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Thread: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

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    Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    The Gotrek and Felix stories are well known and well loved; as the Black Library themselves explain, it's the longest running series that they print. The early books, by Bill King, were wonderful stories but not well written (this is not happening thought Felix), though by the time King stopped writing them he had dramatically improved as an author; and the more recent books, by Nathan Long, are technically much better written than King's early work, but the stories have become formulaic and unconvincing.

    In part this is due to the limitations of the format (we know neither of the two titular characters will ever actually die, and there's only so many ways Gotrek can briefly appear to be doomed in increasingly unlikely ways without actually being killed) and as a result, the full-length novels feel lifeless nowadays next to the spin-off series involving Thanquol and, to a lesser degree, Ulrika. But the true home of Gotrek and Felix has always been the short story. From the very beginning in Gehiemnisnacht to The Two Crowns of Ras Karim by way of Slayer of the Storm God, the dynamic duo's best appearances have always been in brief, punchy tales. This new anthology brings together a collection of such tales, each penned by a different writer, many (though not all) of whom are new to the Black Library. So how have they got on, in bringing our favourite characters to life? Let's find out!

    Slayer's Honour - Nathan Long

    Long is the man to have taken on G&F duties since Bill King decided to move on, and his familiarity with the characters shines through in this novella-length story. Felix discovers that his arrangement with Gotrek is not actually as unique as he might have assumed, though it soon becomes clear that not all is as it seems - and very quickly the reader is drawn into a tale of dwarfs and men, orcs and skaven, loyalty and betrayal, giant spiders and even a nuclear bomb. But as the title implies, honour is the central theme of this story and ultimately, honour is satisfied; though not without Felix giving away just a hint of the frustration he feels with his fate.

    Not everyone appreciates Long's work with G&F, and I know I've sometimes found their most recent novels to go much too far in stretching plausibility; but freed of the need to come up with yet another danger that threatens to overwhelm the entire Empire (while still being readily defeatable by just one Dwarf), Long is able to create a compelling and much more personal tale, jam-packed with Indiana Jones moments, butchery aplenty, and convincing characters with just enough sublety to create a great deal of sympathy, making this so much more than mere axe-porn. Agnar and Henrik provide a mirror in which Gotrek and Felix can be seen in a different light: the slayer as a bitter, barely-suppressed bundle of resentment; and his remembrancer as, ultimately, just a man, for all the adventures he has lived through. In case it's not clear, I thought this story was brilliant - a new G&F classic.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: beheading seven Bloodthirsters before being swallowed whole by the eighth, drowning in its daemonic stomach acid but giving it indigestion. 9.5/10. Superb.

    I'll add further reviews to this thread as I finish each story...
    Last edited by SunTzu; 17-02-2012 at 22:14.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    A Cask of Wynters - Josh Reynolds

    Turning the focus onto Snorri Nosebiter, this story follows the nail-crested Slayer on his adventures without G&F, instead in the company of a young slayer and a motley collection of drunken Knights.

    The only other Josh Reynolds story I have read is the dreadful The Gods Demand in Age of Legend, and this brief action romp is at least rather better than that. Although Snorri is the recognised hero, it's really about Grudi Halfhand and how he meets his doom; though I'm not sure falling off a barrel is the kind of heroic death bards would traditionally sing songs about. While I did find myself accepting there was a certain poetry to the story, I barely recognised the Snorri in this tale compared to the Snorri in the books (it felt like there was a checklist of "Snorri's characteristics" which are all present and correct, but the essence of the character was lost) and the human characters all seemed devoid of any personality at all. The final fight was entertaining enough but almost the entire story was a battle of one kind or another, and none of it was particularly memorable.

    Maybe it's just me; others apparently loved The Gods Demand so maybe they will love this too. I wasn't impressed.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: challenging an Ogre to a head-butting contest then realising you're only tall enough to ram your forehead into his steel gut-plate; going ahead with the contest as a matter of principle and bashing your own brains out on his belly. 3/10. Underwhelming.
    Last edited by SunTzu; 17-02-2012 at 21:19.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    A Place of Quiet Assembly - John Brunner

    As far as I am aware this is Brunner's first Black Library story, and I rather enjoyed it. Told from the viewpoint of a man who encounters G&F by chance, a man whose soul (unbeknownst even to himself) is in grave danger, the atmosphere of this brief but intriguing tale invokes some of the classic Warhammer stories from when they were still published by Boxtree - similar in style to A Gardener of Parravon and evocative of Bill King's very first G&F stories.

    Brunner has a distinctive, whimsical style and it is one that I found most agreeable. [edit] Apparently he's a "renowned SF author", I reveal my ignorance by confessing I've not heard of him! [/edit] I have a soft spot for Solkan and the other lesser-known gods of the Warhammer world, and I found the idea of a temple ostensibly devoted to the god of Law and Justice but actually a front for the machinations of Tzeentch to be a compelling and inspiring setting for G&F to barge in and "do their thing". So this story was rather good fun. I just wish it had been rather longer, and with perhaps a bit more meat on the bones.

