vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Ah, Culture what would SF be without you? Probably vastly poorer and leaving us without suitable similes for things like Asher's Polity series.

Anyway, this is a Culture novel that has multiple strains of narrative, somewhat inter-related (even if it's not always that obvious). It is also a story about love, about sorrow, what constitutes good and evil. And possibly slightly about the responsibilities you have as a civilisation, for your past and future actions.

One strand is a composer, who's of a race of predators (the Chelgrsomethings), but who has now solidly decided that his former home memetope is no longer for him at all and has emigrated to a Culture Orbital.

Another strand is a Culture anthropologist/biologist/something who's way out in a weird "I am made entirely of gas" planet but not really a gas giant (ultratech, weirds everything, you know).

A third strand is a Chelsomething military, on a secret mission. A mission so secret that not even he knows what it is.

And then stuffs happen, in unimitable Banksian style. Possibly not the best first introduction to The Culture (mine was Player of Games, then Excession if memory serves me right), but probably not the worst possible.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Third book in Saunders' Commonweal series, wherein we see more of what we saw in the second book, and get to know what happens to a (relatively) small economy, when you introduce several orders of magnitude of difference in capability. Yes, it involves people discussing difficult things. No, it does not feel like "as you know, Bob".

All in all, if you liked the first two books, this is probably well worth chasing down, trapping in your book-trapping trap, then stun it for long enough that you can read it before, like the book it is, it turns around and devours you from the eyes inwards.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine books are, in the Second Commonweal. At least the really vicious ones.

Varnished weeds in window jars

Sep. 18th, 2017 06:15 pm
hannah: (Pruning shears - fooish_icons)
[personal profile] hannah
A new computer, a new keyboard, and an undetermined period of adjustment. But mostly, a new computer. It's arrived, it's booted up, and I'm blogging on it. Everything moves so fast, but I don't quite know where everything is, like a nighttime taxi ride through a new city. Which isn't entirely the worst feeling to have. My old computer is still working fine, for the most part, and as soon as I find a safe space to keep it, I'll have it as a backup.

The "most part" being that the first part of my old computer that started to show any age or depredation was its internal CD drive. Remembering the days when not everything was built in and thinking how they'd come again, I was able to get around that problem with a USB-powered one. My new computer doesn't have a CD drive to begin with, so in a weird way that was sort of forward-thinking of me to get one.

Even so, even without a sleek internal CD drive, that computer got me through grad school and the last few years safely. Seven years, six months, one week - Eureka to Silver Lake.

A one in a million chance.

Sep. 16th, 2017 08:56 pm
hannah: (OMFG - favyan)
[personal profile] hannah
Last night my mother offered to buy me and my brother tickets to a matinée showing of Groundhog Day at two o'clock. I wanted to see it, so I said yes.

There was a library book sale today my brother and I both wanted to go to that opened at noon, so I said yes to that.

There was a meetup group for nerds and board games that started at one o'clock, and I said yes to that as well.

Somehow between hustling out the door to get to the book sale early, and moseying out of that to arrive in time to get a few games in, and skipping the almost-to-the-door line at the coffee shop, and going down to wait almost 15 minutes for the next subway train...somehow I arrived at the subway platform just in time to see a friend of mine who happened to come down to NYC this weekend. On a whim.

She had a friend with her who was also in fandom that I'd never met before. But I knew her fics and got to gush in person.

Oh, and besides that, the subway was running express, not local, so we got out to walk up nine blocks. I said we ought to walk up the next street over, not the one we were on - and my brother and I walked right into a big open air market, and got to walk right up the middle of the street.

So today was definitely something.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Second book of Saunder's A Book of the Commonweal series (that's what's on the books, calling it a trilogy feels a bit weird, since I have vague recollections of a fourth book on the way). it takes plce not long after the events in the first book. I don't think it's ever explicit, but I'm thinking "weeks to a few months".

We're primarily following Edgar (occasionally just "Ed") who starts the book just waking up from a coma, feeling very weird indeed. And there's a really good reason for that. It turns out that Edgar has spent most of his life having his magical power completely consumed by a metaphysical (and probably also physical) parasite. And now it's been taken out because that's what you do with parasites. And now there's a problem, because Edgar is too old for traditional wizard training to work. But too powerful to not be trained, otherwise things like "death" (and occasionally "mayhem") happens.

And so an alternative is found. We follow Edgar and his fellow students through approximately the first year of training, learning more (much more) about how magic works, as well as how the Commonweal works.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

This is Saunders' debut (as far as I'm aware) book. My recollection of this, when it came to re-read it, was "stuffs happened" and that was pretty much it. The book is... dense. Informationally speaking, that is. I can't, to be honest, tell you that I'm sure if the narrative voice is first person or just extremely tight third, but it's one, the other, or switching between those.

