Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 36 -- Logan's Run

by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson

Started: Oct. 9
Finished: Oct. 10

Notes: This is an example of why I love used book stores so much. If you take the time to peruse the shelves, you can find books you didn't know existed, or had forgotten they existed. This is the case for me. The original "Logan's Run" movie and television show were big when I was a kid, but all things science fiction were suddenly cool in the late '70s after the success of Star Wars, and I had forgotten that it had actually been a novel. A novel which I'd never read. I'm correcting that now. I hope it's good.

Mini review: This was just a fun adventure tale, but one with something to say. The novel and the movie (for those who remember it) are pretty similar until about the halfway point, then each verges off into different territory, with the novel having the more surprising and interesting ending. The novel also is much more gritty than the movie, reminding me somewhat of the worlds of Blade Runner and even The Running Man to some extent. All in all, I prefer the book over the movie.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 35 -- Ancient, My Enemy

by Gordon R. Dickson

Started: Oct. 5
Finished: Oct. 9

Notes: Having just enjoyed a novella of Dickson's, I thought it high time I read more from the man, so I turn to this 1974 collection of his short stories.

Mini review: There were some fine tales here, dated for sure but still enjoyable reads and not as dated as some of the author's contemporaries. Of these stories, the first one, which bears the same name as this collection, was one of my favorites, but favorite had to be the last story, "The Bleak and Barren Land," a story of what happens when a group of colonists find themselves confronting miners and aliens on a semi-populated planet.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 34 -- The Day the Sun Stood Still

by Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, and Robert Silverberg

Started: Sept. 27
Finished: Oct. 5

Notes: This is a collection of three science fiction novellas from the authors mentioned above, originally published in 1972.

Mini review: It turns out this collection is a themed one, based quite literally upon the title, The Day the Sun Stood Still. Editor Lester Del Rey gave these authors the task of writing stories based upon the notion of the sun standing still in the sky for one whole day, much as was purported to have happened a time or two in ancient times according to the Bible. All three stories have religious thought at their heart, but generally come to rather dark opinions concerning mankind, though not God. Of the three tales here, the longest, "Things Which Are Caesar's" by Gordon R. Dickson, proved to be my favorite, also being the tale that was most down-to-earth, in my opinion, focusing more upon how such events affect individuals rather than society (or the world) as a whole. I'd like to add that since I've been reading pre-1980 (or thereabouts) science fiction of late, I'm surprised how much of it has been related to religion; perhaps that has merely been a fluke, but it seems to me modern science fiction rarely touches the subject, though maybe that is understandable considering the vast political and social gulf that has arisen between science and religion during the last few decades. Also, it was somewhat eerie and frightening how much these forward-looking stories from 1972 mirrored the world we live in today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 33 -- Omnilingual

by H. Beam Piper

Started: Sept. 26
Finished: Sept. 27

Notes: My Kindle was looking pretty lonely, so I thought I'd pick it up for a short read. And since I've been reading some classic sci-fi of late, I thought I'd stick with it.

Mini review: This was a fun and interesting read. In the near future (1996 or thereabouts for this story's purposes), a group of archaeologists have taken on the job of excavating an ancient civilization found on the planet Mars. What follows is quite an interesting take on not only archaeology and how it could be applied to another planet and an intelligent alien species, but also how linguistics could be applied. This was definitely worth the read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 32 -- A Canticle For Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Started: Sept. 19
Finished: Sept. 26

Notes: Here's another classic work I've been meaning to read for years, this time science fiction.

Mini review: This covers particular points in the history of a monastery during an 1,800-year period following a nuclear war. That description pales to the reality, and even sounds trite to my ears, but it's basic enough without giving anything away. There is much in this book to digest, and it is a good book. A very good book. Easy to read but with hidden depths, I'm not convinced it's good enough to have earned the near-mythic reputation it holds in some circles, nor the extent of study that has been heaped upon it, but to quote the late John Gardner, I'm a believer of "criticism makes art sound more intellectual than it is ..." Still, definitely worth reading, even for folks who aren't fans of sci-fi.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 31 -- The Number of the Beast

by Robert A. Heinlein

Started: Sept. 1
Finished: Sept. 19

Notes: I've always appreciated and enjoyed Heinlein's work, but I've never read him as much as I probably should, so it is with some joy I jump into this one.