    With that said, Brunner might want to make sure the BL proof readers concentrate a bit more closely when they next publish his work; I spotted a number of typos (for example someone is much more likely to have "stared" at the grass than "started" at it, and someone's expression is usually on their "face", not their "fact"; there were other mistakes) but it didn't detract much from my enjoyment.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: massacring a mound of corpses ten feet high before succumbing to exhaustion and a relentless horde of formless beings from the world of nightmare finally drags you to your death. 8/10. Splendid.
    Last edited by SunTzu; 17-02-2012 at 22:16.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Kineater - Jordan Ellinger

    It remains regrettable that the handover of G&F from Bill King to Nathan Long coincided with the decision to add twenty years to their story. Basically this was because the timeline of the early stories didn't match the "now" of Warhammer; so off they were sent to Cathay for a couple of decades, and when they returned (and Long took up the pen) nothing had really changed. This tale features the duo on their journey to that distant land, filling in some of the missing time.

    At their best, the G&F stories aren't just action-packed and filled with doom; they can also be amusing, and this short story fulfils that criteria amply. Ellingers writing flows from the page as easily as that of the famous novellist that G&F meet in this tale; the Ogres and Gnoblars are splendidly rendered (I can just imagine belching forming part of their language), and I was audibly chuckling when Gotrek, a Dwarf, fought a duel to become Tyrant of an Ogre tribe! Indeed, there were a number of good gags, not least of which included the self-referential discussion on the last page about what Felix's books about Gotrek would be called - and I was highly amused to find an in-world character ask the question that I'm sure every reader has, at some point. So, this story was lots of fun - not comedy, exactly, or even comedy-drama, but drama that is not too self-absorbed.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: hanging from a ledge above a precipice and holding onto the evil villain who says "if you let go, we both die!", letting go, and donning a pair of cool-looking shades as you fall, just having time to quip a one-liner shortly before impact. 8/10. A crowd-pleaser.
    Last edited by SunTzu; 18-02-2012 at 08:00.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Quote Originally Posted by SunTzu View Post
    A Place of Quiet Assembly - John Brunner


    the idea of a temple ostensibly devoted to the god of Law and Justice but actually a front for the machinations of Tzeentch to be a compelling and inspiring setting
    Funnily enough one of the Brunner the Bounty Hunter stories has something VERY similar...
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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheena Easton View Post
    Funnily enough one of the Brunner the Bounty Hunter stories has something VERY similar...
    Heh... I don't remember that one. Life imitating art, or vice versa?

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Prophecy - Ben McCallum

    This story follows the exploits of G&F's sorcerous enemies, Kelmain and Lhoigor; as well as touching upon Arek Daemonclaw, the origins of Gotrek's axe and how he found it, Felix's dragonslaying shenanigans and more besides.

    I thought the first couple of pages were a bit clumsily written but McCallum soon got into his flow, and pretty soon the sorcerer twins were revealed in their fascinating intricacies. The only problem is... well... the story refers to scenes in Dragonslayer, Giantslayer, Daemonslayer and more. I've read all those books... but a long, long time ago! I fear I've forgotten too much to really appreciate some of the references, and truly reap all the benefits of all the little details. So although it was a nice enough little story, and certainly well written... it didn't grab me as much as most of the other short stories I've read so far. Perhaps someone with the G&F back-story fresher in their mind would appreciate it more, and rate it higher.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: charging single-handed into a mob of Black Orcs, cleaving several of them down, slaying their Warboss but being slain in return, only for another of the Black Orcs to claim the title of Warboss for himself. 6.5/10. Decent.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    The Tilean's Talisman - David Guymer

    Another story from the perspective of G&F's enemies, this time a skaven (subservient to Thanquol who gets only the briefest of mentions) who meets his end early on, and the rest of the story backtracks to explain how things got to that stage.

    I quite enjoyed Guymer's writing; skaven are hard to write well, I think Bill King was the one to start the "quick-quick man-thing" style of their mannerisms but few others have quite grasped it since (the otherwise excellent Mike Lee didn't make a particularly good job of it in the final Nagash book for example) but Guymer takes a pretty good stab at it. This skaven was fairly well rendered, with the usual mix of cowardice, self-delusion and grand schemes that always, always fall to pieces. Unfortunately, knowing that he's going to die seemed to me to make the rest of the story a little bit pointless. The talisman wasn't much more than a plot device and a few too many things happened "just so" for no readily obvious reason; but there again, the very ending of the book captured Felix's rationality and Gotrek's suicidal bravery pretty well, I thought. So, a diverting story with some solid entertainment value, but not great.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: marching into battle amongst a throng of one's Slayer comrades, standing defiant as the rest of the army suffers such casualties that it is forced to flee, and selling one's own life dearly to cover their retreat. 6.5/10. Commendable.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Last Orders - Andy Smillie

    This story about a case of mistaken (fraudulent) identity, a Chaotic plot to do something very bad to the Empire, and a bar brawl involving an Ogre, a wizard, a Witch Hunter, a guard captain and a bunch of thugs held rather more potential than was ultimately fulfilled.

