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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Sneak Preview

Hey there everybody! I know its been over a week, but I have my reasons... Oh no! It's not that I don't think about you readers- far from it. It's just that yours truly has been working ultra hard on a major top secret project. It has required a lot of work, hence I haven't posted as much. It is a work in progress, but I wanted to give you all a bit of a sneak preview. So... go and take a look...

 It's going to take me a bit longer, but I wanted to give my friends a bit of a hint... I'll have a full post as soon as it is done. Until next time Chaos friends...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter

Hey there Chaos fanatics! Old Professor Chaos is back with another update. My wife and I just saw John Carter. Long story short- don't believe all the negative hype. John Carter is a good movie for Sci-Fi and pulp fans. So, let's get to it...

There's been lots of talk about how this movie cost a fortune, wasn't well advertised, caused a lot of problems at Disney, is a "huge" failure for a PIXAR guy, etc. Well, some of those things ARE true, but others are either simply opinion or backlash. When my wife and I went to see John Carter, we had of course read about these issues prior, but we both like Sci-Fi, and we wanted to make up our own minds. We're pleased that we did, as it turns out that John Carter is a fresh, interesting, and above all, entertaining Sci-Fi movie.

John Carter is a veteran of the Civil War- scarred by terrible loss during that conflict between the North and the South. Frustrated and broken, Carter goes out west, searching for something... he says "treasure"- but it may also be forgetfulness. Out west, he deals with Native Americans and US Cavalry officers (both of which want Carter's 'help'). He doesn't want to get involved, but things turn ugly between the US Cavalry and the Natives, with Carter literally getting caught in the crossfire. Finally, as he tries to hide in a cave, he discovers... well, without giving it all away- a device that transports him to Mars (or, as the Martians call it: Barsoom).

Once on Mars, he discovers that he has powers (due to Mars' gravity). He also discovers that there is a civil war going on there too- two groups of "Red Martians" are battling each other, while a third group, the green skinned Tharks get caught in the crossfire. Again, John Carter is asked to pick sides- he doesn't want to, but between his unlikely new friend in the green skinned Tars Tarkas and the pleas of a beautiful Red Martian princess, Carter gets drawn into the conflict. John Carter, lost on Earth, finds his place on Mars, battling to save his friends and both Mars and even Earth itself.

One of the best things about John Carter is its sense of history. Everything in John Carter has a sense of long history. The man himself has lived through the bloodiest years in U.S. history. On Mars, again, everything has a long history. The Tharks, the Red Martians, the very landscape itself. It helps that the Martian factions all have their own culture. In particular, the Tharks are given a lot of attention- their notions on community, child rearing, war, and governance are all well drawn and interesting: in some ways very much like us, and very alien in other ways. Some of the best moments in the movie was seeing how John Carter reacted to these four- limbed aliens and their cultural "peculiarities". The two Red Martian factions also have their own cultural identities, though they are not as well examined on screen as the Tharks. Again though, everyone and everything has a history, and that makes for strong Sci-Fi.

Another thing this movie has is a sense of the "epic". Without saying this movie is of that quality (it isn't), John Carter borrows much from historical epics. John Carter journeys all over Barsoom, seeing the different races, exploring the world, finding hidden/lost temples, fighting off enemies and the elements, gets captured, escapes, fights again, and finally, gets involved in a civil war whose outcome could destroy Mars (and Earth, ultimately). There are moments where this movie clearly borrows from Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, Gladiator, Braveheart, etc. Again, it is not as good as those, but as you watch, you get the feeling that this is a Sci-Fi historical epic. Sweeping vistas, large wars, different cultures, etc. all make you feel as if you are watching a historical epic unfold. This is then expanded upon when you see some parallels between Earth and Mars- the Tharks are clearly "inspired by" Native Americans, while the two warring Red Martian factions are the North and the South, the Martian wastelands are evocative to the American west, etc. In all, John Carter is a Sci-Fi historical epic that is a breath of fresh air compared to recent movies.

