A DVD review originally printed in Death Ray #20.


Director: Chris Fisher

Writers: Nathan Atkins, Richard Kelly (characters)

Starring: Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Ed Westwick, John Hawkes



 A sequel to Donnie Darko! Um, why? That’s what we want to know.

Donnie Darko is love-it-or-hate it cinema, an alchemical cocktail two parts disquieting philosophy, three parts David Lynch, one part teen moping and just the tiniest drop of SF. But its dark view of young adult life came with a certain catharsis, Donnie’s life was expunged fulfilling a role forced on him by the universe itself, it was a powerful metaphor for growing up. At least, that’s the way I saw it. And that was why it was so great – it is infinitely interpretable.

s. Darko is not. A movie reverse-engineered from the smouldering remains of the first, it doesn’t get it right at all. There’s uncertainty, ambiguity, atmosphere as in the original, but these have been self-consciously placed into the structure. The story, concerning Donnie’s kid sister Sam lost in deepest Utah, chooses friendship and sacrifice as its themes, but it lacks the freaky otherliness of Donnie Darko. Furthermore, it relies on robbing a handful of keynotes from the first, diminishing then reversing them, so the film never manages to be anything other than a pale reflection of its predecessor. (An effect of this grave robbing is that all seemingly Godly men in the Darkoverse are represented as evil paedophiles. It’s a shamefully easy target). There’s beautiful cinematography throughout, but the lack of soul leaves these sequences as nothing more than pretentious pop-video images gilding an average tale of small town weirdness.

Critically, s. Darko lacks the weird vision of Richard Kelly. Donnie Darko is a flawed movie; that it intrigues fans may well be a happy accident, but it has the artistic integrity of one man’s madness. s. Darko is a wholly artificial construct.

Extras: A 15 minute making of, a 10 minute music video where the cast bitch about being in Utah, director’s commentary and a handful of deleted scenes.

audio-the-glorious-tombSharp-sighted Black Templars fans might have spotted The Glorious Tomb on the Black Library Website. This audio drama is part of the Echoes of War week, where BL release a new Space Marines audio every day.

I rarely get to listen to the audio dramas before they come out, and so yesterday evening was the first time I had heard The Glorious Tomb. Audios provoke even more worry concerning their merits than books or stories do, working as I am at a couple of removes from the final result. I’ve not been disappointed by one yet, I’m relieved to say, and The Glorious Tomb I thought particularly special. Appropriately, I listened to it while painting a Space Marine for my own nascent Black Templars crusade. He’ll be finished tonight. I’ll post a picture up tomorrow.

As several people have now commented, I am doing a lot of Black Templars material. I’m sort of their official remembrancer for the time being, to borrow a Horus Heresy concept. The stories are all connected to one another, featuring either my main characters Brusc and Adelard or High Marshal Helbrecht. Together the stories and future novel will tell the story of Brusc and Adelard’s lives, culminating at Armageddon where they intersect with that of Helbrecht. The stories are being written and released thematically, but as they increase in number you will be able to form a chronology to the characters’ adventures.

Here’s a review of The Glorious Tomb on Tracks of War. On the same site, you’ll also find one for my Heresy-era audio, Hunter’s Moon.

Review: Gilgamesh

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Random wifflings

Gilgamesh by Anonymous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gilgamesh being one of the foundation texts for all literature, if not THE foundation text, I really should have it read earlier. Originating 4000 years ago as five separate poems and revisited in several versions by generations of writers, it is the oldest known narrative. I’d also like to say that I read it in the original. But I can’t read cuneiform, do not know Akkadian or Sumerian, and I do not have space in my house for dozens of clay tablets.

Handily for me, Stephen Mitchell has produced this fantastic modern interpretation of the epic. Mitchell based his poem on pre-existing translations, taking the best from the differing versions, and smoothing over those bits that are missing. I can’t with any authority gauge how close he cleaves to the original, but he states, “My intention throughout has been to recreate the ancient epic, as a contemporary poem, in the parallel universe of the English language.” In the fairly extensive notes, Mitchell prints various translated chunks of the original verse and from these small examples he seems to have done an admirable job.

What is original anyway? There are different versions of the story, embellished at different times by different people, then translated in different ways thousands (thousands!) of years later. The “definitive” version was written by a priest-scholar by the name of Sin-leqi-unninni. he based his – for want of a better word – classic on “The Old Babylonian Version” which drew the five original poems together. But the exact level of his contribution is unknown. It is from translations of this that Mitchell mostly works, creating a beautiful readable poem that is powerful and haunting. It’s a bit odd that he goes through the poem segment by segment before we get to read it. A shorter introduction would be in order, as the poem really does speak for itself. Otherwise, the book’s great. If your understanding of Gilgamesh is either “Who?” or “Wasn’t he a minor 70s Marvel comics character with a cow on his head?” go out and buy this. It’s as accessible as a modern fantasy novel, and better written than most of those. Here endeth the review part, now comes the thinks. If you’ve no stomach for me musing, you can go away now. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: October 13, 2014 in Notes from Hebden Bridge
Tags: , ,

I took this picture of Benny last week. The leaves are all gone to red and gold, thence to the ground. Currently the trees sway charmingly adorned in their autumn finery. We may be fortunate and receive a fine display, but all it takes is one strong gale and the lot will be off in one go. A not uncommon occurrence here.



