World of Warcraft: War Crimes – book review

Standard

***This review is spoiler-free to up-to-date fans of the World of Warcraft in-game plot and will only mention elements of the new book that can be derived from the game and the book cover. Read with confidence***

Videogame based books are a lot like videogame based movies…or movie based videogames. When it comes to picking one up, there’s a high likelyhood that it’s a bad one. Any media crossover like this runs the risk of providing its developers with a cushion of safety – they don’t have to make it the best game/book/movie ever, after all; it already has a brand and a committed following before it comes out! This guarantees a scintilla of launch-day success, due to fans of the franchise showing their support, regardless of how it’ll play out. As a result, the plots of these crossovers is typically a poor, recyled cookie-cutter story, with misplaced, misinformed lore, and continuity errors, where merely they’ve replaced “Romeo” with “The Orc”, and scattered around a bunch of buzz words to keep the franchise fans’ interest. We all remember the great Mass Effect book burning of 2012.

Christie Golden’s World of Warcraft series is not that kind of book. She’s been writing Warcraft lore for over a decade, and you can tell that Blizzard have a huge deal of faith in her, granting her a vast breadth of creative license to stitch together different events from the realm, immortalizing characters and moments along the way.

Even to some of the most committed World of Warcraft players, Azerothian lore can break down to a simple dichotomy of Alliance vs Horde, but there’s so much more there than a good vs evil story, and the novels are a testament to that. I, admittedly am one such player, a “dialogue skipper” that just wants an objective and something to fight. If, like me, you have a habit of jumping from event to event without stopping to take a look around, I’d fully recommend reading the World of Warcraft books; they’ll change the way you look at the mmo and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in the realm amongst the Bloodhoof’s and Proudmoore’s, making them more than just mission-giving NPCs.

250px-War_Crimes_full_cover

World of Warcraft: War Crimes begins where the in-game expansion, Mists of Pandaria left off, and acts as a precursor to the upcoming, Warlords of Draenor storyline, which is promising to give the Horde its “finest hour”.

The book documents the trial of the former Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream as his atrocities are weighed up by the Alliance, Horde and Pandaren, in order to decide his fate. As you can imagine, that makes this book relatively dialogue heavy and lean on the action scenes. What it lacks in action, however, it makes up for in emotion, as you look into all of the key figures of Azeroth as they discuss their own interpretations of right and wrong, and each cope with the aftermath of Mists, Cataclysm and the Wrath of the Lich King.

tumblr_static_wallpaper-pandaria-mists-wallwuzz-hd-wallpaper-15637

I picked up the audiobook version on Audible, which was narrated by the award-winning Scott Brick, who is fast becoming my favorite narrator; he could probably read a Volvo owners manual and still invoke some kind of emotion from the listener. I was expecting his voice to struggle in a fantasy environment, but his voice acting makes each character stand out, sound authentic and come to life.

The plot is quite heavy, due to some of the horrible things that have occurred to the characters at the hands of Hellscream, and as they recount them in court, some of it can be quite tough to hear. Whether you’re on the side of the Alliance or the Horde in World of Warcraft, prepare to be surprised; because in War Crimes, you’ll find your allegiance continuously shifting sides as accusers and defenders begin to show their true colors.

As much as it is a precursor to the Warlords of Draenor expansion, the focus is very much on giving Mists of Pandaria a full and proper send-off and fans of Warcraft-old will be given plenty of opportunities to reminisce on Pandaria’s highlights.

Christie Golden has done an excellent job with War Crimes, in creating a near-perfect book, despite running several gauntlets. She has based a book on a popular, lore-filled franchise, provided little to no action in a book aimed at an action-hungry community and made the main theme of the book martial law…and came out the other end with a book that all fans will be thankful for.

My 5 picks from the Audible sale

Standard

Audible is one of those expensive, unnecessary things that I don’t need, but like having. It’s not a bad product, by any means, but on average, you’re paying around £1 per hour for digital content. When most audiobooks are around 20 hours long, you quickly realize that you can buy the physical disks online for the same price or less. It is, however, immediate, remote and convenient, granting you all of your audio library in one place, with a few additional features thrown in too.

I troop on with it, like a gym membership, it encourages me to “read” because I’m committed to a subscription, and it gives me the push I need to read books that I’ve always wanted to, but never gotten around to.

Cheap books on audible are rare, so while there’s a sale on, it’s worth grabbing what you can.

Up until March 9th, the books on sale are £5.99; putting most of them at half price or better.

Here’s five books to consider:

abw-putnam300

A Battle Won by Sean Thomas Russell (Historical Fiction)

If you’ve ever wanted to get into a Naval War series, this is probably one of the best starting points. If you’ve ever wanted to try out the likes of the Hornblower of the Aubrey/Maturin series, but don’t want to delve into a 20-book-run of complex, nautical grey matter, Russell’s Hayden run currently stands at 3 books, with A Battle Won being the second. The story takes place around the time of the French Revolution, and just before the Napoleonic Wars famous for it’s rise in history-making, nautical battles between the likes of Napoleon, Nelson and Collingwood, and throwing in the battles of the fictitious Charles Hayden did history no harm.

