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This might be in the wrong section, as it pertains largely to Black Library literature, but last thing I posted over there someone said I probably should've posted here. Anyways - if the location needs be corrected I'm sure a mod will let me know and just move it over for me.
I HATE HATE HATE JAMES SWALLOWS BLOOD ANGELS BOOKS!
And I want to know who else hates them too? It's not so much the liberties he takes with their presentation, or the stupid new characters he's introduced (actually, I don't know if he made up Astorath / the Sanguinor and GW made them models or if it was the other way around) - but mostly, it's the fact that this guy just can't write Space Marines at all. The first two BA books were sooooo boring, I think I'd fall asleep within a few pages every night, took foreeeever. Didn't Rafen spend an entire chapter praying? (YAWN) The latter two, a bit more exciting, but still stupid, and very uncreative... oh gee, let's spend a third of the book fixing the flaws in our gene-seed, cloning's an idea we never tried before, invite Chaos to our front door? (please see: Battle of the Fang, to know how this was done right)
I've been a BA fan since I knew what 40k was... 15 years ago, and all I can say is that his books are pretty much elongated, bad fluff, NOT novels. He's successfully turned one of the most interesting chapters in the 40k pantheon into the most boring series BL has ever produced. Oh? They sold well you say? OF COURSE THEY DID! Blood Angels are one of the most popular factions in the game! Duh everyone was gunna buy the books regardless of whether or not they're crap! His contributions to the Heresy series suck too.
Flight of the Eisenstein... probably the weakest of all the HH novels.
The Nathaniel Garro audiobooks... are kind of an embarrassment... when you have a novel series that is so good why supplement it with this crap? The least they could have done was modulate the actors voices to make them SOUND like space marines - anyone else think that the Emperor's Astartes shouldn't sound like old, frail, English actors? It's an audio recording... use some technology and drop those voices an octave at least! Make them sound tough! Make them sound hard! You can do it with a dial for Throne's sake!
Now, I will admit that I did like Nemesis quite a bit, that said, maybe he just can't write Space Marines, not everyone can. But someone needs to point this out to him.
And now he's going to write the story of Sanguinius and the Blood Angels in the Signus Prime Cluster?! WTF!? I'm so sorry I didn't try to become involved in the community earlier and been a huge nerd and developed a popular online persona and gotten some like minded colleagues and tried to rally all the support I could, maybe we could've gotten some odd thousands of signatories to sign a petition and send it to BL and ask them kindly not to let James Swallow touch Sanguinius...
That said, I really really really hope that Fear to Tread is as good a book as I hoped anything about Sanguinius would be... I just have no faith in the author - any thoughts anyone?
It's Black Library? That's all that I can say to console you. I've tried submitting things to them in the past and got pretty far, but I'll tell you now that they want their stories to be very reader friendly - no morality challenges, no lessons to be learned, just "Insert bad guy [X], good guy [Y] and fight it out with blood and guts and everyone lives happily ever after."
My challenge to you - would you ever read the video-game inspired books like 'Halo' or 'Crimson Skies' from their respective presses, and expect them to stand out as being phenomenal? Probably not. I certainly didn't. Hell, even the Battletech series of books (older than the videogame) is pretty poor, and it spawned dozens of novels.
I understand that it sounds like I'm being an elitist or a hipster and putting down Black Library as a whole. I'm certainly not - looking at my shelf I own 'Riders of the Dead' and 'Gileads Blood' both by Dan Abnett (who needs to get out of BL and work on his own, for he is amazing), William King's 'Space Wolf' series, Graham McNiel's 'Ultramarines' series, 'Execution Hour' by Gordon Renie, 'Fifteen Hours' by Michael Scanlon, plus the 'Soul Drinkers' and 'Horus Heresy' novels. They're fun to read, but they don't stand up to the rows of books I have stacked on either side of them (Orson Scott Card, Tolkien, and assorted classics).
Perhaps what James is trying to do, is make the books feel more believable than just a Space Marine ripping the arms off of an Ork for the umpteen-millionth time. He wants to show the parts of Space Marine life that are outside of the warfare. One of my favorite quotes is that 'War is hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror'. If that's so, then why can I go through a Black Library novel and highlight every page that involves fighting, and end up with 33-50% of the book in glowing neon yellow?
Finally, Space Marines are hard to write. Not because they're a difficult concept to grasp, but rather, the opposite. Space Marines are fearless, unquestioning, unflinching, psychopathic zealots, trained only to butcher the enemies of their cause regardless of the cost. They're a bit one dimensional. Write them properly and they scream Mary-Sue, write them with a little bit of color and you have die-hard fans whining that they're not badass enough. The only way to approach them intelligently is to show the sheer terror of what they truly are, and what they stand for - but GW won't let you do that because
1) it paints Marines in a bad light
2) looking at such severe questions of ethics and morality is certainly not kid-friendly
If I had to pick anyone to write Space Marines who I thought could do it properly, I'd go with Robert Heinlein (the guy who wrote Starship Troopers - no, the movie did it no justice) or Orson Scott Card (Ender's Saga). The interesting thing about both of them - especially Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers' - is that hardly any of their books feature any kind of real battle at all. They mostly focus on the day-to-day, 'hours of boredom' part of being a soldier.
I never usually post on peoples rants lol but for once......... Yeah. He needs to stoop writing those books. I read half of the first book and gave up on it. Then gave the second book a chance and gave up on that one too. I'm slightly upset by the fact that he's writing in the HH series........
