Why Talion: Revenant should be on your bookshelf

This is an entirely unpaid endorsement, and a plea for you to do yourself a favor and go buy a book.

Do you like fantasy novels? Do you?

There are a good number of books I’ve enjoyed reading over the years, and I have a place for many of them on my bookshelves.

Then there are those special books, the ones that I have loved so dearly that I re-read them at least once a year, and will probably continue doing so forever.

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole is just such a book.

Cassie mocks me for doing it, and probably rightly so.

You know you’ve got it bad when your wife can simply glance at the cover of the book you’re holding in your hand and say, “You just read that four months ago, wtf did I buy you a Kindle for? Why won’t you get some new books for a change instead of re-reading those endlessly?”

But I don’t re-read everything endlessly. Just, well….

The Sten series by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch. Yep, losing one of those from my collection would be like losing a hand. The good one, not the butt-wiping one. All it takes is for Cassie to see my hand ANYWHERE NEAR a book from the Sten series and the eyes start rolling. I can’t help it! They’re just so gooood.

Or the Guards/Sam Vimes books by Terry Pratchett. A life without Sam Vimes would be a cold, colorless life not worth living. My signed/stamped hardcover of Night Watch is my most treasured artifact. Reminder to self: Still must buy “Where’s My Cow?” once I’m done done reading the last Tiffany Aching book to Alex. And perhaps The World of Poo, if I can, er, slip that one by the missus.

And of course high on my list of books to re-read is Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole.

Stackpole actually has two books on my yearly (or more often than yearly) re-read list; Talion: Revenant and Once A Hero.

Damn, I like Once A Hero. It’s so freaking good. [shivers]

Here is why I’m talking about these.

I’m thinking what it would have been like if I’d never heard of or tried Talion: Revenant before. If I’d never heard from friends about this kickass author who wrote the only good Star Wars books at the time, the first Rogue Squadron series, and how he had some other books in worlds of his own creation I might like.

I didn’t read Star Wars fan fiction or tie-in books, but I had friends who did. I didn’t read the Rogue Squadrons at first, because Star Wars non-canon books, meh. Really? Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, remember that crapfest? But a great writer, I like to hear about that, so I read his OTHER books. Then the bastard hooked me with his great writing and I went back and bought the Rogue Squadron books and read them too.

Damn him. Yes, they were good, but later authors couldn’t maintain actual quality, so I had a sad once he left the series.

What if I’d never had a friend tell me about this great author, Michael A. Stackpole? What if nobody ever suggested I read Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett?

What if I’d never taken a chance on a book with a generic cheesy Sci-Fi cover like Sten, only to find within it’s pages sheer fucking genius?

I’d have missed out on what I think is some of the finest science fiction and fantasy writing in existence. Period.

These books have, each in their own way, changed my life because I have loved them and made each of them a part of me. I truly feel my life is richer for having had those worlds to discover.

Okay, so what.

This is relevant to you, because while it was out of print for a long time, you can buy Talion: Revenant right now, brand new, in e-book form on Amazon for the Kindle and at other places. You can get Once A Hero as well.

And here is a bonus reason, a selfish reason to shout this from the rooftops. Stackpole says that if he sees just a few thousand more sales of the book, a total of 5000, that will showhim enough interest to justify a sequel.

A sequel to Talion: Revenant. Dear lord. I don’t know if my heart could take it. So. Much. Awesome.

If you read the books I’m mentioning, you’ll notice they all share a few things in common.

The writing is brilliant, and the dialogue is fast and fun. The deft wordplay between characters in all of these books is probably the biggest reason I love them so much. The characters are not there to drive forward the story, the characters are there because the characters ARE, and have a love of life. They seem real, and also seem like people it would be interesting to meet if Robert Heinlein were right about the World as Fiction.

That’s it. That’s my plug. I love Talion: Revenant with a passion, I’m re-reading it again right now, and a chance comment made me go look and see if Stackpole had a webpage, which is how I saw his mentioning of the e-books and the Talion 5000 book Challenge. That post went up in mid-2011, so I’ve only re-read Talion about 4 times since then.