It’s strange that the first book, Under Enemy Colours, hasn’t been included in the sale, possibly due to the sequel holding a higher rating, but either way, it’s a good jumping-on point, as the plot is quite straightforward, as far as historical fiction can go. If you already read Naval War stories, it might seem a little toned down and simple, but at £5.99 and 15 hours long, it’s worth a shot.

584

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson (Fantasy/Norse Fiction)

A story the paints a beautiful picture of Norse Mythology, telling the story of based around the actions of Thor, but from the perspective of some of Yggdrasil’s smaller, but equally pivotal inhabitants.

The Broken Sword is narrated by renowned narrator, Bronson Pinchot, who does a great job at bringing the complex, mythological realms to life.

Daniel_Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Popular Psychology/Personal Development)

Not a personal favorite, but I was impressed to see it in the sale, and would recommend picking it up while it’s so cheap. As far as pop-psychology and behavioral economics go, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but acts as a nice guide and reminder of how we choose to see the world around ourselves, and will leave you analyzing the hum-drum of everyday transactions.

510AdeLvWCL

Saints of New York by R.J. Ellory (Detective, Thriller)

Mafia-era, New York Police Detective investigating a run of homicides. It’s not for everyone and it’s full of swearing, violence and unredeeming characters. If you’re a fan of gangster movies, it truly feels like a 16 hour version of Ray Liotta’s narrative in Goodfellas. If you think that kind of stuff is childish and obnoxious, steer clear, but if, like me, you love a good mob story; this one pulls no punches.

4615454

Firefight by Chris Ryan (Military Fiction)

Chris Ryan is the slightly lesser-known military author that emerged from the events of “Bravo Two Zero”. Known as “The One That Got Away”, Chris Ryan embarked on what is now considered the longest escape in British Militay history, covering 190 miles from Baghdad to Syria after an SAS operation, lead by famed military writer, Andy McNab, was compromised.

Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Chris Ryan’s work, both his non-fiction accounts and his fiction, as it is undoubtedly steeped in first-hand experience and subtle truths.

Firefight is a fictional story based around the war in Afghanistan, and as troops begin to pull out of Helmland in the real world; it’s a good time to reflect on one of the biggest military operations in history, through the eyes of a soldier.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Limited Edition Audiobook Box Set

Standard

I’m a big fan of the Green brothers and everything they do on youtube and, as such, picked up The Fault in Our Stars as a paperback quite early on, but really struggled to read it. I also tried with Looking for Alaska, but alas, it too failed to gel with me.

I’d describe his writing as American teen literature that hinges towards a female audience. That doesn’t make it bad in anyway; nor does me not liking it, but as a big, bearded 26 year-old from the cold, industrial North, I found it hard to relate  with all the sweepy-dreamyness, romance, wonder and hope. It’s just not in me.

When my girlfriend was gifted an audiobook version, however, I thought I’d give it a go. I find it much easier to commit into a book if somebody else is reading it…call me lazy.

The Limited Edition version of the audiobook comes with narrations from John Green himself, rather than the Kate Rudd narration, which can be found elsewhere. I’ve not listened to the Kate Rudd version, but there’s something special about listening to an author read their own book; I found the same with Stephen Fry. Whenever pushed between a choice of narrators, I’ll always go for the author’s voice over another. If anything, they read it the way they intended you to read it, and have a much smoother ebb and flow across the pages.

The book makes continuous references to another book, calling it “not a cancer book”, and if I had to describe this book in one phrase, it rather fittingly suits it down to the ground. Although cancer is very much part of the book, it is written well enough that the story is never about cancer, and cancer isn’t going to be the star of the show. The star of the show always remains the sixteen year-old, half-lunged hero, Hazel Grace Lancaster. Like many of my favorite books, the roster is short, allowing each character plenty of space for development, and plenty of opportunities to plant their roots into your mind.

Although the style wasn’t for me, and built a barrier between me and the story, it wasn’t long before I was in the gooey center of the story, firmly planted and once again feeling like a teenager with the world at my service.

John clearly recalls his own youth well and fondly, as he writes from a teen’s perspective so well, that you always feel in the midst of it; wheeled along like Hazel’s theraputics.

infinities_zpsb4aec529

It touches on some serious matter, poses some great questions and forces you to look at some of our shortcomings as a species and as a culture. Not many books manage this, and to do so amidst a book that’s ultimately based around a room of children who are waiting to die hammers the point across quite solidly, but without being damning, and moreso teaches you through the actions of these children, that being human is always the best response, no matter the outcome.

Verdict

Although it was a little young for me and, thusly, the topics sometimes felt a little basic and unchallenging, the overall journey was fantastic, compelling and rewarding. I’m a huge fan of Douglas Coupland, and would rank this book similar, but gentler, on subject matter. If you’re looking for an easily accessible book, that lightly scratches the surface of all the big questions, without enveloping you, I’d highly recommend it. 9/10

The Box

One of the most impressive things bout the Limited Edition is the amount of thought that’s gone into it. The complete audiobook, with an additional DVD, a wristband, some postcards of featured locations from the book and a concert ticket replica. Its all really nicely thought out and detailed. I’d hazard to guess that John Green, thought up and picked all of this stuff out himself, as it all fits together so well.

tumblr_mmwew7cheI1qjhzvpo1_500

I took a picture of the contents, but http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/ had a shinier one, hope they don’t mind me using it!