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Apocalypse World 2e by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker

This is the second edition of an influential roleplaying game. The setting is Mad Max-y, mixed with other post-apocalypse media. The system is strongly class-based, with such classes as the Chopper, the Driver, and the Battlebabe. Each class gets their own special powers, and the primary mechanic is rolling 2d6+stat, where "stat" can be either something resembling the stats from other games, or the strength of a relationship, or something else more situational. (To my tepid amusement, this edition never gets around to saying "the basic roll is 2d6". You have to deduce that from scattered hints.) Unusually, the GM never rolls dice; players roll to attack or defend, but the GM just declares situations. Recommended!
The core system of highly-specific-to-genre stats, class-based powers, relationships as stats, etc., has been adapted into other games, such as:

Dungeon World by LaTorra & Koebel

D&D, as Powered By The Apocalypse. This game manages to faithfully embody many of the cliches of D&D, while simultaneously making you look at them in all-new ways. Unlike old AD&D, where the rulebooks seemed to focus on whatever had caught Gygax's eye that day, this game narrows its gaze on the meat of dungeon adventuring. Its handling of "fronts" (the big threats that face the world) is incredibly useful and insightful. Recommended.

Farflung: Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark by Wallebhaupt et al

This is a posthuman, end-of-time, high space operatric weirdness SF game, Powered By The Apocalypse. Its focus is more vague than the previous two games, since there's a lot of different ways to play SF, but it still brings some good insights to the table. It certainly doesn't stint on anything, including 11 base stats of various sorts (six proper attributes, three kinds of hit points, and two power pools), and a couple dozen classes. The attributes are named top, bottom, strange, charm, up and down, which I find simultaneously twee and inspiring. (I'm noodling a game where your stats are based on the seven operations of alchemy.) The art has a tendency to drift toward the kinky, which may be a plus or minus in your eyes. And, I rather like the underlying system of fueling your powers by turning future into history, which can then be used to inspire people you have a history with. Mildly recommended.

Scooby Apocalypse by Giffen, DeMatteis, and Porter

And what if Scooby was a genetic experiment, Velma was a mad scientist, Daphne was an investigative reporter, and the setting was Burning Man on the day the crypto-zombie apocalypse started? Calling this a darker and grittier reboot is vastly oversimplifying: It's weirder, and bloodier, and isn't afraid to look into the gang's souls. I'm on board for the ride.

X-Men: Lonely Are The Hunted by Thomas, Roth, Heck, and Tuska

This is a fat collection of late-1960s X-Men adventures, long before Wolverine and Storm, but after Lee and Kirby. It features the Factor Three saga, the first appearance of Banshee, and a couple sets of new costumes. Mildly recommended to fans.

Batman And The Outsiders by Barr and Aparo

Batman quits the Justice League and forms his own team of heroes, including Black Lightning, Halo, Metamorpho, and the brand-new character Katana, who has gone on to be DC's most prominent female Asian hero. She is both somewhat cliched — Japanese samurai with dark past, magical sword, strong sense of honor — and refreshingly different from so many other female heroes, in that she's fully dressed, her top isn't skintight, no-one spends any time ogling her, she's a widow, and her role in the team is "big sister". It was good to see the origins of this team, and the handling of Batman's secret ID is fun. Mildly recommended.
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Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling
All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen
Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more
Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster
The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic
How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando
Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn (2 books)
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson
The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg
The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein
Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton
A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman
The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle
Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Existence by David Brin
Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes
Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro
Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson
The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt
Under The Green Star by Lin Carter
The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer
The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon
The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins
Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber
The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg
Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka
Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves
Unbound by Jim C. Hines
The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Hoka by Anderson and Dickson
It's Superman by Tom De Haven
The End Of All Things by John Scalzi
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)
Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin
Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell
The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys
Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

The raw count is 68. Rounding down a bit for comics and books unfinished, that's comparable with last year. (I'd forgotten how fast I tore through six Robin Hobb books. Better order the next trilogy or two...)
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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)

It's been long enough since I read this anthology that I don't specifically remember any of the stories.

Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin

Ditto.

Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell

Ditto, tho' this is a collection. (Abridged from the original collection.)

The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys

Nominally about freeing an occupied Earth, actually about Budrys' father and occupied Lithuania. Contains a lot of political philosophy, some minor action, and a complete unwillingness to deal with the multi-year journey from Alpha Centauri to Earth. (The story is explicit about it taking years, but skips over it like it was a week or so.)

Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

A re-read. Some good stories, some whose sexual politics have slid into "completely creepy" over the decades.
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The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Interesting post-apocalyptic murder mystery-slash-political drama, vaguely steampunky. Recommended.

