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Author Topic: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review  (Read 3538 times)

Liam's Ghost

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Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« on: 30 April 2021, 03:06:59 »
So I've started reading Hour of the Wolf, and I figured the best way to review it was to go chapter by chapter. Since I expect the actual reading to be slow going so I can give my thoughts while they're fresh. I'll avoid major spoilers where I can, but really, at this point you only have yourself to blame.

Anyway on we go:

Introduction: It's a brief history of the Inner Sphere from the Star League to this point. I don't know if there's much to say about this. I mean, if I wanted to be mean spirited I'd say it probably wasn't necessary. Anybody who got to this point doesn't need the recap? Maybe it's meant to establish gravitas as the culmination of so much history, but personally I think you build that up better by the story itself rather than hyping it up in advance? Anyway, yeah.

Prologue: More setup to establish stakes and such. I find the prologue... not unreasonable? I mean, from a story point it serves a purpose, and the actions of the characters don't feel unreasonable. Except for the hyping of WarBear. I am immediately suspicious whenever a story tries this hard to reassure me about how great a guy is rather than just showing him being great. Like, save that stuff for when he has a chance to shine.

Chapter One: Well... that felt token. Within the narrow focus surface level of the fight at the jump point, it seemed like a competently written and executed naval battle scene. The whole picture though looks like the writer didn't bother to consider how spacecraft in the battletech universe work beyond the most basic concepts.

The most amusing scene so far was the Wolf Star Admiral admiring the skill of his opponent... who split his forces between two points with no way to contact or recall the other force to assist him at the point despite jumpships specifically being a thing. Nevermind the very idea of defending the jump points in the first place. Everywhere beyond a certain point from the Sun is a valid jump point. The only reason the fight happened the way it had was Alaric chose to give battle by actually arriving at the nadir point. But then, other mentions and a little skimming ahead seems to suggest that non-standard points, no matter how basic they are, aren't a thing really being considered.

Which comes back to me calling it token. We're told by the Ex Snow Raven commander (who the text tells us is also great) that the guy he's fighting is good, even though his plan and his preparation is objectively bad from anything more than a surface reading of how this stuff is supposed to work. You have a brief set piece battle that the wolves dominated through the cunning tactic of only arriving at one of the only two defended jump points in the star system. It wasn't a bad plan on the defenders part, because the writer told you so. Here's your pretty bauble of a space battle that nobody important cares about, stop thinking about it so much, because we sure didn't.

Is this what we were really building up to with those ex-blakist pocket warships, drones, and the ****** Castrums the writers have been talking about since as far back as 2010? A set piece where half of the republic fleet is described as "four warships and ten assault dropships"?

Oy. I'll try continuing tomorrow.
« Last Edit: 30 April 2021, 03:08:49 by Liam's Ghost »
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #1 on: 01 May 2021, 02:58:12 »
Chapter 2: That confirms my ill feelings about the naval battle. That really was supposed to be it, with only minimal orbital defenses around the actual target everybody knew the wolves would be coming to.

I wonder what designs we might have gotten if the original writers had known there was no point in giving the Republic Dragaus, Interdictors, Tiamats, or Castrums.

Sigh.

ANYWAY... the rest... Well Stone's clearly lost it, and what's extra interesting is everybody seems to notice it. They're aware that his time as a frozen TV Dinner had had an ill effect on him, but only one of them is willing to speak up? I heard the "Hitler in his bunker" comparison before, but this isn't the same situation. You talked back to Hitler and he had you shot. He could do that, he had a secret police for that. And everywhere there were people ready to sell you out to him to advance their own position. The Republic isn't the same animal.

Were they really so star struck that they handed the reins over to a guy who willingly deep froze himself for apparently no sound medical reason and clearly came back damaged, without even bothering to question it? Does Republic law even allow for that? Did a majority of Paladins sign off on him being exarch again without bothering to ask "hey, maybe this guy who gave himself brain damage by doing something objectively unhinged might not be of sound mind to rule"?

But the fact that he's in the big chair isn't really the book's fault. So I won't dwell on the how he got there part any longer.

Tucker Harwell makes some solid points, but it really bothers me that he's the only one making them. I hope to see more setup for why the other paladins are going along with this so quietly later on.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #2 on: 01 May 2021, 04:00:05 »
Chapter 3: Haha, the genius ex Snow Raven managed to lose dropships to the orbital defense stations despite having complete naval superiority. Every naval genius in this book is stupid.

