The Gildar Rift

I'm sorry, but Huron Blackheart is just too damn ugly to make fun of.

I'm sorry, but Huron Blackheart is just too damn ugly to tease.

Author’s Edit-Note: Yesterday, I heard out some statements and thoughts on the review. As I considered it, I started to mentally compare this review to others I have written. I didn’t feel what I wrote was particularly fair, so I’ve submitted here an edited version.

Opinions can be swayed or changed, and not always for ill. If opinions and feelings didn’t change, then your first love would be your only love, people would be content with the same meal everyday and Kim Kardashian might still be married… for better or worse.

And opinions can be wrong, especially when founded on false facts or the impact  of a few bad apples in the barrel. And that doesn’t really do a book and its author justice. If anyone thinks this makes my opinion too biased, then so be it. It’s not the end of my world.

So here is the updated version. Edits are mentioned before hand, while the rest is left as the original.

I feel the need to give something of a disclaimer before I post this review.

You see, I pal around with the author, one Sarah Cawkwell, on the Shoutbox. That being said, I cannot claim that this review isn’t without additional bias (as I already am a Warhammer 40k fan). I admit that I found both strengths and weaknesses in the story, which I will list with both deserving praise and constructive criticism respectively.

I leave it to the reader to decide if my word is trustworthy given the facts I have presented. But I feel that The Gildar Rift is a solid, interesting read.

From the get go, there’s a lot that separates this book from other Space Marine Battle novels. For starters, I enjoy the fact that the enemy is Chaos instead of Space Orkz. I grew somewhat tired of the constant Orkz’R’Us that some other SMBs offered (Helsreach and Rynn’s World). It’s refreshing when the enemy is after your soul more so than your body.

When the threat of corruption is as equal as the threat of destruction, one must keep one’s eyes both on the enemy and on one’s allies.

I feel it best to discuss Cawkwell’s strengths. Her writing of space-naval battles is impressive. Very impressive. I’ve read some of the works of Michael Stackpole and veteran Black Library authors, and her talent for writing naval warfare is exceptional even in comparison. Her writing of ground battles is also solid but not quite the same caliber as in space.

Plot wise, The Gildar Rift offers far more than most Space Marine battle books, with a mix of interesting villains that contrast themselves against the long term plans of the Silver Skulls. The Skulls were hard at work on a new technical project designed to mesh man and machine. You may wonder how this is different than other Mechanicus products, but trust me when I say that it is different. That it is unlike anything we’ve seen in the grim future as of yet. It is enough to keep one curious and keeps the book from being branded as “bolter porn.”

One thing of interest was the traditions of the Silver Skulls. Firm believers in the will of the Emperor, they relied on Chaplain-Librarians to divine the future and accept or deny battle plans accordingly. While interesting in theory, I feel for the impatience of the main character, Daerys Arrun. To wait for the aye or nay of a tarot reading would drive me absolutely bonkers.

But the Silver Skulls “read the signs” approach truly fits Sarah Cawkwell’s combative writing style. You can tell from the first battle that she is a writer who fight-writes with her head first by discussing strategy and tactics. She lays out what has to be done and how it will be done, and takes the time to think it out before putting her thoughts and words into action.

Edits: Originally, I had stamped Cawkwell’s dialogue as somewhat weak at points. As I reevaluated the book, I narrowed my grievances down to only a few parts. The dialogue throughout the book was fine to good. My original post seemed to suggest that there was more wrong with Cawkwell’s work than there was, which was my fault.

So I have removed the section explaining body language and non-verbal communication. It can be reincarnated later in a more fitting post, and not insinuating more weakness in Cawkwell’s work than is actually there.

My grievances are reduced to a few scenes or statements which bugged me. At the start of chapter four (page 77), Arrun feels it necessary to apologize to Prognosticator Brand. Now in its defense, situations where a Space Marine feels it necessary to apologize to another are as rare as thumbs on a dog. But it’s painfully awkward to watch Arrun try to console his guilty conscience. Could I have written this part better myself? Very unlikely. But it begs the question of what is the proper way a warrior should seek forgiveness from another, which is something I’ll be thinking about.