The acting in John Carter is quite solid, but not outstanding. Serviceable is a word that I would apply here. Taylor Kitsch plays the title hero, and he's OK in the role. Good, but not great. He does the job of playing he broken man whose life is re-energized by being put on Mars. Perhaps another actor might have brought more zest to the role. As it is, Kitsch is alright, but doesn't really stand out. He's great in the action scenes though. In particular, Carter's fight against the "white apes" is fun. As an aside, some say it steals from Attack of the Clones- but that came out in 2002, and don't you think it copied from Gladiator, which came out in 2000, but didn't that copy Spartacus... see my point? Any arena scene borrows from others- so what? (End Rant)

The "Princess of Mars" Dejah Thoris, played by Lynn Collins, is every but as spunky as Princess Leia, and just as vulnerable. Collins is fun, and not at all hard on the eyes (I hope my wife isn't reading this... haha). It's also nice to see Ciran Hinds and James Purefoy (veterans of HBO's Rome) working together as the leaders of Helium, though their roles are all too short. Dominic West and Mark Strong play the villains, and while I loved West in 300, he was simply OK here. Mark Strong does better as Matai Shang, the real but shadowy threat to Barsoom- and Shang's ultimate goal is interesting and really pulpy Sci-Fi. Strong has been in a lot recently, but I didn't care for him in either Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood. He was good as Sinestro in Green Lantern, but it was a brief bit. Here, I think Strong is really good- a menace that has great powers AND great patience- drawing all those around him into his web.

However, the best actor here is Willem Dafoe. Using motion capture, Dafoe plays Tars Tarkas, a tribal leader of the Tharks, which are like 7 feet tall, green-skinned, with 4 limbs and large tusks on the sides of his mouth. Dafoe plays Tarkas with great warmth, passion, and conviction. Dafoe, like Andy Serkis, shows how motion capture can create a unique, strong, and otherworldly performance. Tars Tarkas is a tough leader, but one who is also humane, and who thinks that the arrival of John Carter heralds a new beginning for his people. Dafoe is great in this role, and CGI people and movie directors should take note- this is what CGI can really do.

Speaking of CGI- the special effects are wonderful in John Carter. The creature effects are simply amazing. The movie gives you some wonderful sights too, particularly the Martian air ships, which look like dragon flies and sail on solar power, but they also look totally realistic. There's also the Martian city of Zodanga, a city that walks, which is fascinating to look at. There is a ton of imagination in this movie, and the special effects are more than up to the task of bringing this to the screen.

The direction is great too- Andrew Stanton is not afraid of letting action clearly flowing on screen- the fights are easy to follow, without a ton of cutaways which are all too common (and distracting) in so many movies. Stanton is also not afraid to linger on the effects or the scenery, allowing the viewer to marvel at the hundreds of Tharks in their village, or taking in the desolate wastes of this fictionalized Mars. Sometimes, movies should slow down, and give audiences that sense of wonder, which is present here.

The movie has its flaws, no doubt. There were segments of dialogue that could be trimmed. The music was not particularly memorable either. Though Michael Giacchino has some good scores under his belt, this one was just passable. It needed something strong, or otherworldly, and we got neither, sadly. And although Kitsch was serviceable, he wasn't great as the hero, which hurts the overall story. There were also some elements that I could plainly see were setting up a sequel, which may not have been needed. Of course, I know Carter is a book series, but I think some of those things could be trimmed, saved for the sequel itself.

And I hope there is a sequel. John Carter was a fun time at the movie. This movie had a sense of the historical epic, while being a solid Sci-Fi movie. The special effects were great, and the camera gave the audience a chance to really look at this complex and old alien world. I am convinced that it will find a cult following one way or the other. My wife and i enjoyed it, and I give this movie 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. If you like Sci-Fi, you really should check this out. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Newly Painted Terrain: Sanctum Imperialis

Hey there everybody. I'm back with another Warhammer 40K article. This time I'm going to show you the latest bit of terrain building that I've done. Truth is, I was never a fan of terrain making/painting, but lately, I've had the urge to work on that quite a bit. I've been building and painting a few buildings now, and I must say I've been enjoying it quite a bit. I will be getting back to Dark Eldar  soon enough- I just had the terrain bug, and since I don't do enough terrain wise, I figured I should while I have the will to do so.

