Weekly Reading List 2/1/15-2/21/15

Yes, I know, I know, I’ve been super lazy lately. Anyhap- three weeks of reading at once. (Also, for some reason, even with my much expanded free time, I’ve been reading less lately, go figure.) The books are in the order I read them.

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide

Non-Fiction (I guess?)

I’m going to hold off on doing an actual full review of the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons until I’ve actually run an adventure or two, but from reading the books and doing character building sessions, I can comfortably go out on a limb and say that this is the most elegant edition of D&D yet. Is it the best, though? Dunno if I’d go that far yet, but I’m not saying no.

Blake Charleton’s Spellwright

Fantasy, Reread

Blake Charlton had fairly strong dyslexia growing up, and… well, you should read some of his commentary on that. It’s pretty obvious how much he drew on that experience when writing the Spellwright Trilogy, which features a magic system of magical languages, and a protagonist who is essentially dyslexic in them. It makes for compelling reading, and gives the protagonist, Nicodemus Weal, a sense of authenticity that many characters, even extremely compelling ones. It’s also obvious how much his medical training influenced the books, as well. I first read this one in high school, and damn if it doesn’t hold up well.

Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary

Nonfiction, humor

Conservative (n.) A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

Overeat, (v.) To dine.

Lawyer, (n.) One skilled in the circumvention of the law.

Ocean, (n.) A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man–who has no gills.

Ambrose Bierce is really best described by one phrase: Malevolent skepticism. He has an absolutely biting sense of humor, and much of the book still rings true over a century after it’s publication. It’s in the public domain, read it. Also, fun fact: Two years after The Devil’s Dictionary’s 1911 publication, the 71 year old vanished after joining Pancho Villa. Well then.

Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic

Hey, look, I did a review!

Michael T. Martinez’s The Enceladus Crisis

Science Fiction, Fantasy(?)

After an accidental misreading of the title by my roommate, it’s grown hard for me not to think of this book as The Enchilada Crisis. Dammit, even spellcheck wants me to change it to The Enchilada Crisis. Anyhow, The Enceladus Crisis is the sequel to The Daedalus Incident. It’s a story of two dimensions, neither of which feature enchiladas at all in the books. One is a pretty straightforwards “colonize the solar system” future. The other is a dimension still in the 19th century, with sailing ships that can travel the stars through alchemy and alien races inhabiting Venus and the rings of Saturn, with another, malevolent, supposedly long dead civilization that inhabited Mars, and what happens when those two universes collide. It’s a lot of fun, but I do have one serious concern regarding the books- namely, the alchemy dimension. The Earth in that dimension is much smaller, lacking a Western Hemisphere as we know it- you can sail straight from Asia to Europe, forcing colonialism out to the stars, forcing its worst excesses against the technologically undeveloped Venusians. (Fun fact- many classic scifi writers pushed Venerians as the correct usage.) This, however, completely gets rid of Native Americans in that universe. That’s… a little disquieting, frankly. (That’s not to say it’s overloaded with just white male characters, of course, the cast is extremely diverse- the future world protagonist is an Indian woman, and even the alchemy universe has quite a few non-white characters treated pretty well.) Regardless, Napoleonic sailing ships duking it out in space? Pretty cool.

Julie E. Czernda’s Species Imperative Trilogy- Survival, Migration, Regeneration

Science Fiction, 1 Reread, two new reads

I first read Survival, book 1 of the trilogy, in high school, and somehow never got around to reading the others. When I spotted an anthology version at the library, well, it made me pretty happy. Anyhow, the overwhelming majority of “hard” science fiction is all engineering, physics, etc. Species Imperative, however, deals with biology. (I should say that it’s really space opera with strong hard science fiction elements.) The main character, Mac, is a salmon researcher, until she gets dragged into the middle of an interstellar mystery involving a massive, multi-lightyear zone of space known as the Chasm, where every single world in it is completely and utterly devoid of life. (Also, there are creepy as fuck invisible alien assassin things.) Julie Czernda’s alien species and ecosystems have a sense of richness that so many others lack- hell, she gives Earth a sense of biological richness that other books lack. Mac really feels like an actual scientist, not your typical supergenius mad wizard-scientist present in so many other works. She’s extremely focused on her small area of study, and only leaves her research base when forced to, and remains grudging about it for some time. Hell, the second book is pretty much just set in a huge scientific conference organized to deal with the massive interstellar threat revealed at the end of the first- and Julie Czernda somehow manages to make it thrilling and engrossing.

Blake Charlton’s Spellbound

Fantasy, Reread

The sequel to Spellbound jumps ten years forwards into the future. Nicodemus Weal has become a hunted fugitive, believed by many to be the Storm Petrel (basically the magical anti-christ) and yet must himself hunt the demon Typhoneus, who has been orchestrating everything behind the scenes. Charlton’s world has become even more richly layered and fleshed out in this one- which it nearly had to be, since the first book largely took place in a single, isolated academy/city. Argh, I can’t wait for book three to come out.

Django Wexler’s The Penitent Damned

Fantasy

Prequel short story to the Shadow Campaign books. Fun little romp featuring a thief with magic powers.

Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names

Fantasy, Reread

The first book proper of the Shadow Campaigns. This was the first self-dubbed flintlock fantasy novel that I’d read (though I do consider many of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s books to be close enough for government work), and it definitely left an impression on me. I’ve always enjoyed the stories of women dressing as men to join armies (Chevalier D’Eon, Deborah Sampson, etc.), and Winter Ihernglass makes a fantastic protagonist. (Well, one of two, three depending on how you look at it.) Add in political intrigue, awesome battles filled with clever strategems and desperate stands, and weird magic? You’ve definitely got something there. Some of the colonialist undertones of the comparable real time period are still definitely present, but Wexler does a good job of acknowledging them without glorifying them.

Django Wexler’s The Shadow Throne

Fantasy, Reread

Winter Ihernglass and company have returned home, only to have political intrigue erupt into outright popular rebellion. Winter has been charged by Colonel Vhalnich as “disguising” herself as a woman (He knows the truth, of course, though most of the characters don’t.) to infiltrate and support a dissident group before the rebellion starts, and she gets caught in the middle once it starts, reunited with her ladylove, and in possession of powerful magics that really don’t do her any good where she is. I can’t wait for the next book.

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

Fantasy, Comic Book, about half reread

All of it, except for some special issues and such. Whoo. Even for me, that was a long read. I’d never read all the way through the series before- and I’ve got to say- Goddamn, that was good. Wow. I definitely need to get the collected editions at some point.

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