Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Book Reviews

The 13th Horseman
Barry Hutchison
Harper Collins
Available from 01/03/2012  - RRP £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Drake is surprised to find three horsemen of the apocalypse playing snakes and ladders in his garden shed. He's even more surprised when they insist that he is one of them. They're missing a Horseman, having gone through several Deaths and they think that Drake is the boy for the job. At first he's reluctant to usher in Armageddon but does being in charge of Armageddon have to spell the end of the world?

It should come as no secret to regular readers that I’m a fan of Barry Hutchison’s work. From his work in the Invisible Fiends series, it’s clear that the style of writing which Hutchison employs, while primarily aimed at a teen fiction audience, has enough quality to keep any reader entertained. This novel represents a foray into a new realm for Hutchison, and it’s an interesting premise first and foremost. Blending classic mythology with modern day life, the story elements are interspersed with a level of accessibility which makes imagining the story setting very easy indeed. In fact, the story itself, much like previous works by Hutchison, has a certain style that would allow for very easy translation to other media such as TV or movies.

The story, too, is tremendously funny, and had me looking like a complete tit at the train station when I was laughing openly at some of the dialogue in the story. If a book can make a trip to Birmingham from Brighton at half 8 on a Friday night bearable, you know you’re onto a winner. The characters are set up well, with the Horsemen performing their roles in the story really well. Death, in particular, was a highlight for me, although the success of Hutchison’s blog dedicated to Pestilence demonstrates what a good blend the characters are in general. The imagery, in particular, is really strong when applied to the Horsemen.

With that being said, no endeavour is completely without fault, and despite the very easily translatable form, the story as a result can suffer from some predictable elements, particularly regarding the middle section of the story before the ending period, which suffers from slight clich├ęs. Having said that, the story is a really strong one on the whole, particularly as a first story in a new story arc. One to watch for the foreseeable future, without doubt.
The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of set pieces, much in the same way as previous works.
Sex/Nudity: Unsurprisingly, none.
Swearing: Little to none.
Summary: A strong debut for what will undoubtedly prove to be another hit series for Hutchison. 9/10

Warhammer 40000: Sisters of Battle - Red and Black
James Swallow
The Black Library
Available Now  - RRP £10.00 (Audiobook – Also available on MP3 download)
Review by Rob Wade

The Ecclesiarchy is the great church of the Imperium. Founded on the worship of the God-Emperor of Mankind, it guards the sanctity of the Imperial Creed and protects the celestial truth of the Emperor’s divinity. Its ideals are enforced by the bolters and flamers of the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas – the Sisters of Battle. After two millennia, the warp storms raging around the Hollos star system have abated, allowing the isolated planet of Hollos to reconnect with the Imperium. When a mysterious messenger contacts the Orders Militant, Celestian Miriya must travel to Hollos and pass judgement on the world. Will she find a world embracing the Emperor’s truth or one in need of cleansing? Her decision will liberate or condemn an entire planet.

First of all, on a random note, why the fuck has it taken me this long to find out how well audiobooks can be done? Don’t get me wrong, I imagine there are some awful productions, much like with any adaptation, but when you get a good one you really do know it, huh? It probably helps to have a good story to tell, which lends itself well to audio format, with guns and “pew pew” and so forth, so in this instance that probably contributes, but given the nature of Warhammer 40000 being quite heavy on the “pew pew” as friends and colleagues of mine will attest, maybe it’s not that surprising that 40K audiobooks translate well.

What this book does well, it does really well. The story is strong, with a good level of exposition regarding the Sisters of Battle, and the characterisation is done extremely well, supported by some really good voice acting work from the actors involved in the production. The production values on a whole are really impressive, with plenty of good-quality sound effects and music playing through the background. The audio adds a fair bit to the drama, particularly during the fight scenes, which are well done in general.

Having said that, the book is only 65 minutes in length. Maybe it’s the cynical consumer inside me talking, but considering that major audiobook websites offer audiobooks ten times longer at only twice the price of this volume, it feels like the story is a little thin in terms of value for money. It’s not like there’s nowhere to bulk the story out, either, as some scenes feel quite light on description and detail. However, what is there is a really strong story, which gives a great insight into the mentalities of the Sisters of Battle, and signals an interesting story arc in the 40k universe as a whole.
The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of gunfights, in accordance with 40k standards.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Little-none.
Summary: An excellent production and a good story. Wish it was a little longer though. 8/10

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