Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Books of the Week: Warhammer and Star Wars

Welcome to Books of the Week! While I originally intended to review the Han Solo and Demon’s Gate trilogies, there’s been a slight change of plan. While I was helping clean my parents’ house, I stumbled upon a trove of old books, and another stash while I was at a couple of thrift stores. Therefore, my reading schedule got a bit messed up while I sorted through all the books. While I was doing that, I realized just how many books I have (over 1800), many of which I’ve never read. So, you now get to go with me on a journey of re-discovery as I plumb the depths of my library. Aren’t you lucky?

The Han Solo Trilogy
A.C. Crispin
First up we have, as promised, The Han Solo Trilogy, by A.C. Crispin. For an author I’ve never heard of, Crispin is good. Really good. There’s intrigue and action, as well as backstory for many of the characters in the original Star Wars trilogy. After reading these books, I know how Han acquired the Falcon, met Lando, saved Chewie, and started working for Jabba. Additionally, there is a lot of background about the beginnings of the Rebellion, and why Han’s so sour on the whole deal. In fact, my only caveat about the backstory is that Boba Fett’s origins are non-canon.

Crispin’s writing is good, if just a BIT predictable. You know that any of Han’s lovers will either die or move on, leaving him free for Leia in the movies. I do have to admit, though, that most of the time what I THOUGHT was going to happen was not what happened. That’s good—surprises are good, right? And talking about surprises: I never knew Chewie was married.

Overall, The Han Solo Trilogy was pretty dang good. They tied up nicely into A New Hope, setting up why Lando is mad at Han in Empire Strikes Back, how the Death Star Plans were obtained (no, it wasn’t Bothans), and how Han and Chewie met Luke and Obi-Wan. The only thing missing was information on Han’s time in the Empire and how he met Chewie, two things that I wish Crispin wouldn’t have glossed over. These books aren't canon anymore, but they're still worthwhile. 

Accursed Eternity
Sarah Cawkwell
Next on the list is Accursed Eternity, a Warhammer 40K Space Marines novel by Sarah Cawkwell. This is your standard Space Marines fare, full of nigh-invincible giants who whine and complain like angsty teenagers. As usual, Accursed Eternity plays on the faith of the Space Marines and how that faith nearly fails them.

Without spoiling the main premise, which is surprisingly good for a Space Marines story, I will just say that I like the idea that in a time loop, little things can change. These little things then result in bigger things changing, and so on.

Cawkwell’s writing is competent, somewhat suspenseful, and there’s a good amount of action. There is a lot of distrust between the three disparate groups exploring a haunted ship, which leads to a lot of drama within the group, and eats at the Space Marines’ faith. My only real problem with this story is that the enemies the Marines face just don’t seem powerful enough to kill giant men in power armor. Overall, a competent action story with just a glaze of light thought. If you like Warhammer 40K, particularly Spess Muhreens, it's worth a look.

Dan Abnett
Finally, we have another Warhammer 40K novel, Titanicus, by Dan Abnett. Now, I’m a huge Abnett fanboy, but I’ll try to be unbiased. That said, Titanicus is Abnett at his awesomest (wait, that isn’t a word? Well, it is now.)

Titanicus is filled with giant war machines (the Titans), intrigue, politics, action, and warfare. Did I mention the 100-foot tall battle mechs? Abnett is as unpredictable as always, ever willing to kill off main characters. The characterization in Titanicus is amazing. Every character, no matter how unimportant, has their own little quirks.

Honestly, I was on edge the whole time I was reading Titanicus. While giant war machines clashed, towering above hordes of foot soldiers, an intricate web of deceit and politics (or are those the same thing?) played out. Things did get a bit confusing, though, as there were eight separate viewpoints, all occuring at the same time.

Titanicus is an amazing chronicle of the slow slip into insanity of war machine pilots, the desperate struggles of the soldiers below them, and the politicking that makes everything happen. If it weren’t for the overabundance of viewpoints, this would be a darn-near-perfect popcorn and action book.