Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Books of the Week: 7/24/2012

GUESS WHAT? It's book review time! Aren't you excited? Good. Because I'm not either. I'd rather be playing Fallout 3. Death to the Enclave! Anyhoo, three books, as usual. A Warhammer Fantasy one-shot, a Star Wars collection, and a *shudder* Warcraft novelization. Hoboy. 

C.L. Werner

Yet another Warhammer Fantasy novel about a Chaos Champion. Why am I not surprised? Basically, Wulfrik, a Viki--er, Norscan, makes a foolish boast about being the greatest warrior EVAR. The Chaos gods decide to toy with Wulfrik, and force him to hunt down all sorts of horrible monstairs. 

Right away, I knew this novel wasn't going to end well. That's pretty obvious just from the inclusion of a Chaos Champion with a lover, but throw in a curse from the Chaos gods themselves, and you have a recipe for grimdark. And Wulfrik (the book, stupid) is grimdark. Nonetheless, the ending was still shocking. 

C.L. Werner was on an upswing with Wulfrik. The writing is pretty good, nothing fancy, but good, and so is the plot. However, Werner's characterizations were...I know this is a Chaos novel about vicious, beer-swilling murderers, but it's really hard to identify with characters who are vicious, beer-swilling murderers. Wulfrik was essentially the only character I really cared about. The rest were all identical.

Oh. And have I mentioned that this is dark? Grimdark, even. Very grimdark. Especially the ending.

Overall, writing and plot were pretty good, the characters were a bit too similar, and this was grimdark grimdark grimdark. True Warhammer Fantasy.

Krunk's Kornor: This am Krunk's kind of book! Killing, killing, more killing! Big monsters, big men, little monsters, little men... But Krunk not like treacherous Chaos gods. They am nasty buggers. That am why Krunk stick to Cthulhu. At least Krunk am know where he stand...

Tales of the Bounty Hunters
Kevin J. Anderson

Like it says on the tin, Tales is a collection of short stories, each one about a different hunter from Empire Strikes Back. Yeah, that's about all there is to it.

Oh boy. It's old Kevvy J., here to ruin my lovely day... Wait, he's only the editor? YAAAAAY! Thank sweet baby Cthulhu! Well, he did write one story, so I'm going to pick on that one because it stinks.

Tales of the Bounty Hunters includes a variety of stories. All of them are different, and all are well-written. Except one. Guess which?

Anderson's story of IG-88's birth and death is the weak link in this collection. Trying to write a hyper-intelligent droid with free will would give most writers trouble. Now, Kevvy J. barely qualifies as a writer. Everything just grates in Kevvy J.'s story, and he mangles logic and canon in unique and hideous ways.

Droid auditory circuits can be damaged by loud noise? Ummm... Okay. I'll let that one slide, as I suppose it's plausible. "Literally" misused? I gritted my teeth and moved on. Jerky switches from first-person to third-person perspective? Now he's getting under my skin. IG-88 weighs several tons? NO. WAY. NO FREAKING WAY. Gorramnit, Kevvy J.! IG-88 can punch with "planet-cracking force?" NO. NO. NO. NO. This can't be happening. This is a mockery of...everything! Make it stop, please!

Well, that was the only bad story, and at least Kevvy J. had the decency to put it at the beginning to get it out of the way. The rest were good--not great, just good. I loved the bounty hunters in Empire Strikes Back, so seeing them again (as well as some new characters!) made me happy. 

One caveat is that Boba Fett's backstory is non-canon. Though given the suckiness of his canon backstory, I'm fine with using his much cooler history from this collection. 

The plots of each story vary in quality a bit, but they're all pretty good. Nothing too special, but good. Same goes for the writing. Each author in Tales has a slightly different style, but they all end up being good (with the obvious exception of Kevvy J.) 

Overall, the writing is good, the plots are good, the characters are cool... Tales is a pretty good book, if you can still find it. 

Krunk's Kornor: Krunk am not generally like this "scy-fy" but this story am decent. Bounty hunters are generally worthy of Krunk respect, though Krunk am respect mercenaries more. Krunk am think this decent book. Except Kevvy Andy's story. That am terrible.

Warcraft: Lord of the Clans
Christie Golden

Basically, baby orc is captured and raised by humans as a gladiator, but winds up as... "Lord of the Clans." Big surprise, right?

Given my history with Warcraft, I was expecting something far worse than what Lord of the Clans is. This... Is actually not awful. Christie's writing is competent, even good. The plot is simple, but it chugs along steadily, and it drags you along with it.

The action scenes are decent, but nothing to write home about, especially when compared to Wulfrik. I'd describe the battles as sanitized. They're very clean, and "good guys" lose hardly anyone compared to the "bad guys."

Many of Golden's characters are either two-dimensional or cliche: the evil master, the sympathetic ally, the old shaman, the tormented warrior...pretty standard stuff. Additionally, there's not a whole lot of grey areas in Golden's vision. You're either a good guy or a bad guy. No in-between.  

Golden seems to be using Lord of the Clans as a thesis paper, as the whole book could be used as a giant, rather ham-handed allegory on things like honor, mercy, and nature vs. nurture. 

This had some of the most obvious plot twists I've ever seen. I'd swear Golden was using the Hero's Journey archetype as an exact guideline, rather than a book of tips. 

Overall, decent writing, cliche plot and characters, sanitized action scenes, and a general lack of awesomeness. But, still a masterpiece next to Of Blood and Honour. And, I actually managed to finish it!

Krunk's Kornor: This am fantasy for people who am scared of fantasy. Battles are clean--no muss, no fuss. It am make Krunk laugh, if it not so stupidly sad. Don't buy this book. Buy Tales of the Bounty Hunters, or Wulfrik. Or both. BOTH!