Sunday, January 31, 2010

Scriptoria Magnificat I - Warhammer 40,000

Warhammer 40,000 (also known as Warhammer 40K), is a science-fiction setting set in the distant future. It is a dark time of war and conflict, of xenophobia, heresies and many foes who would extinguish the light of humanity in the galaxy. Originally a table-top strategy game, the lore behind this game has become more and more popular over the years, developing into full-blown novels and sci-fi series in their own right.

A variety of authors have come to the table to write for the Black Library, who publishes WH40K literature, bringing different takes to the varied forces that exist in the universe of WH40K. Each writer holds a certain style of writing and level of skill. Given that they are both bound and enriched by a collectively created yet specific 'canon', one cannot expect things to go far beyond certain limits, they show clear differences in level of skill and talent.

As a fan of these books and with a slowly growing collection that now numbers over twenty individual novels, with omnibuses counting for the separate novels that compose of them, I have taken it upon myself to make a brief review of what lie within my humble library.

My scoring system is as follows:
1/5 - Poorly written, do not buy this. Read at own risk.
2/5 - Average writing, could avoid buying this. Suggested for niche fans-only or collectors of story-universe.
3/5 - Good writing, generally genre-friendly or if fans of the story universe in general.
4/5 - Great writing, can be recommended to readers who occasionally peruse the genre.
5/5 - Excellent writing, can be recommended to most readers, genre-crossing.

Dawn of War (Omnibus, by C.S. Goto) - 2/5

The Dawn of War Omnibus is based off the popular video game. That said, its delivery and adaptation of the video game's story and campaign leaves much to be desired. It is not particularly endearing, as its plot follows the game's campaign almost verbatim. It is my opinion that using the game primarily as a skeleton would've worked better, if the writer had devoted more effort into using 'off-camera' scenes and character development beyond the confines of what was shown in the game. Not a book for those who aren't fans of the genre or game itself.

The Grey Knights (Omnibus, by Ben Counter) - 3/5

The Grey Knights Omnibus is a fine example of action and struggle in the WH40k Universe. It chronicles the efforts of the Grey Knights, a specialized organization dedicated to fighting the daemons of the Warp. While not particularly groundbreaking or anything, the pieces are solid, and fairly well-written. In particular they show some of the inner workings of the Grey Knights and how they operate, as well as the scope of their responsibility. It is a look into the eons-old war of the Grey Knights and the Imperium against the machinations of Chaos. A good read for WH40k fan, and in particular any Space Marine fan.

The Space Wolves (Omnibus 1&2, by William King & Lee Lightner) - 3.5/5

The Space Wolves are one of the more distinct Space Marine Chapters in WH40K. The books by Bill King are great Space Marine pieces, showing a varied selection of settings and challenges for the hero Ragnar Blackmane to face. Lee Lightner's successor books do not disappoint, something which is difficult to accomplish. Lightner retains the feel of rugged, multifaceted conflicts that Ragnar faces in King's books. It's a great start for someone who wants to learn about the Space Marines and shows their interaction with the Imperium of Man at large, with glimpses of the politics and social environment that often gets lost amidst the war and action.

The Ultramarines (Omnibus, by Graham McNeil) - 3/5

The Ultramarines novels are very solid, well-rounded pieces of work. They depict the conflicts experienced by seasoned Ultramarines, thrown into conflicts that normally do not afflict the typical Space Marine. The novels take us to the fight against greatly different opponents in different settings, illustrating the rise, fall and struggle to return by heroes. It is an good series to follow if one wishes to know simultaneously both how the Space Marines operate and the immense scope of the enemies they and the Imperium face.

The Blood Angels (Omnibus, James Swallow) - 3/5

The Blood Angels duology is a great look at the insides of a Space Marine chapter. It shows the grays of the universe that constantly assault the heroes, and how they turn to black. Rather than being focused on an epic movement, the novels are a little more focused on the actual characters' relationship-byplay and internal conflicts against very real threats to their souls and life. A good start to discovering the threats to the Space Marines from a more internal perspective.