I can’t recall ever asking anyone to buy anything on this blog before, but I’m asking you now. If you have never read Talion: Revenant, if you enjoy fantasy novels, AND if you can afford it, I strongly encourage you to buy the ebook and try it.

Warning. You might enjoy it so much it leads to more book buying.

Oh, and if you wanted to read Sten, good news!. Last time I went to buy a second copy of every book in the series for emergency backup purposes they were all out of print and insanely expensive. But, I now see you can buy then for Kindle, at reasonable prices! At least you can get the first book, I am off to check the other six in the series. If they can be gotten for Kindle now, HOORAY!!!!

OMG, you can get the whole Sten series on Kindle. I may cry. So many books, lost to the world like bolts of lightning, brief flashes illuminating the heavens only to vanish forever. Now, the lightning can be captured and held for all time. We are so blessed to be living in this digital age.

Now if only I had a bazillion dollars to buy every book I wanted on Kindle. Err, and some of them would be new books Cassie, I promise. No really. Honest.

Snarky Thoughts While Reading Tides of War

I’m reading Tides of War.

I’m not that far into the book, Cassie got it from the public library yesterday. She finished it, so it’s my turn.

Yes, she finished the book before we did the Fall of Theramore scenario. I did not. She seems more disappointed in it than I am. She expected…. a LOT more.

While reading the book, a few thoughts pop into my head.

I love Christie Golden, I know some folks don’t, but I can see the difference between a good writer writing a great book of her own crafting, and a good writer writing the best book she can with storylines handed her by a design team.

She does a great job with what she’s given, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, as I’m reading, some thoughts pop into my head. Not nice thoughts. Snarky, smart ass thoughts.

If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read past this point. I don’t want to spoil things inadvertantly for you, and also what I might say, taken out of context and in a sarcastic way, might give you the wrong impression.



First, what up with Thrall? Thrall and Jaina getting all chatting and he’s like, “You know, you need to get yourself a man, that’ll chill you right out.”

What up with that shit? Really, Thrall?

Now, I could’ve taken that like, all sexist and shit. Woman ain’t no good unless she gots herself a man. But this is Christie Golden, so, no.

Instead of that, I kinda got the feeling Thrall was doing the same thing I’ve had happen to me before.

You have a single friend, they get married, and they get so full of the awesomeness of being married with their snugglebuns that they want all their single friends to get married, too.

Or perhaps they realize that they’re now stuck in an eternal hell of their own creation, and can’t stand to see your single ass happy and free. Whatever.

But in that same conversation, there was a completely different point that needed to be made.

Jaina tells Thrall he needs to go have himself a talk with Garrosh, that boy be fucking some shit up. And, you know, little reminder here, but, Thrall, you done saved the world and shit, stood up side by side with the Aspects, you lit a fire up Deathwings’ ass, your orc homies be listenin’ to yo ass if you set ’em straight.

Thrall, he leans back, looks at Jaina all relaxed and says, “Ain’t my problem. I’m in the Earthen Ring now. And I might be the leader of the Earthen Ring, but really, all we do is smoke weed and listen to Hendrix, man. That Garrosh shit? That’s your problem, you deal with it. And don’t come crying to me if you’ve got some hotheaded militant asshole all up in your business looking to stir up some shit. *cough* Varian *cough cough*.”

Are you shitting me? Really?

“Hey Thrall, dude, you spent all of your life bringing your people out of slavery and instilling some pride and discipline into them. You carved out a home for them, built strong alliances with other races, and told your former captors to go piss up a rope. You’ve given a lot, and you’re entitled to some peace, quiet and a life raising a family. I know.”

“But dude, stop and think about it. You spent your life building all of this, but that fucktard you put in charge has killed your best friend, sunk your treasury in debt to the goblins for an all-iron makeover of Orgrimmar, and is actively working to launch a war that will endanger everything you have built, and send it all tumbling down into ruin. Can’t you, like… I don’t know, SAY something? Hell, just go on a fucking tour of Orgrimmar, check shit out. What, you hate your people so much now that you won’t even set foot in Orgrimmar?”

Thrall leans back, takes a puff, “… Nah. It’s cool. Y’know… now I can go to our real home in Draenosh when I want to, fuck a bunch of desert wastelands. Let it burn.”

