Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tomb Of The Golden Idol: Part One

Tomb of the Golden Idol: Part One. A Warhammer Fantasy short story by Andy Hoare. Originally published August 2013 by The Black Library for Digital Monday. Approx. 26 pages.

Andy Hoare has been stomping around the worlds of Games Workshop for over a decade, but I have not yet any of his works. He has done extensive work on various codices, and has put out a slew of novels, including some focusing on the White Scars Space Marines chapter. The White Scars featured in his last novel, the poorly-received Space Marines Battles entry "The Hunt for Voldorious". Honestly, I've heard some pretty harsh critique of his work, but then again, the Black Library usually doesn't keep horrid writers around for long. So, when I saw that Hoare had penned a short story for the enjoyable Digital Monday segment, I thought this was the perfect time to sample his work and decide for myself. Also, this is a Warhammer Fantasy title, so all the better. However, there is a catch. Notice how that title says "Part One"? Yeah, me too. Basically, if this short blows, I'm out $3 for half a story. And, even if it is enjoyable, I have to pony up at least $3 for a Part Two. Is any author really worth $6 for 52 pages of text sent via a data transfer? Let's find out....

First, a little primer here. Tomb is set in the Warhammer campaign land of Lustria, which is a harsh jungle climate. This story coincides with the heavily-promoted release of new Lizardman army units on the Games Workshop tabletop gaming side. These new figs look pretty spiffy, and I like the Aztec-inspired styling on the weapons, armor, etc.

The story of Tomb follows the young dwarf engineer Khargrim Khargrimsson as he leads a party of adventurers through the legendary Tomb of Destiny (in Lustria), on a mission to bring foreign riches back to the homeland. Khargrim is something of a renaissance mind in Dwarfdom; he has grand ideas for steam powered technology, and dreams of massive ocean-crossing vessels. These notions put him at odds with the dwarf Engineer's Guild, and so he sets off on his own. The riches of Lustria will prove that he could not only traverse the Great Ocean, but also obtain the financing to pursue his own tinkering experiments.

Unfortunately, all that background information is only quickly referenced in brief descriptive paragraphs. What Tomb ultimately is is a written account of a tabletop action sequence. In a nutshell, Khargrim and company are in the corridors of the tomb; they walk, they avoid traps, they bicker, they avoid more traps, the dwarf shaman has to use some magic to justify his inclusion, there is an obligatory action piece (non-spoiler alert: it involves Lizardmen), the titular Golden Idol is reached, something supernatural happens, and the stage is set for Part Two: The Action-Packed Egress. That's literally it.

And it's a shame too, since it appears that Andy Hoare is a fairly colorful, descriptive author that has set out to deliver a fun read. The characters, a diverse cast of dwarves, Norsca hirelings (including a mob of thralls serving as 'redshirts'), and other adventurers, are enjoyable, and likable. There is a female Graeling archer that emerges as the most distinct party member. Hoare follows the dwarf template to a T, with their gruff grumblings and harrumphs, balanced against their fierce fighting skills (Khargrim himself gets to showcase some sweet Thor-inspired hammer moves). But for all the descriptions that Hoare puts into temple scene-building, we have little idea how the cast might look. The archer has white hair, the shaman is wild-eyed, Khargrim is a young dwarf, and there is a dwarf Slayer who is, at least in Part One, effectively useless (that might be a joke on Hoare's part though). So I guess since he's a Slayer we can assume he looks like Gotrek?

Truth be told, there is precious little room here for details. I don't know what planning was involved in making Tomb, but I firmly believe that there is enough story here for at least a 100+ page novella, if not a full-length novel. It would have been great to see Khargrim first at home, butting heads with the dwarf 'old-guard' about creative direction, and then seeing his trans-oceanic voyage. This way, we could really care about Khargrim, and not only get two or three paragraphs of back story against twenty pages of him yelling at wayward thralls. Most importantly, we could've seen the culture shock of this group encountering the harsh jungle clime of Lustria, the campaign world the story is set in. For a Lustria tale, all we see are dusty corridors. In short, we could've had a story to immerse ourselves in, rather than a rote sequence of events. Since we have no idea what Andy Hoare set out to write, all we can do is grade what we have.

And one final quibble, yet again, we find the dreaded typo. Only one that I caught. 'Back' instead of 'black'. Come on, Black Library, it's only twenty-something pages, read it before you charge for it.

Here's what it is: 
A well-written, but completely standard procedural with a cliffhanger ending that doesn't scream for a return for the conclusion. Nice little references to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and the Warhammer 40K universe as well.

Final Score:


Cover Score:
This cover kind of ticks me off. I actually like the Aztec-motif mural design. But for some reason, the clarity is dulled (or just the original coloring was way too light), and there is a thick title bar across the middle. Not just the title, but a full bar. It reminds me of when you go on eBay, and they show an item all blurry with a square in the middle stating "mouse over for larger view". Except here, you can't mouse for a better view.
Here's an idea for the Black Library; if you are going to charge so much for an ebook, why not include a high-resolution, text-free version of the cover art? Seriously?

Cover Final Score:


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