With that said, I've finished giving quick reviews of my Omnibus books. Next time around I'll focus on those books I have individually purchased, separate from 'omnibus collections'. Until then: the Emperor protects!


All things upon this Earth begin, and all things upon this Earth end.

The cycles of life and the sequences of history follow one another, one rising and the other fading into the past. Time goes on with the sparks of events and occasions lighting it up, each in their own turn. From ember to flame and flame to smolders, each thing comes and departs as they are meant to.

It is folly to strive against the natural passage of things, to cling too hard against what with a clear heart and mind shows is done. To do so only tarnishes the good of something, as if dragged along in the dust beyond it's proper course.

Therefore with every thing that springs forth into our lives, one must be aware of its ending, and prepare as is right to achieve the kind of end that is to be desired, the kind of ending that is not brittle and hollow, but full and enriching of our souls.

I say that it is right for one to yearn for the resolution of a good work done, the sense of triumph of a long fight won, and the completeness of a masterpiece finished. It is the kind of ending in the finest sense, the closing of greatness or justness of a particular thing or time.

This is the sort of end that I believe is to be desired.

But to leave something, to take it's end properly does not mean it is doomed to be forgotten and cast adrift in the sea of faded memory. Rather, acceptance and learning are right to do with each thing that flows in and out of our lives, to peer deeply into the fine details of memory and leave each moment of study with renewed knowledge or reinforced character.

Remembering and treating these jewels of our past with due respect is what should be done, according them the proper sense of conscious thought, to which supports us as we move on in life.

For perhaps in a different time, a different place, things shall come again to create a new picture that yet shares in the colors of the old, or that a great work shall come to pass that shares its foundation in one's prior achievements. The life of a person and all that happens is linked in ways one can never be quite plotted or charted by anyone of mortal ken.

So we live and learn, until timelessness arrives to be faced with the totality of what we have been given, chosen and accomplished. For this is right for as long as we dwell upon this Earth in our mortal frames, weathering and cherishing that which begins and ends.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seeds of Writing

One night, not too long ago, I was on the way to my friends' house with Ria when we somehow came across the topic of writing. "You don't write anymore." She told me. I reflected on this briefly, wondering why. A few ideas came to mind on how come I no longer wrote, but things I wasn't able to fully explore that night. Nonetheless it stuck with me until I had the chance to set myself down and put my thoughts to paper.

To me the idea of writing is like taking a seed and nurturing the plant that eventually grows. These are small things at first, ideas or scattered little thoughts, what have you. These seeds need to be planted and allowed to take a life of their own. They can also be small fires that burn brighter as they unfold in one's mind, spilling forth onto the pages of one's desired medium. I realized that many of those moments, those seeds or sparks that bear potential to be written, I would perhaps put in a place that was, at least for me, not conducive for growth.

The written word can be one of the most enduring and powerful expressions of humanity as a collective and an individual's soul. It can show one's deepest thoughts and emotions, allowing others to peer into the lives and experiences we write about, to behold our creations and work. It is a wonderful gift to be able to write and harvest from the wealth of one's life.

But like many things which stem from life, writing must also be cared for and nurtured, lest it withers or grows stunted. It must be placed in the right ground and tended to for it to grow, and grow well. I recall a parable from the Bible, one where Christ speaks of the seeds falling upon different kinds of soil.

Writing is not too much different. In some soils it would lie fallow, useless and untapped. In others it might grow slowly at first, but dies as it is choked by weeds and other things. In others it grows quickly but shortly after dies in the shallow dirt, withering away. But some seeds fall onto rich soil, where it can grow steadily and extend its roots, strong and healthy as it rises in the sun.

In the parable, the seeds represent the 'Good Word' of the Lord and the soil represents the different kinds of people who react to it. With writing, I liken the soil to the places and mediums where we choose to write, how we choose to pursue and practice our writing. It is an environment that we must till properly, the seeds of writing demanding a degree of discipline to ensure its growth.

In both cases, faith and writing are largely dependent on a person's choices and disposition. It relies on conscious will on how to act and where to act. And so these seeds grows or withers depending on these very choices on how to pursue their development.