Hoka by Anderson and Dickson

On its face, cute retellings of stories and history using sentient alien teddy bears as main characters. On a moment's reflection, it's about the destruction of local culture by colonists, and even uses the phrase "Earthman's burden", while trying to make it look cute. And the very first female character is introduced breast-first, which counts for at least two strikes with me, by itself. Yech.

It's Superman by Tom De Haven

Aggressively Depression-era retelling of Superman's origin. Different enough from the thousand other retellings to be interesting, and entertaining in its own right. Recommended.

The End Of All Things by John Scalzi

A climax, and probably conclusion, to the Old Man's War universe, with humanity tracking down plots and perfidy in an attempt to survive. Nth in a series, recommended.
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I remain terribly behind on reviews, so brevity is the soul of gettin' it done.

The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves

Sequel to The Shattered World, an imaginative not-derivative-of-Tolkien fantasy. Recommended.

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

The secret that magic comes from books is out, and it's causing oodles of problems. Third in a series, recommended, not least (nor most) for including polyamory.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

I get a bit tired of Hamilton's tendency to include crypto-fantasy in the middle of his space operas, but the creepy reveal towards the end of this one makes up for a lot. Set in a multibook universe, recommended.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Far from the best Discworld novel, but I was entertained.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Steampunky first in a series of (possibly post-apocalyptic) fantasy, with nicely detailed airship battle tactics. Recommended.
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Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Super-Science Fiction was one of the pulpiest of the pulps, and ran for 18 issues in the mid-1950s. Silverberg was a regular contributor, and was tapped to edit this collection. Many of the stories are fun, and many are mortifying. My rose-colored glasses and fondness for undersized hardcovers keeps it on my shelf.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka

First in a long-running series of space operas (adapted into a long-running anime series, allegedly due for American release), this is a satisfying start to an epic of gray vs. grey battles, with some reasonably believable tactics (that aren't just wet navy tactics in space).

Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

An intriguing fantasy of palace politics, and the borderland between reality and myth. Memory, wax, and charcoal mix and merge.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A young girl is admitted to the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy, but it means giving up her family and dealing with the pervasive racism of the world outside. Then she is touched by the war... Well-deserving of its Hugo.

The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle

"The Horror At Red Hook" is one of Lovecraft's most racist stories, and that's a high bar. This is the story told from the other side, addressing and deconstructing the racism from the POV of the protagonist, a black entertainer who gets hired by the sort of fools who invite the attention of elder gods... Recommended.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Second in her Broken Earth trilogy, this volume is not quite as strong as the first, but it's certainly still good. The world is falling apart, and our protagonists are trying to hold together the last fraying bits of civilization, while also learning their real capabilities in the shards of their broken families. Entirely recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Heaven knows I tend to collect things, and letting go is a skill I'm slowly learning. A lot of the advice in this book is quite good, some is a touch twee, and I'm not yet able to apply it all, but it's still good stuff.

The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon

This novel drifted into our house by chance, and I gave it a shot. It's nominally about a historian doing some research on a classical composer, so as to clear up an issue of inheritance. The pace is slow, and little of actual interest happens. A lot of the book is a rather fetishistic depiction of Venice, in an "Oh god, how could I possibly live in Paris or London after having lived in Venice?" way. Not recommended unless you have a specific interest in the topic.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.

At the end of the first volume, I still kind of liked Heinlein. By the end of this one, I wanted to shake him. As a military man myself, I think I've identified how he went wrong. Military training involves a lot of, basically, brainwashing. In particular, being told that because of your service you are set apart from civilians. They need your protection; while you are polite to them, you are their betters. Heinlein was a naval officer, which is all that to the Nth degree. His plan was to be the captain of a ship, and a captain of a ship at sea is as close to God as you get in terms of autocratic authority and power (in the eyes of naval officers, at least). Then, of course, he got sick, got kicked out of the Navy, and spent the rest of his life with a sort of stunted superiority complex. (His utter disdain for "getting a real job" is clear through both volumes.) Because he was both very smart and very talented, this was not always a problem, but I don't recall any point where he ever admitted to error without blatant reality smacking him in the face, and his willingness to accept propaganda from the US military led him astray an awful lot. He simply didn't have a mechanism for accepting constructive criticism, and he judged others (especially foreigners) by how well they served him. There's also a frequent refrain, regarding his more pedagogical books, that their tendency to be misunderstood was always failures of the students. Well, no, if the common factor in all these failures is the teacher...

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

The first volume of The Expanse, and a rousing adventure it is. A Solar System full of tension is pushed into war by assorted machinations and an awful little McGuffin. Our heroes are flawed nobodies thrust into prominence, and some handle it better than others. The TV series is quite faithful, and I recommend both formats.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart

We've long known Hellboy was the son of a devil, and here he finishes his strange journey past death into something resembling peace. I had the privilege of co-authoring the Hellboy RPG, and thus have a lot of fondness for Red. I'm going to miss him.
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Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon

A slim collection of stories about the slow rise of consciousness, and rebellion, in our faithful robot servants. Connected to a game. Recommended.

