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Books Read in August, 2018 September 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my August, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in August, 2018

July, 2018 Locus

Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Time Siege by Wesley Chu

Hellspark by Janet Kagan (r)

The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel by Philip Pullman, Stéphane Melchior and Clélment Oubrerie (Graphic Novel)

The Pleasure Model Repairman by Ruuf Wangersen

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

Capharnaüm – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked Roleplaying Game by Raphaël Bardas, François Cedelle, Pierre Coppet, Sarah Newton et al (RPG)

Wired by Julie Garwood

The Late Show by Michael Connelly
*****

And those were my reads in the month of August. August was a month of quality of books, as opposed to quantity, as I read several rather many-paged novels this months, not to mention an epic sized roleplaying game. I didn’t manage to read a couple of non-fiction books that I was planning on, but what can you do? Only so much time every month to read.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger – Nolan Moore leads a team of four TV web series production crew members in an effort to retrace the path of an explorer from 1909 who made an important, but mysterious, discovery of a cave high up in the rock strata of the Grand Canyon. Nolan’s crew hopes to ramp up their reputation of chasing after strange conspiracy theory anomalies and turn this potential find into ratings gold and hopefully an actual TV network program. Thus, they allow a journalist and a representative for their corporate sponsor along for the journey, making for a complete party of six. When, against all odds, they actually find the rumored cave and manage to climb to its entrance (filming their documentary along the way) it remains only to discover what, exactly, lies deep within. I’m not going to spoil anything for the reader, but will say that The Anomaly is an energized and suspenseful archaeological sci-fi (and how I hate that term!) horror story that will keep you reading chapter after chapter. From the beginning of the book to its bizarre climax, the book maintains an ever increasing tone of suspense and anxiety inspiring tension that kept me reading. To put it into perspective, this story becomes a tale of survival. What I didn’t realize at the time I read this was that the author, Michael Rutger, is actually the pen name for Michael Marshall Smith (Michael Marshall), the novelist, short story writer and screen writer. This book may make the reader think that they’ve read this story before, as it’s got a lot of similarities to novels of the genre, but there are enough twists and surprises that make the book feel fresh. Told from Nolan’s first person perspective, this books feels like it has a deeply personal level (which it does). There’s a good measure of humour throughout, which makes the horrific moments all that much sharper, and that added to my enjoyment of the book. Recommended.

Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke – This book was one of my favourite novels of the month’s reads. Star’s End is the ultimate book about corporate control, the location itself being the home of the Coromina family. A science fiction story about the Four Sisters, four planets terraformed by Philip Coromina. He not only owns the planets, he owns the people who inhabit them. Any person who doesn’t follow company rules disappears. But what really happens to them is a matter for the reader to discover. The family business manufactures weapons, one of the “products” being humans who are DNA programmed to be soldiers. They fight wars across the galaxy alongside normal human mercenaries hired by the corporations. The protagonist of Star’s End is Esme Coromina, Philip’s eldest daughter. Her mother is a soldier who left her to be raised by Phillip when she was born. Esme’s three hundred-year-old father is dying, Philip having a disease which kills even those taking rejuvenation treatments. She is taken by surprise, but she has been waiting a long time. Esme will become CEO of the Coromina Group, and wants to change the corporation’s direct away from weapons manufacture. The dying Philip wants Esme to find her three younger half-sisters who disappeared some time ago, and the dutiful Esme goes about this, all the time dealing with corporate matters, that include aliens living on the Coromina planets. There are a lot of plot elements that sound familiar and should do, but they are tied up in a nice way. The book jumps between the past and present and shows the history of a very dysfunctional family. There are lots of secrets, both familial and corporate, which we don’t learn until events occur in the past chapters or until Esme reaches a level in the corporation hierarchy to be able to learn them. This novel is an interesting, fun read, though obviously anti-corporate. My only real problem with the book at times was I found Esme’s reluctance to follow her father’s orders a bit hard to swallow. Still, good read. Highly recommended.

Hellspark by Janet Kagan – I’ll state right now that this book was a re-read for me, one of my favourites of my re-reads over the years (for reasons that are evident, if you know me at all), so I’m a bit biased. Hellspark is a wondrous book, being a murder mystery, but with the story really being about the intricacies of language and the meaning of sapience. Every time I read this book I find something new, something that resonates with me. While some people find the book tedious, it’s definitely not for everyone. Language is a dance, and language is fascinating. I still have my original version of teh book, though I’ve bought replacements over the years. I can’t recommend this book enough. ‘Nuff said.

