Friday, January 31, 2020

Review: The Deed of Paksenarrion

The Deed of Paksenarrion (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1-3)The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I did not realize I had purchased a bundle of the first three books, so it took me much longer to finish than I had anticipated. However, I am glad I read all three stories together, had I just read the first book, I would have been somewhat disappointed. The best parts of the story do not come until the second and third books.

This is a pretty standard fare heroes journey story, while it is well written and has some interesting character development and world building, it relies too much on medieval fantasy tropes to be a truly great book. In fact this book read a lot like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, which does not particularly bother me, but the author seems to go out of her way to describe in story the powers a Paladin has in the game and at times this felt awkward to me. Elizabeth Moon knows how to write a good fight scene, this to me is a big plus for me, however she also knows how to write a good torture scene, which does not particularly appeal to me at all, thankfully she skips describing the rape in any detail.

Overall a pretty good book, I am not sure I would recommend it to everyone, but if you are a D&D player and want a good story about the rise of a Paladin, this will suit you very nicely. In fact reading the book makes me want to play a Paladin in the campaign I play in.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Playing the sandbox

On FaceBook, I only belong to a couple of groups, 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (uncensored*) being one of them. I like this group because it tends to be bit unhinged in a good way. Yesterday someone posted they wanted to start a new campaign setting and wanted suggestions. Another member suggested "It starts in a tavern" and I followed up with something like this:

So the starting map is 200 miles by 200 miles, divided into 5 mile hexes. In the center is a town with a tavern, a temple, and a general store, each with 1 or 2 NPC's. One hex to the north are the ruins of the castle of a long dead noble. Then make shit up or roll randomly as they head into other hexes. You will have a new setting in no time that will make at least as much sense as the Forgotten Realms.

 A little bit later I posted the map shown here as the starting area. I am thinking, it would be interesting to see how 4 or 5 different Dungeon Masters developed this map over the course of a campaign. The possibilities are endless and of course each one would be tailored not just to the taste of the DM, but the players as well. Perhaps this is the cross roads between great cities. Maybe it is a war torn region full of haunted battle fields. Or this was once an outpost to a great empire now long faded into history and the area is littered with what remains. Or maybe there is a Hell Mouth in the region where demons and devils enter at will.

What I thought was this is the center of a great conflict that is brewing between four factions, this is sort of a neutral zone between the Desert nomads to the west, the Sea Kings to the east, the Dwarven under mountain to the north and the Tropical swamps to the south where Elven shamans practice ancient magic. Of course there are others as well, like the Mother of Dragons who owns the skys and The Red Duke, a mercenary captain with an army and a reputation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

RE: Review: Looking for Alaska

A couple of people have expressed concern over the spoilers I provided in the review of Looking for Alaska. Spoilers are not something that particularly bothers me when reading books or seeing movies. In fact I will often go read the Wikipedia entry before I read a book or see a movie. Spoilers just do not ruin or detract from my enjoyment. What this means of course is, when I am discussing these things, I do not even consider spoilers to be an issue and will happily blurt things out without regard. I would love to say I will be more careful going forward, but I probably won't.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Looking for Alaska starts off a a light hearted coming of age book, where a young nerd boy goes off to boarding school and much comedy ensues. The book covers first love, first kiss and yes, first blow job. All of this works well, I did not just identify with the main character Miles "Pudge" Halter, but I also identified with Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Alaska Young (her real name), who are his best friends and the primary instigators of all the teenage antics they perform. Up to this point, it is a fun book, well written and beautiful characterizations. The book very much reminded me of the good things about being a teenager.

About halfway through the book, the unthinkable happens and Alaska Young dies in a car crash. I have to say, this is one of the best deaths I read in a very long time. Not in terms of interesting or spectacular or anything like that, but in terms of emotional hit. Because it hits like a bull out of no where and leaves you thinking what the fuck just happened. Now, with just under half the book left to read, the reader is no longer reading about the fun loving teenagers sneaking cigarettes, but suddenly left with sullen and remorseful teenagers coming to terms with the death of their friend and deal with their grief in their own ways. No teenager should have to read this book, but they probably should.

There are uncomfortable moments in this book, subject matters that teenagers probably should not be reading about. The problem with this view point, is I am an adult and I am viewing this story through the lens of an adult whose memories of being a teenager are not as clear as they once were. There is a semi graphic scene describing oral sex, these kids also engage in drinking and drug use, as an adult, this bothers me. However, this is what being a teenager is like, these kids taking their first tentative steps into adulthood and are exploring the possibilities. This is what it is like to be a teenager and we should not avoid these subjects, rather they should be included in stories like this, because oftentimes it can be a jumping off point for parents to talk about these subjects with their kids. Being uncomfortable was good for me and made me realize, teenagers have really not changed that much since I was one.

This book was better than I was expecting. While it is classified as Young Adult, this is a book even an old ass adult can enjoy.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oryx and Crake is a dark book, the story does not describe child prostitution/pornography in detail, but does reference it as part of the background of the Oryx character, so if this offends you, this is not the book for you. In spite of the darkness, it is a very good book, well worth the read.

Snowman, the primary character, is sort of an Everyman who was thrust into the unlikely role of holy man to a new race of humans genetically spliced together by his mad genius best friend. The story is two fold, first is the story of Snowman as he is in this post apocalyptic world and his journey to find more supplies. The second takes the form of Snowman remembering his life before the plague and the events leading up to it, including who Oryx and Crake are and why they are important to him.

The writing is excellent, the plot develops in interesting ways and the characterizations where believable and compelling. The story does plod along at first, but picks up steam as it moves along. The description of Oryx's early life will make you uncomfortable and her acceptance of what has happened to her is even more uncomfortable, as is the society that is almost tolerant of it and allowed it to happen.

Over all, a really good read, I would recommend it to nearly anyone, I will be reading the other two books in the trilogy later in the year.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

I should get a lot of reading done today

I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow, so today is purge day. Nothing but jello and popsicles to eat and at 3PM I start the colon blow. What a great way to end the holidays.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

FaceBook Friend Suggestions Reading List

Last night on Facebook, I asked for reading suggestions and I got some interesting responses. What actually surprised me the most was no one suggested anything I had already read. Here is the list so far, it is kind of a mixed bag, with some stuff that is definitely outside of my normal reading habits. In no particular order;
  • Crusade (Starfire Book 1) - Wade
  • All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries - Tonia
  • The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher - Shannon
  • A River Runs through It and Other Stories - Karla
  • Looking for Alaska - Elizabeth
  • Once an Eagle -Karl
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Tanya
  • Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter Book 1) - Bonnie
  • The Deed of Paksenarrion - Cisco
  • Duma Key: A Novel - Michael
  • The Zero Blessing (The Zero Enigma Book 1) - David
My next step is to hit up all the people who did not respond personally, to see if i can get a suggestion from them and add to the list.