To clarify for those who aren't up on the naval combat rules, well, they explain it themselves when they explain why they didn't destroy every station over Terra. The stations aren't very maneuverable (though I will give kudos for acknowledging that they are capable of maneuvering). And the text specifically mentions the weapons those stations were using. Short form, the stations can't catch even the slowest dropship, and they can't reach far enough with their guns to attack a dropship that simply chooses not to engage.

So instead of using their actual WarShips to clear out the defenses first, the wolves just drove the whole fleet  into range of their guns. No wonder their admiral was impressed by the Republic defenders, his tactical analysis is in league with some animated star destroyer captains.

Also, the Republic sent up four fighter squadrons to challenge them in orbit, but has five more squadrons around Australia that they consider throwing at them on they way down? WHERE WAS THE ACTUAL AEROSPACE RESPONSE? And not just from Australia. They've got to have fighters at all of these redoubts. All of them could have launched and gotten there in plenty of time to contest the attack, because they're aerospace fighters, not conventional fighters. THIS IS WHERE YOU GO ALL IN!

Sigh, this feels like another of those things where the writer didn't really bother to consider the ramifications of the aerospace system. Almost exactly like the fight at the jump point, because they've got their forces scattered and are arbitrarily not concentrating them because the writer decides they just aren't doing that. So just accept it and don't think about it too much because nobody involved in writing it did.

On the other hand, I do like that we've almost immediately seen doubts in Stone's leadership showing up once it's clear that things weren't going to go how he expected. I'm iffy on Redburn's motives, but I'll see where that goes before dwelling on it further.

These chapters are short, no?

Chapter 4: Hey look, an Ares!
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #3 on: 01 May 2021, 04:27:50 »
Your review is far more enjoyable than the book itself.

Thank you
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Sharpnel

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #4 on: 01 May 2021, 04:58:31 »
I realize for plot reasons the Wolves had to make it to Terran soil, but if I'm fighting this invasion from the RotS POV not a single Wolf Dropship would have made it to the ground in one piece.
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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #5 on: 01 May 2021, 06:54:15 »
Armor plot of the favoured faction for the last 100 years. You wouldn't stand a chance shrapnel.
Great review!
For me the book is a to do list being crossed over to end the dark age and the moronic central faction that emerged from the Jihad. Nothing more. An omnibus of clearing up house

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #6 on: 01 May 2021, 07:28:34 »
But could have been interesting with a writer who actually cared about the story.
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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #7 on: 01 May 2021, 18:04:36 »
But could have been interesting with a writer who actually cared about the story.

Related to that, but I feel bad for whoever's writing the sourcebook version of these events. They're going to have to do a lot of work to make this not suck.
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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #8 on: 01 May 2021, 18:52:05 »
This is highly entertaining and I would love to read you do a similar chapter by chapter treatment of some of the other, er, high points in the BT novel canon.

Also, the Republic sent up four fighter squadrons to challenge them in orbit, but has five more squadrons around Australia that they consider throwing at them on they way down? WHERE WAS THE ACTUAL AEROSPACE RESPONSE? And not just from Australia. They've got to have fighters at all of these redoubts. All of them could have launched and gotten there in plenty of time to contest the attack, because they're aerospace fighters, not conventional fighters. THIS IS WHERE YOU GO ALL IN!

I'm sorry, the sum total of the ASF forces the Republic has available to defend TERRA is 9 squadrons? A squadron in Dark Age or whatever it's called these days is still 6 fighters, right? 54 fighters is what they've got?

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #9 on: 01 May 2021, 19:25:37 »
It does seem (to me) that the story only showed a subsection of the complete naval battle.
And I guess that the Castrums might be deployed at the borders to slow down the DC and CC?
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #10 on: 02 May 2021, 00:23:29 »
Chapter Five: I was kinda wondering how a force of assault mechs including at least one Ares manages to disengage from a numerically and technologically superior enemy, and I was still wondering as we entered chapter five and got a note that the Redburn Guards repeatedly managed to disengage before the wolves could bring the bulk of their firepower to bear. The implication in that line is that the Guards simply outmaneuvered or outran the Wolves.

But a later line suggests that Alaric deliberately let them retreat each time to give his own troops room to breathe. The two explanations seem contradictory? But it seems at worst a minor bit of unclear writing, or possibly a mid-writing revision that didn't get cleared up completely. So it's not terribly offensive.

