As a slight change of pace, I decided to review some books I have read recently. I do read things beyond game books. I know it comes as a surprise. I felt like I had things to say about these books and recommendations to make. I enjoyed these 4 books and thought I would share my thoughts on them with you. I am unlikely to waste time on books I didn’t enjoy, after all.
Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn.
I have always loved the character of Thrawn. The recent reboot of the character in Star Wars Rebels and his own novel have been satisfying. When Zhan writes him now, it is very much Sherlock Thrawn as most of his action is tied to finding the secrets behind things. It is less about his tactical superiority and more about his ability to deduce what is actually going on.
Thrawn Alliance is about his adventures with Darth Vader. It also shows flash backs of him meeting Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. This switching back and forth does give some nice contrast to the story. Thrawn of course can see through the “Darth Vader” disguise but I wont spoil how that plays out. You get a few more hints about the Chis and their world.
This book happens before the last season of Rebels. It is pretty kid friendly, for the most part. It was pretty good overall, though the ending is a little weaker than I would have liked. I feel like the really interesting Thrawn story has yet to be told and the book feels a little to restrained. Still enjoyed it though.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This is a really good read. The premise is post apocalyptic fantasy, not unlike some Jack Vance stories, or the game Numenera, but also uniquely its own thing. The prose has a nice flow to it. The only bit that took me a minute to get used to was the parts written in a second person perspective, but I loved the story enough that this eventually seemed natural.
The world she describes is compelling an interesting. There is a lot of darkness to it, but I would not call it “grimdark” or anything like that. IT is definitely not your standard fantasy world which is Europe with the serial numbers filed off. This world feels realized and breathing, and familiar in some ways, but it has enough surprises to make it feel fresh. I want to read the rest of the series now. She won a Hugo for it recently and, judging from the first book, a well deserved one.
The Armored Saint by Myke Cole.
I deeply dig the Armored Saint. My biggest complaint at this point is that I don’t have the next book to begin reading right now. This is nominally a young adult story, though it is a bit darker than many. I would say teen friendly, but not young teens
The actual promised action in the book happens late in the book. It involves a teenage girl, broken and battered, driving a power armor into battle against a supernatural horror. That only occupies a small part of the book, though. The rest is letting you get to know the people in the story and see the world they live in. The first book establishes the world of common people living in fear of hell and those who serve heaven(ie the nominal church in the setting). It does definitely feel like a first book in a series, but a satasfying one.
The next book comes out in September. It will be mine….oh yes.
The Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer
So this is a biography of Gary Gygax. If you are a gamer, you likely will have an interest in such things. I am not the historical scholar that Jon Peterson is, but at least some of this story is familiar to me. I think Gygax is definitely deserving of a deeper look, but he also was not the sole reason for D&D creation or success. A lot of this story is kind of told from his perspective, and that means some of the other perspectives get less justice than they probably deserve. It does not spend a lot of energy explaining how Dave Arneson has an equal claim to being a creator of D&D and a few other folks besides. IT doesn’t completely discount them, but the narrow focus does mean you miss out on some of their stories.
That said, the narrative is pretty good and paints a version of Gygax that is sort of like a Walter Mitty like character who lives so much inside his fantasy worlds that it drove him to greater things. It is worth a read and involved some stories had not heard before. The story of him in Hollywood was worth the price of entry alone. I did listen to the audiobook which is read by the writers brother, voice actor Sam Witwer who did a solid job bringing it to life.