Sin of Damnation

Hey everybody!
I recently finished reading the novella Sin of Damnation, also known as Space Hulk: the novel, so thought I’d turn this week into some kind of Warhammer 40k nostalgia week and talk about it here for a bit!

The novella runs to just under 100 pages, and reads a lot like a disaster movie. It’s basically a novelisation of the events of the classic board game, and takes us though the Blood Angels first company boarding the space hulk Sin of Damnation.¬†I thought it was quite funny how it felt a little like a RPG storyline, with the terminators fulfilling objectives aboard the space hulk at the direction of the off-screen Captain Raphael, who seemed to be some kind of weird GM.

Of course, there is a lot of space marine vs genestealer action in the book, with some really nicely written parts from the point-of-view of the Broodlord. While the story lacks the scope of something like Shield of Baal: Deathstorm, there is nevertheless the sense that this is the antecedent of the Shield of Baal storyline.

As the story went on, I thought it was interesting to note that there were multiple Broodlords within the hulk, something I guess I hadn’t thought about previously. Just assumed that there’d be one overall leader that directed the hive mind. But there we go!

The book also includes a second short story that was published in the 2014 edition, Sanguis Irae, which follows the librarian Calistarius on another hulk, as he delves into the mind of a long-comatose Blood Angel who has managed to preserve his life despite being in the grip of the Black Rage, enough to allow his battle brothers to defeat a Navigator-Broodlord aboard the vessel. That was weird, I have to say, and I found myself trying to work out how such a creature would come to be – presumably a member of the Navis Nobilite was infected by a genestealer, so the child was both purestrain and a navigator? Who knows. The story was quite intriguing in the way it blended the recollections of the Black Rage guy, along with the fact that the Black Rage basically makes a Blood Angel believe he is Sanguinius in his final moments aboard the Vengeful Spirit. The three timelines of the story worked quite well, at any rate, and it wasn’t as confusing as perhaps it could have been!


Anyway, all this talk of genestealers has me wanting to share with you all some progress with my own brood!

As you know, I’ve been struggling for years now to get my Genestealer Cult models painted – I love the army, and love the models, but find it extremely difficult to actually make any headway with the force, due to the models being so insanely detailed. I recently managed to finish 11 Neophyte Hybrids, which I think has helped a great deal to see how I can get the colour scheme painted in bulk, and have therefore been ploughing ahead with some Acolyte Hybrids this time around – as well as the first of my Purestrains!

The minis are definitely coming along nicely, I think! I’m a little concerned that they look a bit too blue in comparison with the Neophytes, but they are more hunched, so it is slightly more difficult to make out the points of similarity between the two troops choices. But they’re painted with the same fatigues, armour and such – it’s just that the Acolytes have more carapace on show!

I’m quite pleased that I’ve managed to get these painted in a little less than a month, however – especially considering there has been a lot of Necron activity going on in the month, also!

I’m pretty much committed to playing the Cult in Kill Team for now, anyway, so I’ve got a few more models I want to paint up for that, then I’ll have my main force finished. My local GW has a campaign starting on the 15th, though I’m currently away on honeymoon so won’t be able to join in with that quite yet! Once I have my Cult sorted though, I’ll be able to focus once more on getting the Necrons reanimated in the Thokt Dynasty colour scheme, and that will likely take me up to the end of the year! Splendid!

Ashes of Prospero

I’ve recently finished reading the second book in the Space Marine Conquests series, Ashes of Prospero, so thought I’d ramble on here for a bit about some of my thoughts!

Similarly to the first volume in the series, this one takes its focus on a single Space Marine chapter, the Space Wolves, and tells the story of why it’s acceptable to include Primaris Marines in your army if you were on the fence. Well, it’s a little more than just that, but anyway. The story follows Njal Stormcaller as he attempts to relieve himself of a psychic stowaway in his brain, a Thousand Sons sorcerer who was stuck inside the Portal Maze during the razing of Prospero back when Leman Russ was sent to censure Magnus. Njal hopes that he can also liberate members of the 13th Company of Space Wolves who were likewise trapped, and so leads an expedition to the Thousand Sons’ homeworld.

Spoiler Alert: Njal succeeds in battling through the Maze and ridding himself of the psychic presence of Izzakar, and manages to pick up about 200 space marines of the Heresy era, along with all of their attendant tech. Interesting. I’ve read of people speculating this means the Space Wolf codex will include rules for Spartans and Mastodons, but I highly doubt that.

Anyway!

The book felt unnecessarily long, and as with pretty much anything that involves the Space Wolves, includes so many over-the-top Viking references that it feels more like a parody of Space Vikings than an actual serious space marine fighting force. Everything is wolf-this and wolf-that, with faux-Norwegian peppered throughout to give it that rime of hoarfrost that we’ve come to expect. It’s not a long book, but because the action feels so drawn-out, it does feel like a chore to get through.