Alaric gets to go mano-e-mano with Redburn. It's one of those traditional things I kinda want to excuse, and I wouldn't have mentioned it if I hadn't already read partway into chapter six where it happens again with the next enemy leader. I'm hoping it doesn't become a trend, because it goes from tradition to silly really quick if it does.

I feel like this is a good time to touch on the difference between a character making a bad decision because of sloppy writing, and making a bad decision because they're making a bad decision, or a character making a decision that's different from what you would do and how that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong decision. Like, I think in general leading from the front in your own personal mech is dumb, but it's baked so deeply into the established warrior culture of the universe that it's an in character kind of dumb. This is what noble heroes are supposed to do and all that.

The stuff I harped on in the naval battles is a different kind of dumb, because they're the kind of mistakes an experienced individual shouldn't be making. You don't split your forces with no way to support each other against a superior enemy if you don't have to. You don't run the transports you're supposed to be protecting directly into range of essentially fixed fortifications if you don't have to.

The reason I say all that above is that Stone's plan seems a bit bad to me, but I can't honestly call it bad writing bad. Like the writing conveys what he's hoping for, his assumptions aren't unreasonable, and we haven't progressed far enough to determine if it'll fail because of bad writing, or just a guy who had the wrong plan. Or even if it was actually the right plan that didn't work out.

So we'll sit on that for now and see how it develops.

Some nitpicks I want to make:

First, this is a personal thing, but I feel like the need to specifically identify down to the specific subclass each weapon as its being used is irritating. It's wordy and disrupts flow to my mind's ears.

Second, before I read ahead into chapter six I was honestly wondering where the conventional forces defending Sydney redoubt were. The chapter really gives the impression that Hansen's roughriders were the only force defending Sydney, without conventional support, which seemed counter productive to the whole thing.

Also, not a nitpick but what I hope to be a recurring event, we have the Warbear's Genius Tactical Insighttm of the chapter.

"If you carpet bomb something enough, it ceases to be a problem."
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #11 on: 02 May 2021, 01:02:43 »
Chapter Six:

See, I'm worried about this whole enemy commanders dueling each other thing becoming overused because it's the second time it's happened in two chapters and it wasn't even intentional this time (was it intentional when Redburn and Alaric ran into each other?). If this keeps happening it'll strain credulity.

As I hinted at last post, we actually get to see more of what the redoubts are made of and get some references to the minefields, hidden weapons, and concealed infantry that compose them. Still, the actual defenders seem lightly staffed, with a single named regiment in the theater.

Just how weak is Stone's support on Terra? And if manpower is such an issue, wouldn't it be a great time to unveil those Celerities and Liches and Revenants that were teased back in the day...

Strange, all I hear is crickets.

Moving on to other theaters, I like that Chance knew that since he had air superiority he could use his dropships tactically to rapidly relocate units. Because of... well... past things... I didn't expect them to consider the option. I feel like they kinda glossed over the whole thing of actually locating the Thai Tigers before pinning them down. Like were they just operating from an identified base when staging their hit and run attacks and nobody had thought to try going there?

Or maybe it was just a word count thing and we were supposed to assume the dropship trap was sprung the next time they went a hittin? I'daknow.

My opinion of Stone's plan sinks further when we learn that they're modifying it by shifting troops into position to hit back. So... what? was the original plan really to just sit in the forts and wait for the wolves to come? I honestly assumed the republic would have had mobile forces on hand in theater to hit back at weak points. I thought that was the whole point! Ugg. I regret the charitable things I said last time.

Final note, the rest of the republic fleet being able to do anything productive at all came down to random chance. Malvina and her commander couldn't have known what had happened so far, so it was a fifty fifty chance which jump point they would have picked for insertion (assuming once again that pirate points aren't up for consideration).

(maybe she's enough of a narcissist that she would have chosen the Zenith just so nobody could call her a bottom? I don't know, I wouldn't have relied on that)

So you lucked out Labbe. Thanks to a lucky coin flip your fleet actually gets to pretend to impact the invasion rather than sitting on their ass useful to nobody at all.

Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #12 on: 02 May 2021, 17:28:36 »
Chapter Seven: There's nothing I can really complain about this naval battle without rehashing what I've already covered (I saw complaints elsewhere that the Falcons just popped out in the middle of the republic fleet, but that's the same conversation as using the zenith point at all in the first place). The actual fight itself is reasonably well written.

Malvina is angry about Alaric not clearing out these defenses for her when she should have known he wouldn't. In fact, she almost certainly did know he wouldn't so she's just angry for angry's sake, which is totally in character for her. Malvina's pretty one note, but nobody can fault this writer for that, she's always been a petulant psychopathic brat. You could say she's flawlessly on brand here.