The Late Show by Michael Connelly – Michael Connelly is best known for his detective series featuring Harry Bosch, but with this novel launches a new series in the City of Angels. Renée Ballard is a well-established detective with the LAPD, working the “late show”, police talk for the 11 pm – 7 am shift. It’s mostly about picking up the scraps of the nightlife and directing cases to daytime divisions, but police work all the same. This means that she’s called out whenever the need arises, but Ballard is left without closure or any sense of propriety on the cases she catches. During a single shift, two monumental cases land in her lap: the assault of a transgender prostitute, left for dead in a parking lot, and a shooting at a nightclub with three victims left to die in their own blood. I’m not going to spoil the plot too much here, but will say that while wrestling with her own personal demons, Ballard is taken captive for poking her nose around on these cases, but no one knows she’s gone missing. Is this the end of the late show for Ballard? I really liked this book, mainly because the author has crafted a character in Renée Ballard reflects the grit of the LAPD (based on what I know of it) and offers readers an interesting perspective, not only as a woman, but one who is single and not tied down to anyone else, save her dog. I’m not going to say anything else about this book other than the fact that I recommend it very much.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 1 graphic novel in August. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 58 books, 34 RPGs and RPG products, 15 magazines, 0 comics, and 3 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

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The Capharnaum Goodness Has Arrived! August 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, capharnaum rpg, personal, rpg hut.
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It’s here! 🙂

The snail mail this afternoon provided me with a package I’ve been waiting for all week. Since this is a long weekend here in Ontario (and much of Canada), if it hadn’t come today I would have had to wait until at least Tuesday for it to hopefully arrive. But I’m impressed. I received my copy of the game exactly one week after I received the shipping notice from GameQuest in the UK.

My Kickstarter backer copy of Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked RPG has arrived and it is… stunningly beautiful!

Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked is a fantasy roleplaying game set in a world of Arabian Nights, Argonauts, and Crusaders. It was inspired by the One Thousand and One Nights, the myths of ancient Greece, and the legends of the Crusades, and is a game where history meets myth, and legends are born.

One of the questions that I always ask about roleplaying games I’m thinking of purchasing is: What do player characters *do* in the game? As mentioned, Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked is based on the myths, legends, and histories of our own world, but it’s very solidly a fantasy roleplaying game. You play heroes – holy warriors, arcane sorcerers, kings of thieves, merchant princes, scholars, explorers, travellers, and more. The adventures you have can range from zero right through to hero – you can adventure in the danger-filled warrens of ancient cities, intrigue with courtiers, battle with armies against ancient foes, or join with those like you – the mysterious Dragon-Marked – to change the world itself. Capharnaum is a heroic game, filled with action and adventure.

The rulebook is a beautiful thing in appearance, some 384 pages in total, with nicely solid paper that isn’t too thick, only somewhat glossy pages, and full of stunning artwork and a superb layout that is sure to engage the reader. The artwork is of variable quality, most of it exquisite and highly evocative of the setting and the material contained within the book and the writing (from what I’ve read of it so far) has that sensa wonda that is so much a part of the style of the Arabian Nights stories. I cannot wait to delve deeper into this game and its magnificent world!

While the game is due for release to the marketplace on August 31st, you can actually pre-order the game right now by following the link I’ve already posted. I promise that you won’t be disappointed! 🙂

Books Read in July, 2018 August 2, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my July, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in July, 2018

Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers (r)

Torg: The Character Collection by The Storm Guild (RPG) (r)

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

The Gaunt Man Returns by John Terra (RPG) r)

Infiniverse Game Campaign Update Volume II by Greg Farshtey (RPG) (r)

Infiniverse Game Campaign Update Volume III by John Terra (RPG) (r)

War’s End by John Terra (RPG) (r)

Full Moon Draw and Other Tales by Greg Farshtey, Nigel Findley, James Long, Lou Prosperi and Stewart Wieck (RPG) (r)

Central Valley Gate by Gregory W. Detweiler and Bill Smith (RPG) (r)

