My mini-review of "Xenology"

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My mini-review of "Xenology"

Postby -Papa Gino » Tue Dec 19, 2006 10:32 pm

Got my hands on a copy last night. Wound up reading it cover to cover (takes about an hour if you don't pour over every detail of the alien autopsies - oh yes, there are about 10 detailed alien autopsies...).

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe because of the relative paucity of the background material put out by GW of late. In any case, the background material is pretty decent, and the story holding it together isn't bad. Somehow they've managed to give every race examined a reasonably comprehensive and "fresh" treatment, despite the obvious space constraints (a Liber Chaotica volume this is not). More interestingly, at least 40% of the background material is completely new, even going back to the Rogue Trader era - and well done, to boot.

The slight negatives would probably be a) not enough artwork (excluding the autopsy reports) - much of it seems original, but we're basically talking about small "vignettes", many in black and white; and b) the implicit requirement that the reader is at least somewhat familiar with the "meta-story" of the 40k universe, as well as the backgrounds of certain races. [In particular as - MINOR SPOILER - they seem to be tying the Eldar, Slann/Necron and Human storylines into a single narrative, however indirectly, and there is an interesting insight into the origins of the Tau - END MINOR SPOILER.] In other words, while someone who's read, say, every 'dex put out in the past few years should have no problems "getting" every reference, readers with less exposure to the 40k ethos just might...

Of course, the after-effect is a feeling of gnawing disappointment - the team behind "Xenology" did a very decent job (given space constraints) of presenting enough new and "reinvented" material to significantly expand the 40k universe and evolve the meta-story from where it is today - yet the chances of GW actually doing much about it from the tabletop standpoint are, I would guess, fairly minimal. Maybe a few references in the Ordo Xenos codex (but probably not in the form of special rules or troop types), probably a briefer rehash of the Ork backstory in the Ork 'dex - and beyond that, I just don't see them doing much with this opportunity at all. [Which is especially disappointing as the required investment need not be substantial but the financial and "moral" returns could well be. Consider the Eldar Exodites, where they would not need to develop a single new figure - just give people an official "20 man-hour" list with 1 page of recycled background material and 4-5 conversion photos, and tell them to "blend" Fantasy and 40k lines. Minimal investment compared with writing a full-on codex and developing a new figure line, but a potentially meaningful boost to the sales of certain boxed sets or sprues, not to mention the image improvement.]

It's too bad, really, though wholly in line with GW's (i.e. Tom Kirby's) now longstanding marketing and product development strategies.
-Papa Gino
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Re: My mini-review of "Xenology"

Postby Jeramakus » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:45 am

I've had it for awhile myself and enjoyed it also. Your critique's made me want to go back and reread it. I also happened to buy the Black Library's limited edition version and it comes wrapped in "Kroot hide" as well as having this neat little Inquistyorial "Classified" band around it. Good work...
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