But let us assume that anyone who desires greatly enough to write will actually do so, to exert effort to write as his or her own creativity and inspiration strikes, as habit and discipline drives on to do so, or as duty and obligation pushes one. Given this will or desire, one would then have to make a decision as to where one would plant such a seed of writing.

The medium of our writing is of course crucial, because it forms a great part of the 'soil'. It is my belief that we should chose to write in a medium that begets more writing, greater writing, and deeper writing. A good writing environment and medium could allow us to maximize our creative spark and deeper thinking, giving us a favorable opportunity to draw forth good ideas and thoughts from our inner worlds and set them down for ourselves to reflect on and others to read.

In this age of information and technology, the writer has so many options to chose from. The classic forms of pen and paper are of course always there. Some might even opt for a typewriter, nodding to some sense of nostalgia perhaps. It is something I've done. But what is likely the most common form of writing nowadays, especially for the younger writers (below the age of 40, perhaps?) takes the form of digital writing.

The medium we have now is far more flexible and arguably powerful than what writers used to have before. The internet has given us a channel that lets us reach out far easier and with a broader scope than just a decade or two ago, with the audience that truly includes the entire world. It has given us a huge number of places where we can write and display our work, where with the ease of a few clicks and the dancing of our fingers on plastic keys we can share almost anything we desire to the multitude.

It has given us an entire field with which we can freely sow such seeds of writing, for them to grow and be seen by all. Or for them to wither in a brief span of time, choked by the vastness of the field, or dying when they cannot find purchase in deeper ground. The soil I speak of here, of course, is the plethora of internet sites. Blogs of various forms, online journals, networking sites with notes and journal options, virtual galleries and different kinds of information repositories are just some of what we have access to.

The internet and all of these easy-to-access places have spawned a generation or three of communication. But it is also a dangerous place, not in the moral or ethical sense as that is beyond the scope of my current discourse, but in the sense that one might as easily lose one's inspirations and muses as one might find them. It can turn those who were non-writers into writers, giving them the light of the world to feed on. And it can trap those who do write into shallow loops of action/reaction, giving little room for one's writing to truly grow, for any sparks to build up into a real fire of thought.

So we return to the beginning.

By now some may wonder what this entire thing is for, what I'm actually getting at. Or rather, what is it exactly that I am trying to say and I should just cut to the chase and get past all what might seem like dissembling, that I should speak plainly what this entire diatribe is for. Very well.

It obvious that I am supportive of the Internet as a good ground for people to use and write in. I am also one who feeds on the reaction and comments of my peers and friends and on the quick and healthy discussions that arise from our writings that the Internet makes possible. One could also surmise that the lengthy block of text above was an exercise to jog my mind, to warm up, shake off the cobwebs and get the writer's flow going again.

This writing was also written with a possible audience in mind. This is not hard to tell. But the audience is as much myself as anyone who might read this. It is to me a cautionary tale to be discerning and thoughtful to where I write, to where on the Internet I should roam and attempt to write in, to not allow my writing to be caught up in mediums where I might be unable to pursue or develop the kind of deeper writing or expressions of my thoughts that I would like.

And that is the essence of this piece.

It is also a reminder to be careful of things like Plurk. But that's another entry for another time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sparks of the Mind

Every so often I pick up the metaphorical pen once again, the gentle wind of inspiration carrying me once again to write and put my words to paper. Every now and then, I revive an old blog and resume writing there again. But there are times when I feel like I need a change of environment. Just as people grow and move on to different things, so this is the case with the transition from one place of writing to another.

In this case, I've shifted from my old blog ( to this one. I hope that I shall be able to maintain it better, and well into my prime and adulthood.

So once again my blog carries the name 'Sparks of the Mind', and I think I'll keep it that way. The mind is the source of many of our lights in life, and it is my hope that in always writing, in constantly going through introspection and the endless pursuit in the interchange of thoughts and ideas, I can help myself grow.

And if others benefit from it, then praise be to God, all the better. Here's to a new beginning!