When Axioms Collide by Shane Lacy Hensley (RPG) (r)

No Quarter Given by Brian Sean Perry (RPG) (r)

The Female Man by Joanna Russ (r)

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture by A.D. Jameson

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

June, 2018 Locus

July/August, 2018 Reader’s Digest

After the Crown by K.B. Wagers

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
*****

And those were my reads in the month of July. July turned out to be a pretty good month of reading for me, and I still managed to get in a chunk of reading of the old Torg: The Possibility Wars RPG materials as well. I also managed to get in one non-fiction book as well, that I rather enjoyed. A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore – Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art is, unlike some of the author’s other novels, heavy on the blue and the art, somewhat light on the comedy. The book is set during the art scene of 19th Century Paris, a fascinating time for the art world, and every artist of this era makes an appearance in the novel. The author did a lot of impressive research for this book. The novel begins at the end of Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life, an apparent suicide. However, somehow Vincent gets himself to his doctor before his death for treatment, where he raves about the colour blue. Lucien Lessard (a fictional character), a baker and aspiring painter, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (a real artist, fictionalized) become detectives who decide to solve the mystery of Van Gogh’s death, because it is odd that he tried to save himself right after trying to off himself, no matter how crazy he’d become. I’m not going to spoil the plot of the novel here, but will say there is a very nicely played supernatural element and the book makes art into magic, the magic of the colour blue. Regardless of anything else, this book is a solid piece of fiction that was a joy to read. Highly recommended.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ – Heralded as one of the quintessential feminist SF novels of all-time, which will automatically reduce the reach of this book, it is one that I would make mandatory reading if I taught SF literature in high school – and my students would likely hate me for this! The Female Man is not an easy book by any means; its structure is complex and obfuscated on purpose, and its subject matter is uncomfortable and necessary. But this book is one of the best reasons that the field of SF literature exists in the first place. The book is singularly concerned with subjects articulated by feminism, but I think it should be required reading for everyone of either gender. The anger just radiates off the pages of this book at times, and it’s definitely a amazing visceral book of raw nerves and flayed skin. The SFnal elements are more than allegorical, and the author spent a lot of energy creating her woman-only utopia of Whileaway. The result is fascinating in its own right, and not entirely as one-sided as a feminist polemic would imply. This is an extremely powerful book with exceptional social relevance today. Go read this book, asap, if you haven’t already! 🙂

After the Crown by K.B. Wagers – The second book in the Indranan Wars series, this novel continues the story of the former gunrunner turned Empress of Indrana, and continues to surprise and impress me with the author’s story telling ability and political intrigue on a level that many established authors don’t have. In the first book, Behind the Throne, Hail comes back to her homeland to become the leader of her people after being away for 20 years as a gunrunner. In After the Crown, a war with a rival civilization, and people that want to oust her as leader creates a much more adventure filled story as we get to meet a lot of Hail’s old gunrunner friends. The terrific political intrigue from the first book is present, but the number of characters is basically doubled and there is a lot more action to this part of the story. While I was worried that this book might be a bit less polished than the first novel, as many middle of trilogy novels are, this is a solid second book in the Indranan War series, and am enjoying the India-based culture and the decision-making by the main character. Very much recommended!

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan – This is a fascinating book about five generations of witches living in England, that combines fantasy with history in a rather unique way. While each woman’s story is fairly similar, the underlying themes of feminism and the mother-daughter relationship are wonderful. I found it interesting that, no matter the era, the women all knew that while men appeared to be in control, it’s really the women who hold the power. I found some parts of this book were a bit slow, but overall I loved the novel, especially the lasst section of the book (which I am not going to spoil here!). Recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 9 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in July. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 51 books, 33 RPGs and RPG products, 14 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in June, 2018 July 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my June, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in June, 2018

Caliban’s War by James S.A Corey

The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (r)

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers

Hollowgirl by Sean Williams

May, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Mind Merchants of Zodanga by Jack Norris (PDF) (RPG)

Myths of Artol by Keith Johnson (PDF) (RPG)

To Sail Once More Into the Valley of Dor by Vicki Lalonde (PDF) (RPG)

Torg: Aysle by Greg Farshtey, Greg Gordon et. al. (RPG) (r)

Seeds of Destruction by David Dolph (PDF) (RPG)