The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

By the creator of Dothraki, Shiväisith, and other languages, this book covers the sounds we make, the ways we make and change words, how languages evolve, and writing systems, in detail and with worked examples. I found it fascinating, particularly in how it illuminated my own personal conlang interests (I seem to be much more interested in prefxies and suffixes than in, for example, sounds). Highly recommended.

The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins

Lovely guide to what is and isn't worth reading in 19th century literature. It's a bit repetitive, since the reviews were clearly not originally written to be read one after another, but they are insightful, clear, and not afraid to describe faults as well as strengths. Recommended.

Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein

There were a handful of Heinlein stories in here I hadn't read before, but it's been sitting on my to-be-reviewed shelf long enough that I don't recall the details. Heinlein remains a problematic fave.

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

A "Laundry Files" novel, in this one we swtich POV from Bob Howard to his wife, Mo O'Brien, who in this novel is put in charge of dealing with the outbreak of people with (what one might call) dark sorcerous gifts — but it's better to frame the narrative as "superpowers". When Stross writes a novel about people intentionally creative a narrative as a way to control magic, it's best to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Recommended.

Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber

Prequel to Death Troopers, this novel is about the origins of the zombie plague in the Star Wars universe. It suffers from none of our best-know characters being on-stage, but it's still grim, grisly, and fun. (It also suffers from a lack of first causes. It sometimes seems like, no matter how far back you go, everything worth learning in the Star Wars universe is based on earlier teachings, unto the dawn of time. People in this universe don't do science, they do library research.) Still, recommended, if you're into zombies.

The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty

Sequel to The Inquisitor's Apprentice, about turn-of-last-century magic amongst the immigrants in New York City. Like its predecessor, this novel does not shy away from the issues of the era, and the third act is marked by labor protests and Pinkerton violence. Recommended.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Another perfectly nice collection of stories, though it's been sitting on the review shelf long enough that the only one I recall is "Truth Is A Cave", which is creepy, and resonates with me qua father. Gaiman gets a little blithe with the need for real trigger warnings in the introduction; I suspect his poetics got ahead of his empathy for a minute.
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"Appendix N" is the list of books that inspired Gary Gygax in the creation of D&D.

Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson

In an alternate 20th century, a witch and a werewolf meet during wartime, get married, have a kid, and do all the things normal people do, like battle elementals and succubi. An interesting treatment of magic grounded in quasi-scientific principles, while also being a mild social satire, especially of mid-20th century college life.

The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt

A psychologist figures out the rules for interworld travel, and how to do magic once there, and gets variously transported to Germanic myth, The Faerie Queen and Orlando Furioso. Therein, maiden-rescuing and occasional racist stereotypes abound.

Under The Green Star by Lin Carter

A gentleman from our world learns how to cast his spirit free of the flesh, and travels to a far-distant planet, where he occupies a local, mighty-thewed body, and proceeds to have adventures very much in the Conan-John Carter mold. This 1970s novel is a conscious attempt to write in the style of the 1930s, and the results are sometimes lovely, sometimes risible.

The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer

Second in the World Of Tiers series, in which a man from our world passes through into a newtwork of universes forged and linked by petty gods. In this volume, he's stuck with his rotten demigod siblings, and together they have to solve a deadly multi-world maze. Interesting setpieces, but (ironically) tepid worldbuilding.

The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp

A reluctant adventurer must first escape his own execution, before he can travel among assorted fantasy kingdoms at the beck and call of a wizard who's trying to make his way to a magic-user's convention. A brief stop in 20th century America livens up the early chapters, and once again establishes that Appendix N fantasy had a very tough time letting go of our world.

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

An alien spaceship lands in medieval England, and is siezed by the locals, who proceed to wreak interstellar havoc through luck and guile. Interesting science fantasy, though it can be very hard to suspend your disbelief.
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Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes

An interesting, if brief, history of the invention of spread-spectrum technology, and the role Hedy Lamarr played in it. Reasonably insightful and fun.

Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

I found this to be one of the duller novels in the Vorkosigan Saga. It's mostly about setting up a happy ending for Cordelia, and elaborating on the romantic life she and her late husband led. There's some minor social conflict, and a brief action scene, but not a lot actually happens. The Vorkosigan Saga moves all over the genre map, and it's fine for it to move into territory uninteresting to me, so others may like it better.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Her second trilogy in this world, this is another epic work, revolving around ships, traders, and pirates, where any of the above may not be quite what they seem. Unlike the first Fitz trilogy, this one has many different POV characters, all of them tragic to one degree or another. Most of the plot revolves around one particular trader family, whose ship, made of wizardwood, acquires sentience just in time for everything to go horribly wrong. Gripping, rending, recommended.

Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro

The first volume in a comics series, this is an SF dystopia where social conformity, especially for women, is rigidly enforced. "Bad" women are sent to a prison planet, where the only way to improve their lot is in a game that is de facto gladiatorial combat. Dark and satricial, but don't be fooled: All of the issues presented here are embedded in today's society. Not for the meek, but recommended.
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The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle

I didn't get far into this book before it became obvious it was a social allegory for something (and a "this pretty awful bunch of people are meant to represent some American minority" sort of allegory), so I checked the Wikipedia article, and decided to give it a pass.

Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore

It's a perfectly nice omnibus collection of stories, some of which I quite like, but there are enough that have dated badly that I only made it about 2/3rds through. The highlight for me was "Nothing But Gingerbread Left", in which the Nazis are defeated by memetics.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I admire her craft, here, but spending a novel's worth of time with people this unpleasant was simply not gonna happen.

Existence by David Brin

It has been long enough since I set this down, that I don't remember precisely what turned me off, but I seem to recall that the intro chapters spent too much time wallowing in people being partisan and dumb? Or somesuch?
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The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

These fantasy novels were, I believe, recommended to me by my boss. I got halfway into the first volume, and promptly ordered the next two, 'cause OMG. A six-year-old boy learns he's the bastard son of the heir to the throne. The only safe role he can play in life is to be a King's Man: an agent of the throne or, more bluntly, an assassin. Court politics and tragedy ensue for the next 1500 pages. Gripping, interesting worldbuilding, recommended. (Individual titles are Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest.)

Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn

I enjoyed rereading Lynn's Tornor trilogy recently, so I dug up a couple more of her fantasies. (I accidentally read them in the wrong order.) They are set in a fantasy world where some people are shapeshifters, able to turn into wolves, hawks, or dragons. The dragon-blooded protagonist of these books is a local king, who must deal with bandits and betrayal. They're quite good, but they are obviously the first two books of a trilogy, and Lynn has said she's unlikely to write the third, darnit. I may keep the first, as it's a good novel in itself, but the second may go into the giveaway bin.

A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson

A perfectly good adaptation of the classic novel, though I'd like if it had been in full color. The adaptor makes good use of the medium.

The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg

For some reason it took me a long time to get through this steampunk horror novel. Our heroine is Ember Quatermain (daughter of AQ), who must deal with necromantic mysteries and dissolute charmers. While there's a lot in the premise to like, I never felt really engaged.

The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein

A dry but solid guide to RPG fantasy worldbuilding though, again, it didn't really engage me.

Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton

Wheaton reminisces about the first half of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is a lot of fun, and Wheaton waxes and wanes from fondly nostalgic to vituperative (regarding the very bad episodes). He and I are of an age, and I find his perspective very familiar. I hope for sequels.

A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman

A functional history of Lego, with just enough intriguing little secrets revealed.
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Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling

Volume two in this series, in which Dirk deals with fame, family, infamy, and choosing between reputation and friendship. They step back a bit from the fantastic elements of the first volume, here, but that doesn't stop the adventure.

All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen

Sam Wilson is currently Captain America, and Marvel has not been shy in dealing with people's reactions to a black Cap. Racists (conscious and un) abound. This volume, however, particularly deals with one likely racist, Steve Englehart. When Sam Wilson was first introduced, he was as much of a paragon as any superhero; a brave, kind, social worker. In the mid-70s, Steve Englehart wrote a Cap story in which it was revealed that Sam was actually a former crook, "Snap" Wilson, reformed into a good man by the Red Skull's cosmic cube. Over the course of the next four decades, the Snap persona got retconned away in bits and pieces by an assortment of less-racist writers, and in this volume, it is made clear once and for all that "Snap" was the actual creation of the Skull. Sam is and always has been a good man, not a crook. He reflects, "'Snap' Wilson does haunt me. Not because it was ever true -- but because they expected me to believe it. That it was so damned obvious to them that's what I should have been. That they chose that story -- and for all the reasons they chose it."
In story, he's talking about the Red Skull and his minions, but this is actually a message about the misguided men (Englehart among them) who decided that the "real" story of Sam Wilson was that, as a black man, he wasn't allowed to be a saint, he had to be a thug.

Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more

"Swords" is a massive crossover event featuring Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, Vampirella, Jungle Girl, the modern Kato, Lady Zorro, Miss Fury, and a bunch of other characters Dynamite Entertainment currently has the rights to. A mysterious hero called the Traveller must gather heroes from across the universes to fight the Prince Of All Universes, and his allies, including Mistress Hel, Purgatori, and Chastity. This volume has the strengths and weaknesses typical of such crossovers (vagueness of motive, obligatory hero fights, irrelevant side stories), but the character interactions are fun, and often insightful. Of the dozen or so artists, all are talented, and some are even not overly cheesecakey.

Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster

While not every story in this anthology is a winner, on balance it's a keeper. Recommended.

The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Interesting deconstructrionist take on Snow White & Sleeping Beauty, with lovely illustrations. Plus, twist ending!

Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic

I confess the greatest weakness of this volume is that it's too short. The multiverse has ended, and Doctor Doom has built a new Earth from the shards left behind. He rules over it with a fist as benevolent as he can manage, but everything is warped by his obsessions. A motley collection of heroes from the previous universes come to his world, and scrape together a revolution. There are lots of very clever bits, such as "I am Groot!" and "The title's not honorary." Though, I gotta say, I wonder if the cover was intended to be so blatant an homage to Crisis On Infinite Earths.

How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando

This is primarily a guide to artistic techniques, not advice on worldbuilding. Within those bounds, it's excellent at what it does, with lots of advice on the best ways to represent mountains, rivers, seas, cities, and ruins; and how to draw decorative borders, heraldic details, and the like. If you're looking to create a prop for your roleplaying campaign, or a map to go in the opening pages of your fantasy novel, this is the book to get.

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley

I confess I was expecting Savage Worlds to be something other than, basically, a lighter form of GURPS, but it fills that niche well. Given my background, I'll use GURPS instead, but that's not a vote against it.

Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley

In the 1970s, Spacecraft: 2000-2100 AD fired my young mind, and is one of the forces that set the course of my life. It was the first volume of the Terran Trade Authority series, and with my acquisition of Spacewreck, 40 years later, I now have the complete set. Few of the books have been as good as Spacecraft, but I imagine a portion of that is rose-colored nostalgia. This volume does have a weakness, in that many of the wrecks are "unknown kind of ship, wrecked in unknown manner". Seriously, a wreck can be dramatic without being mysterious. Still, there are story nuggets here to spark the brains of kids both 7 and 47.
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Chainmail Bikini by divers hands

A nice Kickstart'd anthology of stories about girl gamers, by girl gamers, many of whom had to deal with heinous sexism. Worth a read for anyone in the gaming industry, especially in this day and age where misogyny is practically institutionalized in the industry. Recommended, though there's some predictable variation in quality.

Lumberjanes v1 and v2 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, and Allen

Girls go to camp. Girls make friends. Weird girls make weird friends. Weird girls have weird adventures when three-eyed foxes and secret caves start popping up. And does Miss Crumpet know more than she's telling? You betcha! A fun story about campers defeating evil through cleverness, friendship, and the occasional fist to the snoot, recommended.

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

A little girl finds a little robot, who has just escaped from the factory. They become friends, but then someone comes looking for their lost property... I picked this up because I like any story about technologically inclined little girls, but it may be a while before I let Roo read it. Our heroine's parents are absent or direly neglectful, and she makes some fairly awful decisions along the road to friendship. Still, recommended.

Princess Ugg v1 and v2 by Naifeh, Wuginigh

Another entry in the current rich crop of deconstructive princess comics, our heroine here, Ulga, is a princess of a pseudo-Norse civilization, living high in the mountains and fighting debilitating wars with the giants. They decide they need to learn "diplomacy", and send her to Princess School to learn it. Since Ulga is short, broad, fiercely strong, lethal with an axe, but unfamiliar with reading and indoor plumbing, there's a bit of a culture clash. She eventually gains the respect of most of the other princesses, but her roommate is a Bitcherella who is slower to warm. And then a big conspiracy pops up, and the princesses need to save their kingdoms... Recommended.

S.H.I.E.L.D. by Waid, et al

This is an attempt to create a team something like the TV show's team within the Marvel Comics Universe. Coulson leads, May, Fitz, and Simmons are introduced, and the writing is as snappy as the show, but the plots are very different. Coulson's Captain America fanboyness is here translated into fanboyness for all supers, and his value to SHIELD is thus that he always knows who's the perfect super for a given job. We thus get fun team-ups and big fights that the show couldn't afford. Waid is ever-reliable (though his characters tend to speechify), and this is recommended.

Books!

Sep. 4th, 2015 07:38 pm
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)

Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke

I recently re-read this minor Clarke classic about a cold war in space briefly flaring hot. It's interesting how civil everyone is. Very British -- right down to the sexual mores. Mildly recommended.

Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers by Wendy N. Wagner

A tie-in novel to the Pathfinder RPG, the plot is about a single mom ex-pirate viking dealing with an invasion of shapeshifters. Fun, light, mildly recommended.

Beyond The Shadows by Brent Weeks

The conclusion to the Night Angel trilogy, which I've read over a span of maybe six years. Lots goes on in this one, as all our minor heroes ramp up into world-shakers, just in time for the apocalypse. I like fantasy series about assassins, especially when moral dilemmas crop up, as they do all over the place in this one. Mildly recommended.

