Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review: Space Marine

Print on demand cover.

Space Marine, by Ian Watson. A true classic indeed. Click on that link really quick there then come back. Ok? Cool. Did that seem like The Black Library was trying to apologize for the existence of this book? This book was published in 1993 and it was published a few years after it was written due to the change in ownership* and, as a result, direction that Games Workshop was taking. So it was already feeling a tad bit dated when it was released. But rest assured, GW were not apologizing for it at the time, they not only loved it but even reprinted a chunk of it in White Dwarf 165**.

To sum it up, this story follows a trio of Necromundian youths who enlist into the Imperial First Space Marine Chapter. This is not the Necromunda that most of you are likely to be familiar with, but the Necromunda setting for the Confrontation skirmish game that was published in White Dwarf throughout 1991. Same planet, different trappings. Of particular note, and most obvious of trappings, would be the gangs. The upper hive gangs were known as Brats, whereas the other hive gangs consisted of an assortment of gang types such as Clan gangs, Undercity gangs, Tech gangs and other more exotic ones such as Ash Nomads, Scumniks and Scavies. Some time after first encountering each other in gang warfare, they each decided to give up on their dead-end lives and try enlisting with the Imperial Firsts Space Marine Chapter. 

We follow these three youths as they ascend the ranks and stations of the Adeptus Astartes through many harrowing and zany adventures until the final battle on a Tyranid hive ship. This is a book about the bonds of brotherhood, and the jealous rivalries that challenge them. 

++++++++++++++++++++++++SPOILERS AHEAD!+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This book is over 30 years old now, but it's scarcity justifies the need for spoiler warnings. 

PART ONE: Three Brothers From Trazior

We start the novel by following Lexandro d'Arquebus, a Brat ganger who was born in the upper class society in the Oberon spire of Trazior Hive, who is descending into the lower hive with his fellow gangers (The Phantasms) to engage in some murderous mayhem. They had plotted to capture someone from a rival gang and drop that prisoner into a heat-sink. Either to die from the many kilometer fall or burn up. Either way, their twisted curiosity needed to be sated. So they interject themselves into a gang battle already in progress between a tech gang and a scumnik gang. It is this fateful melee where Lexanadro d'Arquebus first encounters Yeremi Valence, a techie, and Biff Tundrish, a scumnik. Luckily these are not the two gangers that the Phantasms take prisoner and throw into the heat-sink. 

A change of fortunes occurs in Lexandro's family resulting in their reduction of stature and they are forced to move down to tech territory. Knowing he had already established enemies here he had to escape this new path that life had set for him. He found himself in the Imperial Fist recruiting station where he signed up to join them. Yeremi Valence and Biff Tundrish also signed up. These three gang rivals from the same world were instructed right off the bat that they were not to attack each other (unless so ordered by a superior officer) upon threat of being sent off to a laboratory for testing. (Eek!) They are sent to the Imperial Fist fortress monastery, which in the book is a massive space ship, where they begin the initiation and transformation into Space Marines. There's a lot of great details regarding the surgeries, challenges, and tortures these three endure during this time. 

PART TWO: The Karkason Crusade

As scouts the three brothers partake in the retaking of Karkason because, in the words of their Sergeant, Sergeant Juron: "We're here because Lord Sagramoso is a damned heretic against the Emperor, stirring up other heretics" These chapters are a blast to read with some refreshing battles that don't read like some of the war-porn I typically review here. Granted there is some stuff that wouldn't fly in today's understanding of the tech of 40k, especially in regards to the scouts commandeering of a titan and using it against other titans. However their methodology in still fluffy in today's lore, as they quickly learn how to work the controls of the various titan stations by eating the brains of the occupants to learn their skills. This is something that i am surprised doesn't happen more in 40k stories, as it's great, albeit disturbing, way for Space Marine protagonists to figure things out. 

