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: Outcast Dead – Graham McNeill

I finished listening to this today, and I must say, I really enjoyed listening to it. Graham McNeill had really delivered a kick ass novel here for several reasons.

First off, I really enjoyed the setting of the novel. Terra, and the Petitioner’s City was really interesting to read about. It came across as a richly detailed environment without the descriptions being too heavy or too laboured. There are some really grim places that are shown, which hammer home the darkness of the 30K world setting, as well as some slightly nicer, which contrasts well between the different classes of people and the stark gulf between them. There are hints of the beaurocratic nightmare contained within Terra, the squallor as well as the social construction of the Petitioner’s City.

As always, the novel is populated with a diverse range of characters from different backgrounds. The adventures an astropath, some space marines, a custodes, and several other humans can get up to is very interesting. All of them are padded out and none of them appear flat either. Three of the Space Marine characters are World Eaters and all of them are different as well. In my opinion, this is quite a tricky feaet of achievement. The dialogue between the characters is good, it flows well and always adds to the story.

The plot is strong, the pace is good and the fight scenes are artfull crafted. The language within the story is not overly poetic or laboured, nor is it overly complex. There is special mention of the word ‘mushrooming’ which I found delightful.

I am not sure what the book adds overall to the monster that is the Horus Heresy Tale as a whole, however it allows the reader to learn of elements of Terra’s past (Thunder Warriors) and by itself is a well crafted, well penned tale – well worth reading.

book review · miniatures.

Review: The Dark Tower series.

I have had a long and lasting love affair with The Dark Tower series; it is one of the novel series that has resonated with me, and still does so. When I first read it about ten years ago, I was captivated by the characters and world setting, and that hasn’t changed. Periodically, I have gone back and read the first three and a half books, but usually stopped part way through the fourth. Now that I listen to audio books while painting, I found the perfect opportunity to listen to the whole tale again.

Let’s get a picture of The Gunslinger in here, for it is his story after all:

Good points of the story the second time around include how amazingly well written the characters are. From the smallest role to the largest, all the characters have a surprisingly well developed sense of purpose and self. I remember taking nearly three books to decide whether I liked Roland and that when I did, it was a whirlwind. The same applies on the second reading, though perhaps not as intensely. The pace of the first four books is intense and keeps you reading, or listening, even when you know what is going to happen.

What surprised me too is the amount of phrases I use in day to day language that come from this series. Language I had forgotten the source of, phrases like ‘never in life’ and ‘say true?’ just became part of my language. It has a poetic ring to it certainly, and the different accents and nuances contained within the Dark Tower are wide and varied. The world setting is dense, detailed and wide, it is a real treat to read about and journey through. Nothing in this story is coincidence. Everything happens for a reason and the smallest detail in book one unfolds into a big part of the later story. The forward thinking of the author is incredible.

I’m still not sold on Stephen King writing himself into the story.

Everything else about the tale is great, I laughed, I cried and was taken along an emotional journey with the characters; still caught up in their lives despite knowing what happened. If you only ever read one (set of) books again, make it The Dark Tower!


Book Review: Blood of Sanguinius – Darius Hinks

It’s been a while since I have done a book review, though that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I have indulged in a lot of short stories, which would take forever to review them all. It doesn’t mean they are not good, or engaging and they certainly are worth reading however I would be here forever if I posted about them all.

One group of short stories has led me down a rather delightful path, and those feature the oddity that is Mephiston. Recommended by a close friend, I decided that it was time to venture out if the realms of chaos and see what the Imperium had to offer. I must say I was very well surprised with the two short stories: Eclipse of Hope and Lord of Death by David Annandale, however the character really comes into his own when penned by the capable hand of Darius Hinks.

Technically, the language is beautiful. While reading, there were no clumsy sentences, wonderfully crafted metaphors which were wrought in a careful, considerate way. Hinks’ choice of language complimented the carefully crafted world he created for the story and it was neither heavy handed or awkward. The pace of the novel was excellent and it kept me turning the pages until many a small hour – always a successful point. I was gripped.

