Monthly Archives: December 2015

Star Wars Episode VII – A Review


So I caught Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens last night, which means it’s high time for a review. Beware, Star Destroyer-level spoilers ahead.

So, right off the bat, I’m giving it a 3/5 stars. I’ll kick off with what I enjoyed.

Obviously, at a basic level, the generally Star Warseyness of it all. Droids. Space freighters with tentacle monsters. X-wings battling TIE fighters. Stormtroopers. Light sabre duels. All these things salve my soul. On a more detailed level, I’ve been a long-running critic of the franchise writer’s inability to incorporate more believable military doctrine into its set-piece battles (I’m a War Studies graduate, what can I say?). That’s been addressed somewhat in VII, with First Order troopers calling in airstrikes, relying on air support and generally being slightly more effective and intimidating than the Failtroopers of old. Speaking of, how badass is Captain Phasma? It’s criminal that she didn’t have a bigger role, but in fairness to J. J. Abrahams he didn’t realise how much the fans would love her. Apparently she’s not dead (yay!) and will have a bigger role in Episode VIII. I hope she finally makes Storm Troopers a (lower-case f) force to be reckoned with.

Sticking with the bad guys, I also liked the slightly mad-eyed General Hux. Unlike the simpering Imperial commanders of old, he takes absolutely no s**t from Kylo Ren, which is refreshing. Hopefully, like Phasma, he continues to give the Resistance a real run for its money, and doesn’t just regress to disposable villain sidekick.

Turning to the Light side of the Force, I thought both Fin and Ray were great (and I think Daisey Ridley has great acting talent), BB-8 was sufficiently adorable, and I like how they kept Luke more or less out of this first new installment. Sometimes it’s best to play the long game.  Also, Poe Dameron, the X-wing pilot, had a great retro Star Wars feel about him.

This is where most of the 3 of my 5 stars come from. Where are the other two? Well, I’ll address my biggest beef first of all. And that was


Seriously. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when the creative team were all sitting round a table and someone said “right everyone, for the finale, how about they attack… an even bigger Deathstar.” And everyone cheered. Presumably.

I feel like I’m the only person in the world that hates the presence of the Star Killer, but I just can’t shake it. I mean I think it’s terraforming was cool. And the symbolism of it sucking up a sun and turning everything dark was also pretty awesome. But beyond that I’m left screaming why. It’s so ridiculous the film actually has to address it in-plot during the Resistance briefing, with one officer being like “it’s another Deathstar” and then everyone agreeing they’ll just destroy it the way they always do. The fact that it’s a BIGGER BADDER DEATHSTAR THAT CAN DESTOROY A BUNCH OF WORLDS AT ONCE just makes it more cringeworthy, as does the fact it was once again stopped from firing with 30 seconds to go. I want to find the guy designing all these evil doom machines with their one big exploitable structural flaw, and Force-choke the hell out of him.

By the time the finale fight was underway I’d actually just about come to terms with Star Killer. I could see a way the plot could be salvaged. The Resistance were going for the weak core, just as they had done in Episodes IV and VI. It had to be a trap, right? I could see it in my mind’s eye – the Resistance takes the killing shot, everyone cheers. Then cut to the bridge of the Star Killer. Grim-faced, General Hux orders his subordinates to “activate the stabilising systems.” To the Resistance’s horror they realise Star Killer has a falesafe, and they haven’t actually dealt it a fatal blow. It would even have helped the Deathstar-loving script writers, because then they’d have gotten to use their doom-laser-planet in Episode VIII as well.

But no, true to past form, it just dies. At least all the villains make it off.

The presence of Star Killer actually summed up what I didn’t like about Episode VII. For large chunks of the film I felt as though I was watching an extremely high-budget Star Wars fanfic production. It was a love letter, written by Abrahams and addressed to the childhood nostalgia of millions of fans. Which in itself is fine, but it wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t really go to see another droid evading Stormtroopers with vital hidden plans, or X-wings wrecking another doom machine, or a desert world that’s Definitely Not Tatooine (I get there were lots of little differences, but still, there are a lot of the worlds in the galaxy that don’t involve scavenging sand peoples). Of course I appreciate the nostalgia as much as everyone else (go Millennium Falcon, go!), but it felt like too much of a carbon copy. It made me appreciate just how much the prequel trilogy really did explore new territory.