They pursue Lord Sagramosso to a Squat world were he has turned these squats to chaos. My favorite encounter was with a squat miner that had an enslaved ambull and was riding it's back and using it to attack the marines in the tunnels beneath the planet. Very cool idea. Without giving too much away, the marines do prevail but it was a dire situation that they had to get through to achieve it. It was also a delight seeing Tzeentch worshipping Chaos Squats, a faction that has disappeared from the lore.

Original cover. (yes, those are not Imperial Firsts). 

By the end of his part they have earned their first ten-year service studs on their foreheads. At the start of this novel they were only 14 year old boys, now they are augmented supermen. . 

 PART THREE: Tyranid Terror

This is where it all goes nuts, but it's also the most engaging part of the book. It's interesting to see what the interior of a hive ship looks like, especially from this time period as most of the 'nids that we know and love today did not exist yet. They encounter a Zoat which was a pretty rad scene, and I still lament the loss of these things in the tyranid lore. Ultimately, stuff goes south for the three brothers, and although they accomplish their mission, not all of them make it out alive. 

  • Did I like it? Very much so. I found Ian Watson's writing, for the most part, to be a lot more focused than Inquisitor. But many times I found myself distracted by his strange apparent obsession with comparing things to sex organs. Seriously. Here's an example: Liquefying, the ornate device slumped in upon itself, shrinking into a bubbling, wrinkled scrotum of sintered alloys. It happens a lot throughout this books and it's odd. I mean, who does this? And then when they get to the tyranid hiveship it's amped up even more so and no effort at all is made to mask this. The opening line of Chapter Sixteen is: "We're going in through it's anus," Biff whooped boisterously. I could quote more, but to do so may exceed the limits of a mere review. ****
  • Was it hard to put down? No, not really. it was a very engaging book for the most part and made for a good read. 
  • Could I care about the characters? Yes, but I found the changing of the three points of view to be a bit more inconsistent that I would like, however I thought it was ultimately vital otherwise the reader wouldn't have the buy-in needed in the final chapters when two of the brothers make their final sacrifice. I think it could've maybe been handled more smoothly. 
  • Did the writer truly grasp how the 'world' of the 41st millennium works in the sense that it doesn't betray or retcon previously established (as I know it) lore? Or is this the work of a hack chasing a paycheck vs. establishing his mark on the ever-expanding 40k universe? Ian Watson did some serious world-building here, some of which still resonates. Often his works are dismissed as being old and non-canon, but there are elements here that did not exist in the materials presented to us via the game product. The Imperial Fist's fanatic devotion to the Emperor and the near crazy hobby of scrimshawing, pain gloves, etc. these elements still live on, even if so much of the lore has moved on past what was laid out here. 
  • Was I being talked down too? The snarky tone that annoyed me when I read Inquisitor for the first time is, thankfully, toned way down, so that was a relief. 
  • How predictable is this story? There are lots of these type of stories that explain the recruitment and rise through the ranks details of Space Marines, but this one sets itself apart by being very unpredictable for the most part. 
  • Do I recommend this book? Yes, although fans of the current lore for the Imperial Fists might find it...challenging. I don't know much about the current Imperial Fist lore but I doubt they are nearly as sadomasochistic as presented here. Anyone who was involved with Warhammer 40.000 "back in the day" of the late '80's and early '90s might have want to check this out if they haven't done so before. And anyone who wants to see how the 40k lore has grown might want to check it out also. But beware of those distracting comparisons to sex organs 

"We're going in through it's anus," Biff whooped boisterously.