Truthfully, I have a ton of the City Fight building terrain. My original plan, long ago when those sets came out, was to do a huge Imperial city with those GW pieces. Those, when combined with other buildings that I had (from Armourcast and Gale Force 9), would add up to an enormous city (or plenty of variety for smaller city battles). However, several years and armies later, that grand vision never quite materialized.

Well, until now, that is. I have been doing terrain off and on for the past several months (check out my older terrain articles for some of that). I put together the landing pad, a Chaos shrine, and recently I've been doing a whole factory complex (I'm working on the third part of that now).

However, I have just completed a Sanctum Imperialis building. I based it on top of a Warhammer Fantasy movement tray, just like I did the factories. It looks like city cement with those squares, so that fits with my city motif. I wanted to make the building a bit longer, so if I want to make a second building piece to connect it, I can, but I don't have to if I don't want to.

 I used the GW resin terrain bits/rubble for the detail work, as well as cutting pieces of the Fantasy movement tray borders and made them look like steel beams/girders. I also put big and small rubble pieces too. Finally, to round out the details, I put two street lamps outside, and a box of ammunition on the inside.

 To paint it, I used various browns. I used Khermi Brown as the base, with successive highlights of Graveyard Earth and Desert Yellow. I also streaked grey across some parts, to simulate age or damage. The rubble I did Scorched Brown, with the other browns as highlights. The buildings tiles I did with Adeptus Grey, followed by some Fortress Grey.

I must confess, it is not a perfect paint job. But then again, it IS a ruined building, so it doesn't have to be perfect. I am pleased with how it turned out. Many of my buildings are grey, so this brown was VERY different for me. Indeed, I don't know the last time I used Khermi or Desert Yellow on anything.

I've shown you some shots of the building, as well as some models on it to give it some scale and some action. The Inquisitorial forces don't stand a chance against the Traitor Legions, do they? Of course not! This is Chaos Corner after all! If you want lies and pro-Imperial propaganda, go elsewhere! Hahaha! I'm kidding! You Imperails take everything so seriously...

Well, I hope you liked the pics. Maybe this will inspire you to do your own terrain. Or maybe it will give you other ideas. Until next time...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Movie Review: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Hey there, my dear followers of the Dark Gods of Chaos. I'm back with the latest in my reviews of the Star Trek franchise. Today, we'll be taking a look at Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It's an even numbered Trek, so "logic" says it'll be good, but I don't hold with that, personally. So, is this the movie that made Trek fun again while also bringing that crossover appeal to Trek, or is it a sell-out that betrayed the maturity and seriousness that came before? Let's take a look then...

Personal Background: As a youngster, I was a fan of all things Star Trek, mostly due to my parent's influence, partly due to the fact that I loved science fiction stuff, even then. I had watched the earlier Treks at a young age (even if ST II was scary to me). However, even as a kid, I did not really care for this one, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I saw this one in the theater as a kid, but it just didn't make the impression on my that the others had. Granted, I loved looking at the whales and I laughed at the funny stuff. But it didn't take hold of my childhood imagination the way that the other Star Trek movies and episodes did. Even now though, as an adult, I can't say its one of my favorites. Indeed, watching it recently left me torn- the actors do a spot on job, but the movie overall just doesn't grab me the way the previous entries did.

Basic Plot: Taking place after the events of the previous movie, ST IV: The Voyage Home finds Kirk and crew still on Vulcan. They are planning on going back to Earth and facing the consequences for their theft of the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Spock is recovering from his life and death experience and is trying to reconcile his Vulcan and human sides (which he had seemingly accomplished by ST II, but his recent trauma has impacted that delicate balance).

