Firing up the rarely used blog to put down a few thoughts on a myriad of books I have completed recently...
Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher was a fantastic read. I have liked all the Dresden File books so far and as a writer, Mr. Butcher continues to get better. The first few were definitely rough around the edges, but still contained interesting characters in tough situations. With the most recent outing, we pick up at the end of Ghost Story and the return of Harry. Again we watch as Harry is put into terrible situations where he doesn't have to good sense to end it all and manages to come out the other side, definitely worse for wear and with more burdens. While all the books in the series follow this same sort of pattern, this one does a fantastic job of really opening up new realms of possibilities in the story line as well as expanding on the depth of his created world. Just like a piece of candy, I really can't wait for the next one to come out. Also kudos to Amazon for quickly replacing my first copy which had a printing error within a day of contacting them.
Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson is a book that my friends have been nagging me to read for quite some time. While this falls under the category of hard science fiction, it also really puts a strong emphasis on the human and social aspects. Even though this book came out 20 years ago, it still evokes the same fear of large powerful corporations who will exploit all to reaches higher into the monetary stratosphere. It talks of people who try to work within that system to save humanity. It talks of people bucking the system to save humanity. It tells also of the futility of the effort and the mass destruction that people cause wherever they go. The book's pacing is on the slow side and is definitely not for the faint of heart as this book is fairly massive, but I found it thought provoking and will be starting the next book shortly.
A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson finally completes the Wheel of Time series started in 1990. The series itself has sort of a love - hate relationship with me as I truly enjoyed the first few books but at some point it began to drag and the number of side characters sort of exploded, only to be made worse that a lot of the side characters were more interesting than some of the main characters. The final book is sort of a love fest for all the readers that have stuck with the series so far. Some characters die and some live through the final battle and we really get a chance to have at least a paragraph with all of them. This book is also massive and the last battle is a large chunk of the book, but most of the book is actually spent on 3 battles leading up to the last battle. This choice was probably deemed necessary in the tale, but for me was just wasted space. In the end of it all, I am glad to say that it is over. I don't regret the love that I have for the first few books, but I can't say I have enjoyed the last half of the series. What is made worse is that many of the characters in this book just don't feel like the characters that Robert Jordan would have written. While the female characters finally get some depth, the male characters all go through a change that makes them feel just untrue to their origin as well as the experiences that they have gone through.
Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips and The Lazy Dungeon Master by Mike Shea where some pretty good reads for the DM that wants to spend more time playing with his players than crafting an intricate story line. I have spent a lot of time in the last 2 years trying to figure out the best to do collaborative storytelling. I have read a lot of works and also gone about it from the player side. I don't think I have the right answer, but a lot of the reading has definitely put me on a stronger path. At some point, I will have to start putting down some of the ideas and approaches I have taken. That said, I can definitely recommend these books in you are interesting in doing DM work as it works hard to take the work out and put more control back into the hands of the players.
The Human Division #1: The B-Team, The Human Division #2: Walk the Plank, and The Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads by John Scalzi are part of an episodic experiment in writing where the stories range from short story to novella in length released on a weekly time table. The stories all take part in the "Old Man's War" universe and are told from the standpoint of a bunch of characters experiencing the universe after John Perry brings Earth to the galactic table. While the "pilot" book felt a bit rough getting started, I have found that they are addictive and hard to put down (making their shortness all the more painful). And while they are short stories, you can definitely see the pattern that is forming and the deeper story line emerging from the pieces.