Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

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R.D.
Shas'La
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#73 » Mar 25 2014 12:56

Honestly, precise adherence to terminology suggests a regard for continuity that BL doesn't really normally have. ;)

That being said, I'm kinda amused by all this mention of the Nagi...I keep imagining as nagging the Tau around them.

"Why haven't you cleaned your pulse rifle? Why don't I have fresh brains? Are we there yet? What's that awful smell?'

"Ethereals protect us..."

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Bitterman
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#74 » Mar 26 2014 01:30

Sorry, I'm late to the party, but I've nearly finished the first story - Phil Kelly's Blood Oath - and thought I'd give my thoughts.

It's like he was given a checklist of units and wargear in the White Scars, Knights and Tau codices and told "Cram as many of these in as possible! Doesn't matter how bad the writing is, just make everything look amazing so people buy the models!" and set to with a will.

This is awful. How does tripe like this get published? Oh yeah - he's a GW game developer and probably (I'm guessing here) best mates with someone in Black Library. I hope the other three stories get better, because this is utter trash.

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Bitterman
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#75 » Mar 28 2014 07:22

It did get considerably better (the second story, by Guy Haley), then got dramatically worse again. By the fourth and final story, I found myself bashing my head against the book every other page and shouting "STUPID, STUPID, STUPID".

In three out of the four novellas in this anthology, everyone is an idiot, making stupid decisions for stupid reasons that are obviously stupid and will have stupid results. I think the stupid incident that stood out most was when in a moment of mouth-breathing stupidity, Kor'sarro Khan asked out loud "why would the enemy pretend to be somewhere, then when I get there, they're not there?" He had to be told by his not-quite-so-stupid-but-still-stupid comrades that it was either a diversion or a trap. I mean... how did this guy even get through the selection process, let alone become Khan!? How does he remember to get out of bed every morning? Does he need help tying his shoelaces? I couldn't help but picture him drooling vacuously during this scene. Anyway. That's just one example. Three quarters of the book is absolute codswallop, featuring characters I couldn't care about even slightly, doing things that made no sense, where they weren't painfully clichéd.

I'm not really sure what to make of it, since we're left with a bunch of fluff that I suppose we have no choice but to consider part of the canon, but most of which was tripe. (It's unfortunate that even Haley's story got some of the terminology wrong AFAIK; but at least the plot was coherent, the characters believable and likeable, and the climax to which it ascended was hugely enjoyable). It's a shame because I would really like to discuss the potential of O'Va'Dem and Skilltalker, but want to pretend I never read anything about Blackshale Ridge or the Obsidian Knight. On balance... since three quarters of the book made me angry, I think I'll probably leave it out. If you can pick up Haley's story and read it in isolation, there's interest to be had. I'll be trying to forget the rest as soon as possible.

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ARC'Thunder
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#76 » Mar 28 2014 09:39

Bitterman wrote:I think the stupid incident that stood out most was when in a moment of mouth-breathing stupidity, Kor'sarro Khan asked out loud "why would the enemy pretend to be somewhere, then when I get there, they're not there?" He had to be told by his not-quite-so-stupid-but-still-stupid comrades that it was either a diversion or a trap. I mean... how did this guy even get through the selection process, let alone become Khan!? How does he remember to get out of bed every morning? Does he need help tying his shoelaces? I couldn't help but picture him drooling vacuously during this scene. Anyway. That's just one example. Three quarters of the book is absolute codswallop, featuring characters I couldn't care about even slightly, doing things that made no sense, where they weren't painfully clichéd.

Of the three terrible ones, I liked the last one the best. There were some problems with execution, but I think the story it was trying to tell was a good one. My thoughts are best summed up with G.K. Chesterton's, "if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

I can forgive Kor'sarro's ludicrous statement as trying to make sure the reader could follow the story and the plot. Ideally, that statement should have been left to a recruit of some kind that might not realize the ploy, but even that seems a bit base for an Astartes...

[spoiler=Comments on the Final Confrontation]The showdown between Kor'sarro and Shadowsun was interesting, if a bit cliche. I liked the idea that even while fighting the Tau would attempt diplomacy. And I even somewhat enjoyed Khan's jab at Shadowsun being chained to her duty; this seems to echo some of the sentiments Campbell made in The Last of Kiru's Line, about her being totally immersed as a tool of war for the Empire, forgoing all other aspects of her life (admittedly, our shas really don't have much of a life outside of their occupations anyways).

