FARSIGHT: Crisis of Faith, a review


Like many of you I tend to have a swift Google for a review or video review of a potential purchase. Not so much when it comes to Black Library products, as I usually buy things that I know I'll like (with a few bitter exceptions), but I did however search for any clues as to whether this particular novel was any good as I had just embarked on my own Tau expansion, and it would be my first step into Tau fiction - I found very little, good or bad, so I'm adding my tupp'orth and hopefully you'll find it useful.

So no major spoilers ahead, indeed my review will be more of a comment on the Tau's and Xenos in general's fiction (or lack of), and the community opinions/response to this. Don't worry, I'll talk about the book too!

So what do you get for your £18.99 or regional equivalent? 

A hardback, fairly large print novel of 355 pages by Phil Kelly (more on him later), centering on the eponymous hero's exploits crossing the Damocles Gulf and generally plot device-ing himself and his super awesome squad of justice and tolerance out of the various slightly sticky situations they find themselves in. Presumably there's more to come too, as we don't get any Enclave action at all; this is a prequel, or backstory of sorts.

That's the plot in a nutshell, without spoiling anything - there are subplots involving the Inquisition, an oddly-behaved member of the Water caste, the machinations of the Ethereal caste and the best efforts of the Scar Lords chapter to derail Farsight's expedition. Beyond that, we glean something here and there about Farsight's relationships with Commander Shadowsun, That Guy Kais and his old mentor Puretide, but nothing anyone with a basic grounding in Tau lore wouldn't be au fait with. (I'm not including myself in that group, as a Tau noob).

As for Commander Farsight himself, there's plenty of him getting slightly miffed and emotional about things not going the way he wants, presumably as a prelude to him having the eponymous crisis of faith (at some point). Whether you find it natural or too jarring with the traditional ideas of the Tau obediently going about their for the Greater Good business is largely down to you. His command team are blatantly OP though. One of them is basically a Dreadnought and another is a Cylon. Come at me, bro! 

You also get a brief but useful Xenolexicon at the back, (although if I'm being uncharitable, it would've been nice had this been mentioned in a contents page, I only found it about a fifth of the way through my reading...)

This brings me onto a more general discussion - many of the Tau's hardcore fans have very strong feelings about Mr. Kelly, usually positive in regards to his original involvement with previous Tau codex fluff, and vehemently negative when it comes to his recent move into novel writing.  

I'm as bad as anyone else when it comes to debating my favourite sci-fantasy universe, but the 'colour of Tau blood' debacle (alluded to in the recent Community post announcing the novel) and the somewhat shaky ground of the 'kind of make it up as you go along' Tau language are problems laid at Phil Kelly's feet. As a Tau noob, these things don't bother me unduly, but I know instinctively that they probably would be doing if I'd had a longer relationship with the little blue guys.

On a wider scale, these issues are felt more by a fan base when that group is smaller; write a bad Space Marine novel and enough people will buy it and/or think it's half-decent, and encourage the company to publish more - write a 'bad' Xenos novel and the relatively few people who buy it will desperately wish for it to be good and be all the more enraged when it's not, usually leading to no further novels for that particular faction for a while. It's a vicious circle but hey, newsflash, Marine stuff is popular, sells well, and thusly gets more stuff published for it.

In summary, this is a decent read. Caveat: I have notoriously low standards when it comes to films, TV, etc. It's not that I like bad things, it just that something can be 'ok' and as long as it's vaguely enjoyable I'll be accepting of it. We live in an age where anything and everything is held up to the light and picked apart, and whilst this is good insofar as it encourages things to be done better, it also frequently takes some of the magic away. Everything will seem a little worse if you stop to really scrutinise it. If I hadn't delved a little deeper online in trying to gauge the community's response to this book, I probably would've had a higher opinion of it. Make of that what you will.  

Equally, if you want to read something Xenos-related, you never have much choice. If I had to compare this book to another (in order to give you a sense of how it feels, not in terms of quality) it would probably have to be the notorious Descent of Angels from the Horus Heresy series; it gives a flavour of its subject but leaves you feeling somewhat let down by the lack of actual content/progression.

Not so much a 'crisis of faith' as a mild perturbation. Here's hoping for more to follow.