Earthsea 4, 5, and 6 by Ursula K. LeGuin

I recenetly re-read the original Earthsea trilogy, and decided to push on through the rest of the series. The last three books are obviously fix-fics for the first three, as LeGuin retcons the heck out of how magic works in her world. In particular, in the first three magic was the domain of men only, and preferably celibate men, and in these books that point of view is revealed to be fundamentally flawed. The climax of the last book is a bit anti-, but it nicely sews up the new understanding of magic. Recommended.

Engineering Infinity and Edge Of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

While anthologies are not really my thing, these are both solid collections of modern SF. Recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)

The Courageous Princess v1 & 2, by Rod Espinosa

These are the first two volumes in a graphic novel trilogy, set in the after-the-fairy-tales land of the Hundred Kingdoms. Our heroine is a young princess (descended from Aladdin on one side the the Charmings on the other) who is kidnapped by a dragon, and has to decide whether to play the role of princess, or actually change the world. Fun, pretty, my daughter likes it, and nicely walks the deko-reko divide. Recommended.

Raygun Chronicles, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

This is a Kickstart'd anthology of space opera stories, many of which are not space opera, and many of which reminded me of my own juvenilia, which is not an endorsement, but may be praising with faint damns. And, my goodness, many of these authors are nostalgic for Firefly...

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic novel about Bechdel's relationship with her mother, sequel to the volume about her father, which I have not yet read. It's intensely meta, since most of her relationship with her mother during the time the book was being written is, of course, about the book itself. The relationship itself is one of those strained ones you get between two smart liberal women who are nevertheless of two different generations.

Valor's Trial and The Truth Of Valor by Tanya Huff

These are the fourth and fifth novels in Huff's military SF series about Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, as she learns some dark secrets about the war that has molded her life, and tries to break that mold. Excellent, recommended.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight, Scoundrels, Allegiance, Choices Of One, and Survivor's Quest by Timothy Zahn

I've been making an effort to read all of Zahn's Star Wars fiction, and these were the last five prose novels on that list. Flight and Quest are about a massive exploration spaceship launched by the Republic shortly before the Clone Wars, which enters Chiss space and encounters one of Zahn's signature characters, the military genius Thrawn. The first book is the expedition itself, the second book is Luke and Mara Jade exploring its wreckage, after the fall of the Empire. Allegiance and Choices are set during the Rebellion, and are about Mara Jade and a squad of stormtroopers, all of whom, despite loyalty to the Empire, not exactly the bad guys. And Scoundrels is a caper book starring Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando. All are quite good, all explore the various nuances of the Star Wars universe that Lucas doesn't, and all are recommended.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

This is a fabulous new fantasy trilogy, revolving around an extremely dysfunctional family of gods, who tend to wander through human lives and wreck them. It's a testament to Jemisin's writing ability that they can remain sympathetic even after, for instance, slaughtering 30 humans just for being in the way. Jemisin was a guest at the last Arisia, and I chickened out of getting her autograph twice, but I'll not miss that opportunity in the future. Very recommended.

Shock: Social Science Fiction by Joshua A.C. Newman

Excellent little roleplaying game focused on exploring the future shock caused by SF ideas on society and people. I got to talk to Newman about it at Arisia, very briefly, and he said it was in part a response to Steve Jackson Games' Transhuman Space, which I did some work for. It's certainly better suited to the task of exploring mad ideas than the somewhat mechanistic GURPS system. Recommended.

Jack Kirby: A Personal Look by Jeremy Kirby

This Kickstart'd book consists of some rare photos of Kirby, "King Of Comics", some familial musings, and a previously unpublished teleplay of his, "The Frog Prince". (It's clearly intended for television, since it opens with a tight shot on a photo in someone's hand, with plot relevance.) The teleplay is an interesting mid-20th century story about family, dreams, and tragedy, and owes a bit to "Death Of A Salesman". Interesting, but not especially recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)

Designers & Dragons: A History Of The Roleplaying Game Industry in four volumes, by Shannon Appelcline

This is an exhaustive, detailed, and somewhat dry history of the roleplaying industry. It is organized into the histories of publishers, then grouped into decade by the date the company started publishing RPGs (and then loosely arranged into categories based on nebulous themes like "used to publish wargames" or "universal publishers"). This means things jump around a little; the history of D&D starts out in the 70s volume, then resumes in the 90s volume under Wizards, then gets all its branches handled in the 00s volume for d20 publishers and Paizo. However, it's as good a sorting system as any. I, personally, found these books fascinating and nostalgic, but someone with less direct involvement in the RPG field could well be bored to tears. I also never caught the author making an error of fact, though my expertise is sharply focussed.