Additionally, the camaraderie the two seemed to share as hunters, and the respect she showed Kor'sarro's wishes, really hammered home that honor the Tau and Marines share that allow them to act as Battle Brothers on the tabletop.

I also liked that Shadowsun had him beat were it not for Cemakar.[/spoiler]
While I think the last one certainly had a lot of hiccups in it (such as the classic overstatement of Astartes capabilities), I still have to respect the attempt at a story that illustrated the hunter/warrior bonds and similarities between the Fire Caste and Astartes.

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Bitterman
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#77 » Mar 28 2014 11:05

ARC'Thunder wrote:I can forgive Kor'sarro's ludicrous statement as trying to make sure the reader could follow the story and the plot. Ideally, that statement should have been left to a recruit of some kind that might not realize the ploy, but even that seems a bit base for an Astartes...


How it could have been:

Kor'sarro looked around, a sinking realisation in his heart. "They're not here. That means... it's a trap!"
His men burst into action, taking up defensive positions as the familiar shriek of incoming Tigershark Bombers became audible in the distance...


Same situation, but no stupidity - just one commander being outwitted by his opposite number, which happens sometimes. As it was, the Khan didn't understand the concept of his enemy not doing exactly what he expected (stupid), the realisation that it was a trap triggered almost no response (stupid), and the Tau couldn't even be bothered to spring the trap anyway (stupid). And if you're right that the author wanted to make sure the reader understood what was going on, he must think we're all stupid too.

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Bitterman
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#78 » Mar 28 2014 11:24

Doombringer wrote:I now declare Phil Kelly an enemy of the Empire.


I'm sorry, I've only just gone back through this thread and read your review; which was entirely comprehensive, accurate, and this sums it up perfectly. (I'd add Ben Counter and whoever wrote the fourth story to this list).

I'd forgotten about Shadowsun Thunderhawk-surfing. Oh, and starting to turn to Chaos for no reason. They never really went anywhere with that, did they...

...and if they do in future, I'm marching on Lenton with torches and pitchforks.

[edit] Oh, no. Just when I thought it could get no worse... I've read the Damocles-themed ebook, "In Service To Shadows", by Joe Parrino - he who wrote the "Patient Hunter" embarrassment when the Riptide first came out. It's even worse than the three bad stories in the book. The writing is actively painful to read. In one paragraph, a character declares that "Victory or Death!" is "...at the core of who we are and what we do", and in the next, he decides he actually can't win so won't make the attempt. On one page, we are told the Raven Guard always fight in silence without a war cry; on the next page we hear a Raven Guard yelling his Chapter's war cry. Another character promises to hold the enemy longer than he can hold them (yes - really). It's just incoherent. The climactic battle is won by a character lying down then standing up again. It's absolute bobbins.

I wonder if the best thing BL can do for the Tau is leave them alone. The occasional gem (like Peter Fehervari's splendid Fire Caste) and decent fare (Haley's Damocles story, Campbell's Shadowsun novella) barely seems enough to make up for all this dross.

[edit to edit] I originally wrote that the Joe Parrino book I read was also available as an audio book, I got that wrong, the audio book ("The Shape of the Hunt") is something else entirely. Put it this way... I won't be rushing to listen to it, as "In Service to Shadows" was so dreadful.
Last edited by Bitterman on Mar 31 2014 06:13, edited 1 time in total.

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Urdaan
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#79 » Mar 29 2014 03:30

I’ve read through the Damocles collection twice now (I tend to read really quickly, and like a second read to make sure I haven’t missed anything salient) and think I can give a decent review on the lot. I admit that I went into the collection with the same expectation I’ve had of most ‘xenos’ 40k novels, being “I can’t wait to read this Tau book about how awesome the Imperium is!” Overall, I have to say that I did have a couple of pleasant surprises, but it did largely meet those expectations. So, story by story…


