Reading Round-Up

Hey everybody,
I’ve really fallen behind in terms of the book blogs, and rather than trying to get my garbled thoughts down for all of them, I’ve opted for what a number of you fine wordpressers go for, and have prepared this multi-part missive with some thoughts spread across each. Well, it’s only three books, so it’s not like it’s going to be a huge epistle (I say that now…)

Rogue Star
The first book in this bunch is Rogue Star, the first book in the Rogue Trader anthology by Andy Hoare. There’s a name from Warhammer royalty, right there. The story involves the rogue trader Lucian Gerrit and his son and daughter, as they travel to the world of Mundus Chasmata to negotiate a deal with the Imperial governor there. Turns out the deal is gun-running – in fact, it’s xenos gun-running. Things aren’t entirely what they seem, and the isolation of Mundus Chasmata has led to something of a rot setting into the governor and his court. When the nearby governor of Arris Epsilon decides to launch an attack, with Tau mercenaries in attendance, Lucian is able to use his small fleet to manoeuvre so that the governors destroy each other in the process.

I really wanted to like this book. In fact, part of me kinda still does. But I think it suffers a little from that sort of early Warhammer weirdness. It’s not that early, of course, being published in 2006, but it doesn’t seem to have a lot to recommend it beyond a sort of nostalgia, I suppose. We don’t get to learn a tremendous amount about what rogue traders are, or what they do. Their retinue is barely touched upon, possibly due to the fact that Gerrit’s family fortune is at a low ebb, hence them taking the work at Mundus Chasmata, but I think there was a definite missed opportunity to go deep into the lore of rogue traders, and what that all means. Maybe we will get it with a future book – there are still two more novels and two short stories in the omnibus, after all! 

That all said, when the Tau showed up, I did get a bit excited. The story is set somewhere around the edge of the Damocles Gulf, so I suppose it was inevitable really, but it was interesting to see the way in which they showed up, duping the governor of Arris Epsilon into believing they’re helping him when really, they’re kinda taking over.

All in all, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but it was by no means one that I would be rushing to recommend everybody pick up.

The Tower of the Swallow
The fourth Witcher book has been and gone, and I have to say, I quite liked this one. It wasn’t the story per se, but the manner in which the story unfolds, that really impressed me. It’s always dicey talking about things like literary texture when you’re discussing a book you’ve read in translation, but there was something about the flow of the words in this one, and the patterns and, well, textures used to tell the story, that really created a strong impression.

We start slap bang in media res here, and I had no idea where this book took place, in relation to the previous one, for a very long time. It begins with a hermit discovering a badly wounded and mutilated Ciri in the middle of the swamp, when the autumn is getting unseasonably chilly. He tends her wounds, and while she convalesces with him, we begin to pick up on the story of how she came to be in that state. Interspersed with this is the story of what is going on with Yennefer, after she fled from the sorceresses conclave. That’s also told somewhat after the fact, and the story skips and jumps around with barely a thought for a linear timeline that it can actually be tough to keep track of exactly what is going on.

However, I kinda loved it, all the same! I especially liked the device of using the same (or near-same) paragraph at the end of chapters, “if anybody looked in through the window, they’d see an old man and a young girl…” etc. It gave me such a sense of foreboding for something about to happen, especially when we learn that Ciri is being sought by men in the nearby village. I was just waiting for the enforced familiarity to come and bite me. It really did put me on edge just as the chapter was coming to an end! 

So what do we learn? Ciri and her fellow Rats were apprehended by some massive bounty hunter, who killed all the Rats and captured Ciri, forcing her to fight in gladiatorial battles, but she was able to escape before being handed over to Rience and, ultimately, Vilgefortz, prompting a massive chase sequence that ultimately leads her to discover the Tower of the Swallow, the magical pair of the Tower of the Gull, whose magical portal she went through to escape during the coup on Thanedd. Somewhere along the way, we also have Geralt and co, but they are unfortunately relegated to bit-players in this book, despite the cover having The Witcher emblazoned across the top!

