Brian McClellan

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.

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Book Review: Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic

The Autumn Republic concludes the Powder Mage trilogy with, if you’ll pardon what in this case is a fairly terrible pun, a bang. This trilogy is the first finished major series* in the new flintlock fantasy genre. If you just want a quick verdict on the trilogy- it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but definitely good, and shows definite signs that Brian McClellan is going to have a very interesting writing career ahead of him. The Autumn Republic has clear prose, fast paced and well constructed action scenes, sympathetic characters, and interesting worldbuilding.

Really quick, let’s get the complaints out of the way, of which I only really have a couple. Some of the foreshadowing in the books could have been handled better. There were several instances of it in the previous books that led me to believe certain subplots would materialize here in the finale that simply never occurred. While there was resolution to them, it did not take the path the books seemed to indicate they would. That can partially be chalked up to the author deciding to take a different path with the book- which he did a fine job of. There aren’t any internal inconsistencies presented by the change of course, just a little minor cognitive dissonance- really cognitive indigestion- it caused me. A lot of it was likely caused by some of the theories about what was going to happen that I built up in my own head. Overall, not a big deal.

Minor spoilers ahead:

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Weekly Reading List- 1/25/15- 1/31/15

Bit of a slow week again.

Brian McClellan’s The Promise of Blood/ The Crimson Campaign

I devoured the first two books of the Powder Mage Trilogy last week, since the third book comes out this week. (I’ll be doing a review). Flintlock fantasy is a relatively new subgenre, or sub-sub-genre, depending how you want to look at it, featuring flint and wheel-lock guns, colonial era politics, the rise of non-monarchical political systems, plus, you know, magic. The only real luminaries so far are Brian McClellan and Django Wexler, both of whom are highly enjoyable writers, obviously both having a ton of fun with what they’re doing. McClellan’s The Promise of Blood starts out with a military coup against the monarchy of the nation of Adro, leading right into the action. I honestly can’t really blog about these books separately- I’ve read both of them twice, now, and each time I read them consecutively, so it’s kind of blurred together into one, much larger book. They’re excellent books- not perfect, of course, but excellent. My only real complaint is regarding the treatment of some of the parts of the story that are supposed to be epic and mythic- they sometimes feel a little less exciting than some of the gritty, down to earth battles, but that probably speaks more to McClellan’s ability to write said battles. Regardless to say, I’m quite excited for book three, the Autumn Republic.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Just the Tips

Hey, it’s my second non-fiction book of the year! And, of course, it’s a book of sex tips. Terrible, hilarious sex tips. “Cross dressing can really spice things up. Ladies, try wearing a man’s dress shirt and tie to bed. Men, try wearing high heels and a skirt and thousand of years of patriarchal oppression to bed.” “Have sex outside, in the middle of Yankee Stadium, during a game.” “A man’s testicles are very sensitive and some sex moves can hurt them a bit, so just poke them back up inside his body where they’ll be safe.” Just the Tips is a companion to the awesome comic book series Sex Criminals, which is one of my absolute favorites. Specifically, it’s the companion to the letter column of Sex Criminals, which might be the greatest letter column of all time. People have actually started writing in for serious (and not so serious) sex advice from the creators, which somewhat baffled them at first, though they seem to have embraced their roles. Just the Tips doesn’t quite make me laugh as much as the Sex Criminals letter column, but I think that’s because it’s more dedicated to being a humor book. The actual letter column often deals with a lot of serious concerns and real issues, which often serve to contrast with and highlight the more whimsical submissions. Another part of why the letter column makes me laugh more, of course, is all of the hilarious and awesome in-jokes you find building up in it, most notably “Brimping”. It might be just the format, too. That’s not to say Just the Tips isn’t good, of course- it’s still funny, snarky, and wildly inappropriate. Remember- “You need to change your safeword every three weeks for security reasons and it must have numbers in it.”

John Scalzi & Mike Choi’s Midnight Rises

I haven’t read many comics specifically designed for digital consumption before this- in major part thanks to my lack of a tablet. Midnight Rises is an IOS exclusive digital comic. It’s actually its own app, since it’s actually the prequel comic to an IOS videogame, Midnight Star, which also had its story written by Scalzi. First off, Choi’s art is great, especially the machinery and background tech. Scalzi did a decent enough job writing the comic, but I do think it suffers somewhat from its prequel status- it very obviously is a lead-in to Midnight Star. Once Midnight Star comes out, I think it will likely fit in pretty well with the story of the game, but until then, we’ll have to wait and see. As for the digital comic features- it’s pretty interesting being able to choose, to some extent, the order and shape of the story. The controls are a little less flexible than I would have liked- you can only turn the page forwards and backwards via tapping the right side of the screen. Swiping is reserved for the larger pages that can be explored.