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 Post subject: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-14 12:30pm
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Been reviewing the Grey Knights stuff recently after a touch up of the Soul Drinkers stuff and it struck me now these two series dramatically contrast each other - I mean the Grey Knights aren't caricatures, they are sympathetic characters, the stories are fairly well written and mostly coherent (I even like Hammer of Daemons) and Alaric isn't a moron. Whereas with Soul Drinkers Sarpedon is the most unlikeable, unsympathetic character and the least believable hero I've encountered in quite a while, and most of the Soul Drinkers aren't much better. On top of that, there are several Ben Counter LTGB stories I rather liked too (the Sisters of Battle one and the Black Templars one) so I'm not sure what to make of Soul Drinkers.

Anyone else read his books or have thoughts on the ones I mentioned?



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-14 12:44pm
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I actually LIKED the first novel of the Soul Drinker series, its one of the few novels where Space Marines "feel" like a competent military that's far superior to anything else the Imperium has. It suffered from flat characters, but compared to James Swallow Blood Angels series, the initial Soul Drinker was quite an enjoyable read until the ending.

however, it felt that the quality of the series just kept dropping and dropping, or at least, that's how the third novel felt like to me.


I just purchased the Grey Knight series based on this strength and the only failings I can see so far is that its....... confusing. Ben Counter crammed in lots of details and stuff that required time to read through slowly and digest what its all about... Ok, some daemon just held congress on a world..... err, what does this has to do with the story again?



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-14 02:49pm
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Like it was mentioned he slowly seems to degrade as his series goes on, read all of the Grey Knights but only 2 of the Soul Drinkers and probably won't continue.

As with most Warhammer 40k authors it's consistency that gets them. He's not as bad and the new crop of authors where acts of plot can change just depending on what point of view is being shown. One second a squad is completely in sync, tactical masters etc then next they are charging frustrated morons. I like that he can make Marines all individual but don't like that it's rare to have leadership and smart tendencies.



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-15 04:45am
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The Soul Drinkers novels didn't work for me. Not only is Sarpedon a lousy character, the first book is filled decisions that are made just to force the plot. The Soul Drinkers scuttle their fleet . . . in favor of taking up residence in a space hulk. We are told this somehow makes them harder to track, but this is never explained. Space hulks attract a huge amount of attention from the Imperium while Imperial ships don't so there's no obvious reason to do it . . . except it forces them to do their overland and oversea quest on the chaos planet instead of dropping the hammer from orbit and landing. It screamed of plot contrivance in a book that wasn't short on them.

The one with them cutting a deal with Dark Eldar and Slaaneshi worshipers while calling the Imperium oppressive tyrants was worse. On the other hand, I did like most of Dark Mechanicum. The end was weak.



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-15 07:33pm
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Hit and miss.

Looking back to when I first read most of his books, I at least enjoy them, but stuff tends to pile up the longer a series goes on, and rereading a lot of his books makes me less charitable.

The execution scene with Vemeth stands out as one of the contrived scenarios that are basically forced into the book rather crudely. There isn't any reason for the Souldrinkers to line up and fire by ranks like they do, its just done for effect, and poorly so. Similarly decisions already mentioned, like blowing up their fleet to fly around in a giant spacehulk.

I also really hate the super soaker plasma guns, I'll be honest, I cringe every time I read about them.

His first short story with Aescarion was his best work I thought.



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-17 04:09am
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I've only read the Grey Knights (and have avoided the Soul Drinkers), but I have to say even the GK series isn't consistently good. I liked the first and third books, but the second was a bit of a mess with the weird Tech Priest's soul being stuck in a computer and the Titan Daemon thingie.

I think the problem lies with focus. Alaric is a great PoV character - showing both the strengths and pitfalls of the GKs. The first and third books of the series focus on him very heavily, whilst the second does not.

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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-17 07:14pm
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For me the best Soul Drinkers novels were the second one, and the fifth. book 3 had some interesting non-Astartes characters, but the astartes characters, nevermind the whole Soul drinker subplot, essentially ruined it for me.

Book one would have worked well as satire, had it been written that way. It has a very quirky, almost Space Marine like feel to it, and it could have worked well as that book. However, with Counter's subseuqent writings, it quite obviously was meant to be taken seriously, which makes it pretty absurd. I mean you have a Renegade Chapter who went to war with the Adminstratum, the AdMech, the Inquisition and its own Chapter master Just because Sarpedon got outraged at being "dishonored." that the AdMech stole one of his toys, and his only solution is to fight back against the Imperium. That has to be the most ABSURD rationale ever - it in fact echoes the pretty much what happened with Huron Blackheart and the Astral Claws, and look how that turned out.

and then, after having fought all of the Imperium, killed their own brethern, and so on... Sarpedon decides that his chapter is blessed by the emperor because they are infected horribly with mutations, can't figure out its a Tzeentchian plot despite some very ham fisted and OBVIOUS clues (names, mutations, etc. Who taught them about Chaos exactly? Oh yeah they didnt even know about Slaanesh in book 3 as I recall.) and end up shocked and outraged that they have become pawns of Chaos. To give them their fair do they do fight back, so they're at least not willing pawns of Chaos. There's the kernel of a serious story there, I could see it, but it is executed in the most hamfisted and unbelievable manner that you cannot take the book seriously. as WR and IO noted, teh first book is full of forced choices and contrivances to drive along the plot, and it really fucks it up.

