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September 2018

Books in August 2018

Quite a few books, boosted by a holiday for 10 days.

Suldrun’s Garden (Jack Vance)
The Green Pearl (Jack Vance)
Madouc (Jack Vance)
More of a skim read this time, but I went back through the whole of Lyonesse to tag out the elements I’m responsible for writing about using a textual analysis tool called CATMA. Every time I read this trilogy I love it more and more.

Cthulhu City (Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan)
I enjoyed this; the ideas are different and evocative but ultimately the book doesn’t deliver what I expected. It’s very much a gazetteer of Great Arkham and details the individuals that tie it together. Every individual has three options; victim, sinister or stalwart, and each location can be masked or unmasked. Cults are detailed with some motivations and frictions. It’s a toolkit to build a sandbox.

I’d have liked to have seen some more guidance on running a Cthulhu City campaign and how to make it distinctive, perhaps with some ideas for plot arcs and using the noir/pulp feel within the setting. The introductory adventure is good, but it doesn’t really feel tied to the themes within the text. I expected to see more that keys into the backstory and the characters arrival into the city.

The cover art is great but the internals less so.

All in all, I liked this book and will run something set in it, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence (Calum Chace)
A reasonable short overview of artificial intelligence including the work that has been done so far, current fields of study and then extrapolation on what the consequences could be. A good primer.

Runcible Tales (Neal Asher)
A collection of short stories set in Asher’s Polity Universe. Good fun. I read a paper copy four years back, Goodreads tells me.

Mason’s Rats (Neal Asher)
Three short stories about how a farmer deals with the situation when he encounters super-intelligent rats. This amused me.

The Parasite (Neal Asher)
A novella by Asher set in the future. A comet miner comes back with something in him, and the corporation he works for tries to dispose of the awkward and financially damaging evidence. This is classic Asher, black and white, Bond-flavoured action thriller full of technology, space, sex and violence. Hints of the Polity, even if it’s not part of that series. I enjoyed this a lot. Fast paced action thrills.

Collected Folk Tales (Alan Garner)
A pot-pouri of folk tales and poems brought together by an author I love. I enjoyed the collection, and all along the way was seeing the potential of some of the plots and creatures for roleplaying scenarios. It is a mixture - some of the stories evoked more of a response with my than others - but overall worth the time.

The Expert System’s Brother (Nicolas Tchaikovski)
I like Tchaikovski’s work, and this is a cleverly written and plotted story of humanity colonising another planet. However, it didn’t really land with me as I found myself very detached from the protagonist. That may have been deliberate, based on the plot, but it doesn’t draw me to read it again. I may reconsider the 3 stars I gave it on Goodreads though.

The Lost Child of Lychford (Paul Cornell)
I enjoyed the first in this series so have come back for more. This didn’t disappoint. A short/novella length piece, this has similar vibes to the Rivers of London series, with the supernatural touching the real world. It’s just before Christmas at Lychford and foul deeds are afoot. The three witches have to find a way to understand the threat, defend themselves and reality, and save the life of a young child. Good fun.

A Long Day in Lychford (Paul Cornell)
The third book has trouble caused by disagreements between the witches, threatening the threads that bind reality and Lychford together. This accelerates rapidly from one of the witches having a serious disagreement with a local over Brexit triggered by the colour of her skin. Enjoyable, if there are more, I’ll read them.

The Sword, the Crown and the Unspeakable Power (Wheel Tree Press)
A re-read in depth of the PbtA game that I’ll be running at Furnace this year. Good stuff.

Owning the Future: Short Stories (Neal Asher)
The last of the short story collections that I bought recently. I enjoyed this most of the selection we had, especially the expansions on the Owner universe.

Wyntertide (Andrew Caldecott)
This is the sequel to Rotherweird and it works very well. It could have done with a plot summary at the start for what has gone before but it came back to me as I plunged in. The story escalates nicely, but ends in a very Empire Strikes Back moment with the forces of good at a low point. And I need to wait until June 2019 to find how this ends. Great book.

Noumenon Infinity (Marina J. Lostetter)
This is the sequel to Noumenon which I read earlier in the year. It takes the story of the original Noumenon multi-generation mission forward with its return to the web, and adds in the story of another Convoy Mission. Three separate threads twist around each other and then finally meet in a slightly confused ending. It works, but it was a little complicated at the end (even though I’d guessed one of the reveals a while earlier. I’ll look for more by Lostetter in the future.