If it's any consolation I did tell him, to his face, that the Blood Angels series was rubbish.
@cap Sarathai - that is a good point I guess, I suppose enjoying the Horus Heresy series so much has led me to have higher expectations for the more mainstream series. I was never into BL's publishing until that series came out - I read Swallow's first BA book and literally did not go back until HH began. I've always understood why Space Marines are hard to write, but I guess Dan Abnett having done it so successfully with Legion, Prospero Burns, and Know No Fear, giving the different legions completely unique personalities and such just made me hope the Blood Angels would be next on his list. If anything, the fact that the BAs are one of the most popular factions in the game is also what contributes to my hopes / expectations that they'd let one of their best writers tackle them, in the HH series if no where else.
@Lord Borak - hahah that does make me feel a bit better that he's received grief for his awful series. And this isn't the first rant I've posted about him, but it's definitely the most toned down one lol. It's hard to find other people who hate his work and are upset that he writes for BA (b/c there are so many fans of that faction) without spelling out why I don't like him - otherwise it's just "I hate him" "No you're wrong I love him!"
And back to Captain - in case you haven't looked up his work, Aaron Dembski-Bowden I would put behind Abnett as the next best writer BL has - his Night Lords books are great in my opinion, and his book Battle of the Fang I consider to basically be a successful 3rd book in the Thousand Sons-Space Wolves triology. But yes, the standard BL novels, particularly the space marines books, are pretty weak, I'll keep that in mind - still pissed Swallow gets to right the book about Sanguinius though!
CORRECTION - While I did enjoy Battle of the Fang immensely... just realized that's not the Space Marine Battles book he wrote - ADB penned Helsreach, which I also happened to think was great. Then I got to Gav Thorpe's Dark Angel one... Battle for Piscina? Forget the name... but that was just awful. It felt almost like someone was actually writing a battle report and threw in quotes for every character during their turn.
Last edited by schizm86; March 9th, 2012 at 15:36.
From what I've read of James Swallow (which is only The Flight of the Eisenstein and "The Voice", mind you) I have no beef against the guy. I felt it was of the same caliber as the previous 3 Horus Heresy novels. It was definitely a quick falloff to Fulgrim, which was about as enjoyable as chewing glass. And let me tell you, I've read some pretty horrid fan fiction in my day. And don't get me started on the two Dark Angels books:
Protagonist 1: "Hey Bro, we should totally become knights."
Protagonist 2: "Yeah, dude, totally."
I have to agree with what the Captain says, though: I don't believe that they're trying to write great literature, but more of a adolescent, violence fantasy played out. Kicking ass, taking names, chewing bubble gum, all that crap. Mostly, in your particular gripe against Swallow, I think it comes down to this part of Captain's post:
Now, I don't expect any of the writers to be all that great. As much as Abnett is lauded, his pacing drives me up the freaking wall. I always get the impression that he's given a 300 page limit, and then spends 298 pages creating an interesting setting and letting his characters play in said setting before remembering that there was actually a plot to his book and wrapping it up in 100 words.
My personal favorite right now is Dembski-Bowden, if only because I feel like he can do the space marine character justice.
Dembski-Bowden's chaplain: "The human guardsmen stand on the parapet watching the oncoming horde approach and though they try to stand brave, I can smell their fear on the air. It is the smell of cold sweat and soiled uniforms and and it sickens me."
Lee's chaplain: "Wheeee, I'm a chaplain. Hey, check this out. I'm so going to tea-bag that cultist."
Besides most of the Horus Heresy series, "Fall of Damnos" also does a pretty good job of uncharacteristically humanizing the supposedly fearless and emotionless Space Marines.
Last edited by Spittle72; March 9th, 2012 at 16:34.
See that's where I think he falls soooo short. Maybe that was Swallow's intention... but if so, he did a piss-poor job of it. He doesn't successfully humanize or characterize the space marines at all in my opinion, if anything he makes them more boring than your proto-typical space marine. And for a chapter that basically has it's own personality already spelled out for it in the game play / fluff / epic history, etc. I couldn't find one thing interesting about his characters. They were bland bland bland.
Additionally, when told his third book really picks up, I start reading it and became only more disappointed. I realize that where Space Wolves are the equivalent of scifi-werewolves, the Blood Angels are basically scifi vampires, but I always appreciated how GW sorta downplayed that angle. Yea, some BAs / successor chapters take part in blood drinking rituals, had an immense thirst for violence, age particularly slowly, but they never use the word vampire. And in the context of the 40k universe, the whole blood drinking rituals fit in quite nicely with the emphasis on their genetic lineage being part of who they are, and that special organ that allows astartes to learn about their enemies by eating them. Swallow leaned into the vampire theme haaaard... I find him to be very very uncreative.
It's also the casual way he kills off Marines as well. Marines are rare and seriously valuable things and there aren't that many of them. In a few fight scenes he has 'hundreds of marines die' or 'marines died in droves' or other such stuff with no real emphasis on how dramatic such an event is.
Speaking of which, is anyone else annoyed at the ending of Deliverance? [SPOILER WARNING] The Emperor made Corax swear on his life he'd protect the Primarch genetic data and had a whole page with just the Emperor scaring the bejesus out of Corax.......... then at the end of the book where Alpharius steals it Corax just goes 'Eh'....... RARR!!
Though, I would have to say that Kyme does do a good job of the "standing above the battlefield with the sun shining down and the wind whipping up the hero's cloak" schtick, as he painted up a good battle scene.