As Kirk and crew begin to journey back to Earth, a mysterious and alien probe appears, draining all energy sources in its path as it sends a signal to Earth. Once it arrives, it strengthens it's signal and is directing it on Earth's oceans. The signal is so strong, that it drains all of Earth's power sources and wreaks environmental havoc. As Kirk and crew approach, they pick up the signal, and Spock deduces that the probe is searching for humpback whales- which are extinct in the 23rd century. In order to save Earth, Kirk decides to take his crew and his stolen Klingon ship (thank God for the cloaking device) back in time to the 20th century in order to locate whales and then bring them back to the 23rd century and, in the words of McCoy "tell this probe what to do with itself".

This is pretty funny, actually.
With the crew back in the 1980s, ST IV becomes a "fish out of water" story, in which the crew is forced to blend into 1980s San Fran, overcome some technical problems, rescue some whales, and make it back to the 23rd century. The humor comes hard and heavy in this movie, as the crew find 1980s San Fran confusing, primitive, and just plain weird. The crew is totally out of place, and their misadventures cause them to be the butt of many jokes. Can they repair their Klingon ship with 20th century tech? Can they find whales and beam them into the Klingon ship? Can Spock and Kirk get across town without exact change for the bus? Can Checkov avoid being arrested as a Soviet spy in a Cold War world? Hey! This is the crew of the Enterprise, so what do you think...?

The MacGuffin
Ultimately, the crew succeeds against the odds, bring whales to 23rd century Earth, which satisfies the probe and it leaves our solar system, restoring the power and the environment as it leaves; no apologies or explanations of ANY kind (this was the most MacGuffin-esq plot device ever used in a Trek movie). Nevertheless, Kirk and company save the Earth once more "from their own short-sightedness". And as for their  punishment for their previous transgressions, Kirk is demoted to Captain and the crew is reassigned to a new ship... a brand spanking new Enterprise (NCC 1701-A). The crew has truly "come home".

Themes/Concepts: The theme here, of course, is "Save the Environment". You see that once Spock realizes that the probe's signal is really whale song. From then on, the movie focuses squarely on that theme. In fact, at points, it seems to bludgeon you over the head with it. There's no subtext or subtlety here. This, in fact, is one of the most disappointing aspects of this movie. Each of the previous movies were about "something", but there were layers to those themes. With TMP it was "can machines come alive?" and "what role does humanity have in the universe?"- heady sci-fi concepts. With TWOK it was the nature of the "cycle of life and death", accepting your lot in life, and how hatred and vengence corrupts everything.Even TSFS had some themes, such as the possibility of rebirth, humanity doesn't have the power to play God. With TVH- we must save the environment. That's it. End of message.

A "Fish Out of Water" story.
Characters/Acting: This is what truly holds this movie together. These actors KNOW their roles, and play them to perfection. Each cast member gets something to do (although I feel Sulu gets the shortest role), and each actor gets to shine with either the humor or their doubts about this whole thing working out. The interactions between McCoy and Spock are a real highlight, as Dee Kelly shows genuine concern for Spock's well-being. For a time, they were mentally joined, and McCoy has a new appreciation for Spock, even if he still frustrates him. Shatner also does well, being the strong voice of action (despite his own confusion on life in the 20th century). However, all of the emotional baggage Kirk had built up for 3 films is totally gone. When Saavik tells Kirk details about his son's death- Kirk grunts, but that's about it. The script wants to keep things light. Unfortunately, this makes Kirk pretty two dimensional.