Star Admiral Binetti seems to have caught on to the idea that the Republic Fleet exists solely to fail to impact anything at all. It seems an iffy argument to let the enemy keep having active WarShips in your backfield when you have your own jumpships, your dropship fleet, and any reinforcements (recall that Malvina didn't arrive in one big lump like Alaric, there's supposed to be more forces on the way) to protect. A better argument against pursuit might have been that a lot of the heaviest guns in the fleet aren't particularly fast and couldn't catch the more intact ships, but they'd still clear Triumphus (which is described as dead in space and under tow) off the board at least rather than giving the enemy a chance to get it running again.

But am I second guessing the writing or second guessing the character's legitimate decision? Like I said before it's an ambiguous question sometimes.

Stone validates Binetti's decision by ordering his fleet to hang back and reassess... and hey, I don't know why this just occurred to me, but how is Stone consulting with his admiral in what appears to be real time? There's well over an hour's light lag between Terra and anywhere close to the jump point for standard communications. Does Labbe have a functioning HPG for two way contact?

Stone's decision is also bad for different reasons. But it's an in character bad. The writing's already established that Stone is convinced he'll need the fleet later for his great Reconquista. He still hasn't internalized that this is the endgame, if he doesn't fully commit to the right here and now, it's all over.

And the thing is that it makes sense. Stone is a brain damaged lunatic who's lost his grip. It's very possible he was never the great warrior hero his propaganda made him out to be, and old age and freezer burn has only made it worse.

That's neat, that's great. That's... kinda what I always expected Stone to be.

I just... wish everybody else in the room with decades of military experience would be putting more thought into the safety of the Republic rather than waiting for their propaganda hero to fix things for them. Like, just, let him sit there in his bunker moving things around a board while you do the real work.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Kerfuffin(925)

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #13 on: 02 May 2021, 19:16:43 »
Putting his naval ‘strategy’ in that context helps some in the cognitive dissonance that comes with how terrible the idea was in the first place. Good call there

rebs

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #14 on: 02 May 2021, 23:45:52 »
I love this review!  Reading this novel was laborious to put it lightly. 

I think a lot of the problem with it was that the plot arc was decided by committee and BLP was a vessel to achieve that end.  Sure, he wrote it, but he didn't originate it and it's not as easy illuminating other peoples' ideas as it is our own original thoughts.  Just a bit of philosophical musing. 

Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #15 on: 02 May 2021, 23:50:50 »

Chapter 8: Warbear's genius tactical thought of the chapter: Be sneaky when you sneak up on people.

We get to meet a token lich drone! Yay! It's still only a token lich. Boo.

Kallidessa Kerensky is either a little bit bloodthirsty or doesn't know how remote drones work. She still beat an actual person, just operating from a safe distance. She can still take pride in her victory even if she didn't get to hear the guy begging for his life or keep him as a pet.

Overall, I'm fuzzy on how the Howling Furies were supposed to keep engaging their enemy but not get drawn west in the process. Like, couldn't the republic forces have just... kept going west, forcing Kalli K to either continue to follow them or give up on engaging them at all? Do the Hastatis obligingly return to the same point after they fail to bait the wolves, hoping to try again rather than considering any other option once it was clear that their big plan wasn't working?

Does every Republic commander just wait at their assigned point for the plot to happen?

Above the atmosphere, suddenly the falcons are concerned about leaving forces in their rear, with Malvina contemplating the importance of taking out the Mars Garrison and its dropships so they can't make trouble for her reinforcements. It's like a meta-kick to the junk of Admiral Labbe's fleet. Once again, the plot establishes that they don't actually matter by making Mars, which up to this point has comfortably done nothing at all, a greater threat.

Why's Stone keeping forces on Mars anyway? Is this more of his "holding stuff back for the reconquista" delusion, or does Mars have actual significance? I wonder because it's actually mentioned in the book, and normally things that should be assets but aren't are just quietly ignored.

On the subject of encirclement by Yellow River, it's a staple of the fiction, so I don't mind it, but how effective would it be, really? If you got a hundred or two mechs moving down the river, you're moving around a lot of water , and I feel like that's not as much of a shield to sensors. The depth is supposed to cover reactor signatures, but what about thousands of tons of moving metal? Anyway, not that important or unprecedented in the fiction.