Yes, I’m exaggerating a lot, but what? Just… sure, nobody listens to Jaina, because nobody really thinks SHE’S going to go all berserker and shove a fireball up their asses if they stick her in a corner or patronize her.

And let me tell you, the day a bunch of men ignore a fucking Mage and patronize her? That’s the day she SHOULD shove a fireball up their asses and remind them of who has the BOOM STICK.

But fine, nobody listens to poor Jaina, and she gets all frustrated because those assholes still don’t respect her opinion after all this time.

But who exactly in the Horde is going to ignore the opinion, or orders, of Thrall?


Thrall walks on into the new throne room, sees Garrosh standing there with the Blackrock Orc, wanders around listening to some of the news about guards and the Blackrock smacking around anyone that voices dissent, hears about how some vanish in the dark, gives a quick chat to Baine and Vol’jin..

Are you seriously telling me that he couldn’t stop it?

With two sentences he could have shut the whole thing down.

“You are a disgrace to the memory of Grom Hellscream and an enemy of the Horde. Get out of my sight or I will kill you where you stand.”

He’s Thrall. He forged an Orc nation from nothing and brought his people out of despair, forged an empire and saved the world. Fuck an Orc that grew up in some pussy place like Draenor, where there are so many animals to kill and eat nobody has to farm in Nagrand.

Seriously. Thrall. Disappointing, man. That shit is weaksauce.

Hey, other than those minor quibbles, the book is pretty good! I’m only on page 97, but I have a good feeling that they’ll find the Focusing Iris, avert a war and save Theramore in the end.

Right, guys? Guys?


Recommended Reading

A while back, I asked for your suggestions on archived posts, or other things that I should add on the sidebar lest they should be forgot.

I haven’t forgotten all of the comments and suggestions you took the time to offer me. It’s just busy as hell around here. You know, little things like vacations and new jobs and shitstorms of drama, all that good stuff.

I’ll truly get to implementing your ideas, this post is my promise and proof that I haven’t forgotten.

One thing that was suggested was that I place a “Bears Favorite Books” list on the sidebar.

I’m going to end up removing the “Now Reading” plugin to put a list up, which will work better all the way around. Frankly, I read far too many books in a short amount of time to keep the damn thing updated. I go through a few a day most days, who the heck can remember to login multiple times to update that I dropped one on the floor and picked up another? Or that I’m bored with where I was on one, and happened to pickup a Sin City trade in the bathroom for a mid-book break?

Sitting down, nailing an “Absolute favoritist books” list? And then updating it when I truly add a new ‘absolute favoritist’? That I think I can manage.

And there, all of that build up is just to say, I HAVE an update to the non-existent list of favoritist books that is only in my head.

I read a book a week ago. One of you recommended it in a Tweet to me, I reserved a digital copy through the public library for Kindle, and finally got it a week ago.

The book is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

I started the book late in the evening, which was a bad move, since that meant I couldn’t put the damn thing down until about 4 AM. No skimming, no speed reading, I devoured every single word with loving attention.

I’ll admit, the book had me worried at the beginning. I didn’t know Ernest Cline from Ernest Heming… oh wait, I’ve read all of Hemingway’s books. Umm… I didn’t know Ernest Cline from Ernie Pyle. Er, shit, Ernie and Bert?

Okay, it turns out I know a lot of Ernies well.

At the time, I didn’t know Ernest Cline, is what I’m getting at here, and thus when certain forays were made into literary territory that threatened a descent into tired science fiction tropes, I didn’t have a lot of faith or trust in his being able to avoid them.

I admit it. I started out with a sci-fi fan chip on my shoulder, with my finger pointed at the book, daring it not to suck.

I just got a flash image of an authoritarian figure, pointing at a book on the ground, with the caption “I DARE you not to suck!” stuck in my head. No, I don’t know why, my head just works like that.

Thank GOD I stopped concentrating on the finger, or I would have missed all of that heavenly glory!

Seriously. Enough from me.

Read the damn book.

Mannyac? Read the book.

Friends? Read the book. I dare you to allow yourself to be entertained!

I gave it a week without returning it, read a bunch of other stuff to cleanse my palate.

Yep. I started reading it again today.

Go get it. Read it, borrow it from the library.

