Monday, 11 August 2014

RPGaDay

This is a meme that's been bouncing about on social media sites a lot recently.

I decided I did not really care to drag it out over a month, and have opted to do the whole thing in one go.

1) Vampire the Masquerade
2) Vampire the Masquerade
3)  Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
4)  Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle
5)  Runequest
6) Mage the Ascension
7) Nobilis/Unknown Armies
8) Urgrim Thingrimson
9) Meh - none
10) Truth Until Paradox for Mage and Mindjammer
11) Over the Edge
12) Whispering Vault
13) Chapel, my first SLA Industries character who died from flipping a brick off a mine.
14) Mindjammer and Golden Sky Stories
15) an AD&D 'power paladins'
16) SHOCK a soft SF game
17) A FUDGE based game of Squirrel Assault Squad
18) Either Storyteller or BRP
19) I don't really read published adventures, but probably Tatters of the King for Call of Cthulhu
20) Call of Cthulhu/Vampire... if I'm still gaming
21) The Laundry Files
22) Blue Planet
23) Nobilis
24) Mutants and Masterminds (don't know why but I never grokked the system)
25) Um... Mage (though my wife says she wants to play)
26) Numenera
27) Changeling the Dreaming
28) The first Mage game I played, it crossed over with Books of Magic and we started as people about to Awaken on Halloween under a Harvest Moon.
29) The showdown with Skaven in the first WFRP 2nd edition campaign I played. That and fending off a troll singlehanded.
30) No idea...
31) Mage the Ascension

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

My Reading List By Cara McKee

Today we have Cara McKee, of the Oh We Do blog (http://ohwedo.blogspot.co.uk/) talking about her reading list and the problem of too manh books. Cara is a blogger, writer and Mum living in Scotland.



I have a mountainous backlog of books to read. I have never in my life reached the bottom of the pile, but at the moment it is really high. Someone suggested I switch to Kindle. The trouble is I already have... and I have plenty of books backed up to read on Kindle as well.

I blame Facebook. Partly because the shiny blue bauble on my 'phone and my tablet, tells me when I've got notifications, and I can't, I just can't, avoid looking. But mainly because Facebook helps me communicate with friends from all over, and one of the things I communicate about is books. If something sounds interesting, I keep my eye out for it.

One of the books on my Kindle is The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. Recommended by Steve, and boosted to close to the top of the pile, behind the current crop:
  • Dangerous Women by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois is my current mission – I bought it for the George RR Martin story, but I was really annoyed at it being called Dangerous Women and yet featuring many more dangerous men, so I'm compiling evidence.
  • Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. We read Behind the Scenes at the Museum for Book Group and I was pretty taken with it, so I bought a load of Kate Atkinson books at a car boot. This one however, is the latest Book Group book, leant from a friend. I need to finish it so I can get into...
  • ...Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I've been wanting to read this for ages. I haven't read any fiction by Mantel, but love her style in articles. Plus I love historical fiction, especially around this period. This is the next Book Group book (I tried to get The Stress of Her Regard, but they quailed at the mention of vampires).
  • The Mummyfesto by Linda Green. I got sent this to review AGES ago, and I have tried, I really have, but it's so awful. Sorry Linda, you seem lovely, but I do not like this book.

Behind Tim Powers are all the books I've been buying at car boot sales (apart from the end of the Sookie Stackhouse series – I couldn't resist reading that straight away) – Trudi Canavan, Kate Atkinson and JV Jones amongst others, and I really want to re-read the Song of Ice and Fire series before the next one comes out...

...I think I might have time to hang fire on that.

My children piled up all the books I've got in my to-read pile, and laughed that it was nearly as big as them. I felt a bit daunted and a friend suggested I just take a break from reading for a few weeks.

TAKE A BREAK FROM READING?! Why in the name of all that's holy would I want to do that?


What's in your to-read list?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Book Review: Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross

A sequel to Saturn's Children, Neptune's Brood takes place in the far future, following Krina, a mendicant scholar as she tries to locate her sibling Ana who has gone missing on the water world of Shin Tethys, light years from New California, Krina's home. What follows is a tale of finance, fraud, piracy and plunder. Stross uses the novel not only to explore the problems of the humans in space but also to cock a snook at a great deal of the internet. As a result there are jokes about piracy, memes and internet mannerisms. Marrying this attitude with a clever plot, Neptune's Brood is a pacey, read more interested in balance sheets than blasters.



The novel in part addresses one of the author's obsession with how unlikely human colonisation of space is. As a weak and fleshy species the hard vacuum of space is probably an environment that humans will not prosper in. As a result, these novels feature robots who are not only autonomous, suited to life in hard vacuum; but also have their programming modelled on human brain patterns, making them our species true children. Stross extends his doubts about popular SF tropes to FTL travel within the pages of Neptune's Brood, fingering it as a source of fraud across settled space and bringing it into the novel and Krina's world, by tying it intimately to the plot.

There is a great deal about finance in the book, and Stross uses the subject to examine not only the way financiers can become corrupt, but also to play with ideas; creating the concept of slow money, which exists purely for the purpose of space colonisation and is worth so much that it underpins entire star systems.

Stross' style here veers between a chatty diary and an almost naive approach, a voice that captures Krina's character well. He puts in phrases that are reminiscent of Literature in places, often twisting it for comedic effect. We get the impression that Krina is rather bookish and naive and this give her a charming aspect for most of the book, as well as  allowing Stross to insert infodumps to explain his concepts: yielding to her tendency to explain things to give the reader important information. This feels clumsy in places, but it does at least fit the character and never truly impedes the plot.

Krina is a strange character, however. She feels unsuited to adventuring and in many ways, the events of the book happen to her rather than her instigating them. Trouble finds her, not the other way around. This is in stark contrast with most of the other characters, who are grifters, scammers and conmen: beautifully drawn and far more dangerous. We meet communist squid, a piratical a-Count-ant, a set of priests who are determined to achieve the impossible and many, many mermaids. Even Ana, who obviously means well has more agency than Krina, and I suspect the only reason Krina doesn't feel like a pale figure in comparison to the rest of Stross' menagerie is because she is our protagonist.

On the whole though, this is a good novel, reflecting the current world and the complexities of the finance system.