Queenswrath by Greg Farshtey and Jennifer Williams (RPG) (r)

Binary System by Eric Brown

High Lord of Earth by Greg Farshtey and Paul Murphy (RPG) (r)

Operation: Hard Sell by Ed Stark (RPG) (r)

Torg: Orrorsh by Christopher Kubasik (RPG (r)

June, 2018 Reader’s Digest

The Malice by Peter Newman

Torg: The Land Below by Stewart and Stephan Wieck (RPG) (r)

Crucible of Pain by Dan Greenberg (RPG) (r)

Torg: Space Gods by Greg Farshtey, Greg Gorden, Ed Stark and Jim Bambra (RPG) (r)

A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill

Cylent Scream and Other Tales by Paul Balsamo, Patrick Flanagan, Robin Jaskow, Scott Mitchell, Mike Nystul and Lou Prosperi (RPG) (r)

The Storm Knights’ Guide to the Possibility Wars by Lou Prosperi (RPG) (r)

The Temple of Rec Stalek by Shane Lacy Hensley (RPG) (r)

Infiniverse Campaign Game Update Volume I by Greg Farshtey (RPG) (r)

The Delphi Council Worldbook Volume I by Robert Maxwell and Bill Smith (RPG) (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of June. Whew! I managed to read quite a few books, when considered around the old Torg roleplaying books that I read in June, and there was a lot of good non-fiction in my reading as well. Given that I hadn’t read any roleplaying game material in May, I guess I more than made up for it in June! 🙂 A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – The second book in the original Barsoom trilogy by ERB, The Gods of Mars is the story of John Carter’s return to Barsoom – but a part of Barsoom that is shrouded in myth and legend. This second novel is one that deals with religion, belief, life, love, death, and other themes that may have surprised readers back when it was written, but are now themes found quite commonly in fiction and other media. However, this book was the first to do so. While Dejah Thoris doesn’t make an appearance until near the end of the book, which wraps up on a delightful cliffhanger, the themes of the book and how they affect the protagonist and those around him, whether friends or foes, makes it such an interesting read. Certain plot elements are somewhat obvious to the modern reader, but that doesn’t prevent the enjoyment of this novel.

A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill – Another one of the non-fiction books that I enjoyed this month. One of the founding precepts of the United States is the freedom to practice religion as one sees fit. I won’t go into the details of the history of this practice in the U.S. (you can read about that in all sorts of places), but suffice to say the atmosphere of colonial Massachusetts demanded conformity in attitudes, dress, behaviour and piousness. This led to the situation of a feeling of repression and oppression, especially among the disenfranchised. In this book, Frances Hill examines the political and social circumstances extant at that time and leads the reader through the most notorious witch hunt in history. Hill posits that the social conditions led directly to the accusations that led to the deaths of 20 probably innocent people. She investigates the reality of the accusers and the actual physical manifestations that they experienced. However, the political machinations between two of the families of Salem (behind the scenes) led to many of the accusations as enemies of one family against the other. There is a lot more to this book that, though I question Hill’s conjectures about psychological conclusions, is an excellent, no-nonsense account of the weird year of 1692 in Salem. I recommend this one.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers – This non-fiction work is the author’s inside look at why the 2012 John Carter movie failed at the box office and how Disney completely botched the marketing of the film, ensuring poor viewing numbers and that no sequel(s) would be made. The author is somewhat biased about the events, but the behind-the-scenes look, based on a lot of internet material, at what went on makes for an interesting read and the tale of how some Hollywood dreams have bitter tastes to them.

Queenswrath by Greg Farshtey and Jennifer Williams – This collection of short scenario ideas for the old Torg: The Possibility Wars RPG is quite nice, being a series of edicts from Pella Ardinay, the ruler of Aysle (the fantasy cosm) on (Core) Earth, for Storm Knights to deal with various problems that have arisen in her realm. Nice collection of scenario ideas, not really fleshed out but ready to be helped along by a good GM. Wonderful stuff.

