Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front – Remarque

This is the next of the books that detail human suffering between its covers that I have enjoyed reading. I did enjoy this read, however the tone of the novel was significantly different from the others I have read.

This novel is much more forlorn and melancholic than the previous novels. It does not skimp on the grisly details of trench warfare; there are plenty of body parts and gross details in the novel, however there is more of a focus on the mental state of the soldiers and the futility of their existence. It is a depressive novel in many ways, though that did not detract from the enjoyment of the book and the insight into this different aspect of warfare.

That this novel is written from the German side, rather than the English, or indeed French, is a change too. Of course, we know the outcome of the war now, and to follow the journey of the soldiers as the unit withers and dies – both from shells and starvation is enlightening in different ways.

The novel is not all depressing however, there are some heart-warming tales of capers and fleeting. moments of ‘relaxation’ that lighten the tone somewhat. Inevitable though, the reader is reminded of the horror of war when these moments are dashed away.

Ratings then:

Gross factor: 5/10

Grit: 9/10

This one scores high on the grit for the overall bleak tone, which outweighs the grossness factor. It is well worth the read though!


Book Review: Empire of the Sun

This is the second book in the ‘gritty, dark’ category that I have tried. Written by JG Ballard, it follows the story of a young boy called Jim as he is captured and held in a prison camp during World War II.

The novel begins when Jim is ten years old, and living in Shanghai with his parents. The Japanese invade and round up all the European citizens and hold them in refugee camps for the remainder of the war. It follows his story of being separated from his parents and captured, his befriending of camp occupants and eventually, his liberation from the camp.

Death is a permanent fixture in the novel – and no detail is spared with the living on their journey to death either. As a novel, some of the details are gruesome, which are exactly why I read these types of book.

The story itself is engaging, easy to read and emotionally moving in parts as well.

I did not like how the book ended, I found that aspect unrealistic. Jim was eventually reunited with both his parents, and considering the deprivation that they had all suffered, it seemed unrealistic that they both survived. Especially how others, younger and ‘stronger’, had died quickly. I felt that the need for a happy ending cheapened the story in some ways.

Ratings then:

Gross factor: 9/10

Grit: 6/10

The details are disgusting, but the grit only gets a 6 because of the forced ending!


Book Review: The Short Timers

I have recently discovered that I really enjoy gritty novels that are based around real accounts of human suffering. This book is the basis for one of my favourite films: Full Metal Jacket.

Although this is a fictitious account of the Vietnam War, the characters within are based on those that were met by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed the more in depth look at what happened than we see in the film, and the raw way in which it was written. Carried throughout the pages is the black humour and deep sense of irony that we are treated to in Cubrick’s film adaptation.

Only, it’s ten times worse.

The events the characters are forced to endure, from boot camp on Parris Island, through to the jungles of Vietnam are magnified tenfold. Joker, the main character, begins his journey much as the film shows us and follows him through his journey as a war correspondent, and then as a ‘grunt’ in the jungle – where he joins his friend from basic training. I won’t spoil what happens, because I want you to read the book for yourselves and make that discovery.

The narrative I found easy to read, though there are some phrases that are specific to the time it is set. Rather than make the book hard to read, it added charm to the story and helped build a picture of what happened. Some of the events feel like you are suddenly whisked off on some crazy drug trip, which leave you wondering ‘did that just happen’? A lot of the time, it did… and it wasn’t pretty!

Unfortunately, the book is out of print. However, I managed to find a PDF copy for free online here:

So, how do I rate this book? As it is the first ‘gross’ book I have read, it is setting the bar so here goes.

Gross factor: 7/10

Grit: 9/10

This was a good read, and it has opened up a whole new genre of reading for me! I shall be on the hunt for more of it’s kind soon!


Book Review: Dune

It has been a while since I wrote any form of book review. I find that as much as I enjoy reading 40K novels, they’re all decent and enjoyable so I’d stopped bothering. A few people have given me mixed reviews about Dune, and after seeing (and loving) the film I thought I would read it and see what I thought for myself.

I had wondered whether the novel would suffer from ‘old book syndrome’ – wherein a book was written so long ago that the language makes it difficult to understand. Written in 1965, I found Dune an easier read than some more ‘modern’ counterparts (Neuromancer, I am looking at you).