[spoiler=Blood Oath – Phil Kelly]Now, this one has been rightfully torn apart by pretty much all previous posters, and I agree that it was rightfully so. I might have been able to let a lot of it go had to book simply ended after the Imperial retreat from Agrellan Prime with Aun’Va’s words, but no, can’t let the Imperium lose, can we? (Unless you’re the Necrons, I guess? Seriously, how did they get license to smack down any imperial force on demand? Mind-shackle scarabs in the BL’s writing room? But I digress.)The few moments of gold I do have to mention:
• I’m a sucker for game rules being represented in writing (Thank you, Branden Campbell!) so ignoring the Thunder-Surfing, the ‘Why didn’t my fusion blasters work?’ did throw me for a sec until I remembered ceramic plating. Then it made me chuckle.
• Colonel Straken v Kor’sarro: The fact that someone pointed out that Khan’s plan was dumb in as many words was pretty great to me. Also fun to see such irreverence to a space marine from a human. Accurate to setting or not, Straken’s ‘Yeah, so you’re the khan and the head horse rider; I’m still right’ attitude was a high point in a pretty low story.
• I kinda want to see a solid story about Shadowsun and Farsight pre-Damocles Crusade. (if Campbell, Haley or Reynolds is seeing this, please go for it! ‘Less others attempt it…) While the whole ‘Shadowsun totally has a Farsight fixation’ got old really quick, it did beg me to question, why? Why would it be so personal an affront? We know they were rivals in training under Puretide, along with Kais, but when I think about some of the guys I ran hurdles against, I remember them fondly, even when I wanted to beat them stupid more than anything on the track. That Shadowsun would be hurt by Farsight’s ‘betrayal’ isn’t as hard for me to believe, especially imagining the kind of spin Aun’va would likely put on it. I’d like to see a story about the three of them during their training, to see what was forged there and how that would lead to such a fracture in the current times.

All said, pretty forced product placement and tactics at the level of the Starship Troopers movies, which really was a disservice to both the White Scars and the Tau. Thankfully this is addressed rather nicely later by Reynolds. But sorry Kelly, no dice.[/spoiler]

[spoiler=Broken Sword – Guy Haley]I’ve told my friends, and I’ll say again here: this story almost carries the collection on its own. I really like how well the conflict with J’ten (Jathen) is portrayed: he truly wants to believe in what the Greater Good stands for, and he’s trying, but it is a difficult transition for him. That this was acknowledged by his superior, Skilltalker, simply made it better, and the dynamic is very well played between the two. Seeing the Tau Empire through ‘alien’, but rather sympathetic eyes was refreshing, rather than the ‘filthy cowardly blue-skins’ you can generally expect. The asides into the mind of the Raven Guard captured by the Tau were also well written, making the Astartes a clearly threatening foe by their planning and skill rather than the ‘Movie Marines’ take most marines vs xenos novels seem to resort to. There’s far more than a few moments of gold in this one, but I’ll pick out my highlights:
• J’ten’s doubt. Most other writing I see of gue’vesa from BL has them as no more than tau-of-a –different-color, but here we see J’ten question not only his own decisions, but the tau’s. His thoughts on the front line staying power of fire warriors, his concerns on the lengths their assimilation will take, the encounter with O’Va’Dem and his advisor…they all worked to make J’ten such a believable character. Excellent work.
• In the same vein as the previous point, the whole story carried a level of ambiguity that was a great angle. Like with J’ten’s own doubts, we never can really have a straight forward ‘We Are the Good Guys’ impression. The tau play dirty when the need is felt, and that is never hidden from us. We, like J’ten, just have to hope that it’s all for the Greater Good in the end.
• The scene with the dead Raven Guard, and Skilltaker’s reaction to J’ten mixed feelings about it caught me off-guard, and really set the tone of the story for me. If we could get another novella about these two, I’d grab it in a heartbeat.

Far and above the best story in the book. This would have been worth buying as a solo ala B.C.'s Shadowsun[/spoiler]

[spoiler=Black Leviathan – Ben Counter]Alright, this one, I’m still not sure on. I can pick apart the fighting sequences, but outside Riptides tending to fail their 2+ saves with some frequency, a theme across all the novellas really, they weren’t too bad. It was interesting to see a story purely from the view of the water caste, but the last line in the book pretty much destroys everything that had been built up around O’Myen. So a master manipulator of the Water Caste doesn’t really believe in the Greater Good? Right, and Cato Sicarius gets spooked when a fight’s looking ugly. Also, on the Space Marine side: hey, you guys ran off and left us unsupported, and all my guys died? That’s cool, a fist fight will settle that. Even with them getting left on the planet, it seems a bit weak. Not sure what I was expecting there, but it was more than that.
The biggest issue I think the story had was that there were a few too many fires going at once, making it hard to keep track of who was trying to accomplish what. O’Myen’s summary towards the end did clear some things up, but was a bit too little, too late. High points:
• The councilwoman’s mini-battle suit. A bit of a wasted opportunity, but a cool idea none the less. Kinda want to model myself one of these.
• The sheer number of double agents the tau had poking about was a surprise. I had to reread the portion with the rescued inquisitor to realize what had happened.
• While it did get fairly lost in the jumble of plot lines, I am a sucker for the Xanatos Gambit, and O’Myen had a pretty masterful shell game going there. Good show.

