Monday, May 20, 2013

The Emperor's Gift

The Emperor's Gift
Author: Aaron Demski-Bowden
Genre: Science Fiction | Warhammer 40k
Release Date: May 29th, 2012

This book is for:
Fans of the Warhammer 40k universe. Everyone who wanted to read about a more "human" version of Space Marines, well this book is definitely for you.

The Review:
The Emperor's Gift is an anomaly among Warhammer 40k novels. This is the first book I've read in the Black Library that does not feel like a typical W40k Space Marine book. It reeks of character-building, emotional play and devious plots, rather than the reiteration of cold hard data being relayed in written form and straightforward storytelling. It is different and yet at the same time refreshing. Aaron Dembski-Bowden managed to do the impossible; make the inhuman Space Marines become relatable and emotional (and not just that of the baser rage or righteous zealotry that we're used to seeing in W40K SM novels) beings that are just like your average (super)human, without any of the baser animal lusts.

The Emperor's Gift is the story behind the Grey Knights, the legendary and covert arm of the Inquisition and the sole Space Marine Chapter to consist of only Psykers. They are the elite tasked with the banishment of daemons when everyone else has failed. Forged from the gene-seed of the Undying Emperor, the term Emperor's Gift is quite literal. The story starts from the pursuit of a warp-ravaged Space Wolves vessel and continues to the First War of Armageddon, and the subsequent insurrection of that entire Chapter toward the Inquisition. The book raises some key talking points for fans of the series: at what point does one toe the line when faced with orders that contradict one's moral beliefs and loyalty. In the end the Space Wolves decide that loyalty and honor outweigh everything else, even the possible taint of Chaos as a result of their actions. Entire Chapters of Space Marines and fleets are mobilized against the Space Wolves who doggedly defend those who they previously fought alongside, and who the Inquisition would rather see purged than let live.

So what happens when a Grey Knights Grand Master clashes with the Space Wolves' Chapter Master? Read the book to find out.

Cover: 8
Characters: 7
Story: 8

Overall:  7.5/10 (3.5 Stars)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Big Bad Wolf Aftermath Sale

It's back! If you've missed the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at the end of last year, fear not, for the sale is coming back soon. Very soon. Once again it's going to be held at the MIECC (Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre ). For more details check out the banner below or follow The Big Bad Wolf's Facebook page directly for more updates.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

[Reread] All That Lives Must Die by Eric Nylund

All That Lives Must Die (Mortal Coils #2)
Author: Eric Nylund
Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult
Release Date: July 20th, 2010

Since Goodreads only allows you to list a book as read (in your GR challenge) once, and only once, I'm forced to take matters into my own hands by noting which books I've reread on my personal review blog instead. The same can be said for reviews; you've only got one opportunity to do so, so I've started a new "reread" category. If you're looking to read the original reviews of the first two books, they can be found here. Since this is the second review of something that I've already read once, there will be major spoilers so if you're looking for a glance at what it's all about please refer to the original review found at the link above.

Now that that is out the way I'll continue on with my deliberation. There are a lot of subtle details and references that I missed on the first read-through, including the veiled references to the divine powers, which obviously aren't talking about the Immortals considering how they're pretty much the same morality wise as the Infernals. Despite all the cosmetic differences and propaganda, they're just as callous towards human life as the other side. I believe that this book hints at the possibility (which is now crushed, but more on that at the end of this review) of actual forces of Heaven, as in the Angels, coming down to the Earth and getting involved in the conflict between the immortal beings. This is supported by a statement made by one of the characters and by footnote #57 where it's claimed that "...this church was later the location where the Divine reentered the mortal world..." that in this context literally means what it says. That Angels or a heavenly host descended from Heaven during the war that ended the Fifth Celestial Age. Angels (at least of the non-fallen kind) have yet to make an appearance in this series so all these dropped hints make me believe that in the third book they'll be more closely involved with mortal and immortal affairs. This is perhaps the biggest game-changer in the series because of the tremendous effect it will have on the overall plot. It will turn it on its figurative head and make the series that much more enjoyable to read with the introduction of a fourth force (the third being the mortal magical families and Paxington Institute) to be reckoned with in the eternal war between the Immortals and Infernals.

