Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Books of the Week: 6/5/12

Is it that time of the week again already? I suppose you want to know what literary horrors I endured this time. What's that? You don't? Well, too bad! Misery loves company. This week, we have the usual Warhammer 40K oneshot (seriously, where did I buy/steal/download all these?), a Starcraft novel, and a post-apocalyptic horror novella. 

Angels of Darkness
Gav Thorpe

A oneshot about the doubts and despairs of a small band of Space Marines on a desolate posting who encounter a Traitor Marine, this is one of the least "shooty" WH40K books I've ever read.

Now I want one thing clear up front: Gav Thorpe is usually not that great of a writer. But somehow he hit the sweet spot with Angels of Darkness. I wouldn't call this a masterpiece by any means, but it's readable, and even enjoyable. 

Like many WH40K novels, Angels of Darkness switches between two viewpoints, that of an imprisoned Traitor Marine, and that of a Dark Angels chaplain. Unlike some novels, however, Angels of Darkness gets these changing viewpoints right. Instead of choppy changes every few pages, the viewpoints only shift every few chapters. 

And the things revealed by those shifts to a Traitor Marine who denies his treachery are...well, I don't want to spoil things, but there were revelations that profoundly shifted my views of the Imperium of Man. Angels of Darkness, like the Dark Angels Chapter itself, is filled with secrecy and intrigue, distrust and lies. When those lies are exposed...

Angels of Darkness, is shockingly, one of the best WH40K novels I've reviewed so far, equal to Rynn's World and the Gaunt's Ghosts series. If you're a fan of the Dark Angels, or of WH40K, or just of dark scifi with lots of betrayal and intrigue, this is a good book to check out. 

Good (not great, just good) writing, startling and doubt-inducing viewpoint changes, just enough action to keep me from getting sick of hearing people talk, and lots and lots of doubt. I think.

Krunk's Korner: Krunk am feel weird after read this book. It am make him wonder if him am being manipulated. Naw. Krunk am too smrt. Good book. Not enough shooty-killy for Krunk liking, and too many lies, but it am good all the same. 

Starcraft: Liberty's Crusade
Jeff Grubb

This is essentially a retelling of the original Starcraft's plot from a different perspective. Now, when I realized that, I braced for terribleness--remember the last Starcraft novel that retold the plot?--but I was pleasantly surprised.

In the first place, Liberty's Crusade is well-written. We're not just talking mechanics here, we're talking "feel." Honestly, Grubb's writing here reminds me of how I write Mercenary's Tale. (Future Greg's note: That hasn't been around in forever.) Don't let that scare you off, though: Grubb actually does it well. Grubb's writing is funny and concise, getting quickly to the point.

You meet all of the main characters from Starcraft, and watch as they spiral towards what will be the beginning of Starcraft: Wings of Liberty. Watching Raynor meet Kerrigan, seeing Mar Sara's fall...it's amazing. Grubb somehow captures the game and...makes it better? Yeah, yeah he does. Not only could you read this and understand all the backstory in Wings of Liberty, but you wouldn't feel like you were reading through a game, either. Unlike Halo: The Flood, Liberty's Crusade could easily be a standalone novel, and it would still be good.

Shockingly, I would reread Liberty's Crusade. Not only would I reread Liberty's Crusade, I would reread it happily and without having a gun placed to my head. From me, for a videogame novel, that is high praise. 

Even though Liberty's Crusade is "just" a retelling of Starcraft, it's a good book. Humor, action, awesomeness, great portrayals of characters I love... this is good. No masterwork, but pretty dang good. 

Krunk's Korner: Krunk am not understand all talk about fancy weapons in this book. And travel between stars? Hah! Don't make Krunk laugh--it am stretch his stitching. Krunk am have traveled many places, but everyone know it am impossible to reach stars. Not even poncy mages can do that. 

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson

You've probably seen the movie with Will Smith in it. Well, this is the original, and it's better (mainly because it's not the movie with Will Smith in it). Roughly the same plot, but a world of difference in what you feel at the end.

The monsters in I Am Legend are what I call zompires. (I'm not good with names, okay). They have the characteristics of vampires, but there are so many, and their spread was so quick, that they seem a bit like zombies. They still retain all their intelligence, and some even torment our beleaguered, besieged hero. They want his blood. Badly.

I said this was a horror novella. Well, it's not. Not really. I was never scared reading this, though I did tense up on occasion. It's closer to a post-apocalyptic survival story. Almost everything that our hero Robert Neville does is carefully planned and timed--but he can't stop himself from slowly being driven mad. 

Between bouts of anger and alcoholism, Neville attempts to discover the cause of the vampire plague. The science behind this is very detailed, and seems unnervingly plausible. Everything from vampires' aversion to garlic to why they die when staked is explained.

I wish I could explain the ending, what the meaning of "I am legend" was, but that'd be spoiling. All I can say is that this is a good book. It captures the madness of being the last one one earth, haunted by your family, the drudgery of existence. 

I Am Legend is a short book, and a good book. There really isn't anything bad I can say about it. It's well-written, tightly-plotted, essentially the first zombie novel, and...well, read it and find out! 

Krunk's Korner: This book am remind Krunk of the great vampyr plague of Sedonia. That was big mess. Krunk am only survive because he am eat lots of garlic. That am make him undesirable to filthy man-leeches.