I wonder if there is an audiobook, I’d like to listen to it in the car. I bet there is, there is an audiobook for everything these days.

I think it would be worth, and this is a hell of a leap for me, I think it would be worth my paying actual money to buy it for future re-reading. In hardcover.

Damn, I hope they make a movie. I can’t see how they could, but I hope somehow they do.

What are you doing here? READ THE BOOK!

Editors… the unsung heroes

As work progresses on cleaning and editing Converging Forces, I’ve been in a very unfamiliar position.

I’m not the one that has done any of the real work so far. Cassie has.

She’s using the track changes function, of course, and inserting notes, so I see and evaluate all her changes. Which, when it comes to grammar and spelling, are always dead on. The notes are more to point out to me things that seem long, wierdly placed, could use more information, that kind of thing.

She’s been working very hard on it, and it’s been great for me in one key respect; Cassie does NOT read fantasy or sci-fi fiction.

So, all the time I’ve been writing these, she’s never read them before.

She’s reading them now. And for the most part, she likes it. I’m not going to speak for her, but she seems to have really been engaged by and enjoyed Jessies story, and Terins story has been… well, I knew there were issues with it at the beginning. I had played with Manny plenty of times before, I knew I could throw him in the deep end and know he’d swim. I hadn’t really had James as a player before, so I really started out slow and established the groundwork, something that’s fine for a PBeM role playing game, and not so entertaining for a story to read.

I’m so happy with the progress, I can’t really tell you. They were just SO rough, so ‘not ready to read’, but I’ve been very happy with them as turns in a PBeM story.

Now, as the balance I always envisioned is being introduced, I’m getting to be very happy with how this is all working out. 

None of this is probably of any interest to you, but it’s what we’ve been doing lately. It’s why there isn’t blog postage. Who has time to think about WoW when I’m thinking of the Converging Forces story? I’ve been writing the next chapters in my head so I can get cranking.

The drawback to having your wife hooked on your writing? She wants you to KEEP WRITING. Specifically, to get it back to Jessie.

The conversations we’re having over the writing mistakes she’s corrected so far really make me feel bad. She’s the one finding and correcting them, and if I was a skilled writer, they wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The single biggest thing that has come out, however, is truly, I do not use apostrophes right. I need to go back in time and slap the shit out of my english teacher, because she taught specific rules on the use of the apostrophe that turn out to be, well, bullshit. Flat out lies. I didn’t make those damn rules up, either. I was in class that day!

I truly need to make a shirt that says,

“What I do to the apostrophe is an offence against God and nature.”

John Ringo’s ‘Troy Rising’ series = WOOT!

This isn’t going to be a review of the books, because I’m totally biased in favor of this series.

What I’ll focus on instead are some of the reasons why I think you should want to read these books if the name John Ringo didn’t already make it a done deal.

What books? Why, Live Free or Die and Citadel, books 1 and 2 of Troy Rising by John Ringo. Didn’t I say?

The reasons I think you should read them.

First, the language in these books is PG. I know, I know, you’re familiar with John Ringo, and he’s pretty well known for having his characters, especially military characters, freely use language best called ‘salty’.

I can assure you, after reading both of the books currently released, he’s used none of the usual salty language, while still retaining that John Ringo action style and quick pace. If that’s something that concerns you, for yourself or your children, then you can rest assured that the language is cool.

When I think of other situations where I’ve felt rough language added to the experience, the Die Hard movies come immediately to mind. I love those movies, and Bruce Willis spouting lines like “Yippee Ki Yay, M&*F&*^” are burned into my enjoyment of them.

I would have said before reading these that if you stripped out the vulgarity in his writing style, something would be lost. 

The truth is quite different. It reminds me of when I was in boot camp back in the day, and the drill instructors weren’t allowed to use actual ‘swear’ words when talking to you.

Did that prevent drill instructors from insulting you or yelling at you with passion and enthusiasm?


On the contrary, they amazed and impressed me with their ability to rip you a new defecation oriface without using any ‘bad words’ at all. It was more as if the limitation inspired them to rise to new heights of inventiveness.