* "The first medieval Warhammer fiction, and the Dark Future books by Kim Newman writing as Jack Yeovil, and the first 40K fiction by me were all published by GW Books edited by David Pringle in Brighton. David Pringle edited from Brighton the leading British SF magazine Interzone, and David prevailed upon some of his stable of writers to provide the then-owner of Games Workshop, Bryan Ansell, with his dream come true of “real books by real authors” set in Bryan’s beloved Warhammer domains. This arrangement came to an end in about 1991, and new management at GW spent a while before settling on the media packagers Boxtree as a new publisher. (This was long before the Black Library.) So some books got delayed, such as also the second volume of my Inquisition War trilogy, and Space Marine." -Ian Watson, 

** "
WD #165 featured a Space Marine excerpt.

GW seemed quite happy at first at any rate, since a big section of Space Marine appeared in White Dwarf 165 in Sept 1993, although I do seem to recall a murmur in my ear that the section appeared because an important article on games rules wasn’t ready on time, consequently the pages needed to be filled.." -Ian Watson,

***"I do myself regard Space Marine as part of the Inquisition War series – and indeed it is thus in the gigantic Hungarian language omnibus edition – since my Marine, Lexandro d’Arquebus, plays a role in Harlequin and then a major role in Chaos Child." -Ian Watson,

****...Maybe the Black Library really is trying to apologize for the existence of this book?

Imagines and text snippets are Copyright Games Workshop and are used here for review purposes and are not intended as a challenge to Games Workshop's Copyright. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Cool Squat With Lasgun (Art Monday)

 This is a cool Squat with a Las Gun. 

As cool as one can be with a lasgun.

He was drawn on the same page as the Gyro-stabilized Monowheel image from last week. I was playing around with trying to find my "style" during this period and I was occasionally drawing things with sharp angles and minimal hatching. This image was not used by any of the fanzines I submitted this to, but it did lead to me working on the Squat feature for Inquisitor Magazine a few months later. 

Oh, and today is the 10th birthday of the this blog! Yay! Feel free to send in e-cards, gift cards and bitz.* Thanks for 10 years of support! 

*I am kidding of course, just keep showing up please!

Friday, April 23, 2021

10 Years of Neverness ( or is it 33?)

 Greetings! On April 26th of 2011 I published the first post of the Neverness Hobby Chronicle called Genesis. It's been a long 10 years and yet it feels like I have so much more to build and paint! I have no time for any kind of giveaway like I did at the 6th anniversary so instead I will talk about the untold history of this blog and the future of it. 

The launch of this blog was not the beginning of my online identity as "Neverness". I started using it a few years earlier on a variety of different game and hobby related forums. The red squig icon was drawn around 1998-ish for a fanzine that was never launched (more on that will be revealed in the future) and colored (crudely) using a paint program around 2007. I did that fast as I wanted a flashy, yet humble, avatar for my posts. I liked the simplicity of it and have used it ever since. But the handle Neverness, comes from a book by David Zindell called Neverness. It was first published in 1988 and it was reviewed in Critical Mass, the old sci-fi/fantasy book review feature that used to appear in White Dwarf (it's possible it may have been in the last feature of Critical Mass).

I want to re-read that book at some point and give it, as well as it's sequels, a review here on this blog. They are brilliant reads, and very eye-opening. To my young mind I found them to be enlightening and the book Neverness has informed part of my worldview ever since. It's an astounding book that makes one reevaluate just what it means to be... human.

 Back in the early days of Warhammer 40,000, there wasn't any fiction to support it except for the articles in White Dwarf. So going back to the inspirational sources was all we had. Everything from Starship Troopers, Dune, Judge Dredd/ 2000A.D., and lesser known works like Bio Of A Space Tyrant, Liege-Killer and anything else that scratched that itch. Critical Mass was great at recommending those itch scratches. I assume the feature ended due to Games Workshop starting their own book publishing venture and maybe someone thought featuring books by other publishers would be a conflict of interest? Not sure*, those days felt like the frontier compared to what's available today. The final Critical Mass was in WD #106. 

Speaking of these days, I am presently looking at some big changes in my life, starting on April 26 as on that day I will starting a new job. Also this year we hope to be ramping up our publishing schedule with Tales From The Smoking Wyrm which means I hope to be producing more art for it. There may be more changes but it's premature to declare them now. 