But that could just be because I’m not a Space Wolves fan!

The good parts were few and far between, but I did like the in-depth look at the launch of the taskforce, as we see the efforts the Navigators go through to enter the Warp. It’s also been a nice sequence so far, with the novels focusing on chapters and their classic enemies: Blood Angels vs Tyranids, and now Space Wolves vs Thousand Sons. The third book has apparently been recently released, and sees the Dark Angels go up against the T’au, so that was a bit of a novelty for me, but even so, it all feels quite thematic.

While I don’t feel that this novel did much to advance the timeline as the first book did, it’s probably worth picking up just to see the little bits and pieces of the 8th edition story come together. Then you can probably pass it along to a charity shop or something…

Deliverance Lost

Hey everybody!
I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy lately, having read book 18 in the mammoth series: Deliverance Lost.

Deliverance Lost

The book follows on from the events of the dropsite massacre on Isstvan V, and details the activities of the Raven Guard, under their primarch Corvus Corax, as he attempts to rebuild the legion. I’ve admired the Raven Guard colour scheme when I’ve seen it in stuff like the Kill Team box set, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a fan of the XIX legion. However, after reading this book – well, I’m not about to start building a new army, but I do think I have a better appreciation for them.

As Corvax and his marines escape the Isstvan system, we discover that the Alpha Legion has managed to infiltrate the loyalists, and there is some really wonderful misdirection throughout the entire novel, as we follow the spy, “Alpharius”, as he gathers intelligence for Omegon, who has placed himself close to Deliverance, the heartland of the Raven Guard.

I think it’s widely known that Corvax obtained knowledge of genetic manipulation from the Emperor in order to rebuild his legion, especially since all of the Primaris hullabaloo that brought out other instances of people other than the Master of Mankind building space marines. Corvax obtains access to the primarch project itself after an elaborate set-piece trap sequence, which seemed somewhat out of place, but was nevertheless entertaining. Postulating that they could mix Raven Guard geneseed with primarch genetics to produce space marines that have the superhuman powers and enhanced growth rate of the primarchs, the Raven Guard begin to re-create their numbers, but this is sabotaged by “Alpharius” and his introduction of demon ichor to the genetic material, which causes the new recruits to spawn demonic talons and such. While thousands of marines are successfully made, it’s an unfortunate stumbling block on the road for Corvax, and I did find myself quite sorry for the poor guy as his continued attempts to re-build are thwarted!

While the Alpha Legion spies all seem to have been outed by the end of the novel, an interesting question is posed by the fact that, if the Alpha Legion has successfully infiltrated one legion, how many more have spies within them now? There is a lot here that has an impact within the wider storyline of the Heresy, and I particularly liked the idea that nobody was quite sure if the Raven Guard were still loyal to the Emperor at the beginning. The undercurrent of fear is shown to be quite the effective weapon, and you can easily believe that Horus doesn’t actually need to march on Terra quite yet, as the mistrust that he has sown among the Imperium is doing so much work for him already.

This is a really good novel, and one that I was surprised at because I hadn’t been expecting to enjoy it quite as much. I think the inclusion of the Alpha Legion helped here, for sure, but even without that, I was suitably intrigued by the Raven Guard that I’ve found myself looking forward to seeing where they get to next.

Until then, however, it’s time to join the Ultramarines properly, as the Battle of Calth beckons!

Catching Up with The Beast!

Hey everybody!
It’s been a busy few days as I’ve been¬†getting back into the swing of things post-Christmas, but something I’ve been doing to stave off those January blues is pressing on with The Beast Arises. I’ve just read books eight and nine in fairly quick succession, so thought I’d do a combined review of the two here today!

The Beast Arises

The Beast Must Die is quite the war story. We follow the collected space marines of the Last Wall, along with some Ultramarines, Dark Angels, Space Wolves and Blood Angels as they head off to Ullanor with Vulkan, intent on stopping the great Waaagh! by taking out The Beast himself. The Black Templars lead the assault, with the increasingly arrogant High Marshal Bohemond coming to blows with Koorland once again. However, there is an awesome little scene where Vulkan truly puts him in his place, I did enjoy that!

The story is interesting as it seems to give us some very interesting and important clues that I feel we’ve missed up to this point. We follow Beast Krule as he infiltrates the city of Gorkogrod, looking to assassinate The Beast, though his plan goes awry as he sees just how well-protected the warchief is. However, we see that the Orks are almost on a religious crusade against the Imperium, and it seems that their psykers are an incredibly potent threat to the marines, as they manage to kill the Ultramarines chief librarian early on, and wage some pretty horrific casualties across the rest of the book. The novel ends with something like a ritual combat between Vulkan and a massive Ork in highly ornamented battle armour, though it’s never truly made clear if this is indeed The Beast himself.

