Blackhearts Omnibus

How can a man survive that cold with such a thin mustache?

How can a man survive that cold with such a thin mustache?

The Old World is an easier setting for people to get into than its 40k counterpart. For one, it’s more jovial and humourous. It feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s more fun and less serious. Second, thanks to gentlemen like the father of swords and sorcery, Robert E. Howard and high fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, a lot of people get fantasy settings long before they touch the pages of a new novel. The concepts of Orcs and magic have long had a place in our minds.

The double edge of this sword is that some people are tired of fantasy as there is plenty of bad writing in the genre. And others have a distinctive taste for it, which may easily reject the details of ye olde Warhammer.

But the Blackhearts Omnibus isn’t like most fantasy. Never mind complex details like magic or the history of Altdorf. Forget needing to learn a whole bunch about the universe. You don’t have too. It’s an easy read about ordinary guys in extraordinaire situations.

Nathan Long‘s tale stars luckless trickster Reiner Hetzau. Although far from innocent, Hetzau is imprisoned on false charges and is spared for a secret mission with a group of other criminals. Eventually earning the leadership of the group, the Blackhearts face against the Chaos marauders of the north, treacherous Imperial commanders, rat men and plenty more.

Nathan Long excels at two things; characters and plots. The plots throw enough at you to keep you guessing, as the Blackhearts face traitors within their own ranks. They are convicts, after all. Meanwhile, a combination of political intrigue and unforeseen elements keep shaking up the story. There maybe times you wonder if the plot has gotten off track, right before it comes sailing right back at you. And then explodes.

Another version of the cover.

Another version of the cover.

With the Old World setting established for him, Long focused on creating a group of smirk-jerking characters who remind you of an adult version of The Goonies. What’s more, you cannot help but feel that there is some similarity between Reiner Hetzau and one Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean fame. It kind of helps that the book feels like it was made for the movies too, with many of the character’s backgrounds told through dialogue over the writer’s narrative.

But in that statement lies the single real weakness with the omnibus. The story is written surrounding Hetzau. Even though it’s always in third person, the narration never leaves Hetzau’s side. If you happen to like him and his roguish ways, you’ll probably end up loving this book. If not, then this isn’t the book for you.

But the Blackhearts Omnibus is an enjoyable, leisurely read for even the uninitiated. Try a chapter. You’ll probably like it more than not. If not love it.

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Halloween

Yes, Halloween is a month and a half away. Guess what? I don’t care.

Fact is, I love Halloween. Dressing up, being goofy, funny and scary. There is no finer way to celebrate the autumn season than with the clash of colors and fun I get from a great Halloween night. This year however, Halloween falls on a Monday, so it’s effectively going to be a four day celebration. People will dress up on Friday right through to Monday. For me, that means I can do up to four costume ideas. The ol’ gear box in my head is cranking and thinking up of a few ideas.

In the mean time, I’ve taken to rereading some tales from the Old World, including Mathias Thulmann, Witch Hunter trilogy by C.L. Werner and the Blackhearts Omnibus by Nathan Long. The Warhammer Fantasy universe is far more Halloween-esque than its 40k counterpart. Why? I guess it’s because it’s less science focused and more mythical, and the colors I often see of it include more browns and oranges. The monsters tend to be more traditionally scary, like the undead, skaven and orcs. If I recall from the Witch Hunter trilogy opening, C.L. Werner is a huge Halloween fan. And something about it shows through his work. I’ll be posting reviews of these omnibuses soon enough.

Captain America? Batman? Or… would I dare go as Thulmann himself? Warhammer fans might know me, but other people would be lost. Unless of course, I could tie the idea into this oldie genius skit from Saturday Night Live. Or, this guy:

What could possibly go right?

Zombieslayer

When it's your brains or his, you chop.

When it's your brains or his, you chop.

Why? Why one may ask?

Why bother with a review of Gotrek and Felix’s latest adventure and the 12th book of the series, Zombieslayer? The fans are going to buy it anyway, while the initiates will need to catch up reading the first three omnibuses. Nathan Long has proven himself a worthy writing successor to William King, who started the series.

Well, all true. Still, I guess someone has to be vigilante for any loses in quality in the series. And now as then,  it’s as good as ever.

If anything, Zombieslayer seems even better than some of the earlier books. Most of the books have been open and closed affairs, but Zombieslayer takes place immediately following Shamanslayer after a cliffhanger ending. If you haven’t read Shamanslayer and are worried about a few minor plot spoilers, best turn away from here on.