Overall, I can appreciate what I think Counter was trying to do: show that the Tau fight with more than battlesuits and plasma fire. The presentation was a bit sloppy, but I found a bit more appreciation for this one after my second read-through.[/spoiler]

[spoiler=Hunter’s Snare – Josh Reynolds]Here’s what I was hoping for when the book was announced, Scars vs Tau as a fairly even playing field, which frankly they should be. Kelly might have (okay, might have is pushing it) missed the mark there, but Reynolds did this right. Ambushes and counter-attacks, the kind of traps within traps one expects from Kauyon executed right, and Space-Marine last stands. What I especially appreciated was how both sides adapted to the other’s counters: the tau using structures and terrain to pin the Scars, the Scars using rubble to set up a killing field for the tau’s attempt to press the advantage. While there were questionable decisions on both sides, the overall feeling was that it could go either way, and that’s a heck of a lot more respect for the tau than they tend to get against any marines not painted yellow. Plus, the knife-fight at the end was sweet, tau aversion to close combat being set aside for the sake of the moment. For fun, me and a buddy rolled this out, and out of three goes, close combat weapons only and Shadow getting the charge, Khan won two of three, but it went three-to-four rounds each time. Game-stat wise, it’s not as farfetched a match as I’d have thought. Don’t know if Reynolds studied that up before writing this, but respect was paid to two of my favorite characters in the 40k universe. I can’t help but love it. High Points:
• Thursk, through and through. I found it very cool to see the Scars through the eyes of one of their successors, and to see the differences reflected between the two was a good perspective to add to the story. It wasn’t a necessary addition, purely speaking, but it did nothing but add to the story, so good call Reynolds.
• Both Khan and Shadowsun over thinking their opponents. Khan so sure Shadowsun was nearby the bastion, as she would clearly wish to see out the end of their hunt, and Shadowsun following the outriders, because of course Khan would be leading the charge! That both of them would be a bit right in the end was only better.
• The final scene between Shadowsun and Khan. It kind of gave me flashbacks to, of all things, the duel in The Princess Bride between Wesley and Inigo Montoya. Shame we can’t work together, ‘cause you’re alright. Oh well, duel to the death. The one thing I’ve always enjoyed about Tau vs Space Marines is that there is generally some level of respect between the two, and this showcased that quite well.

Going in, this was about where I placed my best-case scenario for the stories of this collection, and Reynolds beat that by a bit.[/spoiler]

So all in all, I’d give the book two-and-a-half stars out of four, largely due to the Kelly’s story setting a poor expectation for what follows. But Haley nailed it, Counter made a good effort, and Reynolds gave me a fair bit more than I was expecting. I feel comfortable referring the collection to friends as a read, though I might hesistate on suggesting it as a need-to-buy. I don’t regret picking it up in the least, but there are definitely places it could have been better.

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Braden Campbell
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#80 » Mar 29 2014 11:05

I kinda want to see a solid story about Shadowsun and Farsight pre-Damocles Crusade. (if Campbell, Haley or Reynolds is seeing this, please go for it! ‘Less others attempt it…) ... Why would it be so personal an affront? We know they were rivals in training under Puretide, along with Kais, but when I think about some of the guys I ran hurdles against, I remember them fondly, even when I wanted to beat them stupid more than anything on the track. That Shadowsun would be hurt by Farsight’s ‘betrayal’ isn’t as hard for me to believe, especially imagining the kind of spin Aun’va would likely put on it. I’d like to see a story about the three of them during their training, to see what was forged there and how that would lead to such a fracture in the current times.