Anyway, this is a book set in the Commonweal. And, I hear you ask, what is one of those. Well, it would've been cool if there was an explanatory chapter, but there is't. So, as far as I have inferred, the Commonweal is the creation of the Wizard Laurel, about 500 years ago, as a general "I am so fed up" reaction to the last, what, several many thousands (hundreds of thousands, possibly) years of sorcerous rule (basic pattern: "magic user gets powerful, kills the previous ruler; mass sacrifices and brain squishing ensues", then repeat with the magic user from the previous sentence switched to the ruler position). So, the obvious solution is something that pretty much looks like representative democracy, with a heavy dose of enforced resource equality.

Now, some of that Commonweal information is gleaned from the next two books. Where was I? Oh, yes, as we start the book, it seems as if one of the neighbouring "we keep cycling through previous ruler and mass sacrifices" areas has decided that it is Really Time to enter the Commonweal, in force, and we get a first row seat to the experience of a small band of brave people trying to force the invaders back (or, as the case MAY be, keep them outside the border).

All in all, pretty good reading.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

This is the third book in Sanderson's "first Mistborn trilogy" (there now seems to be ore than one, which is fine, I should try to remember looking into perhaps get hold of the first one). All in all, this is a series that plays on your expectations, but not in what I would consider a malicious way.

I did find it quite interesting to notice the things I did and did not remember from the first time I read the trilogy, there were vast chunks that had just left my mind, but other things were relatively as I expected. Memory says I last read this some 5-6 years ago.

[ bookmonth ] 2017-08

Sep. 16th, 2017 11:18 am
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Book list )

A linear extrapolation says 124.5 books by year's end. August was pretty much a miss in the "reads lots" department, with travel that was full of sufficiently interesting distractions that, well, this ain't just been a month for reading (also, perhaps, signalled by being about two week's late wit hte monthly summary).

Luxurious inconveniences.

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:15 pm
hannah: (Sam and Dean - soaked)
[personal profile] hannah
I've got wireless set up in my apartment, and I'm slowly working through the process of getting my new computer set up for everything I need to transfer my regular activity over there. I figure another few days, maybe even as early as next Tuesday, and I can move my frustrations from wireless tech support to typing on a new keyboard.

I think a lot of the issues will smooth out when I manage to get inside stuff. If that makes sense.

Oddly enough, I spent most of the morning wringing myself out over a learning module that itself was less intuitive and streamlined than the program it was ostensibly trying to teach me how to use. It seems the "poke around and try to learn things" style is that deeply embedded in the human brain.

Ongoing wording.

Sep. 13th, 2017 09:15 pm
hannah: (Dar Williams - skadi)
[personal profile] hannah
Three projects at once is two more than I usually handle. I think I can about manage it this time, since they're all doing different things. The fantasy was printed out on Monday, and I got my hands on a pair of red pens for marking up the physical pages. The science fiction is just at the very beginning of the initial composition phase, currently saved as "Czech 1.2." And the Buffy fic needs to be rewritten from the beginning, pulling in allusions here, references there, doing up scenes from scratch.

I don't quite know what I'm doing, but I know I can't let myself stop.

Quite possibly I'll get to Buffy again soon, which would be nice. The "Hellmouthy" podcast is more grating than I'd expected, but every so often there's a shining gold nugget of a character observation sifted out of the silt that is all the nasal fry and incoherent tangents. As Buffy-based podcasts go, "Buffering the Vampire Slayer" is far less mean-spirited and more light-hearted and genuinely enthusiastic, so it gets my primary endorsement. And I'm still searching for additional fandom icons. Stupid homework keeping me from fandom pursuits.

Also, I began reading Gone Girl. Having been spoiled thanks to the internet, it's an exercise in trying to see how everything is presented and put together. Which, for me, is a more compelling read than two horrifically tragic individuals. I get enough of that just going to work.

Cities built on water.

Sep. 12th, 2017 08:42 pm
hannah: (On the pier - fooish_icons)
[personal profile] hannah
London is a city without a horizon, and London is a city that will never be satisfied. It's built out of liminal spaces and it grows unconstrained, encompassing, devouring, the last remains of empire. There are no mountains, deserts, or oceans to stop it - even the River Thames is only a brief pause. When I came in, tired but ready to keep going, I saw how much London as a city spreads out, how much space it takes up, much more than anywhere else I've ever been, and maybe if I'd climbed the highest towers in the city I'd have been able to see its end, but it's so very much a city without end. Everywhere I've lived has some sort of horizon, or at least some sense of a boundary. When I left, standing at the window of an underground train car to feel the tiniest bit of wind on my face and glimpse a little bit of sky before I'd go up inside, I saw how London as a city will never be finished.

But for all that, within London, people move calmly. There's periods during the day with more intense activity, but there's so much room for people to take a moment to stop. To fully stop. There's parks all over the place, some small, some grand, with plenty of old churches turned into little open-air resting spots replete with lawns and bees working at the flowers. It's not an intense pace but it's a consistent one. The city was here yesterday, and the city will be here tomorrow. And it's accepted that whatever the state of London, it's never going to be quite real, even when you're standing right there inside of it. It's liminal.

London's so liminal it's got palm trees. They're all over the place, including a mile-long park that's wild with birds and blackberries that's also got trains shaking the air right beside it and a wind turbine dropped in the middle and a pub with palm trees tucked in a corner.

