Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Sun Sets, and Shadows Fade…

Last night I finished reading Robert Jeschonek’s “Rising Sun, Falling Shadows” the first of FFG’s new Tannhauser novels. Now, before I get to the review let me say that I don’t normally read novels, in fact this is only the fourth modern novel I’ve ever read; the first three being Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Salman Rushdie's “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”, and my favorite Alessandro Baricco’s “Ocean Sea”. So, you can see I’m not an expert on genera fiction in anyway. I have read other classic novels, but not many.

First the Positives…

Rising Sun… is an amazing bit of fiction none the less. If you’re a Tannhauser fan you’ll defiantly enjoy seeing most of your favorite characters write large in a story that crosses several genera's. The author’s characterizations of the core figures in TH are spot on, and really brought those characters to life in a new way. Even though I’m considered a TH expert, he still managed to give me new insight into many of TH’s central figures.

The plot itself is good and has just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The story changes gears a few times, often taking characters on unexpected paths. In all it’s a mix of military procedural drama and Indiana Jones style pulp fiction, with just a tiny bit of Agatha Christy thrown in. I have to say that I think most TH fans will not only enjoy it, but be left wanting to play a campaign based on it. I can only hope to see a map/campaign pack based on this book, it would be awesome.

Now the Negatives…

My only real complaints are a couple technical nitpicks, like who puts an Admiral in charge of a submarine, and then goes and names that same said sub after an Army General? But, those are just me being a “Military Geek”. My other complaint is the poetry, without putting in any spoilers here; I’ll say that the book occasionally breaks in to a poem, that one of the new characters uses to still his fears, but they really broke up the action, and I didn’t feel that they were giving me any great insight into the character. In fact in the later chapters, I found myself just glossing over them, and not really reading them. Let me be clear here, I have nothing against poetry, I’ve read way more poetry than virtually any other type of fiction; I just feel that these poems didn’t add anything to the story.

And now the spoilers, read no further if you don’t want to see them, you have been warned…

First, the question of the cover art change is really quickly understood by the time you hit chapter 4 or 5. Some of you may remember that Hoax was featured on the cover, before it was changed to Itami. Well, that would have been silly because after Hoax is injured in chapter 2, she is no longer a primary character, and makes only a couple of brief appearances in the UNS Pershing’s sickbay. Mizu too, never appears again after her fight with Hoax.

However, the most amazing revelation to come out of the story is the introduction of Nadia, Hermann Von Heizinger’s old love, whom he now holds hostage in one of the worst relationships ever. Nadia is central to the plot at several points, and while the author takes time to demonstrate her impressive powers, in the end Hermann just chucks her into an astral vortex, as a sacrifice. This is a little disappointing, as there is no epic wizard fight (between her and Hermann), but the door is left open for her return.

Hermann is featured rather heavily throughout the story, so if you we’re thinking this was going to be a showcase of the Shogunate, you’ll be either pleasantly surprised or disappointed. In fact in the epic climax Hermann, not only moves with adept hand-to-hand combat skills, but takes a bullet to the chest only to rise up and still give John MacNeal a lick or two. All while wielding the Patmos Amulet, and exerting his will over the likes of WOLF, Tala, and Taki.

Tala, and Taki, turn out to have very central roles in the story, Tala is a Navajo Shaman, and the “Dark God” introduced about half way in, is very keen to enlist her help. Taki, becomes the “white knight” rushing in to rescue Tala, and “get the girl” as it were, after the Dark God takes her for his own needs.

But out of all the central TH characters found in the book Itami, is my favorite, his mannerisms and descriptions is just what you’d expect. His words are often polite, yet, laced with a sharp sarcasm, that leads you to believe he’ll kill you without a second thought, and then send a thank you note to your mother, to thank her for the opportunity to do so. He spends a good portion of his free time “torturing” Hiruko the Nipponese soldier though which much of the story is told. And their relationship is defiantly fun to watch evolve as the story progresses.

Well, I think that’s enough, I just want to end by letting everyone know what characters do not appear. Hoss, Eva, and Yula, make neither an appearance, or mention in the story. Neither does Irishka, or Gorgei. Zor’ka however, is mentioned by name, as a side character falls to his death. Ramirez also fails to appear, although his back story places him in the Pacific theater. There is of course no mention of J. C. Edison. On the trooper side of things, the Shin Agents make no appearance, and only commandos Alpha are on the Union side.

One last thing, speaking of troopers, the author makes point of telling us about the Zazigags and Beopripacies in the Russian contingent that joins MacNeal about a 1/4 of the way into the story. But there is really no pay off here, as the climax builds there are no specific mentions of them in combat, no scenes of Shogunate soldiers being incinerated.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little review, I could go on for pages, discussing every indicate detail of the story and the characters, but I think it’s time you get out there and read it for yourself.