I can see why many people don’t really like this one, and think of it as filler or whatever, but I was really impressed with the narrative choices, more so once I had worked out just what was going on and all the rest of it. Looks like there’s just one more novel left to read, then one more anthology, and we’re done. We’ve almost made it, guys!

Flesh and Steel
We’re back to the 41st millennium for the last book in this series of mini-reviews! Flesh and Steel was the second novel released under the Warhammer Crime imprint, after Chris Wraight’s inaugural Bloodlines, and is written by fellow Black Library alum Guy Haley. The novel features Probator Symeon Noctis and his investigation into several gruesome murders linked heavily to servitors manufactured on-world in an enclave of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so he is joined in this by Procurator Rho Lux-1, a bit like an AdMech version of the Adeptus Arbites. Noctis and Lux look into what is going on with these servitors, which are high-end multifunctional creations whose creator is then killed under suspicious circumstances, also.

There are so many twists and turns along the way, including a tie-in to Noctis’ ongoing investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy industrialist’s daughter, that it’s hard to believe the story is packed into just over 300 pages. Along the way, we also have many more glimpses into the internal politics of Alecto and the hive city of Varangantua, as we look at the wealthy denizens who are able to live among the surviving real trees of the planet, and the background Noctis himself left behind when he joined the enforcers. We also get a look at the byzantine workings of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and the paranoia they embody while working alongside the Imperium as they try to guard their secrets while also not overstepping their authority.

Indeed, I think it’s the AdMech parts that I found consummately fascinating while reading this book, and I credit this with the reason why I started to build Karaphron Breachers, and then in turn start to look once again at my AdMech army for 40k! I don’t think I’ve read anything by Haley that covers this before, so it was interesting to see how well he can write the Martian priesthood. I find myself wanting to know more, and more, but I suppose that’s just the sign of a good author!

I really enjoyed this book, at any rate, and I think it’s possibly because it was along the lines of a police procedural once again. The Wraithbone Phoenix had that element missing, I think, which made it feel a little less like a Warhammer Crime story. There are still quite a few books in the Warhammer Crime series, although most are short story anthologies which can often be hit and miss. But I do hope that there will be many more of this standard, because this book was excellent.

So there we are, a bit of a whistlestop tour of the books that have come under my nose recently. According to my goodreads profile, I am one book ahead of schedule for reading 30 books this year, so I think that’s nice! At least they’ve all been actual novels as well, so my wife can’t complain too much that I’m bumping my total up with “pamphlets” and “magazines” (one day, she’ll realise graphic novels count as reading…) Still not decided yet on whether I’m going to start reading the New Jedi Order again this year, though I am feeling in the mood for some Star Wars as we get closer to Easter!

9 thoughts on “Reading Round-Up”

  1. The following question is genuine and not just me being me, hehe.

    Each of those reviews was long enough for its own post, so what is your thought process for doing a threefer?
    Is it psychological, ie, doing 3 separate posts just ‘feels’ like a big job?
    Is it a scheduling thing, ie, you don’t like scheduling?
    Is it something completely off my radar?

    1. Haha! Well I always enjoy your comments, regardless!!

      There’s a part of me that always seems to aim for 1000 words as a ‘gold standard’ for blog posts, and anything that is basically two or three paragraphs seems like I’m just trying to fill up my posting schedule. It’s not entirely arbitrary, as I read something years ago that actually suggested the 1000 words as being a good number to aim for in long-form content.

      I think I’m getting over that, though, and getting a few more shorter posts, but in this case specifically, I also liked the fact that the books are presented in ascending order of how much I enjoyed them (rather than when I read them), so it seemed like a good way to present my garbled thoughts, anyway!!

    1. I am! But possibly not this year. I’m thinking I’m going to read some more of the Bantam era first – got a post coming out next week that will explain all 😃

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