Star Trek: Prey by John Jackson Miller (Book Review)

The period from 2016-2017 has been a banner year for the Star Trek franchise. A new Kelvin-verse (aka Abramsverse) movie, a new Star Trek show, new comics, and even two new book trilogies that celebrated fifty years of the franchise. The first of the latter, the Legacies trilogy that charted some of the adventures of Commander Una of Starfleet, was an enjoyable series that went to some of the roots of the franchise and delivered a great outing for one of the best female characters of the franchise. The trilogy wasn’t as great as I’d hoped, but it was a good read nonetheless, especially if one wanted to “get back” into the swing of things as I did.

Which is where John Jackson Miller’s Prey trilogy comes in. Written as a bridge between the movie The Search For Spock and the second TV seriesThe Next Generation while bringing it all into the modern era, it is a grand adventure of that typifies the franchise, a grand tale spanning dozens of characters across many different eras and ships as they all come together for a greater whole. It was a blast to read this one, an excellent political thriller and military adventure that you don’t get to read often enough in the franchise.

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Desperate Hours by David Mack (Book Review)

Star Trek: Discovery was one of the most hyped new television shows of last year. Following on such legends such as Star Trek: The Original Series, or Star Trek: The Next Generation to name a few, the show promised a great deal in a kinda-sorta-familiar era of just a decade prior to the first events of the Star Trek: The Original Series. However, for me the show failed to live up to its hype, primarily because the protagonist was uninspiring and the scripts more so. Plus the writers seemed intent on changing around too many things and the entire show is a big visual and narrative dissonance from what we know of the Federation of the times.

Desperate Hours by Star Trek stalwart David Mack attempts to fill in some gaps left in the viewer’s understanding of who the show’s protagonist Michael Burnham is. She is a brand-new character for the show, and in this novel David attempts to show who she is and why she does what she does on the show, among other things. For me, the novel proved to be an even more disappointing experience than the show, as it seemed to rely too much on internal conflict and… disagreements among Starfleet officers. It just failed to deliver on its own promise.

Note: Some medium spoilers about Star Trek: Discovery are mentioned here.

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Ghost Warrior by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

There have been so many changes to the Warhammer 40,000 with the release of the Eighth Edition of the tabletop rules that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of them all. One of the more major changes has been the fact that the Eldar have been renamed to be the Aeldari, in order to give Games Workshop a better copyright on their space-faring Elves. And their evil counterparts, the Dark Eldar, are now the Drukhari. And with the coming of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the two broken halves of their society, those of the space-faring craftworlds and those of the Hidden City of Commoragh, have in many ways come together to safeguard the future of their species as followers of the God of Death, Ynnead.

in Gav Thorpe’s first novel for the new “Dark Imperium” era, we find that the Ynnari have learned of a long-lost craftworld that has returned to the galaxy. Spiritseer Iyanna and Yvraine set out with their army of fanatical Ynnari to bring back Zaisuthra in the larger fold of the Aeldari, and their journey is certainly fraught with dangers of all kinds. In Ghost Warrior, Gav does what he did with his previous Eldar novels, show off in detail the bickering and politicking of the Aeldari. It makes for one hell of a read and it left me wanting more for the Ynnari are a fascinating faction, steeped deep in the old lore of Warhammer 40,000.

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Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Book Review)

Aaron’s first Black Legion novel, The Talon of Horus was a rather sublime novel. It beat and challenged many of my expectations that I had going in, and proved to be one of the best Warhammer 40,000 books I’ve read to date. Which is no small feat, truly. It explored the psyche of the Sons of Horus as they transform into the Black Legion, led by the returned Ezekyle Abaddon and a coalition of champions from other Legions. It was full of some very memorable characters and had a stunning climax that went to the roots of some of the oldest lore of Warhammer 40,000.

Black Legion, the second novel in the series of the same name, is a worthy successor to The Talon of Horus, although it is not the equal of its predecessor. We are back to the recounting of events by Iskandar Khayon and see how Aaron writes a story that departs a little from what we saw in the first novel. There are some confusing mysteries here that don’t quite resolve themselves satisfactorily, but it has some of the best action scenes I’ve read in Warhammer 40,000 fiction, and has a battle of champions at the end that is iconic and impactful in equal measure.

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Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar by David Annandale (Book Review)

One of the most fascinating appeals of the Horus Heresy series from Black Library is that we get to learn so much of the backstories of the various Primarchs who led the Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade and the destructive civil war that followed. Horus, Corax, Guilliman, Angron, Lorgar and Sanguinius have had some of the most intriguing lore-reveals and now Black Library has taken all of that a step further with the Primarchs sub-series that focuses on some of the definitive moments in their lives during the Great Crusade.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Macragge is a thought-provoking read that takes place after the Ultramarines humbled the Word Bearers on the world of Monarchia, an event we first saw in Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s The First Heretic many years ago. The Primarch is leading a detachment of his Legion on a campaign against an Ork-held system and his ruminations during the campaign, as well as the personal stories of his officers, do much to add substantial character to an army once thought of as boring and uninteresting. While there’s no compelling villain here, we do get a character study of the XIIIth Primarch and his officers, which I found to be superb.

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Lorgar: Bearer of The Word by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

One of the most important differences between the M41 and M31 eras is the existence of the Primarchs, genetically-engineered unique super-beings who are destined to lead one of the twenty Astartes Legions. Of them all, the most tragic story is that of Lorgar Aurelian, who was punished for his faith and found comfort in outlawed religions. He eventually became the greatest instrument of the Chaos Gods as their plans to bring destruction and ruination to the nascent Imperium of Man were fulfilled through him and his legion, the Word Bearers. We’ve seen much of Lorgar since the end of the Great Crusade and onwards to the Heresy, but we know precious little of the Golden One before he joined his Legion.

Gav Thorpe’s Lorgar: Bearer of the Word takes us back to an uncertain era on the lost world of Colchis when Lorgar first meets with his eventual mentor and confidant Kor Phaeron, and a cosmic scheme hundreds of years if not thousands progresses into an important stage. Gav captures well the gravitas of that historic meeting and what follows after makes for a very gripping read. We do get some scenes of “present-day” Lorgar, but the bulk is all about his early years on Colchis and the events and circumstances that made him who he eventually became.

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Pharos by Guy Haley (Book Review)

In many ways, we are in what could possibly be called the middle-phase of the Horus Heresy, with novels such as Deathfire and War Without End and, of course, Pharos. The Dropsite Massacre has happened, Rogal Dorn is busy fortifying Terra, Horus and his allies have spread their web throughout the Imperium, and Guilliman has holed himself up in Ultramar, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Ruinstorm. Doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture for the Imperial war effort. But all the same, the more I read of the years preceding the climactic Battle of Terra, the more wide-eyed and amazed I feel, such are the many countless mysteries and concepts being unveiled.

Pharos marks Guy Haley’s first full-length entry into the Horus Heresy, having already contributed some great short stories to the humongous series. He’s  written some short stories and stuff prior to this, but this is definitely the big score and he proves yet again why he is one of the best authors in this far-flung age of never-ending war. Pharos is everything I wanted to see in a Horus Heresy novel, whether that be great characters, great plot, great action, great concepts, or anything else really. Pharos is easily one of my best reads of 2017 and is a runaway hit as far as I’m concerned.

Note: Some minor spoilers about the novel follow.

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