Final thought for the chapter, Alaric may have been full of praise for the crew of the Fratricide, but we all know that deep down he was secretly fuming he couldn't go three for three on personally dueling enemy commanders.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #16 on: 03 May 2021, 02:31:08 »
Chapter Nine: "The clans never cooperate, especially the Jade Falcons and Wolves."

Stone, my dude, you LED THE COALITION AGAINST THE WORD OF BLAKE! You have personally watched Falcons, Wolves, Snow Ravens, Ghost Bears, and Nova Cats all come together for a common cause.

Pretty much everything Stone knows about the clans he learned from fighting alongside them and seeing how they act first hand, so I'm not really sure what to make of his utter ineptness interacting with them now. Is he really that far gone that he can't see the clans in any way other than the most reductive simplistic terms?

And after that, why would anybody take his backup plan of bringing still more clans into the fray seriously?

Alaric's refusal to see any problem with bringing Malvina to terra in a way demonstrates where he and Stone are similar. Alaric doesn't care about the threat of a potential IlChingisKhan because he honestly hasn't considered the possibility of being defeated. Potentially his weakness could be that nobody's really beaten him hard enough for him to learn humility. Of course, to have developed the well rounded character trait of humility, you'd have to actually suffer setbacks...

On another note, I liked the scene of Malvina first landing on Terra. It shows the contrast between how she sees herself and her clan and how Alaric does. Anybody else and demanding to be the first to set foot on Terra would seem cartonishly petty, but here it seems cartoonishly petty but entirely within character.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

(indirect accessory to the) Slayer of Monitors!

Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #17 on: 03 May 2021, 16:32:11 »
I'ma add to my prior point about the comparisons between Stone and Alaric and Malvina and Alaric.

Fundamentally, they all have the same flaw, in that they consider themselves destined to be the conquering hero.

The thing that sets Alaric apart though is that he's the only one of them that realized he had to earn it, and surprisingly the only one that realizes that conquerors don't conquer alone. Stone treats the people under his command as pawns, Malvina treats the people under her command as untrustworthy pawns, but Alaric treats the people under his command as allies all fighting for the greater goal.

This essentially establishes the clear pecking order of our point of view characters, and it also notes who's going to win. Stone's a doddering old fool who can't grasp that his greatness has faded. Malvina's a petulant brat who considers people who don't acknowledge her greatness as traitors. Alaric's greatness is founded on the power of friendship. The outcome is obvious.

Some might say it's too obvious, but I don't think we can blame the writer for that. The outcome was obvious long before this, and in that respect he was going with the flow. Alaric as the conqueror was telegraphed as far back as Bonfire of Worlds, where we are reminded every ten seconds that nobody can challenge him, and even the one person who once did beat him couldn't beat him anymore. At this stage, after so much going right for him, in a book literally titled Hour of the Wolf, we shouldn't be surprised that he gets the big prize at the end.

My personal complaint about how his inevitable rise is being portrayed, and I can blame this writer in this case because he continues the trend, is that he's not suffering any misteps. So far his every move is the right one, every obstacle in his path stands up to him just long enough to be totally owned by some clever maneuver. The biggest mistake the wolves have made so far is driving their entire fleet into range of Terra's orbital platforms, and the writer doesn't even understand the system well enough to acknowledge that that was a mistake.

Ultimately, Alaric and the wolves commit the unforgivable sin of being boring. Because in the real world, great people make mistakes, they occasionally have bad ideas. They even have good ideas that just don't work. Even Hanse Davion's greatest successes were incredibly risky and bit him in the ass at times.

What should be this epic clash between three people all convinced of their own personal destiny as conquerors is boring because the writing has made it clear that only one of them actually has destiny on their side, and the others are just there to give him a cool backdrop of explosions as he marches to the prize.

Which bothers me, because I feel like there's a cool relationship between Alaric and Stone that probably will never be explored. Namely that Alaric is what Stone was, and Stone is what Alaric could easily become.

Anyway, I'm going to try to spend virtual time with friends today, so I can't promise I'll continue the review tonight. Most likely I'll see you all tomorrow.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

(indirect accessory to the) Slayer of Monitors!

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #18 on: 03 May 2021, 16:52:08 »
Which bothers me, because I feel like there's a cool relationship between Alaric and Stone that probably will never be explored. Namely that Alaric is what Stone was, and Stone is what Alaric could easily become.
Yes so true, I am hoping for some nightmares with that theme in Alaric's future.
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Middcore

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #19 on: 03 May 2021, 17:27:07 »
Alaric treats the people under his command as allies all fighting for the greater goal.