Don’t get me wrong, the book does make the reader do some of the work. Explicit descriptions are left out in many parts of the book, unlike most 40K books I have read recently. It makes you think and lets your mind fill in the gaps, which I enjoyed a great deal. Some of the concepts are not explained within the novel either – though there is a handy appendix at the end in case you need reminding, or something explaining. The novel expects the reader to accept that some concepts are so ingrained in the social norms of the book, that they do not need explaining.

I liked how House Atreides’ members had familiar names, whereas the Harkonnen and Fremen characters had more exotic ones. It is a good way of earmarking the ‘familiar’ and ‘other’ without it being explicit. All the characters – and there are a few of them, are well written, thought out and have a purpose. There is a large variety of characters within the novel, and not one of them felt like a stereotype. They have a decent balance within them, and I felt it easy to relate to some, and easy to dislike others. I always felt as though I was supposed to feel this way, rather than them being poorly written.

I also loved the use of dramatic irony within Dune. Several of the characters, both protagonist and antagonist, allow the reader in on what they are thinking, so the reader has specialist knowledge that other characters do not. It has been a long time since I have appreciated this technique and it is done masterfully by Frank Herbert.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dune. I will say this: We all know that the true heroes of this story is the Giant Sand Worms – go and read the novel for them!


Review: Indomitus – Gav Thorpe

This is the first time I have read a book that has come alongside a release, and I want to talk about that as it had both pros and cons that come with it.

On the one hand, I was able to relate to every single character and unit mentioned in this novel because I had the miniature that went with it. I knew what the plasmancer looked like, I knew what a Judiciar was and this meant that in some scenes of the book, it was easier to follow. Knowing that an Eradicator has a huge flamer weapon was definitely helpful in understanding who did what in the fights.

The downside of this is that there are so many units and characters that came out in the release, that at times it was hard to keep up with so many names.

What this book offered me was an insight into Necron culture. I knew very little about the faction until I read this and find they are rather interesting. The part from the perspective of the Destroyer Character was really good. I won’t spoil it but you learn some details about his past and why he is set on destroying all life. I could relate (if not condone) to his actions and that was surprising.

I think my favourite character was the plasmancer. She was belaboured by incompetence on all sides and she fit nicely. I never knew how heirarchical necorn society was, or how many different factions were working within it until I read this novel.

Of course, there are plenty of good Ultramarine characters within the novel too, and the little details written add a layer to them that can sometimes be lacking in Space Marines. The Captain remarking to himself that carpet is strange underfoot after so long on a voidship is the one that springs to mind. There is plenty of bickering and banter, but underneath all that, the will to get the job done without hesitation is there too. All good stuff.

The plot of the novel is no real stretch of the imagination, but it’s not dull or drab and it certainly doesn’t drag. The ending is fitting, and it leaves the reader wondering what happens as well. I wonder if there will be a sequel at some point – I do hope so!

All in all, a good read!


Review: Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I wanted to read something a little lighter after the last physical read – Chernobyl Prayer – and this has been on my list for quite a while.

What a book! It was so funny and contained the humour and wit of both authors that I have come to expect. This book would have kept me reading late into the small hours if I hadn’t fallen asleep while trying to do so.

I am not entirely sure where to start with it. The characters. I love well written characters and this novel is packed with them! They are all relatable – even the demons – and they are all individuals. There were no sterotypes, and they were all in keeping with the slightly off the wall feel of the novel. Don’t get me wrong, that off the wall feel is what kept me reading.

The structure and pace of the book are good too. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to know what happened so kept ‘turning the page’. The Chapters are arranged into the corresponding days rather than strict Chapters, which made one of them rather long, however there were plenty of logical places to stop so that worked for me.

There are plenty of funny – ironically so – details within the novel as well, which are so typically Pratchett. I have read less Gaiman in my time – something I am now going to change. I laughed out loud on several occasions at some of the thought patterns.

Read this book because it has amazing characters, is a new take on the dichotomy of good and evil, and is honestly a funny read!


Book Review: Know No Fear – Dan Abnet

This was a fantastic book. It contains some of the best description I have read in the past forever. Let me explain without giving away too many spoilers for the story itself.

The tale centres around the actions of the Word Bearers against the Ultramarines to eliminate them from the Horus Heresy. One of their actions is to destory planetary defense systems and orbitals around the planet of Calth. The description I found amazing was how the destruction of the orbitals and ships affect the planet itself. The scope of the thought that has gone into this part of the novel are exceptional and the devastation of such is just mindblowing!