Mini review: I hate to say it, but this is the first time I felt Heinlein let me down. The basic plot is interesting enough, four more-or-less mathematicians/scientists use a device one of them created to travel to different universes (and eventually timelines), but from there everything seems to go wrong with the story. The story itself seems to take forever, with nothing overly interesting happening in the first two-thirds of the tale, and the characters themselves are their own biggest problem. Speaking of the characters, I might have found them interesting and maybe funny in my youth, but now they just came off as silly and often pompous to me. While the plot seems to have no real driving force and seems to go nowhere for the longest time, in the last third of the book this changes, but to no improvement. Suddenly appears a climax of sorts, but it really doesn't seem all that important. For one thing, there never seems to be any real danger to the characters. Then the last part of the book mixes various realities with fictional realities and characters, all becoming so self-referential to Heinlein's own works (thank goodness I've read enough to get most of the connections) and the works of other science fiction authors that it becomes rather trite and annoying. I think Heinlein meant all of this as sort of a love letter to science fiction, especially pulp fiction as this novel is written in a style more common to early pulps of the 1930s, but it fell flat for me. Maybe it was a novel for its time, or maybe it's a novel I should have read when I was younger (which would have been Heinlein's time), but whatever the case, this one didn't work for me. That doesn't mean I won't read more Heinlein. As an addition, I'd like to point out that this book was Heinlein's first after a seven-year illness that had temporarily halted his writing, so maybe he wasn't fully up to snuff. Or maybe I'm just dull enough not to find it interesting.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 30 -- Starfinder Core Rulebook

by Paizo Publishing

Started: Aug. 29
Finished: Sept. 2

Notes: This is the new science fantasy tabletop role-playing game from Paizo, based somewhat upon the rules for their Pathfinder game, also expanding on the timeline of that universe far into the future. Though fantasy has always dominated the RPG market, I do have a fondness for science fiction games, the old TSR Star Frontiers game of the early '80s being a favorite, so it seemed a natural for me to check this out.

Mini review: It's not likely I'll be playing this one, or that I'll become a fan of it, much for the same reasons I'm not a big Pathfinder player. For me, it's simply a too-detailed game, destroying imagination instead of building it. I'm not saying it didn't take imagination to create the game, only that there are so many rules concerning every single little detail of character creation and character actions and possibilities, that for me it takes away much of the fun and imagination potentially available for players and instead makes this a game of points and math, a game of simple numbers, of beating opponents just because you've got higher numbers in damage dealt, armor class, etc. Not that this won't possibly be a popular game, as there are plenty of rpgers who want every little detail spelled out for them, who love the intricate character creations, etc., but I'm not one of them. Maybe I'm just too old, too busy, or maybe the streamlined (sometimes called "dumbed down") Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons has spoiled me. Then again, I didn't think I'd like 5e D&D when it came out and now I'm a huge fan, so my mind can be changed.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 29 -- Bloodstone

by Karl Edward Wagner

Started: Aug. 28
Finished: Sept. 1

Notes: I've read pretty much every short story Wagner ever wrote, but I've not read many longer works by the man, not that there were very many longer works. Anyway, as always, it should be interesting to jump into another tale of Wagner's Kane character.

Mini review: Holy geez, that was a good book. Kane seeks out an ancient power, finds it, puts it to his own use, all while embroiling himself in a war between two city states and sort of, kind of falling in love. All that in less than 300 pages. It has some of what I think of as the "goofiness" common to much fantasy from the mid-60s through about the mid-70s, some telling instead of showing, the overuse of words that sound like Lovecraft made them up, etc., but KEW is a strong enough writer that none of that is really distracting. Yes, I can heartily recommend this one.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 28 -- Swords in the Mist

by Fritz Leiber

Started: Aug. 18
Finished: Aug. 28

Notes: This was another recent acquisition, and a first edition to boot, from one of my favorite used book stores, sadly one that is soon going out of business. It's quite probable I've read some (or even all) of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tales collected here, but it's always fun to delve back into their stories.

