Quagmire: The Making of a 1980’s D&D Module

Fans of D&D might find this article by Jon Peterson, that details the lifecycle of a 1980s D&D module, an interesting read.

Also, props to Mr. Peterson on the subtle allusion to the Nine Hells.


Quagmire: The Making of a 1980’s D&D Module — Medium
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Quick Shot: Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans | Gallery, 2014

Chris Evan received some buzz for his Iron Elves series and in 2013 released a nonfiction title Bloody Jungle: The War in Vietnam; a photographic history of the Vietnam War. It is this last title that leads most directly into Of Bone and Thunder a novel which reads as a sort of fantastical reimagining of the Vietnam War. There are many aspects of Of Bone and Thunder that work and when the novel is firing on all cylinders it is an entertaining and enthralling read that stands toe to toe with much of the military fiction (both fantastical and not) that came before it. However, it also a novel held back by the aspects that don’t quite work.

My primary concern of Of Bone and Thunder is its lack of focus. There are roughly three main threads of the narrative that of the patriotic Thaum Jawm Rathim, the soldier Carny and his squad, and the Thaum Breeze and the Rag driver Vorly. While the broad focus on these three narratives helps to increase the scope of the novel and provide a more complete picture of the different aspects of the war they also make it difficult to form an emotional connection with the characters. While Evans details the war effort from the ground, from the air, and through Jawm indicates the perception of war on the home front the focus remains on the experiences of the characters in the story and readers are only ever privy to what the characters know never more. So while Evans does hint at bigger currents running through the military and political landscape of the novel those hints never truly mature into anything. The weakest part of the story for me was the tale of Carny and his squad. It was perhaps the most familiar part of the story and the Vietnam analogues were perhaps a bit too on the nose. Evans’ attention to Jawm’s patriotic idealism and its slow degradation over the course of the novel felt a bit more solid and while not necessarily fresh ground still felt like more fertile ground for the story. This is doubly so for the Dragon (Rag) driver Vorly and his new sorceress (Thaum) co-rider Breeze. Evans hits it out of the park with the Dragons in this novel walking a thin line between the notion of dragons as beasts of burden and as so tough as to be sort of machine-like; their maintenance and upkeep not dissimilar to planes or helicopters. The relationship between Vorly and Breeze is also handled nicely as the use of magic as a communication method between Dragons is new. It provides an interesting complication and Vorly’s struggle to adapt to the presence of not just to a thaum but a female thaum make these chapters easy to engage with. Evans even manages to work into a bit of a relationship triangle once Jawm steps into the mix. The characterization of Jawm, Vorly, and Breeze just felt more original than the sort of stereotypical roles and personalities that were assigned to Carny and the squad.

Of Bone and Thunder is an interesting novel that stands well on its own. I’m not clear on whether it is the start of a series or not but I’d definitely be interesting in seeing more. Of Bone and Thunder is by no means a perfect novel but it succeeds far more often then it fails. By and large Evans tells a massive story that manages to transport the reader into a jungle hellhole and walk them back out again; though not unchanged. Of Bone and Thunder is a stand out novel that fantasy fans looking for something a bit different should definitely give a shot.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

The Deep by Nick Cutter | January, 2015

Nick Cutter, the pseudonymous author of The Troop, will release his second novel The Deep on January 13, 2015. In The Deep a strange disease called the ‘Gets has ravaged humanity attacking peoples’ minds forcing them to forget things until even their most basic abilities to function disappear. With no cure in a sight a special research station deep within the Marianias trench, the Trieste, offers the faintest glimmer of hope. Luke, a veterinarian, has been called to this research station since it his brilliant scientist brother Clayton who is spearheading the research deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Luke must descend into the dark depths of the ocean, into an alien landscape, in order to find his brother and discover what type of cure has been dredged up from the depths.

Continue reading “The Deep by Nick Cutter”

Valor by John Gwynne

Valor by John Gwynne | Orbit Books, 2014

Malice, the first book in The Faitful and the Fallen series was an entertaining debut to a new series. Valor picks up mere moments after the last novel as Corban, Edana, and the handful who escaped the taking of Dun Carreg make their getaway. As in Malice, Gwynne walks a nice middle ground with his prose. There is a darkness to Valor, with the odds stacked against the heroes and with the people (at least some of them) firmly on the “villainous” side of things not necessary villains themselves. There is violence in the novel but nothing over-the-top though Valor delves a bit further into murky waters when it comes to sexuality; a fact I’ll touch on later. By and large this is an excellent continuation of the series managing a brisk pace while simultaneously deepening the lore of the world that Gwynne has created.

Continue reading “Valor by John Gwynne”

Quick Shot: Sword of the Bright Lady by M. C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck | Pyr, 2014

When Christopher Sinclair takes a walk one night in Arizona he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange land gripped by a freezing winter. Sinclair is quickly quickly finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the titular Bright Lady as her consort, the God of War Marcius, offers an exchange: Christopher’s help in dealing with the the threat of war for Marcius’ help in returning to his wife and home. From its initial layout Sword of the Bright Lady there is a sense of familiarity to the tale that reminded me a bit of the Thomas Covenant or even A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court series but hearkens back even further to the old fairy stories of mortals wandering into strange in new lands full of magic and water.

Sword of the Bright Lady stretches credulity with Sinclair coming off a touch like a Mary Sue. He knows a bit too much to be able to survive in a pre-industrial society as he is able to bring techniques and technologies to bear in order to improve the quality of weapons and armor. Similar his prowess with a weapon, though below that of the native in the novel, is a bit too good for someone from our world. The world of Sword of the Bright Lady often feels familiar, particularly to anyone who has played a video game or enjoyed a session of Dungeons and Dragons. Magic-users are measured by rank and their power is increased by taking on the energy of expired lifeforms, particularly other ranked individuals. It comes off a little corny and a bit derivative but I none-the-less found myself enjoying the loosely explained narrative context for “levels” and “experience points.”

Sword of the Bright Lady isn’t a particularly great novel but it is an entertaining diversion. Planck leaves the mystery of the Sinclair’s journey between his world and the magical world largely in the dark. It’s something I’d like to have seen explained a little more. While the novel lacks depths it makes up for that lack with some excellent action scenes and the pure entertainment value of watching a headstrong, independent-minded American butt heads with a rigid feudal society. If you’re looking for a fun, goofy read Sword of the Bright Lady is worth a shot.