Today I am very tired, having spent two fun-packed days at Warhammerfest in Coventry. As I repeatedly, endlessly moan on, I don’t get out much so it was brilliant to spend some time with my friends and colleagues for a couple of days.  Equally brilliant was meeting tons of enthusiastic gamers and readers and talking fluent war-geek! If you stopped by for a chat  or attended the seminars I was present at, thanks very much. Meeting people who actually read my books is always immensely rewarding. If I spoiled them for you with my scrappy signature, you have my apologies.

Remember, if you want to ask me about my fiction you don’t have to wait for an event, you are free to do so here or at Goodreads, my Facebook page, or on Twitter where I am, very originally, @guyhaley. I’m keen to chat. I really do not get out a lot. The walls of my basement press in. Hearing human voices restores my sanity a little.

I bought a few extra bits for my Black Templars army, enough to take my overall collection up to about 1200 points. So I will be pressing on with painting that. I’ve not played 40k for eight months, I think, but will play again as soon as I have 1000 points of Templars ready for the tabletop. A Crusader squad is next. I’ll be posting pictures.

Speaking of Space Marines…


Here I am with Daniel Knox, who is dressed as a Crimson Fist in a most convincing manner. I only found his name out when he followed me on Twitter, but I did get him to shoot me with his plasma gun. What an awesome suit of armour! A brief dance on the net leads me to believe he’s part of a cosplay group. Check out their Facebook page here.



Hooray! We’re finally finished.

As promised, here is my first unit of Black Templars – a castellan and his command squad. I haven’t decided which castellan he is yet, nor what the overall theme of the army will be. I’ve been toying with a boarding party, but have painted their bases to look earthy and become distracted by landspeeders. My last few games of Warhammer 40,000 were in spring against the Tau (I moved, remember? I only started gaming again about six weeks ago). I hate playing the Tau, and am racking my brains for ways to get rid of them. Landspeeders feature in my plans somewhat, but mostly I just like the models.


The anonymous castellan.

I’ve two crusader squads, a dreadnought and a centurion squad to paint. This will take me up to 1000 points. I’m going to add a bunch of fanatical human priest types, cyber cherubs and cyborg monks to this command squad because, you know, they’re Black Templars. Game wise I’ll probably use the priest rules from Astra Militarum for these additional zealots. I may, one day, add some Tempestus Scion models painted up as human Black Templar men-at-arms. There are only a few Black Templars after all, and they’ve got a big job to do.

I’ve got so many painted models these days that I no longer feel compelled to paint things in order to field a particular army. I just do it because I like painting. Often this means I have some extra bodies to add to an existing army. I might paint a model because I like the look of it, or to surprise my regular opponents with something new. Or both. In this case of a new force where I’ve got to paint an entire army, I’ve no idea when I’ll finish all this off. But I’ll post up pictures as and when.


Behold! The true sons of the Emperor. Mr Pointy on the far left’s base isn’t finished. Sorry about that. And I know Space Marine command squads can no longer take special weapons. But it’s my hobby, so there.


The banner bearer is the only Sword Brother in the squad. He’s wearing terminator honours, so he has to be. The winged Dark Angel sword around his neck is obviously a Sword Brethren badge. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

My edge highlighting leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not a technique I’ve had much call to use in the past what with ORCS! ORKS! ORCS!, but I am getting better. Plus I painted the majority of these chaps just before we moved, in a house full of boxes, in really bad light. My new office is much better lit, and consequently the models I have finished here look better. Why am I saying this? Because I wish I had left my warlord and his buddies until last. He seemed liked the obvious place to start, and I was excited, who can blame me?  My advice is, when starting a new project, begin with a nobody who can stand at the back of a unit. He can safely be removed as the first casualty, sparing your blushes at his horrendous paint job. As it is, the badly highlighted mug of this castellan will be staring at me the whole game through.

The models you see here were originally going to be the command group for the Relictors army I started on White Dwarf. I didn’t get anywhere with it as I wasn’t happy with the finish. (I subsequently sold the few Space Marines I had painted). So this lot of Relictors have become Black Templars, even though they were sculpted to be Dark Angels. It’s a funny old 41st Millennium.