Oh yes, and we get some truly insane Mechanicus hijinks courtesy of Magos Dominus Zhokuv, who manages to create an ordinatus engine using a starship blaster cannon!

Overall, this was one of the high points of the series for me, and has shown a lot of what I think we should have had earlier on in the series, in order to increase the tension and whatnot. I find it a bit disappointing that we have to wait for book eight before we get anything like the other side of the war, and it has been something that, up to now, has been really boring to me. I mean, we don’t know why the Orks are invading, why their technology is so good considering we keep getting told they’re a stupid race, etc etc. It’s good to get the other side to give the story depth, and that’s finally happening here.

Watchers in Death is the book that I’d been waiting for. I didn’t actually start buying these novels until book five was released, and even then it was very haphazard. This, the ninth book of the series, really convinced me that I should read it, however, as we get the foundation story of the Deathwatch here, which of course is super important for the 40k universe as well! It was no coincidence that this novel came out shortly after Death Masque brought the Deathwatch miniatures to the game!

I thought this book was very similar to The Hunt for Vulkan, which is coincidentally by the same author. After a discussion with Vangorich, Koorland posits the idea of a select kill-team of space marines drawn from across the various chapters to go in on surgical strikes against the Orks, after the debacle on Ullanor has shown that all-out assault won’t work. The High Lords are initially reluctant, thinking that Koorland is out to attempt a coup (without realising that the Imperial Fist could kill them all quite easily by himself). However, the kill team idea is eventually approved when more Orks emerge from the battlemoon that is still in orbit above Terra.

Drawing from the chapters who fought on Ullanor, two kill teams infiltrate the moon, and attempt to use the teleporting technology to move it out of the Sol System. The Mechanicus haven’t managed to perfect the blend of xenos and Imperial technology, however, and the massive stresses induced by the teleporter destroy the moon in orbit. Despite the fact that massive chunks of debris obliterate huge swathes of Terra, there is general rejoicing, and the kill-teams are then deployed on another mission: find the Sisters of Silence.

Yes, that’s right, the Sisters of Silence have apparently survived the Horus Heresy, and Chapter Master Thane leads a kill team with Inquisitors Wienand and Veritus on the hunt! My initial thoughts to this were, “aren’t they based on the Moon?” However, this isn’t mentioned at all, but instead we get a bit of a jaunt around the galaxy as the marines investigate some old ruins that were once a fortress of the Silent Sisterhood, whose domed ceiling happens to have a star-map that shows the location of the next fortress, and so forth. Seemed a bit daft, but there we are.

Turns out they aren’t the only ones after the Silent Sisters, as the Orks, recognising the threat that an army of psychic blanks could pose to their Weirdboyz, are also on the same hunt. Just when I didn’t think the story could get more contrived… I mean, sure, it’s science fiction and all, but why did the Orks wait until the exact same moment the marines go looking for the Sisters? Or do the Orks somehow have the power to predict what the Imperium is up to, and therefore can counter it before it happens? A lot of this series has felt a little too convenient, but this just felt a little too silly.

At any rate – spoiler alert – they find them, and a battle between the marines and the Orks ensues as Wienand bargains with the remaining Sisters of the order. She manages to persuade them that the Imperium is in fact worth fighting for, and the book ends with the Sisters renewing their vows to the Emperor.

All in all, it was an interesting read, though there were some annoying coincidences and such along the way. I was surprised to see the Sisters of Silence actually return, though I suppose it is a long way before we get to 40k, so I’m intrigued to see where this storyline goes. I know we’re still only in the second-founding years but, aside from the handful of Imperial Fists successor chapters, it seems the only other Space Marine chapters in the galaxy are first-founding ones. True, Novamarines have been mentioned once, I think, but we still have Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves and Ultramarines making up the cast. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was exciting when we first got to see something other than Imperial Fists and their successors, but there are literally hundreds of chapters from the second founding alone, surely we could get some variety?! Bah!

I know I’ve been critical of this book already, but I think it’s also worth pointing out that it felt a little rushed, particularly at the end. However, that does feel quite symptomatic of the series in general, really. These books are quite short – Watchers in Death is the second to come in at under 200pp – but there tends to have been a focus more on the battle scenes of the story in the latest few novels, and less on the intrigue and stuff. We get very little of the High Lords any more – and what we do get is really quite simplistic rather than anything else. I’m also feeling a bit annoyed that the Iron Warriors storyline seems to be dying a death. I think there was one chapter given over to it in Watchers in Death, as First Captain Zerberyn of the Fists Exemplar continues to fight alongside Kalkator and the Iron Warriors, disobeying a command from Thane to return to Terra. After the focus given to it in Echoes of the Long War, it seems that the story might be fizzling out – I hope we do get some pay-off before book twelve!