Binary System by Eric Brown – Established writer Brown has written a superb novel that is part space exploration, part first contact, and completely engrossing. This is the story of Cordelia “Delia” Kemp who, after a catastrophic accident and explosion on her spaceship, ends up in a remote, strange and unexplored part of space with only the Imp (her internal AI) as her companion. Delia finds herself on the ice planet of Valinda with unknowable aliens and has to find a way to survive under challenging circumstances, with seemingly no means of getting home. The characterisation and dialogue is top-notch, and Delia is a well crafted, three-dimensional character whose anguish and desperation over being stranded on an alien planet is vividly brought to life with realistic descriptions. Haunted by what happened to the man she finally declared her love for just before the starship was destroyed, her feelings are explored very nicely, and her interactions with her Imp, and the two alien species (the Fahran and the Skelt) she finds on Valinda are handled exceptionally well. What makes this novel truly stand out, however, is the worldbuilding that Brown engages in. Valinda’s geography and its inhabitants are lovingly revealed through the eyes of Delia, and I’m not going to spoil the potential reader’s enjoyment of this major element of the book. Suffice to say this is space opera at its finest, and I highly recommend it.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 14 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in June. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 43 books, 24 RPGs and RPG products, 12 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in May, 2018 June 4, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my May, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in May, 2018

Roman Games by Bruce Macbain

The Art of Dejah Thoris and the Worlds of Mars by Various (Artbook)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

April, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Updraft by Fran Wilde

April, 2018 Locus

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Dark Life by Kat Falls

Rip Tide by Kat Falls

May, 2018 Locus
*****

And those were my reads in the month of May. I managed to read more books than I expected in May, and none of them were re-reads interestingly enough. In addition, I was shocked to see that I’d not read any roleplaying game materials for the month, but that’s not surprising given that I was re-reading the adventures that I was running at CanGames so perhaps not really a surprise. A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – This was a book that I was cautious to read. I love the Arabian Nights stories, and so my expectations on the book were high. Make no mistake, this novel is the story of Scheherazade (called Shahrzad here) and the King (called Khalid). It’s definitely a romance novel that doesn’t start out that way per sé, and turns into a story that…it’s divine. Renee Ahdieh’s writing is exquisite in this book. Whether she described luscious palaces, delectable dishes and lavish clothes or a love so palpable that it rips your insides open, devastating truths or heartbreaking choices, she captivates the reader with her prose. I would happily spend more time with the characters of Shahrzad, Khalid, Despina and Jalal, and there’s a sequel that I’m rather looking forward to. Highly recommended.

Updraft by Fran Wilde – The first book in the Bone Universe series, and also the first novel by the author, Updraft is one heck of an enjoyable read. The book tells the story of Kirit Densira, a young girl with a rare talent who is raised in a bizarre city – one consisting of towering bone spires where flight is one of the few freedoms and giant, invisible flying squid with glass teeth lurk in the sky. Our heroine, Kirit, is a strong-minded young girl who craves the freedom of flight as a trader between towers, but the revelation that she has the type of voice that can control skymouths make her valuable to a secretive ruling class of the city. Her struggle to make her way in this world where it all seems stacked against her makes for a tense and engaging story. The author’s world-building is absolutely brilliant, and there is an array of bizarre cultural, biological and features of this world that make it truly stand out. A truly remarkable first novel, and I’m looking forward to reading the second book, soon. Again, highly recommended.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde – This slight book (of around 180 pages) is an engrossing fantasy tale of a kingdom based on magical gemstones that is betrayed from within. A young woman of the royal blood (a “Jewel”) finds herself the last heir, presiding over a ruined, conquered land. She and her magical companion (a “Lapidary”) must decide how best to cope, for their own benefit, for the kingdom’s, all the while temptation and betrayal surrounding them. As different in style and feel from Updraft as it is, this book also has some interesting world-building. A book about love, trust, betrayal, and loyalty, this one bears reading a second or third time. I liked it. A lot.