This essentially establishes the clear pecking order of our point of view characters, and it also notes who's going to win. Stone's a doddering old fool who can't grasp that his greatness has faded. Malvina's a petulant brat who considers people who don't acknowledge her greatness as traitors. Alaric's greatness is founded on the power of friendship. The outcome is obvious.

Some might say it's too obvious, but I don't think we can blame the writer for that. The outcome was obvious long before this, and in that respect he was going with the flow. Alaric as the conqueror was telegraphed as far back as Bonfire of Worlds, where we are reminded every ten seconds that nobody can challenge him, and even the one person who once did beat him couldn't beat him anymore. At this stage, after so much going right for him, in a book literally titled Hour of the Wolf, we shouldn't be surprised that he gets the big prize at the end.

Not to turn this into too much of a debate about the overall narrative choices made here, but this is the thing that really confuses me. Are we supposed to see Alaric as truly heroic? Are we supposed to root for him? Is the Wolves becoming ilClan something the fanbase is expected to celebrate? It's been 25-ish years since the Refusal War source material was written, are people still this invested in a Wolves-vs-Falcons grudge match? It's been close to 30 years since the initial Clan invasion source material, were people really rooting that hard for the Wolves to win the race to Terra because they were the coolest and bestest (even though all their POV characters were Wardens) that they're going to be stoked for this happening now? Or are we just supposed to be happy that the Republic is going bye-bye because nobody ever really cared that much about it and sweeping it away is sort of a necessary condition of moving forward from an era in the timeline that received a lukewarm reception? I can certainly see the logic of the latter, and I shed no tears for Stone's tedious Star League Lite (see my current avatar), but it seems like you could accomplish this narrative goal without giving the Wolves arguably the biggest W any Clan faction has ever gotten.

A lot of the narrative choices from the Jihad all the way through DA feel like a strange combo of fanservice for people I'm not sure exist and intentional anti-fanservice, just dashing hopes for cool stuff to happen and tearing down bits of the universe for the heck of it.
« Last Edit: 03 May 2021, 17:28:52 by Middcore »

Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #20 on: 03 May 2021, 17:45:33 »
It's hard to judge exactly how the writers expected us to feel about Alaric, since that can change from writer to writer.

The broad intention at some point seemed to be to make the IlClan an inevitable prospect, so Alaric is set up as less the hero and more the lesser evil relative to Malvina, who is being shown as pretty much the only other candidate. I don't know exactly when it was decided that the timeline would end up with an IlClan (whether it started as a Wizkids or Fanpro/Catalyst proposition), or when the specifics of what that would mean would take shape.

Since there used to be talk of a second time jump to 3200, I suspect the original intention was that the IlClan would take power and we'd pick up again just in time for it all to start falling apart, like a second attempt at resetting to a simpler time, like the Dark Age was originally billed as.

Since there's no time skip, I expect from this point on it might all be about subverting the expectations of an easy Wolf IlClan. I don't think the wolves will lose the top spot, but Alaric may very well have his final comeuppance.
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #21 on: 03 May 2021, 20:10:49 »
Stuff with friends fell through, so let's continue.

Interlude: I really, really want to fault Nicole for her decision to sit on the sidelines (and let's be honest, is it really much of a sports metaphor anymore?), but then I was on the record calling out Victor for not taking the losses for a chance to cripple the Falcons on Coventry, so...

And they're in a great position to really hurt Alaric. Centuries of emotional and political baggage aside, Terra is just Terra. If Terra was enough to be an empire, Stone would still have an empire. If the League and the Lyrans took back everything Alaric had just abandoned to take Terra, he should have no way to support his army or replace the massive losses he should be taking. He'd be done. He might keep Terra, but big whoop. He'll never really threaten the Lyrans again. And the Clans ultimately follow strength, does anybody really think the Ghost Bears or Hell's Horses will follow his lead if he can't demonstrate his lead is worth following?

Or at least that's one theory, and Nicole holds to another theory, that somehow he'll pull it off and still be strong enough to seek revenge. I want to make a joke about how she's sniffed out the meta narrative and realized Alaric is the designated protagonist, but I'm going to give the writer more credit than that.

One, she's honoring their non-aggression pact. Which is just a polite thing to do.
Two, she's seen him go from victory to victory with no real setbacks. Sniffing the narrative jokes aside, he's already pulling off things that probably shouldn't be possible. She's right to be a little worried he'll keep doing it.
Three, she's honestly afraid of doing the wrong thing and screwing over this whole free worlds league that they just put back together. That's a very human response which I can respect.