I hope to still have time to keep up with this hobby, and I plan to continue working on my miniatures and hopefully I can find a few moments to get in some games also. I would like to share with you some of the 40k art I did for fanzines back in the '90s, both published and unpublished. I have started a new feature called Art Mondays where I will share something unique from that time. 

Since the New Year I have been chipping away at my backlog, but there is still much left to get done. But that's fine as I am having fun, and that's what it's all about, right? In the coming months we'll have the 2nd Annual Inquisitional Conclave (August) and Dreadtober (October) and I am already thinking about what I may paint for those. Meanwhile, I hope you get a kick out of the stuff I post that's unrealated to those topics. 

Enjoy! Thanks for following and supporting me for the first 10 years. Here's to 10 more! 

*Taking a moment to read that final Critical Mass from WD 106 apparently the reviewer was burnt out from all of the intense reading! 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Gyro-stabilized Monowheel (Art Mondays)

 This is a fun one. Most of the art you'll see here as part of Art Mondays was done for fanzines during the Second Edition of Warhammer 40,000.  This one was never published, unfortunately, but I think it might have to do with the gun breaking the border which may have been a challenge for small publishers back in the mid-'90s. Not exactly sure. This was done in ink with pen and brush with black Prisma Color pencil and some dark graphite pencil for the backgrounds. 

 Anyway, the Gyro-stabilized Monowheel was a fun, but weird Wargear Card from the 2nd edition era Codex: Orks. It allowed the character who chose it to be able to zip around on the battlefield. I think the one time I ever took one my ork found himself alone and vulnerable after doing whatever it was he had set out to do,  and was gunned down by my opponent. The Telescopic Legs was the most popular (and mostly likely to be abused) one of these Wargear Cards.

Fun fact: there was indeed a model produced for the Gyro-stabilized Monowheel, and just about all of the weird bionic add-ons that appeared on the 2nd Edition Ork Wargear cards, but they were produced a few years earlier during the 'Ere We Go, and Freebooters era of 1st edition. They were no longer available during the 2nd edition of the game, at least not in blister packs anyway. But you could still get them through the UK Mailorder if you knew their product codes. 

I managed to get them both, but never modeled them before the 2nd edition ended and both of these fun options disappeared from the game, apparently forever.

It seems that  there was a version created for Gorkamorka but examples of it are really hard to come by. I hardly recall it and I think I wasn't impressed with it as much as I was the original version so disregarded it. I sort of regret that now...

Friday, April 16, 2021

Chaos Bikers (Part 8)


The current level of progress.

Progress has continued since the last time I worked on this guy. What follows is how I got this guy up to this point. 

 The metallic trim and filigree is the most obvious addition. This was done using Balthazar Gold as the base with Auric Armor Gold drybrushed over it. 

Basecoats on the trim.

To finish off the trim I went over all over it with Red ink glaze 

The finished trim. 

I went over the mechanical areas of the bike using Black Contrast Paint. This deepened things up nicely and really adds a dirty and oily aspect to this thing. Next I turned my attention to the two nurglings, following the process outline in Eeew, Grotti Part-2. 

Nurglings, half-way thru the paint stages.

After finishing the nurglings, I thought the final Pallid Flesh look didn't stand out against the aged pre-heresy Death Guard color of the bike. So I added an additional wash of the Contrast Medium and the Volupus Pink Contrast Paint mix to pinken these little buggers up a bit.  I like how they have turned out. 


I used Tesseract Glow Technical Paint on the console screen. I like how it came out. It's a bit abstract but I think it's function comes acrossed in the complete result. This technical paint has turned out to be quite a useful tool for me, and I don't have any Necrons!
The display screen.