Overall, I managed to read 10 novels, 0 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in May. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 36 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 10 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in April, 2018 May 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my April, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in April, 2018

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

Torg Eternity: Day 1 (Adventures) by Dean Gilbert, Darrell Hayhurst, Shane Lacy Hensley et. al. (RPG)

Beyond the Sun edited by Brian Thomas Schmidt

Torg Eternity: Delphi Missions: Rising Storm by Greg Gordon, Darrell Hayhurst et. al. (RPG)

Before the Dawn by Greg Gordon et. al. (RPG) (r)

The Final Countdown by Martin Wixted (RPG) (r)

Applied Science by Stewart Wieck (RPG) (r)

Damsel in Distress by James Long (RPG) (r)

The Mystic Flame by Louis Prosperi (RPG) (r)

Spelljack by Steve Crow (RPG) (r)

Love by Christopher Kubasik (RPG) (r)

Raiko by Nigel D. Findley (RPG) (r)

The Burden of Glory by the Torg Eternity Team (PDF) (RPG)

The Riverside Heist by Matt Ritchie (PDF) (RPG)

Run Through the Jungle by Brian Reeves (PDF) (RPG)

Day 2: Road to Philadelphia by David Chart (PDF) (RPG)

The Améliorer Virus by David Dolph (PDF) (RPG)

The Janus Agenda: Day 1 by Simon English (PDF) (RPG)

The Janus Agenda: Characters by Simon English (PDF) (RPG)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (r)

March, 2018 Locus

The Golden Pearl by Cassandra Beck

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Blame by Jeff Abbott

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne
*****

And those were my reads in the month of April. I managed to read more books than I expected in April, some re-reads, some not, and the number of gaming reads for the old Torg: The Possibility Wars and the new Torg Eternity RPGs “pad” the list out somewhat, but it was a good month of reads with some very entertaining works. Again, it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – I really had no idea what to expect in this novel, but read it based on the cover blurb I saw when the book came out. What I got was a delicious, tasty repast of perfectly prepared insects aboard the Wayfarer, the tunneling vessel and primary habitat presented in the book, enjoying wonderful dialogue and conversations and a surprisingly diverse collection of humans, aliens, and an excellent example of an AI. While each chapter of the book felt almost like a “moral of the week” bit from a 90s television series, the overall story is about the characters aboard the Wayfarer and how their relationships change over time as the actual plot of the book weaves throughout the story.
While it took me a good deal of time to read this book due to the density of the material, this was a highly enjoyable book, and I highly recommend it.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – What can I say? This was one of my re-reads of the month. The first book in the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass tells the story of Lyra Bellacqua, a young and rebellious girl living in a world where each person has a daemon in the form of an animal that is their spirit. The novel’s writing is top notch and the characterisation of Lyra and the other characters is quite wonderful. I still recommend the book to those who ask me about it, and my love for this book has strengthened with every re-read.

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne – The first book in the Bound Gods series. This is a gritty, blood-soaked novel, full of flawed characters – some of whom the reader will root for, others which the reader won’t bring themselves to trust. That said, this isn’t your tired epic fantasy of farm boys on an adventure, instead illustrating the cruelty of the mob and how inner strength and loyalty can be found in unlikely places despite a cold, harsh world. The book pulls the reader into the world of Fiatera, sets its hooks and concludes with the heroes (and/or villains) growing and beginning new paths. If you like dark fantasy in the genre of the works of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or Steven Erikson, then pick up the first book in this series by debut author Rachel Dunne.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – The first book in the Queens of Renthia series, this novel is a fascinating read. Everything in this world has an elemental spirit, each ruled by contradictory impulses, to create and to destroy. For the world to survive, there must be a human Queen to rule over the spirits and temper their impulses. In this novel, Daleina, a young, determined woman, trains to become an heir to the current Queen and forms a partnership with Champion Ven, who is in disgrace after questioning the current Queen. Daleina’s origin and struggle to become an heir is up against the background of a horrible betrayal and a time of strife for the whole country. Daleina’s not the most powerful of magic users, but she’s clever, resourceful and provides leadership over raw power. Champion Ven is torn between his love for Queen Fara and his duty to the country and to his young student. Throw in some terrific world-building and a fascinating system of magic, and you get a terrific start to this series. Highly recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 4 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in April. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 26 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 6 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in March, 2018 April 3, 2018

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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my March, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in March, 2018

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (r)

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

Torg Eternity Core Rules by Shane Lacy Hensley, Darrell Hayhurst, et. al.
(RPG)

Torg Eternity GM Screen by Various (RPG)

Maureen Birnbaum Barbarian Swordsperson, The Complete Stories by George Alec Effinger (r)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

February, 2018 Locus

The Tears of Ampharool QuickStart Rules and Introductory Adventure by Raphael Bardas, Francois Cedelle, Nadege Debray, Yann Zachary and Sarah Newton (RPG)