Mini review: The back copy presents this one as a novel, but it's actually a couple of short stories and a novella with short set pieces between to link everything. Yes, I had read these before, as who could forget such great tales as "The Cloud of Hate" and the laughter-inducing "Lean Times in Lankhmar?" "Adept's Gambit" is the final tale, the novella, and it's never been a favorite, being overly wordy in my opinion, but it still features some fine writing and tale spinning. Any fan of Sword and Sorcery should read these tales.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 27 -- The Swords of Lankhmar

by Fritz Leiber

Started: Aug. 8
Finished: Aug. 18

Notes: I was fortunate enough a few months back to stumble upon this first edition, as well as several others, during a foray to quite possibly the best used book store I've ever encountered. "Best" at least for fans of sci-fi and fantasy from the 1960s through the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, this book store is going out of business before year's end. On the plus side, the owners have informed me they still have plenty of stock in their warehouse. Which means I'm visiting every few weeks to see what they've got that's of interest to me, and so far I've found quite a lot. Anyway, it's not impossible I've read this novel or parts of it in one collection or other, but I don't believe I have.

Mini review: Rats, rats and more rats! Yes, an army of rats invades the fabled city of Lankhmar, and its up to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser to do something about it in their usual rambling, sporadic, even comical manner. I still don't remember having read any of this before, though the Gods of Lankhmar seemed familiar, yet maybe they've shown themselves in more than one tale. Sword and sorcery fans will find much here to love, though I was a little disappointed at how much time Fafhrd and the Mouser spent apart from one another.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 26 -- The Hero, The Sword, and The Dragons (The Chronicles of Dragon: Book 1)

by Craig Halloran

Started: Aug. 6
Finished: Aug. 8

Notes: This is another one from an indie fantasy author who has done fairly well over the last decade. I not only like to read authors new to me, but I also like to study their writing style, to see how they do what they do.

Mini review: An easy enough read and somewhat fun. In this world, young dragons have the form of humans and only begin to grow their scales once they reach a certain level of maturity, and the main character here is such a dragon. In fact, he's the son of the most powerful dragon in the world, a dragon who protects the world and its races. Unfortunately for that main character, he has a tendency to rashness and has not grown his scales as of yet. Some interesting ideas with decent writing, but overall this felt a bit generic to me. However, the material was good enough I might be willing to give the author another shot at some point.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 25 -- A Quest of Heroes: Book 1 in the Sorcerer's Ring

by Morgan Rice

Started: July 30
Finished: Aug. 6

Notes: This prolific indie author has done quite well during the past decade. I've heard some good and some bad, but figured I would read at least one novel to decide for myself.

Mini review: A village boy shows signs of having magical powers, lands himself in the king's Legion, is told by a powerful wizard hints of his destiny, and becomes embroiled in courtly intrigues. I can't say this was awful, but I also didn't see much here to recommend. The writing is fair, reminding me somewhat of teen or young adult fantasy (and maybe that was the author's goal), but my major complaint would be the main character who is so ignorant of practically everything that's going on in his world that he sometimes comes off whiny. His biggest fault, however, is how he never opens his mouth when he should, and far too often he allows others to dictate his actions. Too often he reacts instead of acts. And, oh my gosh, the fantasy tropes pile up faster than perhaps anything I've read this side of Etragon. That's not all bad, however, as many casual fantasy readers love those tropes. Not for me, but not the worst I've read.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 24 -- Redwall