The pace of the novel keeps you wanting to know more. The stakes for the characters are expectionally high and the story pulls no punches in that regard. Characters are developed swiftly and are very relatable in my opinion. As a reader you care about what happens to them. Of course, there is the appearance of some old favourites as well and yes, you still want to call them jerks on reading this.

One thing I will say as a niggling point of contention is that some of the Space Marine Characters say things that seem mroe appropriate to the Guard. It is a minor point but I can understand how some people would find this jarring. I did, but the strength of the story, plot and pace glossed over this for me.

This is a fantastic read, a good step forward in the Horus Heresy and completely on point. Give it a read, it’s awesome!


Review: Primogenitor – Josh Reynolds

Seeing how I shall very soon be painting the miniature of Fabius Bile, I thought it was about time I listened to the story. Many people have recommended it to me, so I got the book on Audible and listened to it while I was painting. Here are my thoughts:

The premise of the book is pretty simple. An old apprentice of Fabius Bile’s returns to him with a proposition to help another warband take a not-too-well defended Eldar Craftworld. Seeking new samples and some delicious spirit-stones, Bile agrees and chaos ensues on the way to do so. Add in somem Harlequins and you get a twisty, turvy plot that it a pleasure to read.

The characters within the novel are amazing. As with all chaos, none of them truly like one another. There is plenty of back-stabbing and intrege to go around, though some are more inclined to do so than others. The main protagonist, Oleander Ko, is a former member of the Emperor’s Children but his excesses are not so extreme as to become tiresome. He is witty, amusing and not above singing the odd song here and there. Tzimeskes – an Iron Warror with a preference for machinary – is perhaps the sassiest, mute character I have ever read about. Without uttering a word, he manages to give as good as he gets. That is a credit to the author’s characterisation and writing skills. There are other characters that deserve mention too: The Word Bearer Prisoner, the World Eater apothecary and Bile himself of course – all of them are brought to life well and are not carbon copies of one another either.

I want to give a special mention to the Kakaphonie (noise marines) too. The reminded me very much of the Raptors from the Night Lord trilogy. Lucoryphus and his band of nutters kept to themselves in much the same way, until they were needed to do something bonkers. The noise marines proved themselves every bit as insane – and useful – in the story and they were one of my favourite events. Butcher Bird – a gunship – comes a close second.

Some of the scenery within the book is delightfully well written. At one point, Bile and Co have to go to a market and the description allows the reader to picture that place perfectly. I want to go there – or at least make a diorama of sorts displaying it. The battle description is every bit as interesting. I didn’t find it tedious or too lengthy either as I have with some novels in the past. Every word did its job and did it well. There are some exceptionally well written metaphors within the pages of this book as well.

This tale is definitely worth reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the listen and I am eager to listen to the next part of the tale, if only to find out what wonderously disgusting things the Primogenitor does next!


Book Review: Chernobyl Prayer – Svetlana Alexievich

I won’t lie, this is one of the most intense books I have ever read. It is a collection of memories, stories, thoughts and feelings of the survivors of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

This book pulls no punches when it comes to telling the stories of those who were involved in some way with the disaster. Some of them left me in tears, some of them left me horrified. All of them were moving in some way.

I am unsure where to begin with this one, it is not my usual read! I picked it up because I wanted to find out the personal stories of the people – to get a bit deeper than the HBO show went. This book certainly delivered that. The story of the Fireman who was first on the scene was far more graphic when told by his wife – they omitted some gruesome details in the show – and it was difficult to read from an emotional point of view.

What hit home in this book was how little the people actually knew about what was going on. They had no idea how dangerous the disaster was and that is down to the political environment at the time. It is a very alien way of thinking – to me at least – and seeing people volunteer for what was essentially a suicide mission seems insane.

Then I reached the stories of the people who moved TO the exclusion zone to escape the civil wars that was a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I think, how awful must life have been for those people if moving to an irradiated death-trap was a positive move?

The tales of the surviving children is also hard hitting. A lot of them are unwell, a lot of them spend time in hospitals and know they are going to die.

The book is certainly enlightening, and bleak, however it is very much worth reading. I’d recommend it – the translation is good and language wise, it is easy to follow. The content however, that can be difficult to swallow.


Review: Darkness in the Blood

I don’t normally go for special edition releases, but sometimes, you just need to know what happens. I endulged in this one and I was pleasantly surprised. Before I talk about the book itself, I want to show you the extra goodies that came in the box with the book:

Continue reading “Review: Darkness in the Blood”