Review: Roadside Picnic

Roadside Picnic
Roadside Picnic

Roadside Picnic
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, trans by Olena Bormashenko
Chicago Review Press, 2012

I had previously tried to read the Gollancz SF Masterworks edition of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s classic novel Roadside Picnic but could never manage to get into it. Oddly neither Amazon or Goodreads lists translator prominently on their site, a serious omission, but the most recent translation of Roadside Picnic by Olena Bormashenko, released by Chicago Review Press, is a serious improvement over the Gollancz edition and well worth a look by science fiction fans. My interest in this novel while fueled by a desire to read more “classic” science fiction is of course tied to my enjoyment of the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and the film adaptation Stalker (the book even uses one of the films many striking images for its cover). Both game and film offer wildly different interpretations of the Strugatsky’s world and are there own unique entities.

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Review: The Thing Which Should Not Be by Brett J Talley

The Thing Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley
The Thing Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

The Thing Which Should Not Be
Brett J Talley
Journal Stone, 2011

Nominated for the 2011 Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel Brett J. Talley’s The Thing Which Should Not Be is send up to the classic occult horror of the early 19th to mid-20th centuries. The novel contains several nested narratives and is couched as a found document. As I’ve said in the past the sort of found material is a tradition that extends back as far as 1764 with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and later made most famous in Stoker’s Dracula. The Thing Which Should Not Be isn’t a complete epistolary but rather a single lengthy letter with several narrated sub-stories that inform the overarching, a somewhat tenuous narrative at the novel’s core.

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Review: The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron
The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Rebellion (The Legend of Eli Monpress #2)
Rachel Aaron
Orbit, 2010

Rachel Aaron is rapidly becoming one of my go-to authors for light, fun fantasy that will consistently plaster a smile on my face. A far cry from the scowling and grim-faced fantasy that I still enjoy Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress offers a more jubilant take on the genre that offers an original premise and a surprising, and ever-increasing depth. My thoughts on the series’ first novel The Spirit Thief can be found here and I’m rather ashamed to admit how long its taken me to get around to listening to the series’ second book The Spirit Rebellion.

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Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot, 2012

I first encountered Chuck Wendig’s writing over at his frequently funny, often insightful, and consistently entertaining blog Terrible Minds. The folks over at Angry Robot supplied an eARC of his novel Blackbirds which I snatched up at the first possible opportunity. Blackbirds follows the tale of Miriam Black whose strange ability allows her to perceive a person’s future with skin to skin contact. She has used this ability to travel the roads preying on those whose lives are soon to end. She isn’t a murderer, she just waits for fate to her thing. Such is Miriam’s life, a crow living of the leavings of other people’s lives, until she meets truck driver Louis Darling. In her vision of Louis’ future and inevitable death he shouts her name.

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Review: Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Scourge of the Betrayer
Jeff Salyards
Night Shade, 2012

Even with  the publisher’s description I’m sure that I would have made the connection myself but when reading Jeff Salyards’ Scourge of the Betrayer the inevitable comparison is with Glen Cook’s Black Company series. The structure bears some similarity, a military fantasy narrated by a man chronicling deeds, but both remain distinct. Scourge of the Betrayer is told from the perspective of Arki, a young scribe hired to record the deeds of a band of Syldoon warriors lead by Captain Braylar Killcoin. The Syldoon are warriors that border on legendary and it is Arki’s intent to determine how much of that legend was true. Arki, untrained in the ways of battle or the hardships of the road, is thrown into a dangerous mission that will test his dedication to uncovering the truth of the Syldoon and his desire to make his own name.

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Web Therapy: DM Burnout

This topic discussed quite a bit across the web but believe it or not this is the first time I’ve really run up against it myself. It’s one of those things that started slowly but has snowballed over the recent months. I don’t know how obvious my weariness is to my players but every time I sit down to DM now I cringe to think that my ennui is showing. Part of it is time, it’s weird but I feel like I had more time for gaming when I was in college with a full load of courses. When confronted with the choices of prep for a game, read, play a video game, or go for a run it almost pains me to say that prepping for a D&D is often the lowest on that list. (That’d be Symptom #3 on this list).

I think I’m at a point where my frustration with myself is starting to morph into frustration with my players. It often feels between the painting of miniatures, perusal of smartphones, and frequent nonsequitor conversations that people are often as disinterested in gaming as I am in running the game. I’d love to be able to say to myself that this purely a reflection of my own dissatisfaction but another part of me, which I do my best to silence, takes it a bit personally. It creates this vicious infinite loop that does little to help resolve the situation. (That’d be Sympton #6).

Every article I’ve looked at tells me the same thing: walk away from the GM’s seat. A part of me desperately clings to this campaign; particularly since things are close to a really good end game. If things are going to end properly for this campaign though I think I need to be as fresh faced and excited as I can and truthfully I’m just not there. I’m a little worried that if I walk away now we’ll never come back to it. There is a rational part of my brain that says that the notion of giving up shouldn’t bother me so much but the completionist part of my pysche is screaming in defiance.

Review: Invincible by Jack Campbell

Invincible by Jack Campbell
Invincible by Jack Campbell

Invincible (Beyond the Frontier #2)
Jack Campbell
Ace, 2012

A new Jack Campbell book is a drop everything and read, or in my case listen, affair. I have never been less than satisfied with any of the Lost Fleet novels and the most recent book Invincible is no different. For those who haven’t read the previous Lost Fleet series I highly highly recommend you go do so; particularly if you’re a fan of military science fiction. If you’ve read the previous series but haven’t jumped on board for Beyond the Frontier well…something is probably wrong with you and I can’t help. Both parties should be warned that this review will likely spoil both the previous series and the first Beyond the Frontier novel Dreadnaught.

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