by Brian Jacques

Started: July 22
Finished: July 29

Notes: I read a lot of fantasy in the early '80s, but by the time this came out in 1986, I had mostly switched to horror, so I missed this one back in the day. However, it has proven popular enough that numerous follow-up novels have been written in this world, so I figure the author must have been doing something right. Mice in a fantasy setting doesn't seem like it would be my thing, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Mini review: An abbey of mice are put to siege by an army of evil rats while one mouse goes on a quest to find lost ancient sword! And it kind of works. At least if you don't think too much about the details. The writing is not bad, the story fairly interesting, the characters mostly fun (or devious), so I have to say this one way okay. I didn't enjoy it enough to intentionally seek out its many sequels, but I wouldn't sneer if someone gave me one or if I ran across some cheap copies in a used book store.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 23 -- Lucifer's Odyssey

by Rex Jameson

Started: July 17
Finished: July 21

Notes: For some of us, you have so many books stacked up and so many e-books, you don't even remember why you picked a particular novel for reading. Honestly, this is the case here, but I always like trying authors with whom I'm unfamiliar, so here goes.

Mini review: The writing here wasn't bad, but the story didn't work for me. Any time an author takes huge liberties with major  religious characters, in this case Lucifer and Jehovah, I'm not offended, but I do find it kind of silly. Demons dressed as bikers stealing a space shuttle so they can get back to their domain? That lost me right there, and it's quite near the front of the story. I'm not saying this is bad, just that it wasn't for me. Others might find something of interest here, as the tale does get into universe and dimension hopping and massive schemes across multiple planes of existence, etc., but it eventually boils down to courtly intrigue and warfare, and not even all that subtle courtly intrigue and warfare.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 22 -- Tales from The Yawning Portal

published by Wizards of the Coast

Started: July 16
Finished: July 16

Notes: This is a gaming book for Dungeons & Dragons, basically a collection of seven fan-favorite RPG adventures over the decades. Some of these go back to the late 1970s, while others are only a few years old. All of them were originally made for earlier versions of D&D, but each has been updated for the latest, Fifth, edition. I've read and played a few of these adventures, but the rest are new to me. It should prove interesting to see how the older gaming modules have been updated.

Mini review: This was actually pretty fun, looking back at some old adventurers and seeing how much had been changed (or not) for modern D&D. For those who play the game, there's even an appendix section in the back which provides stats for monsters and magic items which appear in this collection.

Books read in 2017: No. 21 -- Writing a Book a Week

by Alex Foster

Started: July 15
Finished: July 15

Notes: This prolific author writes under a number of pen names, including both fiction and non-fiction, so I thought I'd check out how he does his stuff. Maybe I'll pick up a few ideas.

Mini review: This guy usually writes a book a week, mostly shorter material of 20K words or less, as often in non-fiction as fiction. I can see how he gets that done. I didn't really learn any new tricks or tips, but I do have to admit this has given me some motivation, and that's not a bad thing.

Books read in 2017: No. 20 -- The Cost of Discipleship

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Started: June 30
Finished: July 14

Notes: Since I just finished reading a biography of Bonhoeffer, a pastor executed for conspiring against Nazi Germany, I thought I would delve into some of his own readings with this, perhaps his best-known work.

Mini review: Not light reading by any means, as this delves pretty deep into Christian theology and what true discipleship means, which in no small way concerns doing God's will and sacrificing oneself for God, but also in helping others. The central portion of this book was my favorite, focusing upon the Sermon on the Mount, which I believe is something many Christians and so-called Christians seem to forget about. I couldn't recommend this one for the casual Christian reader, but for those with want to go deep into religion, this could be right up their alley. Below are some of my favorite quotes from this book.

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

"At the end of a life spent in the pursuit of knowledge Faust has to confess: 'I now see that we can nothing know.' That is the answer to a sum, it is the outcome of a long experience. But as Kierkegaard observed, it is quite a different thing when a freshman comes up to the university and uses the same sentiment to justify his indolence. As the answer to a sum it is perfectly true, but as the initial data it is a piece of self-deception. For acquired knowledge cannot be divorced from the existence in which it is acquired."

“Jesus will not accept the common distinction between righteous indignation and unjustifiable anger. The disciple must be entirely innocent of anger, because anger is an offence against both God and his neighbour.”