The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One

My fondness for classic SF is vast and deep, and Hamilton has written some fine tales, but this volume of repetitive pulp world-in-peril stories from the 1920s bored me to the point I didn't finish it. I recommend sticking with his later work.

Oceanic by Greg Egan

This collection overlaps heavily with Egan's Crystal Nights, so this is only a review of the four stories not contained in that book. "Dark Integers" is a sequel to "Luminous", and is the tale of a conflict between two different branches of mathematics, with terrifying human cost when calculus stops working right. "Riding The Crocodile" and "Glory" are set in the same utopian universe as Incandescence, and are both about seeking out truth when the locals don't necessarily want you around. And, "Oceanic" is about neurochemistry and religion, and how to preserve faith when miracles have mundane causes. All are good, and Egan is always recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Roo 1)
I am by nature a tidy and organized person, and my daughter is, well, three years old. So, she and I playing with the same Legos is a process of compromise. She has learned that when something is dropped on the floor, one has to pick it up immediately. I, in turn, am learning to be cool with the fact that my minifigures are never going to have the correct hairpieces again. Ever.

(She is currently very fond of putting rockstar hair and motorcycle helmets onto the Friends and Elves characters. She's a little disappointed that robot and alien heads sized for classic minifigs won't fit on minidolls. And she requires more jetpacks. JETPACKS FOR ALL THE GIRLS.)
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)
Code Monkey Save World by Pak, Coulton, et al
Supergods by Grant Morrison
Anything That Loves, edited by Charles "Zan" Christensen
Eternal Flame by Greg Egan
The Book of Skaith by Leigh Brackett
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Girls Will Be Girls by JoAnn Deak, PhD.
Too Many Women by Rex Stout
Women And Other Constructs by Carrie Cuinn
How To Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself by Robert Paul Smith
Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Sinful Ones by Fritz Leiber
Railsea by China Miéville
Defending Middle-Earth by Patrick Curry
Batman: Murderer and Fugitive by Divers Hands
Mining The Oort by Frederik Pohl
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Gundam 00F by Kouichi Tokita
Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
The Winds Of Change by Isaac Asimov
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century v1 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Ringworld, The Graphic Novel, Part One by Niven, Mandell, Lam
The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman
Marvel Masterworks: Warlock v1 by Thomas, Kane, Freidrich, Brown, et al
Atomic Robo And The Fighting Scientists (v1) by Clevinger & Wegener
Comic Book Babylon by Tim Pilcher
Marvel Masterworks: The Black Panther v1 by McGregor, Buckler, & Graham
Lady Sabre & The Pirates Of The Ineffable Aether: Book I by Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett
Warlock by Jim Starlin
Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry (allegedly)
Star Wars: From The Adventures Of Luke Skywalker by George Lucas (allegedly)
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
War Stories, edited by Gates & Liptak
The Arrows Of Time by Greg Egan
The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross
Holding Wonder by Zenna Henderson
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Unicorn Variations by Roger Zelazny
The Third Level by Jack Finney
The Stars Are Ours! by Andre Norton
The Practice Effect by David Brin
Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer
A Confederation Of Valor and The Heart Of Valor by Tanya Huff
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
The Human Division by John Scalzi
In Search Of Wonder 3e by Damon Knight

The raw count there is 50, though some are short comics, and some I didn't finish. That's a very low number for me, but it was a busy year...
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)

Thongor And The Wizard Of Lemuria by Lin Carter

A Conan-clone, this is a thin but entertaining book, first in a series. I liked Thongor's quirk of, whenever he gets imprisoned, his first act is to try and wheedle food out of the jailer. Mildly recommended if you're into Conan-clones.

The Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Third in the Locke Lamora series, in this volume our gentleman thieves once again get blackmailed into using their powers for evil, and we learn a lot more about their history. The end sets up a nasty fourth volume. (Not that there wasn't plenty of nast in this one.) Recommended.

Space Trap by Juanita Coulson

A volume from the "Laser Books" series, this one is about two intrepid space scouts who get caught up in a first contact diplomatic incident. Our hero falls for one of the alien girls, etc. Feels a lot like it was written by a man in the 1950s, not a woman in the 1970s, but readable. Mildly recommended.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

Our heroine is a young woman living by the sea, who gets caught up in royal politics and inheritance, much to her annoyance, since she'd rather be left alone with her grief. I do like how McKillip sets up romantic expectations, then ignores or subverts them, rather than forcing her characters into worn tropes. Recommended.

Red Sonja by Gail Simone

Gods bless Simone for saving Sonja from endless repeats. This interpretation of Sonja discards a lot of her backstory, invents new stuff, and even gets her out of the chainmail bikini and into sensible clothes surprisingly often. And, she lives up to her barbarian background by being more interested in her next meal, drink, and bed than pesky things like quests. Nevertheless, she has a distinct sense of honor, and is quick to make bonds with the worthy. Very recommended.