Books 2 and 5 were better.. the plotting was tighter and coherent, and survival is a blievable goal in book 2. The Soul Drinkers do something noble at the end. Book 5 is perhaps the best.. Sarpedon actualyl comes across as the "noble renegade" we're meant to believe he is, he actually does what he intends to do without fucking it up.

Books 3 and 4 are pretty much pure fail and Grimdark. Sarpedon comes to a planet to personally destroy Telos (personal failure obsessing a Chapter Master - I thought Chapter Masters were supposed to be big picture guys?), end up screwing things up for the Imperium's reclamation force by forcing the crimson Fists (and their obsesseive commander) into abandoning his alies to pursue a personal vendetta. The Crimson Fists are absolute dicks and ignore anything but the Soul drinkers, and Sarpedon makes deals iwth the Dark Eldar to achieve his ends. In the end the IG forces are obliterated as is the planet. Our Heroes!

Book 4 is even worse. Sarpedon has deliberately created a schism in his ranks by his recruiting choices, and then he gets upset because the free thinking recruits he picks don't think in the way he wnated them to. This leads to a massive dose of fuckery again, and yet ANOTHER civil war, which is topped off by et another asshole Space Marine Chapter obsessed with personal honor and destroying the Soul Drinkers rather than defending the Imperium (This time the Howling Griffons.) Not nearly as grimdark as book 3, but still pretty retarded in its own way because the "plot" such as it is arises from Sarpedon's own naivete and stupidity. Book5 makes up for this some, but having this happen towards the end of your series is NOT a good thing. I actually felt at the end of Hellforged like the Imperial Fists were simply ending the series on their own initiative to spare the Imperium and the reader further suffering.

Grey Knights is a vastly different, and superior series. I'm surprised some people didn't like it. The first novel has a well paced plot, and it all fits together. It's nothing innovative story wise, but Alaric is a believable and likeable character, we get to see lots of different facets of the Imperium, there's a sense of urgency set against the backdrop of a greater catastrophe, and there are plenty of likeable and even noble characters, and even some good twists I liked. The second novel IS the weakest of the series, true, but I ascribe that to the locale it was set in and the fact it couldn't decide upon following the space battle or the ground fight. THe confrontation at the end was very consistent with the theme of the series, and Alaric's handling of it wsa very much in character. Hammer of daemons is better, even if it does create some consternation over the idea that *gasp* a GK might actually fall (AGAINST CANON!) - I rather liked counter playing with that idea because it really begs the question of what constitutes "falling" to chaos in 40K.

I also agree with WR - I despite Counter's portrayal of plasma weaponry (although he's not the only author to do it, he is among the more visible and consistent).. and his sister Aescarion story is some of his best work. (Ironic that, since that theme tends to be one he revisits and even repeats in most of his novels... Hammer of Daemons definitely had a strong feel of the Aescarion story.) Chaos tends to be one of those themes Counter is fascinated with, and I suspect its one reaosn why he gets so hit and miss. it's like Goto and the Eldar.



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-17 10:10pm
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It's very hard not to like the first Grey Knights novel. The story is tight (except for the bit with the Inquisitor suddenly going nuts, but even she gets a WHAM moment in the end), Alaric is not as dim as the regular GK, and there's plenty of badass speeches. But the rest of the series just doesn't quite live up to the first novel. The second was a bit of a mess, and while I wasn't really concerned about "Alaric's fall to Chaos" in the third book, the ending came a bit abruptly.

I'd guess that you'd find almost no one who dislikes the first book, but the trilogy will have detractors as the other two books aren't up to snuff.

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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-17 11:23pm
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Honestly, the GK trilogy is one of my favorite BL novel series.

It's riveting, has interesting characters, great action, and the SM's actually feel properly done.

I loved the first one, felt the 2nd one was meh at times, but still enjoyable, and really liked the 3rd one. Honestly, it's one of the few BL novel series that's been done right, and still remaining easy to follow.



How he can do great with these guys, but utterly fail at the Soul Drinkers, is beyond me...



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 Post subject: Re: Ben Counter as a writer PostPosted: 2011-10-23 08:56pm
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I really liked his work, like the Grey Knight novels and Daemon World....and then I read the Soul Drinkers series...

The characters were pretty bad, and I only pushed through as there were some interesting tidbits in there, especially on Necrons in Hellforged.

But in general his books are well written and fun to read, however it is a mix up between him and Goto on who wrecks the established fluff on things more. Super-soaker plasma guns anyone?

However I enjoy his books infinitely more than almost all of Goto's.



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