John Ringo doesn’t use any salty language in this series… by the letter, OR by the spirit. He writes the language clean, letting the situations, action and sheer scope of destructive potential get the message across for him. He doesn’t mess around trying to slide one by you. When he wants to be colorful, he does it through solid, inventive writing without using any crude shortcuts, and it was a lot of fun.

Does he ever specify why he did this? Not that I know of, not in the foreward or afterward, but I’m going to hazard a guess and wager that it’s out of respect for the author he was inspired by for this series.

Here we come to the second huge reason for you to read this series. The books of Troy Rising are written by John Ringo, and it’s a story entirely of his own creation, but it was inspired by one of John Ringo’s favorite webcomics of all time, and takes place in that other author’s universe.

Troy Rising takes place in the universe of Schlock Mercenary, created by brilliant science fiction author and artist Howard Taylor.

Oh, have I finally captured your attention? You’ve heard of Schlock Mercenary, have you?

I should hope so.

In the foreward of the first book in the series, Live Free or Die, Howard Taylor makes it pretty clear that while he might not have had this exact story in mind for how Earth entered the politics of the galaxy, it very well could be… and might be retroactively inserted as his new ‘that’s how it always was’ plan.

Are the names of races likethe  Glatun and Horvath familiar to you? Do you not only know who the Gatekeepers are, but understand why having them show up in monkey space was a bad thing?

Have you ever wondered what kind of insane introduction to the universe would motivate the Earth to develop the Battleplate as a weapons platform? A battleplate, for those that are not familiar with Schlock Mercenary, is a spacefaring warship roughly in the shape of an equalateral triangle, if each side of the triangle was about 6 kilometers long. 

Have you ever wondered, if earth uses battleplates to send outside the system, what did we use to protect our own space? And was it even scarier? 

John Ringo not only plays in Howard Taylor’s Schlockverse, but he pays incredible respect to the rules and spirit of the series, does his homework, and then thinks big in the best tradition of the golden age of science fiction. And no matter how crazy it all gets, it still fits.

Have you ever read that someone is going to take something you love, and then go back thousands of years? What’s your first thought?

When I heard that they were taking Star Trek and doing the Enterprise show, my first thought wasn’t excitement about the series.

No, my first thought was, “I already know the limits of technological development in the current universe. If they go back to an earlier point in the storyline, they’re going to have to stay constrained by what was shown to be the limits of tech. Will they be able to handle that and still have great stories?”

Well, if this series had a theme, it would be ‘go big or go home’.

Oh yes, let your mind be settled on that score. John Ringo goes big, in fact I think he took pride in thinking, “Should I do that? No. No, it’s too bloody small. I can go bigger. I can go bigger than anyone ever dreamed. Let’s crank this pig to eleven, and then cube it. And then lets cube THAT.” 

There is one point where enemy aliens ripe on destroying our planet get their first look at what we built for a defense… and one of them goes insane, right there on the bridge of their battleship. Just loses it. Has a fit, has to be put down.

It’s Howard Taylor’s universe with John Ringo’s action and characterization, and a story that is a gigglefest of “Oh, he did not just…”

So, I’ve given you two reason to read.

There are two books out in Troy Rising right now, the first book is “Live Free or Die“, and the second book is called “Citadel“. The third book, titled “The Hot Gate”, is due out May 3rd, 2011.

Now, if that was not enough, I’m going to give you a third reason to go read them.

I’m in them.

Specifically, John Patricelli is a character in the second book, “Citadel”.

That’s right. The most incredible geek fanboy confluence I can imagine has occured. I am a character in a John Ringo story set in the Howard Taylor Schlockverse.

I’m not going to give out any spoilers, of course. If you haven’t read it, then all I’m going to say is that a very minor character in the story, who just happens to be a Space Marine, is named John Patricelli, and might see a little action. Just a little.

Come on, that’s gotta be enough to get you to go check it out, right? If only to see if I die a horrible, violent, gruesome death. Hey, it’s space, I might have simultaneously frozen while blowing up. You can only hope.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it at first, because the point isn’t that I’m in the story, the point is that this is some awesome science fiction from two author/creators I love dearly. 

But you know, just because I write some articles that people read doesn’t mean I’m somehow above being a squeeing little geek fanboy. Does anyone ever get above that kind of thing? I sure as heck hope not. 