What truly seized me however were the interactions between the three main protagonists. After reading a lot of novels set in the realm of chaos, it was a true pleasure to read about characters that liked one another. The dynamic between the young Antros, the older, sterner Rhacelus and the enigmatic Mephiston is expertly executed. The three compliment one another, even if they often do not understand each other. I never felt as though there was deceit between them and it was clear that although there was definite fear of death, none of them would die alone.

I don’t post spoilers in my reviews, but I want to discuss one point at the start of the book that was refreshing. Antros seeks the aid of a guardsman in locating a position in a dangerous place. When the inevitable danger occurs, he is desperate to ensure the guardsman survives. The fact that there are Chapters that still regard mortals as valuable and worth saving was brought into this novel clearly, however it never forgot the elements of Grimdark that are associated with Warhammer 40 000 either.

Darius Hinks has done a wonderful job with this novel, and I do look forward to reading the next one, right after Devastation of Baal, which is what I am chewing through rapidly at the moment.

Film · miniatures.

Film Review: Rambo – Last Blood

Rambo 5: It’s not terrible!

Honestly, it isn’t.

Rambo 5

I really, genuinely enjoyed watching this film. The plot was pretty simple, which was good. I went in not expecting a great deal really. I haven’t seen the other Rambo films for a very, very long time but I do remember explosion and gore. This film has both of those so I was happy on that front.

The plot sees Rambo go after his adoptive grandaughter who absconded to Mexico to find her no good dad. Things go wrong and she gets kidnapped. Rambo goes in search. This was the only part of the film I personally had issues with. Rambo gets cornered and beat up by the Mexican gangsters rather too easy. Throughout this scene, I was expecting him to unload a huge can of whoop-ass. He didn’t and went down without much of a fight at all and for someone as well trained as he is, it felt a bit off.

All was forgiven however when the last part of the film kicked off. Rambo went to kill Mexico, then lured it back to his farm, where he had set a lot of interesting and brutal traps. It was a bit like Home Alone but with much more blood and guts.

The violent ways in which the bad guys were killed were almost comedic and it more than made up for the blip earlier in the film.

Another bonus was the film wasn’t dragged out at all. It was quick paced and didn’t drag. I really enjoyed the watching it. I’d watch it again!

miniatures. · painting

INSTAR Metallics

Recently, I have become dissatisfied with the Game Colour range of metallic paints. I’ve used them for a long time but only now come to realise that the particles of metallic pigment clogged the brush which made them hard to work with. I needed to try something new.

Over on twitter, I have been following INSTAR paints for a long time and decided it was time to give them a go. So, I ordered bronze, because Night Lords. Gold, two shades of silver, a purple and one of their ‘flip’ paints.

I grabbed an old Chaos Space Marine who hangs around for testing things and decided to try them out. Here are the results:

The blue/purple flip is on the shoulder pad and the purple, which is a really pale amethyst is on his upper leg. This is with a couple of coats and shows great coverage. It was easy to work with and although it required a couple of layers, it didn’t look streaky.

The bottom is something I was sent as a bonus, something called a ‘Spectrum’ paint. I did have to look it up, but once I learned what it was for, I gave it a go. What you do, is mix this with a metallic paint and it turns it into a flip paint. This one I mixed with silver and it turned into a pale green. I want to do some more messing about with this before I make a judgement on it, but it seems like a cool idea and I always like getting a little something for free.

I then did some more serious testing on the latest Night Lord:

The grain of the metallic paint is much, much finer than what I have used before, so it suits my need there. It takes washes from GW very well, so that is good too. It blends with other paints of its make easily enough and so I was able to create highlights and low lights where I wanted them. I think Gloves’s brass looks really good. The silver needs washing and highlighting but so far, so good.

I also really like how there is a little ball inside the paint which helps mix it up when you shake it up.