Legenderry by Willingham, Davila, et al

This is a massively multicharacter steampunk crossover, featuring the Phantom, Vampirella, Zorro, the Bionic Man, the Green Hornet, Kato, Red Sonja, Flash Gordon, and others in a road trip to save the world. It's a bit much for one 7-issue comic book series, but it sets up an engaging world, walks us through it with Sonja's sister as our guide, and every hero gets a brief chance to shine. By contrast, the villains are sadly neglected — when Ming the Merciless' major contribution to a story is to sit in a committee looking menacing, he's being misused. Still, there's no shortage of fun here, and the sequels are already on the stands. Recommended.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

After a couple chapters of this post oil-dystopia, I couldn't help feel that it was just a reskin of some bad cyberpunk novel from the 80s, including the racism-in-the-name-of-multiculturalism and obsession with techno-whores. I didn't finish it.

On The Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds

Conspiracies and politics surround a trip to explore a giant alien artifact on an extrasolar planet. While the journey is worthy, the climax is very typical Reynolds. Still, I wasn't bored, and he uses tech in interesting ways. Recommended.

Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross

This is an interstellar combo of capers, where the McGuffin is the crypto-keys to lock a doomsday device. The bad guys are creepy, and creepily familiar, the good guys are entertainingly flawed, and the climax is intense. Recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Riven Book)

Unicorn Variations by Roger Zelazny

This story collection has been sitting in my to-review pile for awhile, so I don't recall specifics, but Zelazny is always very readable.

The Third Level by Jack Finney

Another collection, this one mostly focused on escaping the banalities of mid-20th century American suburbia — or, alternately, fleeing to it. There's the usual rose-glassed nostalgia for eras that were lovely to live in, if you were a rich white male, but it's still a good collection.

The Stars Are Ours! by Andre Norton

A near-future technophobic tyranny sets the scene. Our heroes fight, then flee to another world, with its own menaces, both alive and archaeological. Not Norton's best, and I always wish she'd use her female characters better, but still a keeper.

The Practice Effect by David Brin

An early Brin novel, in which our hero is stuck in an alternate world where tools become better the more they're used. Thus, rich people pay poor people to wear their clothes for them, eat off their dishes, etc. Our hero has some light sword-n-sorcery style adventures, triumphs over evil, and sets up a sequel, which never happened. Good "what if" SF, recommended.

Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer

Hard-boiled detective adventures on Mars, often focusing on the questions of identity that non-SF pulp loved even without the aid of cloning, brain transplants, etc. The pulp trappings make it a bit sexist, but it's still worthwhile.

A Confederation Of Valor and The Heart Of Valor by Tanya Huff

These two books include three novels about space marine Sergeant Kerr, a woman who is very good at her job. I really adore them; the military details are good, the tech is consistent, the reasons why people are still using ground troops are solid, and the adventures are exciting. Recommended.

Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

I wasn't sure if I was going to pick up v2 of this low fantasy trilogy, but it was on sale, so... Our assassin hero's life continues to suck, even as he gains more power and becomes more embroiled in international politics. And he just can't seem to get out of the game. Dark, not high art, but evocative and colorful. Recommended.

The Human Division by John Scalzi

The continuing story of the Old Man's War universe, in which humanity is trying to cling to its foothold in the stars with hostile aliens at every turn. Morally complex stories ensue. Recommended.

In Search Of Wonder 3e by Damon Knight

This is a collection of SF criticism, mostly dating from the 1950s-1960s. Knight is a fine critic, but my problem with his attitude can be summed up in one quote: "The humbling truth is that science fiction is only for the small number of people who like to think and who regard the universe with awe, which is a blend of love and fear. 'The public' does neither."

Oh, retch.

First, sir, you don't understand the word "humble", because this quote is not it. Two attitudes SF never needed, and certainly no longer needs, are A) that we are a persecuted minority, and B) that we are better and smarter than "the public". Both may have some slight basis in fact. Both do nothing good for the fan who believes them, or for the genre as a whole. (And note how many of the great SF novels are about the persecution of someone smarter or stronger than the persecutors. (Though that's not uncommon in other genres, either.))

The book also contains many, many instances of SF gatekeeping, where Knight defines SF as tightly as he can in order to say, "This book is not SF." I don't have much patience for that sort of snobbery. The boundaries of a genre are often where the most interesting work is done.

And along the way he redefines "sci-fi" to mean "science fiction I want to sneer at", thus tainting the harmless abbreviation for an entire generation.

So, eh, lots of useful criticism (notably his demolition of Van Vogt's The Players Of Null-A,) but it's surrounded by many bad habits of SF thought.
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