“Luther had said that grace alone can save; his followers took up his doctrine and repeated it word for word. But they left out its invariable corollary, the obligation to discipleship ... The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.”

“When a man really gives up trying to make something out of himself — a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called clerical somebody), a righteous or unrighteous man ,… when in the fullness of tasks, questions, success or ill-hap, experiences and perplexities, a man throws himself into the arms of God … then he wakes with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, that is metanoia and it is thus that he becomes a man and Christian.”

“The real trouble is that the pure Word of Jesus has been overlaid with so much human ballast — burdensome rules and regulations, false hopes and consolations — that it has become extremely difficult to make a genuine decision for Christ.”

“What are the disciples to do when they encounter opposition and cannot penetrate the hearts of men? They must admit that in no circumstances do they possess any rights or powers over others, and that they have no direct access to them. The only way to reach others is through him in whose hands they are themselves like all other men.”

At Nerdarchy.com: Character change

My latest Nerdarchy article talks about change in characters, mainly from a tabletop RPG point of view. I use the example of my Open Legend character, Israel Amadeus, a racist who is beginning to see the error of his ways.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 19 -- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

by Eric Metaxas

Started: June 12
Finished: June 30

Notes: For some little while now I've been intrigued by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who spoke out against and worked against Hitler and Nazism in Germany before and during the Second World War. I don't know much about Bonhoeffer, so that is why I turn to this biography of the man.

Mini review: Where to begin? Bonhoeffer was something of an intellectual, but also seemingly a true man of faith. I find it interesting that at one time or another he has been claimed by both conservatives and liberals alike, yet during his life he frequently confounded both. He stood against, preached against, and ultimately conspired against Nazi Germany and Hitler himself. He would pay the price. Imprisoned during the last years of his life, just two weeks before American troops arrived at the last prison where he was held, Bonhoeffer was hung to death as a traitor. This might seem a tragedy to most, but Bonhoeffer himself seemed not to think so, that his death gave him true freedom in deliverance to God. An intriguing figure, I'll have to read more about this man, though this biography is quite thorough.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Convention report

A few days ago, I got back from the 2017 Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, and I yak about some of the things I saw, people I met, and games I purchased.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 18 -- Earthmen Bearing Gifts

by Fredric Brown

Started: June 12
Finished: June 12

Notes: Though I'm more a fan of fantasy than science fiction, I do have a soft spot for sci-fi literature from the 1940s through the 1960s, especially in the short form. That plus Fredric Brown's "Arena" being one of my favorite shorts from that era, I thought I'd check out more from this late author.

Mini review: Quite the short tale, but enjoyable for one who loves science fiction of the era. Earth is sending its first rocket to Mars, though unmanned, and the Martians are waiting in hopes of ... ah, to say more would be to give too much away. Let's just say I enjoyed this one.

Books read in 2017: No. 17 -- Fistful of Reefer

by David Mark Brown

Started: March 31
Finished: June 12

Notes: Occasionally one will pick up a book just because the title is so zany. That is the case here. Plus, I was looking for something different to read, and maybe this will be it.

Mini review: An interesting novel, basically a Western of sorts set along the Mexico/Texas border during the age of Pancho Villa. During the days just prior to Prohibition, a trio of marijuana farmers go on the run after a Texas Ranger tries to shut them down, a Texas Ranger who seems to have killing more on his mind than arrest, and despite the fact marijuana is still legal. Most of this novel is strictly fun action and adventure, but the last fifth or so, it takes a turn and becomes more introspective. I like this book, but I did have some issues with it, the big one being that until near the end, I didn't really feel much for any of the characters. That, plus the fact the legalities involved seem unbelievable even for the day and age (the Texas Ranger's attitude, some politics, etc.), leave me not quite able to recommend this one to others. Still, it wasn't an unenjoyable read and it was definitely interesting.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Israel Amadeus

This week over at Nerdarchy, I give all the lowdown on my Open Legend tabletop RPG character, Israel Amadeus. And in case you're wondering, I can't give myself credit for that name, which might be the most pulp-fictiony name of all time. Some friends of some friends actually named their child that. No, I'm not kidding.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 16 -- Farewell, My Lovely

by Raymond Chandler

Started: May 25
Finished: March 31

Notes: I've not read a lot of Chandler, but I don't recall hating his writing, so I thought I'd give him another go, this time with one of his best known novels.