All in all, I love them. I will be using them and ordering some more when I need to. I might just have to try their other ranges too, to see how well put together they are.

book review · miniatures.

Review: Soul Hunter – Aaron Dembski Bowden

Soul Hunter

Several friends of mine pestered me to read this for a while. One of them loaned me the physical copy, another loaned me a digital copy and eventually I relented. I do not get a lot of time to read books, and I do not like to waste my time on bad ones. This book is not a bad book.

This book is in fact, a very good book.

I knew within the first couple of pages that I was going to like the Night Lords due to one incident. One of the characters gets shot in the middle of a discussion and his so called friend had to switch his vox off because he was laughing so hard about it.

The book is full of gems like this. You quickly come to realise that the Night Lords all hate each other. It is the typical dynamic however that as soon as an outsider starts to hate on the individuals, that they pull together and deal with problems – mostly.

I never like to write spoilers in my reviews and I do not plan to start now. Some key players appear in the book, and they are all true to their character. The novel provides another perspective on these characters which is insightful and interesting.

The story is well constructed, cleverly written and easy to read. Some of the fight scenes it contains were so good my coffee went cold as I was so engaged. There is no abundence of overly floral language, though there is no lack of description either. Some of the scenes push the boundaries of what is ‘sensible’ (I know, it’s 40K but…) however, they are not ludicrous and are certainly exciting.

I really look forward to Blood Reaver, and enthusing about this awesome read to those who encouraged me to read them in the first place.

40K · book review · Warhammer 40000

Review: Dark Imperium – Guy Haley

815M7vUNz+L Talk about late to the party! This was released a while ago now and I’ve only just gotten around to ‘reading’ it. Bit of a confession, I listened to it on Audio Book instead. This was a new venture for me, and after I got over the voices and overly English accent of the reader, I found it enjoyable. I was able to paint and listen at the same time. Who knew…

I’ll start with the good. There are some really well constructed scenes in this story that enable the characters to show their core values well. For example, there is a part of the tale where Calgar and some of his cronies are dealing with an uprising. The opponents are mainly youths who are being used by adults because they are impressionable. The Ultramarines quickly realise how shoddy the work is but instead of just wading in to kill them, they decide to capture them and re-educate them so next time they can do a proper job of it. It made me laugh, could anything be more Ultramarine?

There are other interactions as well, Mortarion, Typhus and a daemon prince are talking via phychic ‘phone’, to which the Death Guard Primarch is outraged. The part where Uriel Ventris introduces himself to Guilliman is also marginally hilarious. All the characters play to themselves and are enjoyable in one way or another. The internalisation of Guilliman’s thoughts are also interesting and the contrast between the modern Imperium and what he knew are good to read. His frustrations are very relatable too. The language used to convey the characters, and the setting as well, is easy to follow.

Description wise, I think there are good and bad parts. The language used to describe the Death Guard and the Nurgle aspects of the novel are exceptionally well done. I had no idea there were that many words for guts. It allows the reader to really picture what the disgusting creatures look like. Some of it is quite nauseating and I liked that part. When it came to describing arches and other such things, I was less bothered. Some of the pacing of the novel is lost due to long descriptive passages or history lessons, which while vital for the background, I found rambly. There are some that enjoy such aspects, I am not one of them. I like to read the action and I like it to be fast paced.

There is also a lot of information on the Primaris marines and how much superior they are to the older spec of marine as well. It was when they had first been released however and I suppose they needed to be bigged up to the readership. They are fine by me and I rather liked the characters, especially when they they were relaxing in the mess hall lamenting that there was no booze to toast with. It made them seem human in many ways and I have always enjoyed reading about the human side of Space Marines.

This novel ambles, rather than surges, along and I am sure that if I was to tackle this as a read rather than a listen, I would have struggled with it. Still, it is worth reading all the same to get an insight into the mind of Guilliman. The other characters are no less engaging either and are certainly interesting.