However, I just found out that the third book will not in fact, be coming out. Why? Simply because TOR had to be a big-ass douchebag and decline to buy any more books in the series and yet they've obstinately kept a hold of the copyrights to the original two. This is preventing the author from going ahead and getting the next installment out to us; the faithful readers with cash or credit card in hand, just dying to buy the next book. More information on the status of the series can be found here on the author's blog. It's truly a sad state of affairs for those of us who love the series. Here's to hoping that Eric has been writing the third book in the meantime, though there's not much hope of seeing it published anytime soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Halo: Primordium

Halo: Primordium (Halo #9)
Author: Greg Bear
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: January 1st, 2012

This isn't a book that you can casually just pick up and get into, and expect to know everything about it, even if you're a hardcore science fiction fan. You'd have to have an extensive understanding of the whole Halo universe to even get any of the references which I eventually got by reading up the Halo Wikia, which is something that I do regularly for all of my science fiction or fantasy reads especially after getting into a bit of trouble remembering all the lore and background, which is happening a lot more often now that I've been jumping around between all the various series that I have been reading and not finishing, and then suddenly deciding to pick up again a few months later.

Primordium involves a lot of walking around. I mean of the type that usually happens in high fantasy novels, but you wouldn't exactly expect to happen in the science fiction genre. I mean seriously, 50% of the book involves walking around this massive construct called a Halo, finding random dead aliens and remains of crashed warships and then more walking. Not a lot happens aside from that for over half the book. I probably should have read more Halo books prior to this but hey, I didn't want to invest the time into something that I wasn't really interested in to begin with (unlike the Warhammer 40k-verse, which is frigging awesome by the way), and I wanted a peek at the Halo-verse. I was not impressed with what I read.

So around the halfway mark through my reading of the novel after blundering around blindly and trying to get through the endless walking and poking of dead corpses, I finally did some research into the Didact, Forerunners, the Primordial and pretty much everything (including spoilers). Imagine my surprise when the story started to become interesting for some reason and when I continued reading it was still boring despite knowing pretty much everything about the lore but it finally perked up during the final third of the book. The final third of the book hinted at points that actually piqued my interest and made me keep reading to find out more. The ending left everything off on a cliffhanger and strangely enough I want to find out more despite how bland most of the book was. My interest wasn't due to the actual book itself on its own merits but rather due to the fact that I wanted to find out more about the lore from where it left off. Otherwise the book is totally forgettable.

Cover: 4
Characters: 3
Story: 3

Overall:  3/10 (2 Stars)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Crimson Crown

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4)
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Epic Fantasy | Young Adult
Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

Ambitious, yet underwhelming. The Crimson Crown started out strong and kept on building plot strength until it reached the climax around the ninety percent mark of the book where it suddenly stopped and decided to chill. I felt that the lackluster ending was a compromise to the legions of fans that want a happily ever after fairy tale ending. The author diluted the possibility of what could have been one of the best tragic endings ever.

Overall the story is very solid with immensely enjoyable and breathtaking writing that just makes you want to know how it all ends. The intense rivalry between the Bayars and Han Alister (the descendant of the Demon King and his supposedly genuine royal claim to the throne) continues, with  the Bayars plotting to prevent Alister from consolidating his power over the Wizards, and his discrete political maneuvering to outplay them in return. Certain major events occur as a result of this that will definitely surprise most readers.

It's quite possibly the best book in the series but it could have been a lot better. Aside from the weak ending, this is a really good read and fans of the series should definitely get this book.

Cover: 8
Characters: 7
Story: 8

Overall:  7.5/10 (4 Stars)

Monday, January 7, 2013

The End of Magic

The End of Magic
Author: G.M. Gambrell
Genre:  Fantasy | Young Adult | Science Fiction
Release Date: September 3rd, 2012

This is an indie novel published through Amazon's self-publishing program. It's got a decent setting and premise for the story where the modern society as we know it has been overthrown by the magic users. Despite the implications of the story, where the magicians basically committed genocide on the humans (literally in fact, billions were killed and there's only a couple thousand survivors left by the current time in the story), the story isn't as dark as the blurb would have you believe. There was a huge war between the magicians and normal humans after people starting getting magical powers en masse. Now the only survivors are hiding in the ruins of the former human cities while the magicians remain cooped up in their shielded magical towns.