So get on out there, get the books and enjoy a great read.

If you feel like being generous, and you’re thinking about buying the books anyway, may I suggest you visit my website Library. If you click through to Amazon.com from the links there, and you end up buying a book, I eventually will get a little kickback from it. I think. 

I don’t know how it works exactly, I just know that when I went and bought Citadel in hardcover from Amazon, I had $16 in credit there, and the only way I can figure that I got it is from awesome folks like you buying books through my website.

And while I’m on the subject, that you very much for that. I never expected to ever see someone buy a book through the website, so I was completely stunned to get most of a hardcover book from Amazon.com free, thanks entirely to your generosity. That was amazing. 

If you love science fiction, I just hope you read them, no matter how you lay your hands on them. Buy them, get them from your local library, borrow them from a friend, whatever. Lounge around in your local Barnes and Noble reading them on a couch while drinking a coffee. However you get your geek on.

But do yourself a favor, go check them out!

Various forms of navel gazing

I just wanted to let you know I added something to the website, just for fun.

I’ve got an addon enabled now that let’s me update and track the various books I’m reading.

I’m fairly certain none of you have any interest from day to day in finding out what I’m reading, but the addon is pretty neat in that it lets me track by currently reading, intending to read and finished reading categories. It also keeps all of my entries, with start and finished dates, in a virtual library that anyone can search by visiting the blog.

I could even update the books when I’m done with ratings and mini-reviews, if I were really happy (or pissed at) a certain book.

If I use this diligently, then over time it’ll be pretty fun… for me.

For you, probably not so much. Although in a year from now, I’m sure searching through my reading habits, so long as I keep myself dead honest, should be worth a laugh or two.

For the WordPress bloggers who may agree with me that this sounds really neat, the one I’m using is Now Reading Reloaded

I’m not an Amazon Affiliate, so clicking through any of those books in the sidebar will NOT make me any money whatsoever. But I’m thinking that this might be one thing I wouldn’t mind going ahead and setting up as a paid affiliate… Cassie has clients that use the Affiliate program on their websites, and she assures me that if someone were to click through to Amazon from a book I listed, AND were to buy it, I might see a penny or two.

I think I can live with that kind of income and keep my street cred. Maybe.

I’ll think about it.

Branching Out Into New Territory

This is a “what drivel is Bear reading” post. No WoW. Move along!

One of the genres of fiction I really enjoy is the thriller. The suspenseful police procedural, the mystery, the counter-espionage, the spy versus spy, the cat and mouse hunt for a killer.

I prefer them with a strong undercurrent of black comedy.

Some of my favorite series are the Prey novels by John Sandford (and his LuEllen and Kit books too), the Scudder books by Lawrance Block (damn those are good), the intertwining series of books by Stephen Hunter that, generally, follows the lives of two generations of the Swagger family, Earl Swagger and his son Bob Lee Swagger (those are extremely good, I’d start chronologically if you’re interested, really, it may seem Bob Lee Swagger, “Bob the Nailer”, is the event to be anticipated, what with a movie based on one of his books, Point of Impact, but the books featuring Earl Swagger are, to my mind, far more interesting), and finally my favorites, the Reacher books by Lee Childs.

Every single one a stellar, knockout series of books to read.

I want more!

But there aren’t any right now.

I’ve re-read them all so many times I’ve worn tracks of words across my mind’s eye. I’m actually re-reading the Kildar series by John Ringo, and skipping past all the S&M bits, just to have something to read that’s got that black sense of humor and some action. Sadly, as good as the action is, it’s more of a series like Mack Bolan The Executioner, Able Team or Phoenix Force than it is Shadow Prey. Lots of great combat scenes and strategizing, not so much on the suspense. You kinda go in knowing not only who did it, but who’s gonna get revenge, and what they’re gonna use to do it.

Entertaining, but I want a solid mystery.

As I stood in the library today, trying to find something to read, searching the mystery shelves forlornly when what I really want are more Davenport, Reacher, Scudder or Swagger stories, Cassie suggested I try something…. new.

She suggested I try Patricia Cornwell’s series about a forensic investigator, Dr. Kay Scarpetta.