The Gotrek, Felix, Snorri and the rest of the gang find themselves in trouble. Having killed the shaman who threatened to transform an entire army into beastmen, the crew are threatened by an evil necromancer whose power was no longer held in check. With Snorri missing a leg and memory damaged, Gotrek is determined to have him escape and releases Felix from his vow to do so. But before they have a chance, a misunderstanding leads to their arrest and incarceration, transporting them to castle Reikland.

There, they are eventually freed, but they are trapped in a long and lasting siege against a horde of no less than 10,000 strong and well, dead. Matters get worse when a powerful wight lord, whom the dwarves recognize from their book of grudges, appears with the allure of a glorious doom to the slayers. Meanwhile, not one but two mysteries grows when a traitor works to sabotage the defenders.

Zombieslayer is a top notch page turner. The siege is sharply written, the mystery kept you going right to the end. The characters are an intriguing lot. And questions about Gotrek’s fate are raised within the book, suggesting where the series is going. For any fan of Gotrek and Felix, or zombies in general, you’re going to get a kick out of this book.

In the Beginning…

Chain swords cure everything.

Chain swords cure everything.

Started a new blog. I considered using Rots Your Brain for my writings as well, but I defined the scope of that as being for movies and television. To change its focus would be undesirable given its focus for mainstream appeal. Warhammer 40k isn’t mainstream, at least not yet… the attention that Space Marine is getting could really begin to change all that. Still, I hope the attention doesn’t go to the creator’s heads. It’s the hardcore fan base who will always be loyal, long after the more fickle fans have gotten over whatever caused the surge in popularity in the first place.

Anyway, I started this blog to keep my writing flowing. Many of the other Boltholers do the same, Pyro, Narry, Shadowhawk. But I need a spot where I can vent to myself the musings of the day, random thoughts and reactions to developing events within and about the 40k universe.

Recently, the submissions window closed after I had pitched three short stories and a novel submission. Of them, I’d say two of the short stories are decent. The last short story was surprisingly intensive, and I honestly have doubts that I could fit the full context of the story in less than 8,000 words. But then again, I think about what The Dark Knight was like or Memento, and recognize that there is a lot of story going on there as well (I am also biased as a huge Christopher Nolan fan). Then again, so did Spider Man 3. Still, I would venture to say that it is better to have too much story than too little, because no one would want to read a snooze fest.

Almost immediately after the contest ended, I went on a reading binge. I read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and posted a comparison of it against Gav Thorpe’s The Last Chancers. I completed reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe (not to be confused with William).  I slayed Zombieslayer by Nathan Long and am working my way through Nemesis by James Swallow. I’m trying to mix up my fiction with non-fiction, and also mix some more classic reading on top of that. Part of me is trying to avoid becoming an easily satisfied reader, when simply finishing a book automatically makes it worth reading in my opinion. That’s not always the case. Not every book is amazing, and adding another notch to my book shelf is nothing to be proud of.

My hero.

My hero. ❤

But reading the classics like Robinson Crusoe and A Clockwork Orange has the benefit of allowing me to identify and craft stronger themes into my work. It’s… easy to get lost and simply write what some call “warnography”, when the writing is produced simply to satisfy a person’s craving for action. An excellent story should do that and much more. Still, I suppose as long as the reader is entertained, the job is done.

Who inspires me? In the Black Library crew, my favorite authors are Nathan Long, Gav Thorpe and C.L. Werner. What’s amusing is that these three have veered more towards the Warhammer Fantasy than the 40k universe, but Nathan Long’s plot crafting skills are second to none. CL Werner’s enthusiasm for Robert Howard draws me to him every time. And Gav Thorpe’s story telling… The Last Chancers remains my favorite work in the Black Library despite how old it is. Outside of the Black Library, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky influence what I want to see. George Orwell, William H. Keith Jr and Robert Howard the other works.

I like to think that reading non-fiction can improve your fiction. When you understand the functions of political-economic structures, I feel you can construct more elaborate worlds within the 40k universe. Dan Abnett does so beautifully when he devises the structure of a hive-city’s political scene. It’s a talent that makes the world more complete, more realistic than the predictable black and white, evil vs good concepts that have little more to offer than the physical struggle against the other half.

Besides, it’s not like there’s any side I would call “good” in the 40k universe. To quote Darth Helmet, “So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good… is dumb. “