Well... I just read it... This guy has to stop writing for Tau. His Space Marine sequences are really interesting including a [spoiler=]rescue of a tactical squad falling from an exploding droppod on entry by in-flight assault squad[/spoiler].
But the core aspects of Tau culture, frankly, are offensively short sighted and ... can I just say dumb? The following is a running mention of the book as I read it so it's a little sloppy, apologies, I've tried to keep it organized and the consternation and outrage to a minimum... which I fail at several times.
The Tau are taught in other novels and sources, that independent thought and survival skills are necessary for every aspect of their constituents to learn. Technology is modular, easy to use with a lifetime to master ect. ect. But this concept that the mindset of 'vash'ya' is forbidden (playing up the 'Fire Caste don't fix their own stuff') Makes no practical sense. The evolution of this idea only permeates with the (now expectant) admiration the Tau have for the Imperial way of war with Brightsword [spoiler=]wishing that the Tau could enact war like the Space Marines with uncaring direct abandon[/spoiler]. I'm just really bored by the idea that the Tau hate their own culture (in these modern fluff examples).
One of the strongest aspects of Tau culture is... They love their culture. They believe their way is the way- so why do all their leaders find holes in it without exemplifying any aspects of it save for 'this is my duty, I do my duty, duty duty duty'... ugh.
I'm going to have to read Brethren because there is constant mention of a planet 'Vespertine' which is the lead up to the Imperial push on Dal'yth.
There's also an instance of Farsight letting [spoiler=]A Space marine captain fight an honor duel with Brightsword that kills him... Uh... what? Since when do the Tau regard honor duels? I guess it's a decision offered every author but along with everything else it shows this author only considers the Tau blue noseless humans and not a true alien race.[/spoiler]
Moving on into the near constant deconstruction of everything I like about the Tau, here's an excerpt:
[spoiler=]“It was unheard of for one of the water caste to pursue the art of sculpture. Acts of material creation were the exclusive province of the earth caste. Aman’te, driven by something inside her, had created them nonetheless. ”[/spoiler]
... ... ... what is happening? Later it describes that this Tau Por'El's reason for never finding union in a ta'lissera is because of her love of creating art. I mean... This book reads more like a anti-communist propaganda piece rather than a novel about an alien species. How do the Tau get anything done with this implied micromanagement.
[spoiler=]“For a tau even to show aptitude in the arts of another caste was forbidden”[/spoiler]
I remember when, in early novels like Firewarrior, having additional skills were considered 'cute' if anything. Now, a band of Ethereal secret police come in and send you for 'attunement'. The Por'El is so worried about this she keeps a pulse pistol near her so that if they come for her she can either... kill them? or herself before she is disappeared. I'm not taking anything Phil says at canon especially when the entire Tau political plot: [spoiler=]Farsight's former teacher undermining Farsight's leadership because he can restart a 'warerlogged' crisis suit and thus shows signs of 'vash'yan' mindset.[/spoiler] COME ON?!!?
The author's sacrilege of the Tau kind of pollutes his Space Marine story [spoiler=]when a Sgt. decides to not kill the same Por'El when it speaks Macraggian dialect High Gothic. Perhaps this is just the direction 40k is going in, but Space Marines don't view civilian, alien, targets and somehow 'off limits. If you're an alien you are guilty of the heresy of not being human, as the Emperor taught the Imperium, so you die. That's it! No hard feelings, you just die if you're not human.[/spoiler]
Shadowsun: [spoiler=]Is piloting an XV-22, but then the Ghostkeel is also mentioned in passing so... I thought both were supposed to be an experimental weapon centuries after this invasion. The author seems incapable of researching more than just the pictures provided in a codex.[/spoiler]
Um: [spoiler=]Fio’o Bork’an Ishu’ron is alive and active as of right now since he's mentioned actively. This is the guy that invented the K120 and it makes an appearance.[/spoiler] At this point I'm on page 199 and it's hard to be actively hateful.
Brightsword [spoiler=]As already mentioned, O'Vesa is in fact cloning him (voluntarily if illegally).[/spoiler]
There's an interesting trial held against Farsight, even if it is a bit weird that it's happening in the middle of a full scale invasion. Meanwhile, the logic of the Ethereals is laughable as they compare Arkunasha to Dal'yth. But hey, everyone seems incompetent outside of Farsight so maybe that's just the Tau Empire= a bunch of knuckleheads bumbling their way through the galaxy on luck's whim.