Surely he knew what he was getting into...
However, there is a problem with the whole "fish out of water concept" as it is portrayed here. The characters seem almost embarrassingly stupid. They say the dumbest things in reaction to being on 20th century Earth. They do things that ARE out of character for them, or just plain dumb. When Chekhov is captured at the naval base- he acts like a naive child, simply asking the interrogators "can I go now". Surely, he knows his history- the Cold War is on, and the US isn't going to just let a Russian onto their base. Even if he forgot Cold War history, Chekhov is smart enough to realize he is trespassing and would be detained- if some unknown person simply appeared in the star ship, Chekhov would put him in the brig for questioning. His response to the guards is just weak, just to get laughs- and not characteristic of Chekhov.

Funny- but not logical
Scotty and McCoy have a similar bit, as they are trying to obtain materials to build a "fish tank" on the Klingon ship. At an engineering plant, Scotty proposes to give the plant manager a 23rd century invention "transparent aluminum", in exchange for the materials. Scotty whips onto a 1986 Mac and speedily draws out the concept. I know Scotty is good- but really? He can do it on a 1986 Mac? Really? Oh, he tries to talk to it first, but then- bam! He types up the matrix in seconds. Really?! So, not only has Scotty damaged the time continuum, but he's also a Mac and not a PC guy... Uh Huh. And Scotty's rationale- "Maybe he invented the thing" is followed up by McCoy's sly "yeah..." is akin to Basil Exposition in Austin Powers telling the audience "Try not to think about it" in regards to time travel. Now, that's OK for Austin Powers, but for Star Trek... 

Another "colorful metaphor" is about to happen.
Again, the actors do their best, and the twinkle in their eyes and the zest of their line delivery prevent the jokes from overwhelming the proceedings. Indeed, Shatner gets some great legitimate jokes with "double dumb as on you" and "He did a little too much LDS". As for the supporting players, there are serious turns by both of Spock's parents (who are very welcome in this movie), and  1980s Gillian is as skeptical about all of this as I am, it seems. The actress does a good job of representing "the audience" here- this might be our attitude if we came across Kirk and crew today. Overall, the acting is great, though it strains under the demands of the script.   

The best special effect in the whole movie.
Special Effects: Sadly, TVH falls short in this area. Each Trek movie, whatever the budget, did manage to have some visual flair and special effects. Though TWOK had a small budget, it had great battles, the Mutara Nebula, and more. TSFS also had some nifty effects, including the theft  and subsequent destruction of the Enterprise, and the decaying of the Genesis Planet. This one, sadly, doesn't reach those lofty heights. The budget is clearly limited.But what's worse is the lack of imagination. The unknown probe looks totally bland- not only can't you tell what it is, you really are bored by the look of it. It has no visual flair, no sense of wonder either. It's just a tube with a golf ball coming out of it. That is very disappointing. The few shots of 23rd century San Francisco are OK, though again very limited. Same with the shots of Vulcan. The Klingon Bird of Prey stays cloaked for most of the film.The absolute BEST effect in the whole movie is when they de-cloak over the whaling ship- that's a fun and good looking bit. While some of the shots of the whales are good (Spock with them, Scotty beaming them into the Klingon ship's hold), there's not much else to them either. Overall, the special effects are very bland, and a low for the series.

Musical Score: This is a tough category. The music in this movie, by Leonard Rosenman, is perfectly serviceable. It is appropriately lighthearted and bouncy, particularly the "Chekhov's Run" theme  and when the crew first get to San Francisco. Unfortunately, we've had incredible and memorable scores from Goldsmith and Horner in the previous movies. These scores were epic in nature, grandiose in many ways (Goldsmith, in particular- he elevated the occasionally dull proceedings in TMP into something special with his majestic and otherworldly score). Again, Rosenman's score is just fine, though it isn't particularly memorable either.

It's as if nothing happened... the ship doesn't even look different!
Lasting Legacy: In terms of plot, this literally brought the crew "back home". Spock is back to (near) normal by the end. Kirk has been demoted to Captain (hardly a punishment for the man), and the crew gets their ship back. It's just like nothing happened in the past three movies. On the one hand, that's just like a TV episode would have been. On the other hand, it totally undoes all the major changes and thematic elements that occurred in the movies. That is what frustrates me about this movie, and Nimoy's direction the most. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had all grown as characters- they faced enormous challenges that changed them in overt and in subtle ways. And yet, the end of this movie does away with all of that. They are on the bridge as if it were 20 years ago- nothing has happened, and they are exactly the same.