    G&F themselves appear only briefly and I wasn't quite convinced that Smillie's vision of them (Felix, especially) quite matched my own; but the plot he built up was credibly convoluted, with quite a good set-up involving a pile of corpses in a seedy tavern and a mysterious rat-catcher doing something secretive in the dark. It's just that it didn't really come to anything that was promised; the bad guy got his come-uppance because he was a bad guy, but some of the more interesting threads were left dangling loose. Don't misunderstand, this wasn't a bad story - it was certainly much better written than A Cask Of Wynters. It just felt like it could have been so much more.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: swearing vengeance on the troll that killed your younger brother, hunting it down and slaying it, but dying of the wounds it inflicted. 5/10. Adequate.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Mind Stealer - CL Werner

    Grey Seer Thanquol finally makes a genuine appearance, with all the paranoia, skulduggery, ineptitude and cruelty you would expect. Following on from Thanquol's Doom, the lovably incompetent skaven sees a chance to take vengeance on his hated foes, but due to (yet another case of) mistaken identity it turns out it's not really them; and, worse, he finds his mind inhabiting Boneripper's body (and we all know how long Bonerippers tend to last).

    Werner's writing has improved greatly since his early work with the Brunner stories and he's made a decent effort at capturing Thanquol's personality. Unfortunately the central reason for the story - of Thanquol wanting to attack G&F but it's not really them - didn't have any power because the previous story featured the same conceit; and the ending was disappointing, because even if Thanquol hadn't done anything, the witch would have died at the hands of the Sigmarite priest, and Thanquol would have returned to his own body anyway. (Although, being back in his own body but tied to Boneripper's back was a nice touch).

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: taking the Slayer oath because the skaven captured a mine you were supposed to defend, travelling to the deepest depths of the mine and destroying the roof supports, bringing down the mine and killing yourself and the Skaven. 5.5/10. Ordinary.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    The Two Crowns of Ras Karim - Nathan Long

    I've already mentioned this above as one of the best G&F short stories - it was previously published in a Games Day booklet I think, and I hadn't realised it was in this anthology. Our heroes contend with politics, mystical beasts, cursed magic items, priceless treasures, shady characters and all the gung-ho we've come to expect from them. It even features a ludicrously absurd (yet thoroughly enjoyable) scene in which Gotrek beats a Chimera to death with his fists; but played with tongue at least partly in cheek, the whole section feels to me entirely natural and simply another facet of the Slayer's destiny. Add to the mix a rare glimpse into life in Araby and it's fair to say that I love this story.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: taking ship to Ulthuan, marching into Caledor, calling out the dragons that slumber there to face their death at last, cutting them down one by one as they meet the challenge, spitting at the shocked and outraged elves of that land, getting back on the ship, sailing to the Plain of Bones, waiting for a Necromancer to raise a Zombie Dragon, smashing it into tiny little pieces and finally succumbing to the black magic of the Necromancer himself. 9.5/10. Spectacular.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    The Funeral of Gotrek Gurnisson - Richard Salter

    To round out the anthology, Ulrika makes a cameo appearance, reunited with G&F once more, though under less than ideal circumstances.

    This story is Gotrek and Felix by numbers. Skaven, Ulrika, magic, wisecracks, Gotrek obviously not being dead, spells that threaten the whole Empire in unlikely ways; it's all here. Unfortunately none of it really gels, nor is it particularly convincing, and the end result felt formulaic and tepid to me. I'm not sure if Ulrika's role in Gotrek's "demise" is supposed to be revealed as a twist at the end, but since her agent gives the game away just four pages into the story and obvious clues peppered practically every other page throughout the rest of the tale, if it was intended that way, it failed. If it wasn't, it's not really clear why Felix went along with her plan at all. I didn't find the writing style particularly compelling (and vampire puns "suck") and I felt this was an anti-climactic note on which to end.

    Doom Awesomeness Rating: shaving your head and beard, dying your hair ginger, carrying a huge axe, covering yourself in tattoos, getting into a bar fight and getting your throat slit by someone you hadn't noticed sneaking up behind you. 3.5/10. Disappointing.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    In summary, these ten tales of derring-do have much to offer both the established G&F fan and the newbie alike. Ten stories, only two of them were poor (or more fairly, I should say, did not match my tastes) and three of them are brilliant. Highly recommended.

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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Cheers for the write up SunTzu. As a G+F fan, i'll be buying this anyway but its nice to see what i'll be buying. Cheers

    I'm glad they did a short compiation like this becasue, although i'm a fan of the G+F series, I feel that it needs some form of conclusion.
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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Finished it myself a couple days ago. Largely agree with your views, except I found the stories from Reynolds, Smillie and Werner to be far more enjoyable. And the two Long stories were pure creamy icing on a G&F cake.

    Salter's story is, I totally agree, completely disappointing. Everything gets revealed early on and totally ruins the mystery. There's no fun in that! A case of the author aiming too high but not delivering anywhere near the quality he should have.

    Definitely a mix of good and bad tales.
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    Re: Gotrek and Felix - The Anthology (spoilers)

    Thanks for the review! Highly entertaining. Only through the first one myself but being an old G&F fan I'm looking forward to reading the rest. And then to place the book right next to the first editions of all their novels I've got...
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