This suggestion made me darn nervous. I don’t know anything at all about Patricia Cornwell. Plus, Cassie doesn’t read any of my mysteries. If she likes these, but doesn’t like mine, will I like them?


Well, on the bright side, trying a new author is better than huffing paint on a rainy day. What’s the worst that will happen, I have to go back to the Kildar?

Aw, shucks.

So, I went to three different libraries in our system, but I managed to grab the first seven books in published order. I believe in starting from the very beginning if you’re gonna get into something, and letting the story unfold and the characters develop the way the author wrote it, instead of leaping into the middle.

So, I’ve got;

  1. Postmortem
  2. Body of Evidence
  3. All that Remains
  4. Cruel and Unusual
  5. The Body Farm
  6. From Potters Field
  7. Cause of Death
  8. Unnatural Exposure

All sitting on my desk to read through.

I’m willing to go that far in case the first few don’t really set fire, but it gathers steam later on.

If these turn out great reads, there are lots more in the series as well.


You know, it must be hell being a really popular author, because it doesn’t matter how recently your last book came out, somebody like me is sitting there saying, “Yeah, so that was good, but when’s your NEXT book coming out?”

Wish me luck, I’m hoping for the best!

Book Review: Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils

I promised you a book review, and by golly you’re gonna get it! In my own, inimitable BBB style.

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz is at it’s heart a military sci-fi tale that follows a very familiar style.

There is a familiar theme that keeps getting repeated in military novels. Naive young man goes off to war, enters boot camp, is exposed to the order and structure of training, feels prepared and confident, and then goes out into the harsh reality of the real world, where blood stains your stuff, people die even when they’re you’re friends, and chaos seems to reign. 

It’s a familiar theme because the coming of age tale is something to which we can all relate, and it helps draw us into the setting. Much like us, the new recruit doesn’t know what the future holds, and as things are explained to him along the way, we learn right along with him.

For those of us that have been there before ourselves in some way, we can also chuckle as we remember just how naive and stupid we really were back then.

This particular story is centered on Jim Raynor, a young man helping his family keep their farm alive on a dusty agrarian world, as the Guild Wars rage between the Confederation and the Kel-Morian guilds over who will control the future of Terran colonized space.

As the story progresses, we follow young Jim’s own coming of age tale as it unfolds, from his very beginning on the Confederation world of Shiloh, and all the way through until the end of his military career.

Along the way, we become acquainted with the ways of the Confederation military might, and bear witness to the birth of an elite force, the Heaven’s Devils.

The story is set in the Starcraft universe, and is faithful to the Starcraft lore that has come before. This is not a reboot, revamp or reconstruction for Starcraft II, it all fits nicely in the existing storyline. In fact, much like the recent book Arthas, the back of Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils includes a detailed Starcraft timeline that lays out important events in sequence, and for each event lists the book(s) in which those events can be found. 

Yes, Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils is a tale set solidly in the Starcraft universe, and yes it is faithful to the existing lore, but first and foremost this is a military sci-fi novel in keeping with the finest works of William C. Dietz. Anyone that is familiar with his work on Legion of the Damned will feel right at home here without having read anything else, or having played SC1.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Legion of the Damned… Dietz infuses his military sci-fi with a stripped down quality; the story advances from event to event, and you’re expected to keep up and pay attention. He doesn’t spend much time describing the color of the grain in the fields of Shiloh, and he doesn’t bother you with details on what the major export crop of whatever town the characters happen to be in might be. His books also bear a cynical edge and black humor common to military sci-fi, a tone perfectly in keeping with the setting and subject matter of this book. 

I enjoyed this book a great deal, but at the beginning, it was hard for me to get into. The “From boot camp to the front lines” theme has been done so many times, in so many ways, and let’s be honest… not all of them can be Full Metal Jacket. When you realise what the theme of this story will be, an experienced reader will start to worry… “Is this going to have some imagination, some new and interesting edge to it, or is this going to be some formulaic piece of derivative crap?”

Hey, I know that’s what I was worrying.

So yes, starting out, when I saw what direction the book was heading, I was worried. I dragged my feet a bit.

In the end, it goes off the rails in a very good way, and has a great “Oh crap” feel to it. It’s not a story you’re going anticipate, it does a good job of sucker punching your expectations. 