Two words: Love triangle.
- Braden

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russ29
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#81 » Mar 29 2014 11:41

Braden Campbell wrote:
I kinda want to see a solid story about Shadowsun and Farsight pre-Damocles Crusade. (if Campbell, Haley or Reynolds is seeing this, please go for it! ‘Less others attempt it…) ... Why would it be so personal an affront? We know they were rivals in training under Puretide, along with Kais, but when I think about some of the guys I ran hurdles against, I remember them fondly, even when I wanted to beat them stupid more than anything on the track. That Shadowsun would be hurt by Farsight’s ‘betrayal’ isn’t as hard for me to believe, especially imagining the kind of spin Aun’va would likely put on it. I’d like to see a story about the three of them during their training, to see what was forged there and how that would lead to such a fracture in the current times.


Two words: Love triangle.


That sounds like some japanese drama that is bound to happen, where mount kanji has cherry blossoms and the three of them have this high school vibe to them.
Through unity, devastation

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Urdaan
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#82 » Mar 29 2014 05:09

Braden Campbell wrote:Two words: Love triangle.

*Sigh* Yeah, I keep forgeting how that is a deemed requirement in any fiction where a male and female make any eye contact :roll:
Honestly, I was picturing something more like the movie Salt, with Shadowsun more in the role of Peabody(Chiwetel Ejiofor). Or maybe a scenario like Safehouse, with Farsight as Denzel and Shadowsun as Reynolds. More of a 'how did it come to this' than 'but I loved you!' is what I was aiming at there. You're probably right as to how it would be executed though.

By the way, if I hadn't mentioned it in the original thread about your novella, I really enjoyed it. Sorry about misspelling your name in my first post, too.

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TauMan
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#83 » Jan 22 2015 09:03

Urdaan wrote:Braden Campbell wrote:
Two words: Love triangle.

WHOA! Love Triangle???

Just got through reading all the posts in this thread as work, parenting and poverty have kept me from keeping up with everything from Black Library! So when I read the 'Love Triangle' bit, and all the soap opera speculation about the girl from Tau'n and the boy from Vior'la, I just had to reply!

You see when I wrote my story: ON MOUNT KAN'JI (in this forum posted 11-19-14), I had not read hardly anything of the current BL releases, I don't even own the current FS codex! But I had already solved the mystery of Commander Shadowsun's obsession with a certain Commander Farsight! And yes she did spend some time on Vior'la as adolescent, at a prestigious fire caste academy no less! Yes, Shas'O'Qan'tel was an instructor there. And yes while she was there she met two young tau boys, the older Temu'jin was from Vior'la (the aforementioned Farsight) and the younger E'oral from Dal'yth (later known as Commander Kais). And it was not a 'love triangle' per say; but more like the play of the ancient Terran bard:

In fair Verona where we lay our tale... with the junior student Kais playing both the part of Benvolio and the Nurse! :)

It's all there! Everything you wanted to know about what happened between the 'two star crossed lovers'! Hope you're ready for the ride! Get your hankies out, it's a real 'When Harry Met Sally' kinda of story. :P

PS Thank you Mr. Campbell for giving us the tidbit that O'Shaserra hates the 'trilled "r", that was a 'wee bit of serendipity' and was just where I was going with my idea of O'Shova! Always thought of Sean Connery doing the voice acting for any holovid of his life!

PPS A four sentence review of 'The Greater Good' by Sandy Mitchell. NO SPOILER - O.K. there's one. An unidentified tau battlesuit (Crisis XV-8 or Riptide XV-104?) steps on and crushes an IG Salamander scout vehicle. Couldn't happen, but it does in the story. Here is the tau stuff: They're nothing but a frame tale, open and close the novel, that's all. However it's a GREAT BOOK! If you like the Commissar Ciaphas Cain/Black Adder in Space novels. Lots of fascinating new stuff on the Tyranids and their biology, along with the slick, cheeky 'Rowan Atkinson' personality of Cain. Done - Fini.


Quote of the Rotaa: "I once saw O'Shova kill fifty Orks ... with his bare hands! Aye, he did!" - Old Firewarrior at the pub.
Viro’los gu brath!
N.Y.A.B.X.T.T.

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Calmsword
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Re: Theoretical new novel Apocalypse: Damocles

Post#84 » Sep 30 2015 11:58

... Brilliant.

And yes, Urdaan, it was That book that had Baneblades totaling hammerheads and skimmer tanks using bridges.
~Good Hunting

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