There's an urban farm with open fields and an anti-aircraft gun because there wasn't anywhere else to put it. There's parks where foxes slink around after dark, and snails hoof it across the footpaths to beat the evening chill. Just an hour in London gave me new appreciation for so much of Terry Pratchett's work: so much of his genius came from exploring the edges and the corners and finding out for himself just what lived there.

Last Tuesday I stood at the River Thames on midnight and looked at the almost-full moon cast a path on the water, on a rare clear night with almost no clouds to speak of - enough to sometimes pass in front, with the moon more than bright enough to shine through. Except when there was one so thick that when it passed by, the path slowly disappeared, fading away and then vanishing until the cloud moved on and it returned, beginning at my side of the river and opening up the way across to another place entirely. The sky itself, aside from those few clouds, was remarkably dark for a city sky; it must have been the river itself and associated zoning codes keeping the light pollution away. Just a handful of the brightest stars, and the moon.

The next night, walking through a park, the full moon sat in the middle of the London Eye. A pupil in an eye that never winked, just went to sleep when all the clouds came in.

Compared to London, Copenhagen is a town. It's settled into itself, and the ocean is the ultimate horizon line. It's a town built as a city, and it's cozy and comfortable in a way that comes from people living out their lives there, happy to settle in. Though I will say, the Bastard Cafe was outstanding and Tivoli Gardens at night was like visiting a dream.

Oddly enough, the most Danish I heard spoken was during a Jewish religious service. It was a cousin's son's bar mitzvah, and his Danish mother stood up and gave a speech in her mother tongue, and hearing it next to English and Hebrew gave me a good sensation of the tonal differences between the language. Danish melts together, all the syllables and words running smoothly into each other. English has distinct syllables, but flowing words. And even when it's sung, Hebrew makes sure you hear every sound.

I'll also say it was delightful to joke about how Denmark shouldn't be ashamed of looting, it invented it - and then England stole looting, and went on to perfect it.

I saw family on Copenhagen and friends in London, and when I came back to New York, I rode in the front of the shuttle to get to the subway and got a gorgeous panorama of the Manhattan skyline. New York City is built on reality. There's almost nothing liminal inside it: everyone brings their own, and somehow, all the reality everyone has settles together into one unquestionable mosaic. People may try to reverse-engineer it, but the reality remains. Copenhagen has no real conflicts because it doesn't need them. And London, a unique beast, is never going to be as real as the rest of the world - which is what I guess comes from when you build a city without a horizon.

[RPG] Pugmire

Sep. 10th, 2017 08:03 pm
karohemd: (dice)
[personal profile] karohemd
I thought I would revive this blog with the odd post on gaming.
One of my recent acquisitions has been Pugmire by Eddy Web, published by Onyx Path Publishing.
Pugmire is essentially Dungeons and Dragons with dogs. It uses a variant of the 5th edition rules, somewhat simplified and less voluminous with different names for the character features. The PCs are “uplifted” dogs, anthropomorphic dogs that walk upright and have evolved to use tools and language in a world a long time after the Age of Man has ended. There are classes called Callings (spellcasters, thieves, fighters etc.) and Breeds, rough groups of dog breeds like Companions (pugs, chihuahas), Runners (greyhounds, lurchers) and so on.
The world centres around the city of Pugmire, a typical medieval town, inhabited not only by dogs but also other uplifted animals like cats and rats. Further out, badgers (usually bandits) and lizards (travelling merchants from across the sea) can be found. There are mountains in the North, a huge forest in the East (beyond which is the land of the cats, the Monarchies of Mau), and a sea beyond Waterdog Port on the Southern coast. Most of the setting information in the book is about the city of Pugmire while the rest of the world has not been fleshed out in detail. For the crafty GM (or in the case of Pugmire, the Guide) this is a perfect opportunity to put their own stamp on the setting.
A separate complete game called Monarchies of Mau on cats is forthcoming. It has already been funded on Kickstarter, is currently being written and should be out in about a year or so.
I absolutely love the setting and have already run a few one-shots locally. I also started a proper campaign online using roll20.
You can buy Pugmire as PDF via DriveThruRPG. The physical book is available in the US via Studio 2 (and Indie Press Revolution soon), I've not seen it on the Esdevium Games releases list but Eddy says they should be able to order it from Studio 2.
Which brings me to an offer: I am looking for another player or two so if you're interested, comment below. We don't have a regular schedule but Sunday afternoons (UK time) are usually the preferred option.

9-9 posting at 10-10.

Sep. 9th, 2017 10:10 pm
hannah: (Luke Skywalker - elefwin)
[personal profile] hannah
I finished reading It today, and in terms of "plucky band of outcast children band together to defeat ultimate evil" books I've read this year, I'd rate it solidly above A Wrinkle in Time.

Ordinarily, Sunday's the day I go in to see to caring for the birds for a couple to a few hours. Not so for tomorrow. Jet-lag, life catch-up, and the lingering travel crud have seen to that. It's my hope that I'll be stable enough to engage with my job on Monday, though I still doubt my ability to engage with the people there. Though I think I'd settle for being able to focus on getting my thoughts together beyond simple status updates.
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