Still, in the early stages, I didn’t know that it was going to go off the rails.

What kept me going was the promise that this was Jim Raynor’s story.

I played Starcraft I, so I know who the hell Jim Raynor is. At the time Starcraft I begins, it’s been ten years since the end of the Guild Wars. We know that the Confederacy won the war and now rules unchallenged over Terran space. It’s all one big happy Confederation family. we als know that if you want any sense of freedom in the Confederacy, you go out to the rim of colonized space looking for some crap out of the way planet and find a hole to hide in.

Four days before the Starcraft I story begins, an alien fleet popped out of nowhere and laid waste to a colonized Terran Confederacy world. Panic among exposed colonial worlds ensues, and we enter from stage left as a Confederation assigned Magistrate abrubtly placed in command of the colony of Mar Sara.

As the Colonial Magistrate, we are tasked with protecting the colony from a feared alien invasion and chilling them out so they don’t panic at the idea of being Zerg chow.  On our very first Starcraft I mission (real mission, not the training mission) we encounter a very dusty, tired, and cynical James Raynor, the “local Marshall” of Mar Sara, and we enlist his aid in relocating refugees immediately in the wake of General Edmund Duke’s surprise announcement of a 48 hour lockdown and colonial quarantine.

From there, the Starcraft I story takes off running… and from there we got to know Jim Raynor very well. Jim, and Kerrigan.

But what was Marshall James Raynor’s story back before he ended up on Mar Sara?

Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils did what I really wanted. It does tell Jim’s story, and along the way also tells the story of the elite unit he was a part of, and gives us one hell of an eyes wide open view at the reality of the Confederation Terran Marines.

Unfortunately, the book ends near the conclusion of the Guild Wars, and leaves us with a ten year gap to wonder what happened until we see him again in SC1.

Still, have you seen the trailor for the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty game out this Tuesday?

God, I love that trailer.

I think it’s safe to say that if you want to know more about the man that comes to lead a Mercenary force in the new Starcraft II game, if that trailer makes you interested to know more about what kind of actual military background he had in the Confederacy, and why he wasn’t STILL a loyal little happy Confederate puppet, then Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils will answer those questions admirably.

Oh, and yeah… I’ll be buying the game on Tuesday. What can I say? They had me at “Kerrigan”.

Bottom line – It was a good book. I had a good time. I’d like to see Dietz fill out those missing ten years.

Starcraft II Book Contest – Winners Announced!

That’s it, folks!

Stick a fork in it, the Starcraft II: Heaven’s Devils Book Contest (North American version), as announced last week, has now drawn to a close.

There were some excellent submissions, but at the end of the day, two clearly stood out from the rest for their sheer awesomeness.

And the winners are!

Adgamorix, of the Divine Plea blog, for his story of using StarCraft I during his time in the military as a group tactics instruction method.

Dechion, of the Dechion’s Place blog, for his excellent fictional story set within the StarCraft universe. It kicked butt. Hopefully, he’ll post it (when he’s polished it up to his liking) on his blog for us!

It’s purely coincidence that both winners have blogs. Sometimes I think all blog readers eventually start writing their own blogs, and then we all just link to each other in an ever-growing circle of blogging cannibalism.

Congratulations to the both of you! I hope you enjoy your books. 🙂

In other news, I’ve got my copy and I am reading it, so you can expect the second contest to go up sometime next week for my (slightly) used copy.

Again, congratulations to you, and thank you to everyone that sent in an entry. They were all wonderful.

Have a good weekend!

Reminder: Starcraft II book contest ends soon!

The Starcraft II book contest draws to a close this Friday. Time is fast running out.

If you wanted to enter the contest to win your own copy of the book, and haven’t done so yet, please do so now! Even a one paragraph entry is far better than not entering at all.

I’ve got my review copy now, and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn cool.

So, go refresh yourself on the contest details here, and get your entry mailed in now!


Tell you what

I’ll add one more way you can make a cool entry.

You could send in your favorite screenshot of you in Starcraft or the Starcraft II beta pwning the enemy. If you find it hard to come up with the words to describe how much you love Starcraft, let a picture do the talking for you.

Good luck!