Mini review: It took me about 40 pages to get into this one, mainly because there seemed to be too many loose ends that weren't connected, but once the connections started to show, I was sold. A seemingly complex tale involving a possible jewelry heist gang, an ex-con out of prison, a few murders, drugs, crooked cops, a psychic and a private detective, the one and only Phil Marlowe. A good read, and worth the time of any hardboiled fans.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 15 -- Haunted House

by Jack Kilborn

Started: May 22
Finished: May 25

Notes: Kilborn is actually author J.A. Konrath, who I have read a few times before, sometimes liking his stuff, sometimes not so much. Either way, I'm a sucker for tales about people paid to spend a night in a supposedly haunted house, and that's what brought me here. What might even be more interesting is that some of the characters are supposed to be survivors from other Kilborn/Konrath horror novels.

Mini review: Not bad. Not great, but not bad. The set-up took far too long in my opinion, practically the first half of the novel, but once the action kicked in, it kicked in big time. The ending was a little too happily-ever-after for my liking, but it is what it is. A nice breezy read.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 14 -- Joyland

by Stephen King

Started: May 20
Finished: May 22

Notes: Still seeking some fiction, I turn to another of my regular authors, this time delving into his second novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher. I'm not a big fan of King's earlier foray into Hard Case territory, but it's King, so I'll give him a chance here.

Mini review: This was a much better book than King's other for this publisher, though it did take me 40 to 50 pages to kind of get into this one. The year is 1971, the scene is an amusement park on coastal North Carolina, the main character a 21-year-old college student working the summer at the park. Then there's a murder that happened years earlier, a sick kid with his mom and dog, and a string of carny characters that are unforgettable. Plus, a ghost. Not quite King at his best, but even King not at his best is pretty good.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 13 -- Blood Relatives

by Ed McBain

Started: May 19
Finished: May 20

Notes: I'm desperately in need of some fiction, so I turn to my old standby of Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct. Besides, I've a stack of these novels and they aren't going to read themselves.

Mini review: This was one of the shortest 87th Precinct novels, only about 150 pages and focusing entirely upon a single crime. A 17-year-old girl is brutally murdered with a knife, the slaying witnessed by her 15-year-old cousin who managed to get away though wounded. Yet questions remain about the culprit, and the 87th boys must figure it out. As always, a lovely read.

At Nerdarchy.com: Star Trek

Star Trek, the original show, I talk a little about it and my five favorite episodes over at Nerdarchy.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 12 -- On the Origin of Species

by Charles Darwin

Started: April 7
Finished: May 19

Notes: I've read some of this over the years, but not the whole thing. I'm probably as familiar with the material and the notions of evolution as any average college-educated American, but I'm no scientist and definitely no expert. Still, I feel the material is worth study by me. This particular e-book edition is based upon the first edition of the printed book, so I do not expect it to be anywhere near up to date on current thinking concerning evolution, but I'm reading as much for historical interests as scientific.

Mini review: There were some surprises here. For one thing, though admittedly Darwin is writing in an age far less technical than our own, the majority of his writing is very down to earth and non-scientific, capable of understanding by the average person. The notions he proposes are done so matter-of-factly, not depending upon a bunch of scientific jargon, but are based upon common sense and his own witnessing and studies, and those of a handful of other individuals. Also, his writing style isn't bad, though my eyes did tend to glaze over towards the middle when he got into hybrids and mongrels, etc. Regarding the seemingly never-ending debate of evolution and creation, Darwin makes a good case, and those who stand against him have probably not read him and are not likely to, which doesn't bode well for their own position. This isn't some high-minded scientific theory, but ideas based upon actual evidence, and I'm not talking fossils pulled from the ground (though that is part of it). Darwin, and others, did experiments with plants and animals, growing and raising them, watching them, studying them, measuring them, and that combined with the fossil record and other sciences and reflection gave rise to his thoughts on this subject matter. "Evolution" isn't here a word Darwin used, him coining the term "natural selection" instead, but it is based upon evidence one can see with one's own eyes and experience, not just something some scientist thought up in a lab somewhere.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Forget about your writing

