Tuesday 20 July 2010

Book Reviews

Warhammer 40,000: Path of the Warrior
Gav Thorpe
Black Library

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

The ancient Eldar are a mysterious race, each devoting their life to a chosen path which will guide their actions and decide their fate. Korlandril abandons peace for the Path of the Warrior. He becomes a Striking Scorpion, a deadly fighter skilled in the art of close-quarter combat. But the further Korlandril travels down this path, the closer he gets to losing his identity and becoming an avatar of war.

There is one word that I never thought I’d have to apply to a Warhammer 40,000 novel – and that word is “emo”. The Eldar are, admittedly, pre-disposed to a Silver Surfer-ish wandering tragedy; but the extent to which it is taken here is a little too much. There’s a lot of Korlandril searching for any meaning and direction in his life. There’s a lot of deep philosophising. All of it is spectacularly well written, but it doesn’t really stop you from wanting to slap Korlandril around a bit and tell him to pull himself together and decimate some Tyranids.

With that said, this is a very different style for a Warhammer 40,000 story, giving us a glimpse into civilian life, as well as Eldar combat training, and what makes them want (or not want) to fight – and it makes a very nice change from the constant tank-warfare that makes up the rest of the franchise. It was a brave attempt, but it lacks something in the execution. Warhammer 40,000 fans looking for something a little different would do well to pick this up, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some monster mutilating, brutal unarmed combat and other scuffles.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A bold attempt to try something new with a Warhammer 40,000 novel, but it’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off. Too much emo moping in the middle, and a messy conclusion. 6/10

Olympians - Zeus: King of the Gods
George O'Connor
First Second

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Kelly Prior

In this exciting new series, Olympians, George O’Connor re-tells, in comic book form, the famous stories of the Greek Gods of Olympus. In this first instalment, Kronos the Titan rules the universe. A merciless Lord, he devours his children for fear that they might overthrow him. He does not know that one of his children, Zeus, has remained unharmed. Hidden from his father and raised by Nymphs, Zeus grows into a strong and powerful man; but when Grandmother Earth gives him the task of saving all his siblings from Kronos, Zeus must take on his father in a fierce battle of good versus evil.

This comic proves to be a sufficiently accurate re-telling of the origins of Zeus and the Gods of Olympus. The remarkable stories and legends of the Greek Gods are getting a modern rebirth lately in many media forms. Considering the success of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, the hit film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and not forgetting the success of the recent remake of Clash of the Titans earlier this year, there is no doubt that fans of the Greek myths will embrace this latest addition.

The art work is satisfyingly realistic, a great style that really makes the characters jump to life as we read. Poseidon and Hades look particularly awesome, and rather gothic. They do not feature largely in this comic but they will, no doubt, have their own time in the spot light. The Titans, the Cyclopes and the Hekatonchieres look truly frightening and imposing, something difficult to achieve with still drawings and limited narration.

This comic is easy to read, but is by no means childish. It is action packed and exciting, while also being pleasing to the eye, with some really remarkable pieces of art throughout. Some of the action scenes are slightly difficult to follow and really do require patience. The Author’s Note, an explanation of how much the author loves Greek Mythology, is not particularly necessary, but worth a read if you are interested.

Zeus: King of the Gods is an enjoyable, educational experience which will leave the reader hungry for more. The next installment of the series, Athena: The Grey Eyed Goddess, is also available now. Olympians has the potential to be very popular amongst both comic book fans and Greek Mythology enthusiasts.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Many fighting and action scenes.
Sex/Nudity: Some flirty dialogue, lots of naked Titans.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Try this one out for size. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to get the rest of the series. It’s a bit short though, so don’t rely on it to be your main Summer read. 6/10

The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF
Edited by Mike Ashley
Robinson Publishing

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Kelly Prior

Imagine yourself at the end of the world.

How did it happen? What was the cause? Who is to blame?

Whether you imagine a world destroyed by climate change, an uncontrolled virus outbreak, or a man-made war, this selection of short stories will deliver what you are looking for. Ashley presents an astounding variation of apocalyptic short fiction in this book. Some of the stories are short and snappy, with tense, entertaining and inspirational plots, while others are far too long and move infuriatingly slow.

The book gets off to a shaky start, as Ashley explains that he wants to ease us in lightly with some parody fiction. Instead of easing us in, however, it lowers the tone of the reading experience. Having started reading with certain expectations, it is disappointing when we are delivered stories which try to be ironic and modern, coming across only as pretentious. Apocalyptic fiction has a notorious habit of trying to be overly artistic and somewhat elitist. For the most part, this anthology succeeds in avoiding this stereotype and falling into this category. However, it was probably a mistake to open the anthology with a set of comical and “ironic” stories.

This book not only deals with apocalyptic fiction, but also post-apocalyptic Fiction. While this is a great addition to the anthology, these genres are really worthy of their own separate anthologies. Of course, the addition of post-apocalyptic Fiction does add to the reader’s overall experience. The vast and impressive selection of 24 short stories is arranged as follows: The Nature of the Catastrophe, Beyond Armageddon and The End of All Things: We are taken on a very harrowing tour through the three stages of the end of the world.

For a really stunning experience, check out the following short stories, included in this anthology:

When Sysadmins ruled the Earth by Cory Doctorow is an excellent telling of the end of the world from the perspective of a small group of geeks, who keep civilisation alive with the help of the internet. With contemporary and geeky references to “1337” and “The Great Firewall of China” to name a few, this is definitely one for our E14 fans!

The Books by Kage Baker is a stunning post-apocalyptic story about the adventures of three children in a travelling show, the rediscovering of literature and the importance of the written word.

This book is not a preachy commentary on mankind’s treatment of the world; instead of giving us some omniscient warning, Ashley only wants to provide us with an entertaining read.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Not a lot, but some very graphic.
Sex/Nudity: Nothing worthy of note.
Swearing: A great deal.
Summary: An impressive, enjoyable collection, worthy of having on the shelf for reference when having nerdy conversations about the inevitable end of the world. 7/10

This is the ultimate handbook to all you ever wanted to know about Zombies!

The Zombie Handbook: How to Identify the Living Dead and Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse explores essential facts about Zombies including where they come from and the history of zombies, the zombie diet (i.e. human flesh), their habitat, mating habits, etiquette, politics, religion and leisure activities. The book also looks at the coming zombie war with information on escaping from zombies, fighting, hunting and killing zombies as well as a full proof ways to zombie-proof a home.

Thanks to our friends at Ulysses Press, we've got five copies of The Zombie Handbook: How to Identify the Living Dead and Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to zombiehandbookgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 27th July (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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