Over in the Jade Falcon Zone we've got the horsey boys, and we affirm what I said earlier about the clans following strength. Every decision you make in the clans can be challenged by a trial of refusal. It's also nice to see that Star Colonel Thompson was able to convince his Khan to make sure the Jade Falcons would never be strong enough to actually support their claim, even if they weren't already destined to lose.
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #22 on: 03 May 2021, 20:56:19 »
Chapter 10: Who refers to a guy by his nickname to someone else in an official capacity? Also, Colton Macleod in a Highlander? Shame on you, writer! Shame!

The wolves suffer their first setback! Will it last?

Chapter 11: Nah.

Now even the enemy makes sure to mention Paco Cubillio's nickname, which I will not repeat out of spite.

I don't know if I should count Major Travers fighting against Kalli K as another duel between commanders, since it's really just a duel between POV characters.

Also, Warbear's genius tactical thought of the chapter: Massing a lot of very large powerful mechs in one place is brilliant.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #23 on: 03 May 2021, 21:31:08 »
Chapter 12: Alaric goes through a moment of extreme danger that could add some much needed tension to the narrative, except it all happened offscreen and was resolved by the time we actually hear about it.

We also get to see that while the Wolves go from victory to victory, the Falcons are thoroughly bogged down and unable to complete their objective around Geneva. We will learn later that Stone is concentrating forces specifically on the Falcons, and we saw earlier that Stone had intended Geneva in particular to be the ultimate meat grinder, so it's not necessarily unreasonable. 

I can understand where a Jade Falcon fan might feel like their clan is being made to stupidly smash its head into a wall while the wolves, as the designated winners, get to rampage all about, but its a little bit more complicated than that.

Still though, they are the ones who walked into the very obvious elephant trap.

At this point, the Republic High Command is full of socially awkward children. The fact that Redburn is right to call them all out for being too intimidated to challenge Stone's strategy is ridiculous at this point.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #24 on: 04 May 2021, 01:11:01 »
Good review with some fresh perspectives. Enjoying this very much!

At this point, the Republic High Command is full of socially awkward children. The fact that Redburn is right to call them all out for being too intimidated to challenge Stone's strategy is ridiculous at this point.
I have to call you out on this point though.
Stone was designed (and built up) to be a hollow icon that everybody looked up to but who wouldn't deliver what they expected of him. He was introduced in MWDA as a messianic figure from the past; his heroic exploits in the Jihad where he emerged as a character were actually backfilled later because of real-life wrinkles of how BT evolved.

As such, it was preordained that everybody would pin their hopes on him.
You're criticizing this as unreasonable. But I feel it is one of BT's better plot lines to deconstruct their larger-than-life hero in this way (which incidentally makes Alaric seem more successful than he really is).
There is lots of historic precedent. Pardoe relied heavily on Hitler's final days, where his generals also unreasonably clung to the party line instead of acknowledging the facts that were staring them in the face. I don't neccessarily agree with the Stone/Hitler analogy, but I do agree that there have been examples of what you describe as "socially awkward children" in history. Actually, I'm skirting rule 4 here. You're judging the situation from an outside observer standpoint where it's easy to point out the fallacy. Apparently that's not so easy for people who are actually in a situation where wishful thinking or denial are channeled by their idolized leader.
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #25 on: 04 May 2021, 02:41:47 »
It could very well be that I'm being too hard on them. Though I feel like they've had five years at this point to get to know their idol, so they've had plenty of time for the allure to fade.

But yeah, there's room for ambiguity and it's hard for me to say what would really be a realistic response in this situation.

Also, stretching the hitler in his bunker comparison further, I now have this humorous image of Levin and Lakewood writing in their memoirs after the conflict that they would have won if Stone had just listened to his Paladins.  :))
« Last Edit: 04 May 2021, 02:43:58 by Liam's Ghost »
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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #26 on: 04 May 2021, 03:04:44 »
Chapter 13: So the Republic fleet is still trying to be useful in the background. That's kinda reassuring, actually.

Malvina continues to immerse herself in her villainous role. Is she somehow worse than in prior books or am I just suffering from villainous brat fatigue? I honestly can't say.

And here's Cynthy. Hi Cynthy.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #27 on: 04 May 2021, 03:37:04 »
Chapter 14: You may have noticed at this point that I don't necessarily have a lot to say for every chapter, and I don't expect this one to be much of an exception.