Anyway, this blog has been meandering for far too long now. I think, if you’ve read up to book seven of this series, you’re pretty much committed now, and will be reading to the end no matter how many reviews of the novels you read! I wasn’t entirely overwhelmed by either of these, unfortunately, though there were some really interesting ideas presented in them, which has made me excited and intrigued to see just where this story is going. I’m three-quarters of the way through it now, so I’m going to continue to power through and hopefully get to the end before January is out!

The Emperor Expects

Book Three of the Beast Arises series has been out for a while now, though I’ve only just started to read the series – you can check out my thoughts on the previous novels here and here. Written by Gav Thorpe, I was hoping that the book would somehow vindicate the series for me, after the extremely disappointing second installment, and I have to say, I think it has!

I’d like to say “we pick off where the second book left off”, but that second book was such a weird muddle that I’m not entirely sure where the story ended there. As we’ve seen previously, the Orks have made a significant push into Imperium territory, and a number of systems are now beset by the greenskin menace and their “battle moon” space stations. During the course of this novel, we see the Imperium strike a decisive victory at Port Sanctus, along with the continuing machinations of the High Lords of Terra, focusing on Inquisitor Wienand and the head of the assassins, Drakan Vangorich, whose grim visage adorns the cover. Furthermore, we continue the story of Captain Koorland, apparently the last Imperial Fist, as he invokes the failsafe from Rogal Dorn and invokes something called “the last wall”, calling back together the various Chapters that once made up the Imperial Fists Legion.

I have to say, I really liked this book a lot. For starters, it compares really well with its predecessor for me, in that I felt like I knew what I was reading about – the language is quite straightforward, which is what I expect from Warhammer now, and also the action was quite well-described and, basically, interesting. There is also a good amount of intrigue and politics, which I always enjoy in these stories!

Taking the points in turn, I thought it was really interesting to see the Imperial Fists essentially re-join as a Legion – or, at least, see the Black Templars, Fists Exemplar, Excoriators, Crimson Fists and I think a couple of other successor chapters join together. It’s exactly something that I can imagine Rogal Dorn putting into place – following a huge falling-out with Guilliman, then suddenly capitulating and implementing the Codex Astartes following the Heresy, you just knew he would have done something like this! It doesn’t really feel like it has been explored enough yet, of course, but I suppose there’s plenty of chance for that!

The whole business with the Imperial Navy at Port Sanctus takes up a good deal of the novel, and involves the politicking of the High Lords, notably Vangorich manoeuvering High Lord Admiral Lansung into leaving Terra in the hope that his absence will halt any reconciliation of the Navy and Army into one fighting force – a force that worries anybody in the post-Heresy world. Again, this angle is only slightly touched on, with the main thrust being the action at Port Sanctus itself. I actually found this quite interesting, however, as we get a few decent Navy types who proved to be interesting to read.

I really liked the subterfuge with the Inquisition and the Assassinorum here. It felt a little silly in the last book, but here it went back to something approaching sensible politics once again. My only real gripe about all of this, however, is that we haven’t quite gone as deep as I would like. The Imperium doesn’t really feel very different to the period of the Heresy or the 41st millennium – I suppose I’m comparing this to my other beloved franchise, Star Wars, and how authors often take pains to emphasize the time-differences between the various eras of SW publishing. We had some glimmers of a really interesting new world in I Am Slaughter, but nothing more has been made of it yet. Hopefully some of the later books will come to address this, however!

While The Emperor Expects is a good book, and has served to really put me back on track with the series, I do have a bit of an issue with it, which holds about as true for Predator, Prey, also. Basically, we don’t know why the Orks are invading Imperium territory all of a sudden. There’s a bit of a mystery built up in the third book especially – all these Orks, suddenly all tech-savvy rather than not having a clue and all the rest of it – but we get no point of view from the Orks, and it’s becoming a bit tedious for me. There seems to be no motivation – I know the greenskins love a fight, but this isn’t really good enough to sustain a twelve-book series. I hope we begin to get somewhere soon, but I don’t get that feeling somehow. For me, this could be forgivable if we got to learn a little more of the history of the era, but it’s all getting a little flat, in my opinion. Maybe if GW had kept this storyline until the Heresy had actually finished, they’d be discussing more stuff and it could become a fully-fledged, well fleshed-out part of the landscape. As it stands, we’re getting novels that are a little over 200pp that are painting in broad strokes a series of vignettes of varying degrees of interest.

The only bright spot to all of this is, at least there are only twelve novels…