While this is a decent attempt for an indie author, it still failed to impress. For one thing, the characters aside from the main character Duncan, are wholly uninteresting. I could barely distinguish any redeeming characteristics or traits between any of them. If you were to ask me about which characters stood out in the story, I'd be unable to answer you simply because of how forgettable they all are. They're just so bland and devoid of any qualities that would differentiate them from one another or make them stand out in your mind while you're reading the story. I can't quite put my finger on the cause of it, but I think it's because of how focused Gambrell was in trying to further the plot, devoting all his attention and creativity to further the background and progression of the story, thus depriving the characters of any real development.

This is a mash-up of fantasy and science fiction that while ambitious, failed to keep me interested for long. It was a good enough but unsatisfactory read. The ending left an opening for a sequel but I sure won't be reading it if it ever comes out.

Cover: 2
Characters: 3
Story: 4

Overall:  3.5/10 (2 Stars)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Bad Wolf Book Sale (Malaysia)

Most Malaysians will probably have heard about the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale due to the fast-spreading word of mouth hype by reading fanatics everywhere. You'd be spreading the word like mad too if you had a chance to go shopping for books at 75%-95% off of the retail price. Yeah, that much off. It's kinda insane but hey, I'm not complaining. I do wonder how much money they're making but they probably got their stock for real cheap (returned stock that usually gets destroyed due to not selling/new stock). I mean $2-3 (RM8) for both paperbacks and hardcovers is just too good to pass on and there's 3 MILLION books on sale.

Here are a couple of pics of the venue to give a sense of perspective on just how huge this sale is. The following images are credited to Big Bad Wolf Books.

Credit: Big Bad Wolf
Insane amount of books.
The sale started on Friday, the 7th of December, but some people got preview passes so they got dibs on the best books ahead of everyone else. There's every type of book that you can conceive of; from reference books on design/architecture to history books and every type of fictional novel. I went there on the 15th and I bought 5 Hardcovers, 10 paperbacks and 3 comic volumes for a cheapass total of RM131.

Paperbacks, got some weird stuff as well.
Only copy of this that I found.
Lady Luck was smiling upon me.

Hardcovers for RM8 each (divide by 3 for USD).
Damn good deals especially for The Wise Man's Fear,
 the only copy I found in that entire place
 (believe me when I say I searched every table!)

I got some really awesome books but most of what I wanted wasn't available *sob sob* or most of the good books that I found (Wheel of Time books 12 and 13) didn't have the prequels so I ended up passing up on them. I couldn't find a single Mistborn book aside from Alloy of Law (which is a standalone novel, and not part of the trilogy). Ever since I got a Kindle, I've been far more selective regarding which books I end up buying since when you can get any book in the world (well the popular ones at least), you tend to be far less impulsive in buying just any old book that strikes your fancy. I've reverted to my old habits in that I buy books only to collect them and not mainly for reading. But once I start buying books in a series, I just have to complete the set!

The main issue I have is that unlike last year's sale, this year they've got a LOT of copies of the same books, as in dozens of duplicates of each book; no doubt contributing to the massive increase in books available for sale while at the same time they've sacrificed variety in order to gain quantity. I'm not saying there aren't a lot of different books, I'm just saying that even among those piles of books it's hard to find the ones you're looking for and most of the time you'll be seeing unfamiliar books more often than ones you recognize or are looking for. It made me wish I had a smartphone or laptop with me to look up all these strange books on Goodreads to see whether they're any good. In the end I ended up getting the books I've heard about and wanted to read but never had the cash to buy. I might be heading back to the BBW sale later this week to stock up on the books I missed out on in the hopes that they'll have added the rest of them (there were a lot of books in their storage area still to be unpacked from what I saw).

If you're interested in getting books from the sale don't fret! It's still on until the 23rd of December 2012. For more details check out the Big Bad Wolf website and facebook page: