reverancepavane: (ale)

Many years ago I decided that I wouldn't read a certain popular series of books until I had seen the film adaptions of those books. This is because I've usually read any genre novel well before it gets optioned as a film, and as this one sneaked under my radar, I thought I would like to experience the novel sensation of seeing a film adaption without having previously read the book (with the inevitable invidious comparisons between one's imagination and the film imagery).

Anyway, I've now seen the final film of the series (which was rather well done, unlike the previous two [possibly three]), and so can commence reading the actual books. Although I am debating whether to refresh my memory of the films or not before I begin.

Decisions.

My favourite was the third film I think. My least favourite was the fifth, which really presupposed knowledge of the book, or surprisingly, this film.

reverancepavane: (Alchemy)

"He decided to spare his new partner the details of how the testimony of a spiritualist proved the last straw for a Holborn judge, who refused to hear any more from the unit’s witnesses until Bryant could assure him that they were all technically alive and in human form."

Quite enjoying Full Dark House, the first of the Bryant and May novels by Christopher Fowler. These two worthies are the lead investigators of the PCU, the Peculiar* Crimes Unit, which was formed at the start of WW2 to investigate crimes that were quite out of the provenance of the normal City of London police force.

[* Actually it uses one of the lesser known definitions of "peculiar," being that of "something distinctive in nature or character from others," and might have been better referred to as the Particular Crime Unit. Unfortunately the name stuck, and they soon had to deal with the "strange, queer, or odd" cases that no one else would touch. Such as the Leicester Square Vampire (who is referred to in the first novel as having been seen sucking the blood from a Wren).]

reverancepavane: (Buffy)

I quite enjoyed the first two of the Twenty Palace Novels by Harry Connolly, being Child of Fire and Game of Cages. The second novel was particularly well done, a lot cleaner, filled with a bit more background, and definitely confirming some of my thoughts about the main protagonist from the first book.

The main premise of these books is that a variety of extremely alien creatures live in the Empty Spaces between dimensions and can be summoned into our world by those knowing the appropriate spells. Now these Predators love being summoned into our world, but hate being bound. The Twenty Palaces Society is an organisation of sorcerors dedicated to wiping out these Predators and the sorcerors that summon them into the world. The main protagonist is an ex-con, who accidentally discovered the existence of these creatures and was recruited as a Wooden Man by one of the Twenty Palace sorcerors.

From a gaming viewpoint there is a rich milieu available to exploit. The obvious comparison is with Call of Cthulhu and The Laundry, which is good because BRP seems tailor made for a campaign of this universe. Magic spells are generally created by drawing a magical sigil, which is an excrutiatingly painful process for the caster. I'd suggest using a POW vs Potency test (similar to the French edition Nephilim) to create the spell. One use spells are usually inscribed on ribbons and the like. More permanent spells may be drawn on more suitable objects or even etched into the design of an artefact, or tattooed onto a recipient. Which is important, since some of the protective tattoos only protect the hit location they are applied to, which invokes the Runequest hit location tables, both for their designed purpose, but also as a guide to the number and location of tatoos that can be put on a character. Also the powers of sorcerors is very similar to the overpowered augmentation capable with the original Avalon Hill Runequest sorcery spells.

An interesting addenda to this is that there are only three different spellbooks. The most powerful sorcerors learned from the original, whilst the copies that have been made have lesser potencies. So you have a Progenitor (or possibly even original Vampire) generational bias to the powers of the sorcerors.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the upcoming Circle of Enemies.

reverancepavane: (Cthulhu)

ESA's GOCE satellite has mapped the gravitic fields around the Earth in order to create a geoid (a map of the ocean as shaped by gravity alone, without the influence of tides or circulation). You can find a copy of the animated geoid here (as well as a still image further down the page). Interesting stuff.

However what intrigues me is the extremely low heights measured just off Ceylon/Sri Lanka. As if something had sunk there and pulled the surface of the Earth down with it...

Yes! R'lyeh was actually located in the Indian ocean, just off India. No wonder all the modern explorers searching the Pacific can't find it. They were looking in the wrong place! Mr Lovecraft obviously changed the location of R'lyeh to prevent one of his readers accidentally stumbling upon it!

And as you can see from the following animation...

YouTube Video Below Cut )

...there are other depressions off Antarctica (McMurdo Sound, to be precise) [obviously he couldn't disguise the fact that William Dyer was headed to Antarctica], Bermuda, and, not surprisingly, California. Further signs of Deep One / Elder Thing activity?

I suggest we nuke these sites from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

reverancepavane: (Wulfenbach)

One of the things I really liked about Agatha H and the Airship City (which for those who don't know, is the prose version of the first three Girl Genius graphic novel collections*), is the inclusion of children's nursery rhymes As some of the opening quotes for each chapter. I think nothing makes a world seem more lived in than something like

Monsters and machines blotting out the sky,
Fighting in a war that never can be won.
The men in the castles are having lots of fun
And all we can do is run, run, run.

And for the Tavern choristers:

Hide the women! Hide the beer!
The Baron's great big thing is here!
It's huge and fat and long and round
And you can see it from the ground.
It flies way high up in the air
He rides it here, he rides it there.
And every mad boy lives in fear
The Klaus will stick it in his ear.

Lots of other nice sayings from the forgotten incidental cast of the world. My favourite would have to be

Jägermonsters are hard to kill because the Devil doesn't want them in Hell.

Anyway, whilst you probably already know the actual story contained in the book, there is a lot of interesting snippets of information buried within the text. Definitely has me wanting to put together a Girl Genius RPG again (probably using Spirit of the Century as a base. Cant wait for the movie.

* Namely Agatha Hetrodyne and The Beetleburg Clank, Agatha Hetrodyne and The Airship City, and Agatha Hetrodyne and the Monster Engine.

reverancepavane: (Wulfenbach)

I'm ashamed to admit that it has taken me over 6 years to discover that the book exists, but I was quite happy to read the fourth book in Nick Pollotta's Bureau 13 series. Except it isn't really the fourth book, but rather the ultimate prequel to the whole series, dealing with the foundation of the Bureau during the American Civil War. An excellent book, although one tending more to the caricature school of thought than the character. It was fun.

For those who haven't heard of it before, Bureau 13 is the secret US government organisation dedicated to defending the US* against supernatural menaces, large and small, based loosely on the role-playing game by the same name.** Generally over the top fun, written in good humour, and with a deep appreciation of the ironic, it's the sort of gonzo fun that is a role-players guilty pleasure (including a love of weapons of all varieties). The other books in the series are Bureau 13 (rereleased as Judgement Night), The Doomsday Exam, and Full Moonster.

Speaking of which, his Satellite News trilogy (Satellite Night News, Satellite Night Special, and Satellite Night Fever), written under the pseudonym of Jack Hopkins, is very similar in style, and well worth reading. Although it does takes the gonzo up a notch or three. Detailing the adventures of the top news team for Satellite News in a solar system that's gotten rather weird. You know something is going wrong when the Admiral insists that they deploy the Strategic Space Lawyer.

And then there is That Darn Squid God, which surprisingly, isn't connected with the Cthulhu Mythos in any way (save perhaps as an inspiration), which tells of cultists trying to summon their god back into Victorian England. And like The Disaster, there are some things which polite society just doesn't talk about.

Of course, my first introduction to his work was the book he co-wrote with Phil Foglio: Illegal Aliens. Which, as the book suggests, is the greatest debacle since the committee to name Big.

There are plenty of other stuff that he has done, such as his collection of short stories (Tequila Mockingbird), where the connecting pieces show his wicked sense of humour (and experience writing advertisements for radio), his gaming novels (particularly Gamma World), and not to mention the other books he writes as James Axler and Don Pendleton where he can fully engage in his gun love, but I really do recommend you give any of the above-named books a try. Just don't expect serious literature.

* Other countries have their own organisations. For example, from memory Australia is defended by Wally's Spook Club.

** Definitely had me thinking about This Favoured Land, a superhero RPG set in the American Civil War, in things coming a full circle kind of way.

ETA: Invasion From Uranus is a collection of short stories that has a massive overlap with Tequila Mockingbird (to the extent it even maintains the same framing to the stories. The addition is a very short radio play (Doc Bronze, Man of Tan) and one short story (Falling Like The Gentle Rain). So there is really no need to get both.

reverancepavane: (Fool)

Anyone want to help out a struggling SF writer? Apparently very few copies of his latest hardcover actually shipped, which means that preorders for the paperback are likely to be quite anaemic. So if you are looking for an extra little gift this Silly Season, try preordering a copy of Dragon's Ring by Dave Freer and make two people happy (the reader and the author). I'm reliably informed it is a very good book. [I've yet to read it myself, as I am waaaaaaayyyyyyyy behind on my reading, but his other books have been excellent to quite good.]

If you have a FLBS try there (ISBN-10: 1439134111 or ISBN-13: 978-1439134115), or aternatively, http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781439134115/Dragons-Ring will take you to the book at The Book Depository.

reverancepavane: (Wulfenbach)

Title: Mainspring
Author: Jay Lake
Publisher: Tor
ISBN: 978-0-7653-5636-9

Rating: Excellent

Mainspring is the first book of the Mainspring Trilogy (the other two being Escapement and Pinion). Together they tell the story of Hethor, a clockmaker's apprentice, who is visited one night by the Archangel Gabriel and given a mission to find the Key Perilous and use it to rewind the mainspring of the universe, before the aforementioned universe runs down completely (at the time he is given the mission the universe is running about three seconds slow by his count).

Unfortunately, the reference to the Judeo-Christian God in this universe as the Celestial Watchmaker isn't just a metaphor. The Earth really is part of a collosal orrery, and orbits along a giant brass rack which interfaces with an equatorial gear taking the form of a 100 mile tall wall. At midnight people can hear the next gear tooth mesh with the rack, and certain exceptional people (our protagonist amongst them) can hear the workings of the internal clockwork of the Earth. If you travel far enough south you can see the rack stretching away into the heavens, and if you travel further south you can see the Wall itself, with it's brass-capped teeth.

Now you would naturally expect this obvious manifestation of great wonder will cause changes in the very concept of God, and indeed there are changes, but they tend to be minor. For example, Jesus was broken on an orrery rather than a crucifix, and clockmaking is considered a somewhat holy profession (creating in miniature what God wrought large). But interestingly, the philosophical ramifications aren't really that much different (at least to Western thought) to the Victorian era in which the novel is set. And it is this that adds an interesting dimension to the book.

Of course, if you are less interested in such matters, you still have a rollicking "steampunk" adventure tale, complete with military airships, a 100 mile high wall inhabited by all manner of strange creatures, and secret societies in a Victorian era where North America is still a British colony, and Britain is effectively at war with China. And a very engaging and well-written tale at that.

reverancepavane: (Yoshino)

The long-awaited and latest book in the Miles Vorkosigan series, Cryoburn has an older Miles, aged 39, stumbling (literally to begin with) on problems with the planet Kibou-daini whilst in the middle of an Auditorial investigation.

This older Miles, seven years older than the events of Diplomatic Immunity, seems to have lost a lot of the forward momentum of his youth, but I suppose four children of your own will do that to one. [Or so I'm told. I was quite amused that his secret fear was "What if my children find out I’m not really a grownup? How dreadfully disappointed would they be?"] Anyway there still remains enough of a tendency for Miles to get into situations for his faithful Armsman Roic (now apparently his chief assistant as well as bodyguard) to repeatedly give him The Look.

This book concentrates mainly on the intriguing political and social structures of Kibou-daini, a developed planet that neighbours Escobar (and which has not previously featured in the series). Like many of Lois McMaster Bujold's science fiction, it concentrates on the effects of the effect of advanced medical technology on society, or rather, how a society shapes itself to cope with that technology. As you may judge from the title, the technology is cryopreservation on a wholesale basis.

Personally I found it rather bland compared to many of the earlier books in the series, and it was only my enjoyment of the previous books of the series that kept me reading it all night. Perhaps because most of the established cast of this series appeared effectively in cameo, usually as video messages. Time has definitely passed; most of the supporting cast have one or two children of their own by now. And you can't help thinking that the book is purely designed to set up the ending, which is, I think, probably the only reason why this book will be remembered.

reverancepavane: (Yoshino)

Heretics is either the second book of S Andrew Swann's Apotheosis trilogy, or the eighth book which chronicles his as yet unnamed science fiction universe series. The distinction is slight, since each trilogy can be read as a separate entity in and of itself, but together they make a single cohesive whole. Each is set at a critical turning point in the history of the universe.

The Moreau trilogy is set in the near future, just after the Pan-Asian wars. To help fight these wars, humans developed the Moreaus, genetically-engineered anthropomorphic animals. These former soldiers are second-class citizens, confined to ghettos by a scared human population, and tensions are reaching a boiling point. Forests of the Night is told from the viewpoint of Nohar Rajahstahn, a descendant from a tiger-strain Indian special operations commando, who works as a private eye, and is forced to take investigate the murder of a human being. The tensions increase in Emperors of the Twilight when a Frankie (genetically engineered human) intelligence agent by the name of Evi Isham gets involved in investigating the conspiracy to stretch human-Moreau tensions to the breaking point uncovered in the first book. It ends in Spectres of the Dawn when lepine-stock Angel (the Latin-American countries preferred rabbits because they bred quickly, were simple to modify, and cheap) helps them uncover the real secret masters of the conspiracy, to the surprise of many.

The Hostile Takeover (Profiteer, Partisan, Revolutionary) trilogy is set a couple of centuries in the future. Mankind has used wormholes to expand to the stars, and formed a confederation of Seven Worlds. The conspiracy of the first book has been effectively neutered, and the Moreau have been banished to their own world (one of the Seven), and will have almost nothing to do with humans. Macro genetic engineering to create further Moreaus has been banned (and in the latest trilogy, gains the status of a "heretical" technology). The actions in these books revolve around the Confederacy's attempts to influence the syndo-anarchistic colony world of Bakunin. Bakunin is a world with no laws, a haven for mercenaries, armament manufacturers, and the like who prefer to operate without government oversight. Unfortunately this is seen as undesirable by the surrounding states of the Confederacy. This examines in more detail the second of the heretical technologies, that of artificial intelligence. However it is not so much the fact of artificial intelligence, but the nature to which it has been put.

In the Apotheosis trilogy it is revealed that the the effort to incorporate Bakunin tore the Confederacy apart, and it is now the Fifteen Worlds, all of whom are independent polities. The discovery of the Tach Drive has made the wormhole nexus obsolete (although it is still heavily monitored to capture any ghosts that may come through it). It also reveals the third heretical technology, that of nanoassemblers/disassemblers. You therefore have a society artificially help back from technologies that might lead to a singularity/Transcendance.

The first part, Prophets, revolves around a private survey ship from Bakunin with a mercenary crew, sent out to discover the truth behind a Tach-Comm message from beyond the human expansion, about something happening to a nearby star. When they get there they discover that the star Xi Virginis isn't there any more. They trace the tach-comm message to a nearby "lost colony" (the colonists wanted to get lost from the rest of humanity because of their beliefs in a heretical technology, and no, not the one you are thinking of), where everything drops in the bucket. In the next book, Heretics, they discover the true face of the threat they face, as it makes it's first move against human space. Very successfully. At the conclusion of this book, things look rather dark indeed for our heroes.

The really nice thing about this series is S Andrew Swann's deft touch with dealing with the politics of a situation. Unlike much SF, his worlds are not two dimensional. Even describing Bakunin as a syndo-anarchistic world is misleading, as humans have an innate tendency to organise, and group together, and this shows in his portrayal of the world. It becomes a working world – balance and counter-balance.

Technologies often define the social matrix, and their are consequences to those technologies. [For example, ghosts, who use the wormhole nexus to time-travel, can be a vital intelligence asset. And also something you don't really want wandering around freely. Knowing possible futures can be dangerous!] The "religious" objections to using certain technologies is well-founded from the social disasters involved in their first uses. A recurring theme is that it is not the technology that is bad, but the misuse that it is put to.

It is solid space opera, without an emphasis on the opera, solid plotting and characterisation with excellent world building, intriguing mysteries (from someone who writes excellent detective fiction under his real name), adventure, and questioning the assumptions you are operating under. What else could you want?

Whilst very enjoyable to read it is the quality of the world-building that really intrigues me. For example, the Moreau trilogy (and Fearful Symmetry which is also set at that time), would make an excellent basis for a pre-collapse Gamma World campaign. To this date I still imagine my Hoops with Spanish accents. The second trilogy does an excellent job of portraying a world without laws. Which doesn't mean that it should lack customs. I can't help comparing Bakunin with Buck Godot's New Hong Kong. Although the Confederacy bears no resemblance to the Gallimaufry, and no, before you ask, The Winslow is not the threat they are facing. The third trilogy reminds me somewhat of Diaspora, especially the fragility of the social structure on pre-Singularity worlds. In fact it would be an interesting universe to set a Diaspora game within, without too much trouble.

books

Apr. 17th, 2010 04:01 am
reverancepavane: (Default)

I discovered this evening that people on my friend's list haven't read the Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. You can find the first volume of the trilogy, Sheepfarmer's Daughter at the Baen Free Library (you'll have to browse to find it, but while you are there, consider some of the excellent authors who are giving away free books I paid good money for). [I particularly recommend unto you the incorrigibly deluded imaginings of a certain Dave Freer ... and wish that he would stop floundering around and get back to work so we can read his next one. <grin>]

Anyway, go over and grab the book. I can wait.

[Oh, you also got the John Dalmas book. We must talk.]

Anyway (apologies to Mr Dalmas aside), this was the first of a trilogy of books that Ms Moon wrote for the son of her next door neighbour who had a terminal disease. The kid was madly passionate about this strange game called AD&D, so she borrowed the rule books. She combined what she read with a Masters in Medieval Studies (specializing in Frankish Law) and a stint as a junior officer in the US Army. The result was a series of books based on AD&D (with all the tropes of the game) set in a world which actually functioned, and was quite frankly, the best D&D books that were never written.*

Anyway the Deed of Paksenarrion is the trilogy which tells the story of a certain sheepfarmer's daughter who runs away and joins a mercenary band. Her adventures and trials continues, until she becomes what she becomes (I refuse to spoil it, but I will say I frequently wish that one of my players would have played the climactic role so perfectly and without prevarication). The other two books (if you can't find the collected edition), Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold.

This was followed by a duology, Surrender None and Liar's Oath, which tell the story of Gird. And do it very well. And no, you have to read the trilogy first to truly appreciate who Gird is.

And recently she has started writing more books (no idea how many more), with Oath of Fealty, which tells of some of the fallout from the original trilogy (with Paks as a minor character).

Go. Read.

* Although I will entertain suggestions about Paul Kidd's Greyhawk novels, which kind of did to the D&D franchise what John M Ford's Star Trek novels did to that one. Although I don't think they haven't specifically written into their general writer's contracts that Paul is not to write any more books, as they may have done to other people.

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

I'm of two moods about the epilogue of Simon R Green's The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny (A Novel of the Nightside). Either:

  1. It's the best resolution of the dire prophecies, uttered in whispers by beings of great power, contained in the prologue that I've seen for ages, or;
  2. It's simply an exclamation point highlighting the events and transfigurations of the novel.

Unfortunately it is difficult to decide. I favour the first, in which case we will find out in the next novel, although it is more probably the second, in which case we shall find out in the next novel. In any event, the dynamics of the Nightside have been changed considerably (moreso than with the Lilith War).

As a side note, this novel does seem to have a greater overlap with his Drood series (the latest book definitely), although each is still quite self-contained. However since the event in question is a major event in the Greenoverse, it's not surprising. [Simon Green has a habit of connecting his different series. In some cases this may be minor, such as the off-hand mention of a set of children's book characters, to the appearance of those same characters in an amusement park in the far future, to the actual appearance of those characters in story, depending on the genre. In other cases there is considerable overlap between the Powers That Be that define the existence of Green's Multiverse, and major changes will affect all his active series.]

I always wanted to run an RPG in Green's Universe, but had difficulty deciding on a set of rules that would actually work, especially given the (literally in some cases) cosmic power levels involved. But even so, nothing really jelled. Until I realised that it is not the destination that is so enjoyable with his books, but the journey, the discovery of new aspects of his Universe as the protagonist encounters them offhandedly. Perhaps Everway?

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

I quite enjoyed Mistborn* by Brandon Sanderson. It is a rather bleak world, with serfs struggling on plantations under the tyrannical rule of the nobles to grow enough food in a devastated landscape. The viewpoint character, a serf thief named Vim, falls under the charismatic sway of the charismatic Kellsier, who is plotting to rob the immortal Lord Ruler of millenialy old The Final Empire. But both Kellsier and Vim have an advantage: they are Mistborn, able to use the full complement of magical powers available in this universe. Others either have no power, or are Mistlings, only able to use one of the magical powers.

This book was recommended to me by someone on the S7S list, and you can easily see the parallels, with Mistlings being Gifted, and Mistborn being Koldun. One couldn't help comparing the two, especially in situations where there were distinct parallels. Both come off quite favourably in this regard; the novel sparks ideas for the game, and you could use the game to play the novel quite easily (although the synegistic use of the magic powers makes Mistborn far more powerful than Koldun.

The magic system is interestingly presented and self-consistent (and, as the protagonist discovers, it is also incomplete). I won't spoil it here, since much of the book is about how Vim learns to use her abilities, but essentially the use of magic require the "burning" of various metals, the nature of the metal granting a specific ability.

Whilst part of a trilogy, the first book is complete in and of itself (albeit with exceedingly vague hints of what is to come), and may be read alone. But it definitely intrigued me enough to seek out the next two books.

* Well, technically the book is supposedly Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first volume of the Mistborn trilogy, but "The Final Empire" got left off the title of the published volume.

reverancepavane: (Wulfenbach)

Just finished The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling. I must say that is some damn fine swashbuckling adventure, if I do say so myself.

With added air pirates.

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

"You dance well, lady. You are not uncomely. You are obviously intelligent, which I find appealing, and if you put your mind to it I believe you could flirt as well as anybody here. Yet you do not. Why do you intrude your seriousness into an evening that was heretofore superficial, pointless, and altogether delightful?"

One of my favourite novels, even though it reads more as a collection of vignettes than a single contiguous story, is Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. In this technomagical version of Faerie, the dragons are cold iron weapons of war flown by half-elf pilots, bringing flaming death and destruction on their foes. It is the story of one dragon who escapes from his masters with the aid of a half-blood former-slave and seeks to take vengeance upon them. It will come as no surprise to any that know me by my alter-ego of Insidious Serpentine, that my favourite parts of this book are the conversations between the dragon and his adopted "daughter" as it seeks to convince her of the righteousness of it's quest for revenge. Sublime and evocative and capturing the essence of the dragon perfectly.

So I was quite pleased to discover that he has written another novel set in the same universe, The Dragons of Babel. Contrariwise to the title, this time dragons really have relatively little to do with the plot, although they make prominent appearances at both the beginning and end. Instead it explores more deeply the society of Faerie (both high and low), and in particular that of the mountain city of Babel. I must say I particularly enjoyed the etiquette of High Elf society, as well as the customary practices of village life, especially as each combined with the practices of magic. And it is definitely not a case of saying that a sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

I found it much more connected as a story, although, as in the first book, there are uniformly excellent digressions in the spirit of The Arabian Nights as characters met in the book tell stories, fables, and parables of their own to the protagonist, which serve to add a depth and richness to the milieu. So, even despite the absence of my favourite character from the first book (who, was, when it comes down to it an exceptional specimen of his kind anyway, with ambitions to match), this is an very good and quite recommended read (and actually relatively independent of the first novel).

reverancepavane: (Omegahedron)

I was going to do a mini-review of Walter Jon Williams new book Implied Spaces, at least until I realised that anything I said (or wanted to quote) would probably be considered a spoiler. Even commenting that I'd love to include some of the ideas in A Certain RPG™ would be giving too much away just by naming the RPG. But I will (include the ideas, that is, rather than give too much away), particularly the [CENSORED] and [CENSORED]. So I'll just say: read it and enjoy.

Disclaimer: I have yet to discover a WJW book I don't enjoy. I particularly reccomend the Divertimenti (The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, Rock of Ages) and Metropolitan (Metropolitan, City on Fire) series, and once ran a large science-fiction campaign based entirely on his Napoleonic naval game (Privateers & Gentleman), without the players once realising what I was doing.

And in the spirit of competition, if anyone wants to guess the name of the game and the two items censored, there will be a prize of some sort. Although if a non-Australian gets it I may have to rethink the nature of the prize. Entries close in a week or so.

reverancepavane: (Zim)

In these enlightened times it is not uncommon to find the literati looking down their noses at science fiction. It is good to find at least one organization which still reccomends the reading of science fiction to its members. The 2007 Chief of [Australian] Army reading list features the following science fiction titles:

For soldiers:
Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 by John Birmingham.
Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

For corporals:
1984 by George Orwell.

For sergeants:
The Year of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

For junior officers:
Fatherland by Robert Harris.

For captains:
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

For majors:
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

It was interesting to read which material was considered appropriate for each rank. Although I do wonder how many general officers have managed to wade their way through The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

As for my favourite military SF: Robert Frezza, David Drake, Jerry Pournelle, and Don Hawthorne amongst others.

reverancepavane: (simpsons)
One of the problems I currently have is an inability to concentrate for a long period of time. This is making it rather difficult to read books (among other things). I find this rather irritating, since it takes me a lot longer to finish a book than it used to.

So I just picked up copies of Simon R Green's Hell To Pay, Alan Dean Foster's Trouble Magnet, and Naomi Novik's Empire of Ivory.

In addition I really should finish off the book that was lent to me almost two months ago, especially since I shall probably she the lender who forced in on me tomorrow. Not that Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart is a bad book (actually the customs and nature of the various pseudo-historical peoples are very well researched, which is proof that the best artists steal), but the characters are rather archetypical and the situation is rather typical. Even worse, there is more than a touch of author wish fulfillment identification with the main protagonist.

I'd say this is a difficult choice to make as to what to read next, except ... Simon R Green! [1]

[1] I hope that my favourite characters will make an appearance: Bruin Bear and the Sea Goat. I especially loved it when they even managed to make an appearance in the Deathstalker series – a transition that you really wouldn't have suspected.

Edit: <tee hee> Yes they did appear, and, as normal, the Sea Goat was his usually impecable self at a High Society party.

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

The essential difference between myth and legend is the resonance of the story to those listening to the tale. If the audience can identify with the tale it gains the status of myth, otherwise it is simply a very old story. By this criteria Beowulf is a legend, as, Asatru aside, very few people can actually identify with the cultural matrix from which the story is drawn. This may account for the vast number of failures in attempts to portray the story in other media. Even changing the genre in which the story is set to science fiction or pulp western doesn't help with this (although it did partially work as a pseudo-chanbarra).

So we have a new portrayal out soon, albiet one that has been heavily reimagined and no longer paying heed to Norse traditions. I don't think I've even imagined a version of Beowulf which portrays Grendel's mother in such a light. Anyway, since very few people are cogniscant of the original tale, I thought I'd provide a capsule summary of the events in the original.

The Story of Beowulf )

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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