Salvation’s Reach

Yeah, what the hell is going on with Yoncy?

It’s Halloween! Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished…

In addition to all the other exciting things that I did over the weekend I also picked up a copy of the latest Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, Salvation’s Reach. Since I’ve got nothing else to blog about right now I figured I’d share my thoughts about it in a sort of review (what? I bought it on Saturday, do you honestly think I wouldn’t have finished it by Monday? ;))

I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, but caveat lector.

Well, first up, it’s a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, which means I’m pretty much guaranteed to like it. As long as it’s by Dan Abnett and it involves vaguely-Celtic Ninja-Commandos firing off lasguns in people’s faces while making the occasional wisecrack, I’m a happy man. However there were a few things about Salvation’s Reach that meant I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some others in the series.

The first is that we’re introduced to a lot of new characters. The Tanith First is finally getting reinforcements and that means a whole lot of new blood into the regiment (including of all things a… nah, I’ll leave you to read it yourself ;)). On top of that there’s new Commissars and an unexpected arrival from the past. This is well and good, but having introduced all these new people not a lot is done with them. The actual action focuses on the tried and true characters from the other books, which (while I certainly have no objection) leaves the book feeling unfinished. Like it’s Salvation’s Reach Part One rather than a book in its own right. I have no doubt that the newcomers will get their days in the sun in future novels, but it almost feels like Dan bought all these extras on board and then couldn’t think what to do with them.

Another problem for me was that unexpected arrival from the past. The whole thing feels like a cliche. To his credit Dan hasn’t used the character for cliched things, but having them there feels kind of trite – as if he’s running out of ideas so went with a really obvious one. And accelerated aging? Deux Ex Machina anyone? But hey, nothing heinous storywise has happened with the character yet, so we’ll just have to see how the series continues.

But enough about my nit-picking. What’s good about the book you ask? Two words. SPESS MEHREENS!!

Yes, the Astartes make their first on-screen appearance in Gaunt’s Ghosts (or at least the first I can remember, which is all that counts). I haven’t read any of Dan’s work with Space Marines before, but I really like what he’s done with them. Seen from the perspective of the Imperial Guard the Space Marines assigned to the mission are intimidating, frightening, and just alien. The way they talk, the way they behave and the way they think is so different that you get much more sense of just how changed a Space Marine is from an unaltered human. The Ghosts – who in the past have exchanged jibes with Chaos Magisters and taken out corrupted Dreadnoughts using only lasguns and cacti (seriously, Sound and Fury, look it up) are scared to even approach them. They’re the godlike sons of the Emperor, and they really seem like it.

There’s nothing wildly special about the plot, but it gets the job done. The MkRedshirts are present and accounted for (any newly introduced Ghost with a name starting with “Mk” will be dead within four pages – I guarantee it), there’s action, explosions, gunfights and heroic sacrifices. Shoggy Domor (one of my favourite second stringers) even gets some lines. All the ingredients are there for a good, action-packed read. Including, of course, character deaths.

That’s the big thing in any Ghosts novel of course, who (if anyone) dies? (well apart from MkTan, MkKonnor, MkMapp, MkSal, MkGillikudie…). Well, brace yourself, there are two character deaths in this one. One expected, one out of the blue. They’re both pretty heroic and Dan grants the unexpected character some closure before they go, which is good to see since they were another of my favourites. Some nice last words too, sticking the middle finger up at the enemies of the Emperor in true Ghosts fashion. Good, albiet sad, deaths.

Finally, there’s a throwaway reference to a mystery that’s been hanging around since Necropolis. It’s a small thing, such a small thing that I wondered if it was a typo in my copy, so I can’t tell if Dan’s preparing to drop a second shoe that’s been hanging since the Ghosts were at Vervunhive, or if he’s just having a laugh at something the editors missed. He doesn’t do anything with it in this book, but I’m intrigued as to what the next novel will bring.

So, that’s it. Salvation’s Reach. More of a His Last Command than a Necropolis, but still a bloody good read. Bring on the next one Dan! 😉

(PS: Also meant to say that someone obviously handed Dan a Forgeworld catalogue. The story is littered with Forgeworld spacecraft, Forgeworld vehicles, and Forgeworld Spess Mehreen boarding armour. Get a hold of your own copy and tick them off as they come! :))

(PPS: Oh yeah, there’s also a third character death, but it’s a minor character who probably had it coming. So there.)

Hello Dusseldorf!

Viva Helvetica!

In years past I’ve tried to write comprehensive reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest – the first semi-finals of which were broadcast here in Australia last night. I have to admit that I haven’t been very good at this – the constraints of work, grocery shopping, cleaning cooking and all the other daily distractions have left me with little opportunity to rattle off crystaline prose about Norwegians punks playing violins (or whatever).

So this year I’m just jotting down some disparate, stream of conciousness thoughts about each act, and giving them all a rating. Deal with it!

My ratings are from 0 to 5, with the following definitions…

0 – I sincerely never want to hear this crap again! Kill it with fire!
1 – This song is either dull, or annoying or both, and has nothing to recommend it.
2 – A generally poor effort. There are a few decent bits but overall this song fails to impress.
3 – A passable effort, but nothing particularly special.
4 – Now this is a good song. I approve!
5 – This is awesome! 12 Points!

So, on to semi-final 1!