[spoiler=]Also... Farsight being sent to mind-copy Puretide? I mean... ugggghhhh. And Aun'Va straight up tells Farsight if he doesn't do this he will be executed.[/spoiler] I hate you Phil... I hate you.
And we meet Puretide... yay... ... [spoiler=]Farsight kills him with the mind-copy. We learn that there was a failed Ta'lissera between the three students.[/spoiler]
Sicarius: He'll show up a few hundred years later as a Captain that leads the campaign to halt the Third Sphere so it's nice to see he fought the Tau when he was a Sgt. I like this aspect of creating nemesis for the Tau.
There are a lot of vat-grown clone creatures. Cybernetic Kroot, humans- used ostensibly for Fire Caste training. Sicarius wonders if the Tau plan on making war on the kroot at some point. While I believe this doubtful it would make sense that the Tau prepare for every eventuality. Later Farsight says he specifically told O'Vesa to not do these things- it's an interesting character aspect of O'Vesa to bend and break rules... totally waisted on a story that wasn't researched.
Tau hierarchy seems to be based on personal decision making in the presence of two leaders. Shadowsun interrupts Farsight's speech and, thusly, half of the lower ranked Tau present follow her plan of Kauyon rather than Mont'ka. It's very 'un-human' in a refreshing way.
Aun'Dreca: Perhaps the lead ethereal of Dal'yth, one of three (maybe worlds are managed by three Ethereals), Aun' Tefan and Aun'Tipiya being the other two.
The Onager Gauntlet is describe thusly: “four massive articulated fingers clutching into a fist that glowed from the inside with barely suppressed power.”
Calgar: [spoiler=]While not on Dal'yth, he uses an intergalactic cell phone to tell the Ultramarines to withdraw. Does anyone remember when interstellar communication was highly difficult and required psykers? No? Okay...[/spoiler]
Eventual Victory: [spoiler=]So Farsight wins by detonating a massive EM field which renders the Astarte suits, and his own, inert. The Kroot arrive and pull off the helmets of the Space Marines and hold blades to their throats. Farsight demands a parley which he gets. He threatens to make the Apothecaries a primary target and to destroy the geneseeds they carry- so Sicarius agrees to withdraw. Again, not at all as we are told in other canonical sources like our own fething codex.[/spoiler]
Tau Cultural Notes:
Tau Birth Cycle: [spoiler=]The Tau are grown insides vats and, judging by Sicarius, are manipulated and designed. They are perfectly proportioned rather than large skulled like a human baby. Personally, I think this flies in the face of a sentence I read, somewhere, that said the the Tau don't use genetic altering in the same vein as they choosing to not use drones to do all their fighting for them. But since all logic has been thrown into a thresher maw, who cares anymore.
The KV120 is referred to as the Giant's Mantle as opposed to the Hero's Mantle.
“Incubator carousels, each with an infant tau lifeform inside.”[/spoiler]
The Tau have vast subterranean complexes with factories and habitats more so than on the surface.
Tau that are wounded spend time in 'healspheres'= sound like bacta tanks.
Anti-ballistic/air defenses for the Tau include fletchette arrays and electronic countermeasures.
Vior'la: Has something called a 'seedstorm' that Farsight uses as a metaphor when describing his crisis teams descending.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the book is the Tau have 'heard' of the human flaw of 'vanity' and are endlessly entertained by it. Wouldn't it have been great if not every single Tau character's major flaw is, in fact, vanity. Or maybe that's the point? Some kind of ironic hipster Tau fluff piece or something?
Tau Vocab: A lot of these have been mentioned but for the benefit of Tauman and El'liot, here's some words that might not be a part of the databases.
Ovidu: A type of tree with muave blossoms- they grow on mount kan'ji.
icho stick: used in non-lethal duels
vash'ya= descriptive a mindset of those who understand aspects outside of their caste... apparently forbidden... which is dumb... but okay.
fu'llasso: a mind game or some kind of diversion. "Mind Knot".
Shas'tral: Seemingly this is the rank of a Fire Caste member who serves the Ethereal (those guy with the halberds).
da’thle’vral, the mirror that shows the weakness.: A tactic Puretide mentions.
Conclusions: We need to stop Phil Kelly from writing a Tau story, somehow.