Doombringer wrote:R.D., I think I take more exception simply because it's hard to write tau well, and from the preview we had of Out Caste, I was very hopeful that Fire Caste, and by extension Fehervari, would get it right.
That's not to say that the novel was poorly written. Quite the contrary! It just missed some subtleties that would be reasonably difficult to pick up on without being a bit more familiar with the source material, and perhaps got it so close (Fehervari clearly did a fair share of research, if his use of tau naming conventions and customs, Battlesuits, war fighting philosophy, etc. is anything to show for) that it was doubly disappointing that it happened to fall short on some rather glaring points.
And while tau aren't fully homogenous, it has been beaten into us with a stick from the Codex that the tau are a collectivist and notably (abnormally?) highly unified species. Games Workshop has gone to great lengths, through in-universe discussions, postulations, and even interrogations of ranking tau (including ethereals), that the majority of tau simply do not comprehend the idea of dissent at a culturally alien level. Part of what makes Farsight's story so unique and compelling is that he is perhaps the only recorded instance of a tau openly expressing his doubts and acting on them (though why is still unknown, and I'd rather not speculate within the scope of this thought). To make matters worse, tau do not kill other tau outside of ritual combat (the thought is physically sickening on a racial level due to the ever present reminders of the mont'au), and all this scheming, backstabbing, tension, and individualism is somewhat uncharacteristic, internally.
Perhaps I'm the one who is off the mark, but I can't imagine that a race of people who live under the constant, indoctrinated fear that they could bring about another mont'au, and who live amongst constant, daily reminders of the evidence of progress they have made through specialization and cooperation with one another, would so readily commit to clandestine scheming that results in the deaths of countless members of their own species, or wear their disillusionment, individual hatred, or disrespect for one another on their sleeve as obviously as Fehervari's tau do. I was able to rationalize Kill Team as a decision by the High Council on T'au to double cross the Imperium and unify the Empire, in the name of the Greater Good, against the human threat and kick off the Third Sphere Expansion. To see yet another example of such meddlesome acts by a tau, for such shaky personal reasons and without any of Ambassador Coldwind's goals and aspirations, is disappointing in the extreme.
And yes, one thing Fehervari does remarkably well is capture the tau way of war. There is a distinct and well written conveyance of the tau's use of maneuver warfare, their caution, and desire for planning before committing to battle, which no other novel has yet been able to match. Additionally, I found Fehervari's pathfinders and stealth suits very convincing, as were the tau's use of screening forces and auxiliaries.
Honestly, having a bunch of people with no concept of dissent, personal struggle, or things like that...well, it's rather boring to write and read about in a full novel. It's like how people complain about Space Marines often being one-note; having Tau characters all being selfless warriors with nothing but the Tau'va on their minds...well, it doesn't make for things like characterization or development. How many personalities are you meant to fit in there?
And anyway, from what I can tell, the context of this novel is a rather gruelling and protracted conflict, and when you're dealing with that sort of nightmarish scenario, especially in the 41st millennium, it wouldn't make any sense for at least some Tau to not start showing cracks. Remember, the Tau did get flak for coming across as too 'pure' in the past, and adding some more dimensions to them, well, that's not a bad thing.