March, 2018 Reader’s Digest
*****

And those were my reads in the month of March. Not a lot of reading in the month, bt what I did read was entertaining enough though some of it was a bit tedious, to be honest. Once again, it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine. Add to that the fact that I’m editing stuff, and that explains it…just very incapacitated, or just very busy.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey – The first book in the Expanse series. This book is an intrigue-filled mystery to be honest, with two mystery plots going on simultaneously, which converge before the halfway mark of this large volume. By the end of the book, the story has turned into something else and there’s a bit of everything going on here, with two central characters (Miller and Holden) who are both well-written and well-defined. That said, the book is somewhat long for my taste, and the writing is uneven in places, but the story is just so riveting for the most part. Recommended.

Torg Eternity Core Rules by Shane Lacy Hensley, Darrell Hayhurst, et. al.
(RPG) – The original Torg: The Possibility Wars Roleplaying Game came out over 25 years ago, and had a devoted following, including me. The folks at Ulisses Spiele US have done a bang-up job redefining Torg for the modern day, and while most of the game mechanics are familiar and offer some changes and additions, the game plays even better than it used to, for the most part. With a good slew of adventures already available for the game, I recommend Torg Eternity for folks who want to get into multi-cosmic games that involve the invasion of Earth by different realities.

The rest of the books that I read (and re-read) in March, 2018 were all pretty good, but these two stood out the most for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 5 novels, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in March. Since this is the early part of the year still, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 18 books, 6 RPGs and RPG products, 5 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in February, 2018 March 5, 2018

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Got delayed in writing this up for the month, but better late than never. 🙂

As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my February, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in February, 2018

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)

December, 2017 Locus

January/February, 2018 Reader’s Digest

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

January, 2018 Locus

John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game Quickstart Rules and Adventure by Jack Norris (RPG) (PDF)

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of February. This was one of the slowest months of reading that I’ve had but there have been several of these over the last few months. The fact of the matter is that it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine. Add to that the fact that I’m editing stuff, and that explains it.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler – The third book in the Legends of Muirwood, this book is a good read and a fitting end to the trilogy of novels. One of the things I’ve noticed about this series is that it’s “early Wheeler,” as in the fact that these are some of the first books that he wrote and it shows. Scourge is the book where he finally reaches his stride, developing his own style, but what really struck me about this one is the sense of danger that always hangs over his protagonist, Lia, and it ratchets up the tension in the book. It’s not just that the danger is all around Lia, however, as it’s hanging over the heads of *all* the characters in the book in one fashion or another. Add to that the fact that the danger that faces all threatens the entire world, and that gives the book more nuance. However, there are also some personal plots that Lia needs to resolve, and these are handled very nicely amidst everything else going on. Highly recommended.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – All right, I admit it, I’m biased about this book. This was one of the first science fiction (alright, science fantasy) book I ever read, back when I was around 9 or so. I’ve re-read it several times over the years, but… Take a American from the 1860s or so who comes across in many ways as a Victorian gentleman (not!), and now transport him to Barsoom (aka Mars, but a Mars that is more interesting and fantastical than the real one!) and have him experience life and adventures there and fall in love with a fellow captive (the incomparable Dejah Thoris!). Sure, the material is from 1912 and it’s dated, but this novel (and the immediate two that followed) shaped the adventure and sf-nal literature that followed and is still an influence on writers today. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – While I found this story engaging, though not all that exciting, this was an enjoyable book, a character driven fantasy that mainly focused on court intrigue. This story chronicles the rise of Maia, a half-goblin, and his rise from a naive boy who was intimidated by his lack of social skills and education into a fairly benevolent ruler. I liked the slow development of Maia as a character, whose confidence and other personality elements changed and grew over the course of the novel. The Elvish court machinations that he had to deal with were quite interesting, and the motivations of those plotting against him were easily understood, though the author did make a point to explain them. It has a lot going for it as a novel, though the pacing is a bit slow for those who read a lot of books in this style, so beware. Other than that, a fine novel.

The rest of the books that I read in February, 2018 were all pretty good, but these three stood out the most (other than Le Guin’s The Dispossessed) for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in February. Since this is the early part of the year still, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 13 books, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in January, 2018 February 2, 2018

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2018. The new year. Another year to see what my reading for the year will be like.

