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Books

The Dark Forest

I finished Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest (paid link) today, and it blew me away.

I wasn’t sure he could follow The Three-Body Problem (paid link),and the first 80% of the book was a solid four stars — I thought that was about the best I could hope for, given how amazing and surprising and wonderdul TTBP was.

That last 20% was a complete surprise, a nuclear fireball of pure jaw-hanging-open whoa that kept me reading in the bath for much longer than I’d planned. I couldn’t stop until I’d finished it.

It’s different than the first book, especially in its structure. More straightforward, with less of an undercurrent. But so good. I can’t wait for the final volume, but I’ll have to as it’s not out in translation until April 2016.

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Books

Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (paid link) was amazing.

The hook is great. The story it promises puts a twist on a premise I’ve seen before, but it’s solid.

But underneath that story, unfolding throughout the book, is a story that went nowhere I expected it to, in the best way possible.

Reading it reminded me of watching The Wire (paid link). I came for an excellent cop show, but every season I got so much more. The Wire peels back layers as it goes, and The Three-Body Problem is like a delicious motherfucking layer cake of wonders.

Its Hugo is well-deserved.

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Books

The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown (paid link), came in the mail today, a bittersweet arrival to say the least.

I almost never buy fiction in print anymore, but I’ve got every Discworld book in print; it felt right that I should read this one in print as well.

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Books

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (paid link):

All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear.

I started this about three years ago, the same day I finished inhaling The Road (paid link) in under 24 hours, and it didn’t strike me right. This time, it’s striking me right.

I’ve read the quoted sentence at least 10 times, and I’m still finding new things to like about it.

So far, I’ve looked up an average of a word per page in this book. I love that, too!

Categories
Story games Tabletop RPGs

My favorite gaming books published in 2014 (so far)

I picked up 188 RPG products in 2014 (plus a few more than arent in RPGGeek’s database yet), 43 of which were published in 2014. Of those 43, I’ve spent enough time with enough of them to tease out a partial list of 12 favorites — partial because there are books I expect to love which aren’t included here simply because I haven’t had a chance to read them.

  • The Chained Coffin – Michael Curtis (Stonehell + DCC RPG + a setting inspired by one of the least-known authors in Appendix N, Manly Wade Wellman + a fabulously run Kickstarter that turned out a beautiful product = win. There’s a ton of stuff in this boxed set, including a killer spinning prop.
  • The Clay That Woke – From the concept to the execution, this is a fabulous book. It oozes mood, and the system — which uses tokens, not dice, drawn from the krater of lots and compared to an oracle — is fascinating. This is one of my favorite things I backed on Kickstarter in 2014.
  • Cosmic Patrol – This oddball improv game marries a genre I don’t care about (Golden Age sci-fi, robots and rayguns) and a publisher I don’t associate with weird little games (Catalyst), and the marriage is groovy. I liked the core book so much that I bought the whole line.
  • Cthonic Codex – This hand-assembled, limited edition boxed set is a buffet of peculiar, evocative goodness for any fantasy game. It’s a setting unto itself, presented in incredibly appealing . . . fragments, I guess? It’s hard to describe, but superb.
  • Dead Names: Lost Races and Forgotten Ruins – Like other Sine Nomine books (e.g., Red Tide, which is awesome), while this is a Stars Without Number supplement it’s really a toolkit for generating weird places and species that works just as well for other games and genres, and a good one at that.
  • The Dungeon Dozen – This is in my top three for the year — it’s superb. I liked it so much that I reviewed it on Gnome Stew. If you’re a fan of old school games, old school art, and/or random tables, buy it.
  • Dwimmermount – After the most painful crowdfunding roller coaster I’ve ever been involved with as a backer, I crossed my fingers that Dwimmermount would be as good as 2012 Martin hoped it would be. And it is! It’s a weird, wonderful monster of a dungeon that begs to be explored.
  • Guide to Glorantha – Moon Design’s two-volume doorstop dominates any shelf it sits on, and both books are simply stellar. I have no idea if I’ll ever need or use this much information on Glorantha, but I’m glad I own them.
  • Obscene Serpent Religion – Need a freaky serpent cult for your game? Of course you do! This is a toolkit for creating one, and for doing so cleverly with a minimum of effort and a lot of flavorful inspiration.

Despite trying to be thorough I’ve probably forgotten something, and I’m confident more favorites will emerge as I make my way through my to-read pile mountain. Happy gaming!

Categories
Books

Don’t finish shitty books

At 36, I can expect to live another 45 years or so, barring any surprises. Before getting a Kindle I was reading maybe a book a month (in recent years; I used to read more often). Now I’m reading a book every week or so. A book a week for the next 45 years is another 2,340 books before I croak.

On the one hand, 2,340 books sounds like a lot. But on the other hand, it makes it easy to calculate the “cost” of a given bad book in terms of lost opportunities to read good books: 0.043% per book. Every 25 bad books I finish represents roughly 1% of my estimated remaining lifetime reading opportunities. And the older I get, the more each bad book will cost.

In a rather long nutshell, this is why I usually don’t finish shitty books.