

What I really enjoy about the book is how the 10th Company breaks the mould of Traitor Marines as brutal, savage killers and makes you rethink who betrayed who in the 40k universe. The Night Lords were the shock troops of the Emperor’s forces that have outlived their usefulness and are discarded just for using tactics that no longer fit into the Imperium’s doctrine.

Dembski-Bowden again did an excellent job in highlighting how different Talos is from the rest of the traitors through the interaction with his serfs. The interactions show a humaness that is hardly seen in the other Astartes. Instead of treating the humans as mere toys like the rest of his legion, Talos shows them respect and offer his protection.

This book really captures the mood of a grim dark future and the helpnessless of a dwindling company with no home of its own.

After completing Soul Hunter, I jumped straight to Blood Reaver. On the whole I found Soul Hunter to be the better book. Too much attention was paid to the ship falling apart and not enough to the fall of Vilamus, which is an important part of the 40k lore. Despite this, the book is still an outstanding piece of work that greatly adds to the 40k universe.

As with Soul Hunter, Dembski-Bowden has once again shown us how vastly different Chaos Marines can be from each other. In contrast with the fairly untainted Night Lords, we have the Chaos worshipping fanatics of the Red Corsairs. And they have joined forces to pull off one of the biggest attacks known to Imperial forces.

Once again when the action gets going in the book, it is truly fantastic. Dembski-Bowden has produced some of the highest calibre of writing in SFF and it keeps you turning the page.

In fact I enjoyed it so much that I immediately went out and bought Dawn of War 2 to try and recreate some of the excitement that I felt when reading the squad based actions in the book.

Aaron Demski-Bowden is fast becoming my favourite Black Library author and I can’t wait for Void Stalker to come out later this year.