Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Book Reviews

Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers
Trevor Hutchinson, James Roberts and Nick Roche
IDW Publishing

Available Now - £TBC (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Autobot special ops crew, The Wreckers, are sent to investigate Garrus-9, a prison that fell to the Decepticons three years ago, with no communication in or out since. Who's really behind the prison siege, and what dark secret awaits Springer there? The answers to those questions will send this mission to the razor's edge!

Last Stand of the Wreckers is a highly engrossing story – and I’m not a particularly big Transformers fan. The story is a well structured one. The mission is outlined, early on, and it’s the attitudes of the Wreckers towards their upcoming mission that make for some of the most intense and interesting scenes. Their relationships and grudges carry the story over most of its flaws.

The main problem with the narrative is that the deaths – and there are a lot of them...this is the "Last Stand", you know – don’t really seem to have the emotional impact that they need. Not all of the characters are really given the time that they need for us to grow to love them, and this lessens the impact when they get kersploded.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
A surprisingly high amount, with frequent deaths, hand-to-hand fighting, torture and gunfire/explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A surprisingly grim tale from the Transformers universe; the action is thick and fast, but at the expense of some characterisation. 7/10
The Horus Heresy: The First Heretic
Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Black Library/Games Worshop

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Amidst the galaxy-wide war of the Great Crusade, the Emperor castigates the Word Bearers for their worship. Distraught at this judgement, Lorgar and his Legion seek another path while devastating world after world, venting their fury and fervour on the battlefield. Their search for a new purpose leads them to the edge of the material universe, where they meet ancient forces far more powerful than they could have imagined. Having set out to illuminate the Imperium, the corruption of Chaos takes hold and their path to damnation begins. Unbeknownst to the Word Bearers, their quest for truth contains the very roots of heresy...

Dembski-Bowden’s writing is absolutely amazing, perfectly capturing the Gothic sci-fi atmosphere of the Horus Heresy setting, and this may the best prose in a Black Library release so far. It’s a shame, then, that the story is such a massive let down. There are some events in this book, but they’re so long getting here that it’s hard to still feign any interest by the time they arrive.

The first half is more or less given over to lots of Space Marines standing around talking amongst themselves about very dull things (too much WH40K fiction is given over to this already), and nothing happens until well past the half-way point of this 420 page novel. In the grim darkness of the far future there is only...standing around talking about how grim and dark everything is, apparently.

The Horus Heresy series needs to get on with it. It’s in far too much danger of stagnating.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
The usual crushinating, destructifying and explodimagilising associated with Warhammer 30,000.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: “By the Emperor” is about as strong as it gets.
Summary: The writing is so fantastic as to be labelled “darkly poetic” (if I were so inclined), but so little happens and so slowly that it’s like wading through treacle. One for The Horus Heresy completists only. 4/10
Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer
Sarah Kinney & Stefan Petrucha
Papercutz

Available Now - £5.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Vampire-mania has gripped River Heights, with teenage girls going wild over the new DieLite novels and movies. But what happens when a supposedly 'real' handsome young vampire arrives on the scene? Will Nancy expose him as a fraud - or fall under his dark spell? As if that wasn't enough - there's something dark and sinister happening while everyone's distracted by the vampire madness. Could this possibly be linked to what's happening in Bayport, home of the Hardy Boys?

Yeah, it’s a cheap cash in on the “teenage girls infatuated with Twilight” market (probably the most lucrative market in the world since the “teenage girls infatuated with Boy Band X” market boom of the late nineties), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. The artwork isn’t bad – it’s not great, but it isn’t bad either. It’s a fun little detective story...so far, at least. You see, this is just part one of a series, and at 64 pages, that feels a little weak. I’d prefer to pay £10-15 for a trade paperback that has the whole story in it, rather than this.

The pacing is pretty good though (when it doesn’t get bogged down in a little too much Dawson’s Creek soap-opera drama, rather than the detective work), but this is just too small to really be worth bothering with. Hopefully an omnibus edition will be along in a short while.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
None.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun enough detective/vampire story, but way, way too short. I’d rather have paid £9.99 this for the full story than a flimsy publication like this. 4/10

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