I'm guessing I know what the Nighthawk plan Redburn is talking about is, but honestly I don't really see how it would be anywhere close to what Malvina does. Unless it isn't a disguised headhunting operation and is instead something more sinister. Sure, it's a dirty trick, but so's waging widescale war in general.

But that's not a complaint about the writing or even the characterization. More an acknowledgement that I personally would clash badly with this whole "nobility of warfare" mindset the inner sphere has if I was forced to live in it.

We keep getting people talk about how the Wolves aren't "fighting like clanners", but frankly I don't see it. I think this hearkens back to how we're supposed to se Alaric as a trancendent military genius, but I don't think any author has managed to really sell it. Writing genius is hard, you know?

Also, I don't know how it is in the Republic military, but I'm pretty sure every other military force has a rule that says a superior cannot order their subordinate to give aid to the enemy. Maybe they talked it over offscreen or whatever, maybe the others agreed to follow his lead, but it kinda feels like Major Travers volunteers his people for bondsmen status and duties despite their objections. I would have liked to see more autonomy in his crewmates than "Cheetah protests, but apparently they're doing it anyway".

Okay, it was a little bit of an exception.
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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #28 on: 05 May 2021, 15:09:38 »
I took a break yesterday, but before we resume, I want to talk for a moment about bad battletech fiction.

I don't know how to tell you this, but a lot of battletech fiction is kinda bad.

From strange tangents about fungus people to "terra doesn't matter" to, like, pretty much all of Star Lord, there's been some stinkers produced over the years. And as much as I have been harping on this book chapter by chapter like some sort of vindictive guy who does vindictive things, it's not the worst bit of battletech fiction I've read. It's not near as disappointingly token as the second half of Grave Covenant or as nonsensical as Star Lord or as prone to beat you over the head with the moral as Malicious intent.

(I didn't want to use Mike Stackpole for multiple examples, but it's really his fault for writing so many of the spine novels)

So why am I harping on this book to such a degree? Why have I, personally, been so much more critical of the recent work when I've just let the other stuff pass?

Honestly, I think it's because I'm older. In my old age I find I just want more from my reading. I ditched my original battletech novel collection years ago because I needed the pocket money and space for a planned move. The move fell through, I've got a steady disabled guy income, and we live in the future, so space isn't really an issue anymore. But I've never been struck by a desire to rebuild that collection. The only time I've bothered to buy replacements is when I needed a specific reference for something I was working on.

Because honestly, I'm just not as interested in going through the old stuff with all its cheesy cliches and pulpy style anymore. I used to reread them constantly, now I'm just meh.

But anyway that's why I'm so hard on the new books. I got old. I want more from it.

Do I have a right to expect the current writing to go beyond its pulpy roots? Well yeah, I'm a consumer. I'm allowed to have an opinion on the stuff I spend money on.

Should I expect it to? *shrug*

Anyway, that's why this review is what it is. I'm old, I want more from my books. Maybe your opinion differs. That's fine. Nobody gets to tell someone else what they should and shouldn't enjoy.

(I still mostly enjoyed The Last Jedi)

Anyway, I'll resume regular reviewing tonight.
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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Liam's Ghost

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Re: Hour of the Wolf: a Running Review
« Reply #29 on: 05 May 2021, 22:22:25 »
Chapter 15: Tundra Wolf 4! Tundra Wolf 4! Tundra Wolf 4!

I suspect Kassi K may be piloting a Tundra Wolf 4.

The last ride of the Republic Navy apparently happens almost entirely off screen. What a disappointment.

Some technical notes about the battle, at least two Jade Falcon ships are rammed by Republic ships and survive. Mechanically, that's pretty much impossible if the ships are even remotely in the same size category, even under the most ideal circumstances for surviving a ram. Maybe the republic ships that did the ramming were small assault ships? There's not a whole lot of information to go on.

The wolves manage to hold formation at a range of 150 meters to keep the Falcons from bombarding Terra. I call all kinds of bovine excrement on that. Battletech ships are capable of so much maneuvering so quickly that there is absolutely no room for error, or even failing to guess what the other guy might do. The writer no doubt thought it was clever, but this whole maneuver should either be wolves fruitlessly chasing falcon ships around while Benny Hill music plays, or lots of priceless hardware crashing into each other. 
Good news is the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show an immediate latency of 44.6 years. So if you're thirty or over you're laughing. Worst case scenario you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you've forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face.

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