On page 141, Huron Blackheart goes into some monologue of everything he intends to do with Arrun. The whole rambling set of threats could have used a touch of reason, even if it was irrationality. Was it Blackheart’s insanity? Was it psychological warfare? Was it madness or was there a method to it? Or both? The monologue raises an interesting question as to how much the author should explain. Would it have been better to clarify the purpose of Blackheart’s ranting or leave it to the reader to figure out?

Finally on page 320, the taciturn Daviks felt it necessary to give a very long winded explanation of the kinks in his strategy. Getting detailed would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that Arrun was in the middle of a battle. Arrun shot this down, but wondered why it didn’t dawn on Daviks that it wasn’t the time.

But these weaknesses are miniscule compared to the whole. The Gildar Rift is a strong read, difficult to put down as the old question, “What happens next?!” kept me glued. I’ll be looking forward to Cawkwell’s next novel.

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A Whole New Year

You'll never guess what I'm finally getting to play...

You'll never guess what I'm finally getting to play...

First post of the New Year. Just boning it in.

Raziel4707 has a new blog, the Vampiric Chicken. I’ve updated his link.

I started my diet and work out regime. Just a mixture of eating better and cutting back on calories, as well as jogging and lifting weights at home. My timing was either great or terrible to start this however. I had just one more huge meal to get through for the holidays, as I was drawn into another Thanksgiving sized meal to celebrate someone’s brief return to the states.

But I had seen my sides growing and felt the fat all around me and finally said, “Enough.” So I substituted fruits and Greek yogurt in place of my usual morning pastry, switched to lighter soups instead of my lunch sandwich and have been versatile about dinner. My new iPod Shuffle has made running a joy, even in the cold. I pulled some Kanye West, 50 Cent, Linkin Park and the Yoshida Brothers to keep my mind from getting bored mid-run.

Oh, guess what my brother lent me.

Now that I have an XBox 360, I ran out to the mall yesterday and purchased both Gears of War and Gears of War 2 for $16. I tried the hardcore difficulty and almost tore my hair out of my head because the damn Drones kept shooting me down. One of the things that annoy me about games is that increased difficulty only improves enemy stats. They shoot more accurately and/or powerfully and possess more health, not increased intellect or teamwork. It’s more a test of hanging-in-there endurance than of strategy and/or skill. So I restarted it in casual.

But I’m starting to enjoy the game. The story and characters didn’t start to resonate with me until Marcus Fenix was in charge, and the quips and rib poking became the norm. I think the developers suffered from what I guess you could call stereotyped start up. It’s  a problem very common in books and television, when the writers and actors aren’t entirely certain about the direction of their characters. So they try some clichés to get started and then they develop and grow. It’s not a bad thing, but it usually makes for some slow starts.

Bad news is that I’m working away at my brother’s gift. His computer, the same I built him two years ago, has errors upon problems upon flaws. It was fine when I gave it to him, but then he got creative. A few different OSes were installed, something went wrong with the hardware, then bam. It stopped working. I shook my head out of frustration, and have decided to get Windows 7 for him after I return the spare Motherboard I got for repairs just in case I needed it. He will need it soon. Heck, I still stick with Windows XP SP3 since it’s so reliable, but sooner or later I will have to update.

Also, I’m 20 pages into The Gildar Rift. Where does the time go…

Lord Lucan, Professional Writer

Yep, that's Lord Lucan. Go on! Give him a hug...

Go on! Give him a hug...

Congratulations are in order.

Lord Lucan, now better known as A. R. Aston, has recently been published. His short story can be found in Stone Mind’s Folly. You can also check it out on Amazon.

This is a big day for the writers of the Bolthole. First Pyroriffic (Sarah Cawkwell) gets The Gildar Rift, and now Lord Lucan is making a mark of his own. Drop by the Bolthole and wish Lord Lucan well on his posting! Oh, and buy his book too. You can afford $2.