Hopefully this has been done to plug a fresh generation into the style and feel of the Star Wars franchise. Presumably the next films (and the spinoffs, which I’m really looking forward to) will now forge ahead with new, unexplored plotlines and settings.

The Force is strong in this series. The Originals have it. The Prequels have it. The new trilogy has it. They just need to not be afraid to explore it in full.



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QUICK REVIEW : A Song for the Lost – Robbie MacNiven

Another very kind review of one of my latest works from Track of Words.

Track of Words

It’s halfway to Christmas and time for the thirteenth story in the 2015 Black Library Advent Calendar – A Song for the Lost by Robbie MacNiven. Ulix, a young Ecclesiarchy novitiate, suffers under the harsh regime of his zealous bishop, taking refuge in the comfort provided by the mysterious Sister D’Fey. While his fellow novitiates shy away in fear he seeks out her company in the darkness, unwittingly ingratiating himself with something far beyond what he realises. The innocent actions of a young boy prove to have far reaching consequences, for Ulix and the Imperium at large.

This continues the high standard MacNiven set with his first story, Redblade, once again creating a believable, relatable character that forms the core of the tale. It’s a more complex narrative than Redblade, but still maintains a good pace as the action shifts and the focus widens, turning into an ambitious story…

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Blood and Iron


Following on hard and fast from the release of my second short story for Black Library on Sunday comes number three – Blood and Iron, featuring the nefarious schemes of a Warpsmith belonging to everyone’s favourite Traitor Legion, the Iron Warriors. Link to the e-book here and the blurb below!

Ferrix, an Iron Warriors warpsmith on the corrupted forge world of Dementius, has his sights set on the most powerful fusion of daemon and machine he has yet attempted, seeking to unleash the violence of Khorne through the ultimate weapon. Blood and Iron chronicles an audacious plan to install a daemonic essence in the mightiest of destructive machines: a corrupted Imperial Titan.

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A Song for the Lost is Out


My second short story as a professional freelancer went live yesterday, via the Black Library. Fans of the origional grimdark setting that is Warhammer 40,000 can expect Noise Marines, the corruption of innocence and some Eldar-torture (it wouldn’t be a Slaaneshi story without it, right?). The official, Inquisitorially sanctioned blurb is below!

In the Basilica of Himaeus the Justicar, nursing his latest beating from Bishop Eziah, young Ulix waits for Sister D’Fey to come and sing to him the only song that can ease his pain. He knows not why the other boys in the dorm hate her presence – nor does he care. When she sings the Song for the Lost, all his fears are soothed. As her voice lulls him to sleep, he cannot know that in his desire to escape the hardships of his life, he walks a path to an even darker future.

It’s a tale of mystery and intrigue in the heart of an Imperial temple that turns into something quite different – and very dangerous. Dark and twisted, to say anything else would give it away completely.

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QUICK REVIEW : Redblade – Robbie MacNiven

Track of Words

For the fourth short story in the ongoing Deathwatch serial we get the first tale from a new Black Library author, in the shape of Redblade by Robbie MacNiven. It sees young Space Wolf Drenn, or Redblade as he prefers to be known, recently attached to a Blood Claws pack and railing against the cautious leadership of his older pack leader. Reckless and arrogant, he butts heads with his superior even while defending a floating refinery platform from waves of orks, while members of the inscrutable Deathwatch look on.

It’s a great start from a new author, with a fresh, interesting idea that feels quite different from the usual Deathwatch style, focusing as it does on the actions of a Space Marine before he joins, unaware that he’s being judged for suitability. Crucially for a short story with limited space the characters feel really believable, Redblade in particular reflecting the…

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