Of course, TVH has the reputation of being both "the moneymaker" and "the funny one". Indeed, TVH got a very large audience, due to the "contemporary" setting, the light humor, and the simple environmental message. When this Trek is brought up, non-Trekers know it as "Ah. The whale one". So yes, TVH did indeed make Trek more accessible to non-fans. However, what is more interesting, is that no subsequent Trek movie tried to go this route. All have had some humor, but none have ever gone balls out comedy like this one. Indeed, this is the other thing that bugs me about TVH and Nimoy's direction- this movie ALMOST jumps the shark. This one struts the line of self-parody and self-mocking. I can't believe that's what Nimoy intended, and yet, that's how it is throughout- the humor is a bit TOO much, threatening to make it into a total joke. Now, it doesn't cross the line into that, but it comes so incredibly close. Notice how no Trek movie ever again tries to go that far into comedy...

At any rate, the most telling thing for me is that I'd watch ANY of the original Trek movies BEFORE this one. Yes, even the infamous Star Trek V, flaws and all. It isn't about the humor. Some of the best episodes of Trek on TV are funny. Tribbles has a strong spotlight on Federation/Klingon politics, I, Mudd shows how robots would deal with a corrupted humanity by "taking care of them" in a paternalistic way, and A Piece of the Action, while absurd, shows an extreme example of why the Prime Directive is necessary. They mixed humor with strong and unique ideas. This movie however is almost too self-parodying for me in the humor department, and the theme of environmentalism is layered on so damn thick that it just beats you over the head. No grace. No subtlety. No truly grand sci-fi ideas. Even ST III had some of those things. Yes, the actors all do a wonderful job with it. They truly ARE these characters now, and could play them with conviction  no matter what the script calls for. I suspect that if they had dialed down the humor just a little, this movie could still have been funny without becoming a joke itself. Unfortunately, that is what this movie so nearly becomes, and I can't help but wonder how Nimoy, of all people, could have let it go down this path.

As a result, I give this 2 Marks of Chaos out of 4. The actors acquit themselves well, but this movie has too many problems to score higher for me.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review (In Brief): Ravenor

Hey there Chaos fans! I'm back with a brief book review. I finished the Omnibus Ravenor by Dan Abnett a while back, but I never got around to posting my thoughts about it. So, away we go...

Let me start off by saying that I enjoyed the trails and tribulations of Inquisitor Ravenor. The stories were fun, mostly fast paced, and enjoyable. It takes a lot of guts on the part of Abnett to make the main character a crippled, physically broken man in an "action-packed 40K Universe". Indeed, I love the character of Ravenor almost as much as Eisenhorn. Almost. And I think that's they key problem- we never focus too long on Ravenor. It's telling that Eisenhorn is totally told totally from his point of view. We get to know Eisenhorn- his thoughts, his fears, his slow and seemingly irresistible slide toward "radicalism". In Ravenor, on the other hand, only parts of the story are from Ravenor's point of view. Abnett frequently pulls away from him. Of course, writing all first person can be problematic, for sure. However, the character of Ravenor is so interesting, that focusing on the other characters is just not as rewarding.

Perhaps this was my own problem. I read the two trilogies back to back. Comparisons were simply bound to happen. I think the Eisenhorn trilogy is much more rewarding and better told than the Ravenor trilogy in just about every way. Again, that's not to say I didn't like Ravenor, I just felt that Eisenhorn just blew me away, and Ravenor didn't. Let's take the first books, for example. The first Eisenhor story had everything- cultists, intrigue, a forbidden tome, aliens, battles large and small, Inquisitorial rivalries, etc. Ravenor's first book, by contrast, has them chasing down "drugs", infiltrating a "carnival" of sorts, then going to a Mos Eisley type place which is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. The first book is OK, just blah. The next two books are better, but still not up to the high standards of Eisenhorn.Indeed, the next two stories in Ravenor have great ideas, like the computers that literally bore workers to death, the Fratery cult of "foreseers" is well conceived, and then there's the "door" in the last book that transcends time and space in a way that is fresh for 40K. Unfortunately, Abnett's story is so overstuffed that we don't explore those for very long, and the ultimate conclusion is both climactic and anti-climactic all at the same time.