Poland
Sounds suspiciously like Tainted Love. In Polish which is good. Some problematic lighting choices makes the women look like they have glowing crotches. 3 out of 5

Norway
It’s in Swahili??? OK, Swahili and English. Hmmm, she sounds a bit off key – the bits where the other singers are backing her up are a lot better. It’s very Lion King, but kind of catchy. 3 out of 5

Albania
Singer looks like the Albanian version of P!nk. Kind of slow to get going. It picks up a bit more in the chorus, but it’s not grabbing me. Very tense and angsty. That’s it! It sounds like an Alanis Morrisete song! It’s pure Albanian Alanis! 2.5 out of 5

Armenia
A boxing glove!? What!? In English. A bit off key in parts. Oh good lord! That chorus! It’s completely at odds with the verses yet still utterly dreadful! OK, that boxing ring bit is kind of clever, but the song still sucks. Hmm, apparently the rehersal performance was a lot better – which wouldn’t be hard. 2 out of 5

Turkey
Rock song. In English. It’s OK but nothing special. And what’s with the girl(?) in the cage? Singer reminds me of the guy from Wall of Voodoo. 3 out of 5

Serbia
Very 60’s mod style. Quite good, although it reminds me pretty strongly of some other song I can’t pick. In Serbian, which is a plus. 3.5 out of 5

Russia
First up, one of the dancers looks like that weasely guy from Con Air. Steve Buscimi! That’s him! A moody intro before a rock pop boy-band song. In English. The chorus isn’t bad – until it hits the last bar and goes straight into Backstreet Boys territory. “Puts my mind in the dirty zone”? Really? 3 out of 5

Switzerland
A ukelele! Awesome! In English. It’s not spectacular, but I’m quite liking this. Again it really reminds me of another song. Well done Switzerland! 4 out of 5

Georgia
Liking it so far. Wow, that’s one serious set of pipes! Fairly heavy sounding rock. Oh dear. Well. It was going quite well until they started rapping. You’re not Linkin Park guys! Hmmm, parts of it were excellent. 3.5 out of 5

Finland
Paradise Oskar? What? Coldplay sounding intro. Oh man. Those lyrics are… awful. Yes, it’s clearly a Coldplay song with dreadful lyrics. Should have done it in Finish, then no one would be able to tell. Oh well, maybe it’ll appeal to the sentimental market. Creepy smile at end – he looks like a sex offender! 1.5 out of 5

Malta
Good intro. Oh wow, it’s techno. No, wait, it’s Tainted Love again! Not spectacular, but a decent dance track. Oo! Piano break! And there’s the key change! 3.5 out of 5

San Marino
A ballad apparently. Lush opening, though she sounds a bit off key. Now she’s really sounding off key! Song is nothing special really. Loses half a point for consistant off-keyness. 2.5 out of 5

Croatia
What the?! What’s with the guy in the top hat?! What is this?! Ah! It’s a trashy Europop track! About time, we haven’t had one so far! I still want to know what’s up with hat dude though, he’s creeping around like a humaoid mantis. Oo! Costume change! Aha! Key change! Here comes hat dude again for… a third costume change! What a waste of time. – 2.5 out of 5

Iceland
There’s a sad story behind this one. The intended singer died a few weeks before the local semi’s, so his friends got together and sang it instead. Sounds like a Beatles track – a Paul one though. Nothing spectacular, but not bad. Will probably punch higher than its weight from sympathy votes. – 3.5 out of 5

Hungary
Sounds suspiciously like a Celine Dion rock ballad. Oh yeah, Celine all over. Hmmm, a verse in Hungarian. Wait for the key change…. What!? No key change!? Celine would be appalled! 3.5 out of 5

Portugal
Oh wow, they’re in weird, Village People style costumes and have placards. Song is sort of Portugese protest folk pop. Compentent performance, but… weird. And not good weird. I don’t usually say this, but it might have been better in English so we could tell what they hell they’re trying to say. It’s like watching sub-standard Hi-Five, but hey, at least they tried something different. 3 out of 5

Lithuania
An operatic ballad apparently. Ouch, lyrics appear to be in badly broken English. Very musical – as in something you’d hear in a musical. I can tell it’s a good performance, but it’s just not my kind of music. 3 out of 5

Azerbaijan
Lots of “Oh Oh”. Ack, it’s a duet. And one that’s a bit flat too. Hmmm, pretty average pop ballad. Nothing to see here folks, move along. 2 out of 5

Greece
Here come the drums. What? It’s some guy growling things into a mic? Like an angry rapper? And now some other guy singing? What the hell is this? And now we’re back to the growling. You know this could actually work with a bit more integration, but as it stands it’s a mess. Of course the Greeks have a history of winning with absolute garbage, so we’ll see how they go. 2 out of 5

So there we go. I plan to watch the second semi-final tonight and write up a similar review, and the final tomorrow. Let the good times roll!

Red Herring

They’re quite good at making chicken.

Over the weekend, in a spirit of scientific enquiry (and because I didn’t feel like cooking and equally didn’t feel like having chicken) I decided to check out Red Rooster’s recently added fish and chips menu.

In order to provide a valid assessment I decided to have the fisherman’s basket, which includes a little bit of everything. My findings were as follows…

Chips: The chips were, as always, excellent. 10/10

Salt and Pepper Squid: The salt and pepper squid was distinctly lacklustre. The coating was stale, floury and tasteless and the squid was oily and soft. 4/10

Prawns: The prawns were passable – there’s not much you can do to harm a prawn – but nothing really special. 5/10

Fish: The fish was pretty bad. Well, actually the fish was OK, it was the batter that was problematic. I’m not sure exactly what it tasted of – if I had to hazard a guess I’d say chipboard – and it was quite hard to chew through, which is not a quality you really want in food. Minus the batter the fish was about the quality you’d get at the average fish and chip place, which is to say passable but a bit oily – not anything you’d go out of your way to recommend. 3/10

So, my considered opinion on Red Rooster’s move into fish and chips? They’re quite good at making chicken.