Over all this thing is starting to come together. Yeah, it looks a little sloppy but it will tighten up in the highlight stage (hopefully). 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Tea Time (Art Monday)

 Welcome to Art Monday! This is a new feature where I post an old piece of the 40k art I did back in the '90s. Most of this stuff is unpublished but some of it was, or was intended to be. Back when a blog like this was pretty much science fiction, and we relied on fanzines for additional (and always unofficial) 40k content. The fanzine scene back then was quite the frontier. There were only a few but most of them were done fairly well. I was trying to break into comics but I was having more fun submitting spot illustrations to some of these 40k zines. I will write more about these times as they become relevant to the given pic being posted. 

This pic started off as detailed drawing that I made in my sketchbook in the summer of '93. I revisited it a few years later, blew it up, lightboxed it and inked it. Later I would incorporate it into a comic feature that I worked on for a zine that never got published. The two main characters would get names and became the main characters of the story. In time, if the interest is there, I may publisb it here.

I work primarily in black and white but I wanted to know how these characters, and this image in general, would be colored. It helped me "see" how to balance things while I worked on the comic feature. This is a reduced test piece using color pencils and design markers done on 8.5" x 11" paper. The original image is 15"x10". This was colored around '95-'97.

This piece was heavily influenced by the Space Fleet articles from White Dwarf. The ratling fellow bringing the tea has an Imperial Guard uniform in the style of the plastic/metal models from that time. 

It's fun looking back at my old art and picking out the the things I would do differently if done today. My own evolution as an artist aside, the 40k "look" is far more deleveloped and codified since this time. I imagine the room would be even bigger, there would be more filigree and ornamentation, a few servo skulls buzzing about, a smokier atmosphere in this chamber, darker, with even more wires, some robed servators lurking about and the cogitators would be even more crude. Regardless, I recall having a good time working on this one and I hope you get a kick out of it too. 

Monday, April 05, 2021

Chaos Bikers (Part 7)


Something revolting in development.

When I set out to build and paint this unit the original concept was to have all of the standard bikes be Black Legion colored with the Champion singled out as representing whatever Mark Of Chaos I was bestowing upon the unit. With the changes of game editions since I last worked on these guys (or played them) the need to show the chaos marks in this manner has become somewhat redundant. Hell, Death Guard don't even have Chaos Bikers as an option any longer! But, that hasn't stopped me from realizing my vision. While going through my paint queue this guy leapt out at me. With my recent Death Guard Experiments I knew I just had to finish this guy. 

Drilling and pinning. Some hobby skills never die...

You might have noticed his crazy Plaguebearer head. I found it in a bitz box while looking for other bits to stick on this guy and I was immediately inspired to make this mutation become a thing. I had to create the ball joint for the neck out of greenstuff in order to get this head to look right. 

So much for following helmet laws...

I stuck a nurgling rider on the back of the bike which I think came out very characterful. I really like how his foot is propped up perfectly on the backrest of the rider's seat. 

A rotten rider.

Next I added another nurgling at his side. This little chum (hehe, "chum"!) is joyfully pulling out the rider's guts in typical backseat driver fashion. 

"Hang on to my guts little dude!"

As you might guess, this was a fun thing to model up. As you can see the nurgling is totally attached to the driver, happily holding on by the guy's guts. 

Hanging on tightly! 

After priming it, it was time to figure out how to paint this thing. Last time I showed you Grotti and the way I colored him which was totally done with this model in mind. 

Basecoats mostly done.

The basecoats you see here are as follows.:

The fleshy seat and face stretched over his right shoulder pad were coated using Gulliman Flesh Contrast Paint. I like how the seat came out so much that I am likely to just leave it as is. 

The rider's head was done using Plaguebearer Flesh Contrast Paint. 

All the brown metal areas were basecoated using Rhinox Hide. 

The rider and bike's armor was based using Rakarth Flesh. The rider and bike are going to look a lot like The fourth Death Guard Experiment, hopefully. 

I got to be fast and sloppy at this stage, but going forward I will need to slow down a bit and focus on the details.