The story arc of Ravenor centers around Ravenor chasing down a superbly trained Chaos cultist named Molotch, who has fast reflexes, and a faster brain. Molotch is meant to be an opposite of Ravenor, and he's fairly effective, though he is out-shined by a more interesting "cultist for hire", Culzean Orfeo, who is an expert at "setting things up" for other cultists. This character has a wit and style that sets him apart from most villains in 40K stories. However, there's also the "foretelling" of a daemon called "Slyte", who, if he gets into our material universe, will wreak havoc. Then there's criminals smuggling drugs, and then there's a cult trying to "birth" Slyte, and then there's another cult trying to gain the powers of "Enunciation" but they don't want Slyte to appear, and then... well, I think you get the point. The story is very, very convoluted. Whereas Eisenhorn was a fairly straightforward story with twists and turns, Ravenor's storyline is a bit all over the place.

And then there's our heroes. Gideon Ravenor himself is a genius and a "humane" Inquisitor. I found that combination to be very refreshing for 40K. Whenever the story focuses on him, the story comes alive. His "thoughts" are soaring, considering how broken he is physically. As a character, he's a wonderful creation- strong but vulnerable at the same time. However, the supporting characters are not all as interesting or well drawn. I didn't like Kara Swole in Eisenhorn, but she was a bit player there. Here, she's more center stage- and I still don't like her. She doesn't fit into the proceedings, and I find it hard to believe she's an Inquisitorial agent, as she's too "goody goody", not traits I'd consider worthy of being an Inquisitorial field agent. A better character is Patience, who starts of vague but becomes a mainstay as the book goes on- her tragic past haunts her, but her skills and coldness make her a great agent for Ravenor. Then there's Harlon Nayl, former bounty hunter that now works for the Inquisition- he's a tough guy but he also cares about his teammates- a great character if slightly 2 dimensional. There are some secondary characters like Frauka and Unwerth who are both funny but also memorable characters.

My main issue here however is Carl Thonius, who is Ravenor's apprentice (an Interrogator). He's an annoying character who whines constantly and is more worried about how he's dressed than anything else. My issue here is that I can't buy that he is "Inquisitor" material. I see nothing about him that says he'd make a great Inquisitor. He's good with computers and he "knows" a lot of random facts- but shouldn't that be more in keeping with a Tech Adept? I also couldn't see Ravenor putting up with Carl's antics and weaknesses, which puts the team at risk more than once. I simply don't/can't believe that this man is an Inquisitor, as he doesn't act like one at all. This is all compounded by the fact that Carl is central to so much of the plot- and he's unlikable. If he is supposed to be comic relief (and I don't think he's funny), how can he be what he becomes at the end? If he' supposed to be sympathetic, Abnett didn't make him likable. If you're supposed to hate him, then there's no investment in his final fate. Carl is a huge contradiction as a character, but not in a good, enigmatic way.

So, don't get me wrong, Ravenor is a worthwhile read for any 40K fan. It has some great ideas, and a few great characters. The action is always fast paced and occasionally brilliant (again- that "door" bit in the third book is amazing- I can't divulge it but its a blast). However, it is not Abnett's best work, not even close. Eisenhorn set the gold standard here, and it doesn't match up. Nor is it as good as say Horus Rising or Legion. So, I'd have to give it overall 2 1/2 marks of Chaos out of 4, though there are bits that are better than that. 

Well, that's all for now. Until next time...