When you finish a writing project, often it's best to set it aside for a while before returning to look at it again. I talk about this some over at Nerdarchy this week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Just play the game

Sometimes when you're a tabletop RPGer, you don't want to think about all the rules, all the online nerd fights, all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes or under the hood. You just want to play the game. And I discuss that this week over at Nerdarchy.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 11 -- The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas A Kempis

translated by Rev. William Benham

Started: March 19
Finished: April 7

Notes: Originally written in Latin in the 1400s, this here is a 1905 translation. Apparently there is some debate about the true author, but generally a German monk known as Kempis is considered to be that author. Though I'd never heard of this book, apparently it was quite popular throughout the last handful of hundreds of years, especially in Catholic circles. Here's to finding out what it's all about.

Mini review: While nearly all of this material would be familiar to those who know their Bible, it is the sheer weight, the force, the seemingly never-ending barrage of the subject here that to some extent damns it in the eyes of a modern audience. Most of this can be boiled down to, "we are not worthy." The rest of it is basically, "worship God." To a reader of the Middle Ages or even the early Renaissance, this might have been old hat, but I'd have to believe many would still tire of its ongoing woefulness. To the modern ear, it reads as rather pleadingly pathetic, at least to some extent. However, in fairness, one has to keep in mind when this was written and, if possible, by whom. Also, again in fairness, I don't believe most Christians today would necessarily have a problem with the subject matter itself, just the extent to which it is taken.

At Nerdarchy.com: Book stores

Today over at Nerdarchy, I talk about book stores and how much I love them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 10 -- Nazareth Orphans' Home Golden Anniversary, 1906-1956

by Thomas L. Moose

Started: March 18
Finished: March 19

Notes: I've mentioned before I have a fondness for unusual, forgotten books, publications that either were never popular in the first place, maybe weren't meant for a broader audience, or simply have vanished from the public's mind over the years. Usually I find such publications in e-book form, as Amazon and plenty of other places online have tons of them, but in this case, I have the actual hardback book. A friend of mine who works for a childrens' home showed me this book a while back, informing me a number of them had been discovered in the home's attic. This is the early history of that home, back then called an orphanage (though that term seems to be out of favor in most places today). I asked to borrow one of the books, and now that I have it I can delve into a little piece of history in one small corner of North Carolina. I'd like to add that the author was superintendent of the home when he wrote this book and had it published by the home's Board of Managers.

Mini review: Some of this was boring, like the long lists of donors and children and staff, etc. But some of it was quite interesting, mainly the parts about the early days of the orphans' home, how certain individuals worked to gather funds, construct buildings, purchase property, and of course, help the children. Some of it was even a little humorous. My favorite line in the whole book was, "Our children are happy whether they realize it or not." Oh, how child rearing has changed over the decades.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 9 -- Myths and Legends of the Sioux

by Marie L. McLaughlin

Started: March 16
Finished: March 18

Notes: This is another of those quirky little free e-books I find from time to time on Amazon (I've got quite a number of them now on my Kindle). Not quirky because they are weird, but because they are uncommon, not well known, often 19th or early 20th Century texts that have been largely forgotten. This one is of interest to me because it apparently focuses upon folk tales of the Sioux, as told to the author by her grandmother, who was Sioux.