Thus, as is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my January, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in January, 2018

Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Theater Knights I: The White Lake by Niklas Forreiter and Daniel Hessler (RPG)

November, 2017 Locus

Little Sisters of the Apocalypse by Kit Reed (r?)

GameTek: The Math and Science of Gaming by Geoff Engelstein

Bertram of Butter Cross by Jeffrey E. Barlough (r)

Girl Genius Book One: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil & Kaja Foglio (Graphic Novel)

Myth Adventures! by Robert Asprin and Phil Foglio (Graphic Novel)

Theater Knights II: The Blue Tome by Niklas Forreiter and Daniel Hessler (RPG)

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

S.P.Q.R. IX: The Princess and the Pirates by John Maddox Roberts

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)
*****

And that was the start of my reading for 2018.

And thus started my year of reading for 2017. I have to say that I was quite pleased at the number of books and other stuff that I read in January, as it seemed to be a slow reading month to start off the new year, though I obviously read more than I expected to. The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – Oh, come on! Do I really have to write a review of this book that has something that’s not been said about the book before? I will say that every re-read of the book allows me to see different nuances, and this time was no exception. Superb novel, can’t recommend it enough.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty – I always find it difficult to review mystery novels, for fear of giving away too much. One of the things I maintain about good sf is that it’s not about space ships, aliens, and lasers (or whatever). It’s about humanity (or lack/differences thereof) and how people react to changes in society (be they tech, social, or environmental). One of the large can ‘o worms in sf is cloning, and Six Wakes deals with a lot of the issues surrounding cloning, from a hindsight point of view. Set on a spaceship that is delivering colonists to a new world, the book opens with the clone crew being awoke into a literal house of blood and death, as their former selves’ have been murdered. Add the loss of 25 years of memories (their mind maps being those from the day before the ship set out), and the basic whodunnit is set. The book has an atmosphere of paranoia as the clones try to figure out what happened and why. The book’s current time is interspersed with the history of the clones, and are very relevant to what happened. This is top-notch science fiction and a heck of a good mystery, and I really liked this book.

S.P.Q.R. IX: The Princess and the Pirates by John Maddox Roberts – This book is the ninth book in the S.P.Q.R. series, a murder mystery series that follows the career of Decius Caecilius Metellus during the last days of the Roman Republic (this particular book occurs in 50 B.C., or as Roberts notes at the end of the book: the 703rd year of the city of Rome). The Metellus family are a prominent family, though on the decline. After spending two years as an aedile, Decius is tasked by his family (actually by the Senate, but it’s a long story!) to go off to fight the pirates springing up in the Eastern Mediterranean. Needless to say, there is foul murder that occurs, and Decius encounters Cleopatra once more, now a precocious 16-year-old, who thinks she can help with the pirate matters. The story has some neat twists and the pirates are only part of what Decius finds. I love this series for its historical detail, and recommend this book (though it is a weaker one, despite the excellent plot, in the series overall to this point).

The rest of the books that I read in January, 2018 were all pretty good, and certainly enjoyed the two graphic novels as well, but the three above were the stand-outs for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels in January. Since this is the start of the year, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 7 books, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

R.I.P. Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) January 24, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, obituary, personal, reading hut, science fiction & fantasy.
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I heard about this yesterday, but needed to take some time before I could write the words.

Terrible, sad news in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

Over the 40+ years that I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction, I’ve been a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin‘s books and works and her incredibly rich imagination and ability to…well, *write*. While I was introduced to the sf field with works by Asimov and the greats of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, my earliest fantasy reading was Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I may have always lived in other fantasy and science fiction worlds, but I consider Earthsea to be…home.

While I loved and enjoyed the Earthsea stories in my youth and teens, I came to adore her science fiction (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Word for World Is Forest, and the rest of the Hainish Cycle), but also some of the lesser known works like Rocannon’s World, The Lathe of Heaven and others. The real joy for me as I came to adulthood was I saw in Le Guin’s works her use of the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology and psychology. And Goddess, but did she know language and words! Much of her writing is an abject lesson on how to write, and she did it with aplomb.

What can I say? I know…

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Rest In Peace, UKL. The words are silent now – but they will live on, forever. I am glad that we have all of your writings to savour from now until the end of time.