Mini review: To be clear, the author also lets it be known her husband was an officer at various forts and reservations during the 19th Century, so she also heard and/or learned a number of these tales while living in such environs. Many of these are morality tales, but a few seem to be simply for fun, or perhaps were even considered part of Sioux history. Unktomi, a spider figure, shows up in a number of these tales as something of a trickster, not unlike Coyote in some other Native American myths; most times Unktomi seem merely mischievous, but in at least one story he is quite bloodthirsty. Those with interests in folklore, myths, American Indians, the Sioux specifically, etc., will probably want to check out this one.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 8 -- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by John Berendt

Started: March 9
Finished: March 16

Notes: I've been to Savannah where the events of this true-crime book took place in the 1980s, even visiting some of the sites of the events, which are sort of historic sites now as is much of the city. I've also seen the movie, but it's been so long I don't recall much about it. I've had this one for a while and been meaning to check out how the author handles the subject matter, so here goes.

Mini review: This was actually a very well written book. It starts off with the author's introduction to Savannah in the early 1980s and the many eccentric characters he met, then goes into the Jim Williams trials for murder. Those eccentric characters, voodoo, alcohol ... it all adds up to an interesting tale, all the more so because it's allegedly true, at least according to the author. A good book. A true Southern book.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Fiction writing

This week over at Nerdarchy, I ramble on about how fiction is possibly the last true frontier for man to study, at least on the planet Earth.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 7 -- Lethal People

by John Locke

Started: March 3
Finished: March 9

Notes: This thriller comes from one of the earliest stars of the indie writer movement from 8 or 9 years ago (gosh, has it been that long already?). I've not heard much about him of late, but his books still seem to sell. I've been meaning to try his work for some while, so here goes.

Mini review: A former CIA agent who is now a hit man and who still clandestinely works for the CIA as an anti-terrorist juggles multiple missions here, including taking on a Mafia boss and getting his ex-wife's boyfriend out of the picture. It sounds all serious, but this was a novel meant to be full of laughs. Unfortunately, the humor wore thin for me relatively soon. Some of the humor was funny, but the plot was a mess, when I could even tell there was a plot, and the ending became downright silly. Still, the writing was pretty good, and I could see how this could draw an audience. Personally, I don't think I need to read more of this author's work, but those who like silly thrillers might find something to enjoy here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Tolkien vs. Howard

Eh, the headline is misleading, but not totally. This week over at Nerdarchy, I take a look at some of the roots of modern fantasy.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 6 -- Ice

by Ed McBain

Started; Feb. 23
Finished: March 2

Notes: It's been about a year since I last read one of McBain's 87th Precinct novels, and since I love them so much, I figured it was time to get to one.

Mini review: The boys of the 87th have to solve a string of murders that all involve the same .38 revolver, and there doesn't seem to be any connections between the victims. So, is their some crazy random killer on the loose, or is there something deeper going on? You have to read the book to find out, but as always, I enjoyed it. I won't say it's my favorite of the 87th Precinct novels, but it was still a good one.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Test yourself

This week my Nerdarchy article offers up a test to prove how much you know about fantasy literature. Only 30 questions, but do you know your stuff?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 5 -- Fire & Ice (Book I of The Icefire Trilogy)

by Patty Jansen

Started: Feb. 15
Finished: Feb. 23

Notes: This is another author new to me, someone I've been meaning to check out for a while now. Plus, I often feel as if I don't read enough women writers, so here's another opportunity to correct that; this isn't some need to be politically correct, but my wanting to experience different writers' voices.

Mini review: A generation earlier there was a rebellion that overthrew the magic-wielding royals in this world, but now the heir who has been in hiding for decades is trying to sneak back into the palace to regain his political power from the current rulers. That brief description doesn't sound all that unique, but it's the details which make the difference. Unfortunately, this one had some similarities, especially thematically, with the Awakened books, one of which I'd just read before this book ... so, that shot down some of my interest. That's not the author's fault, however, just timing. That being said, the writing here is decent, the characters interesting enough to hold me along, and the plot and world were better than average. What interested me the most was how magic worked in this world. There's still some things needing explaining, but that's for future books in the series. Could I recommend it? Sure.

Monday, February 20, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: The Darkness

Over at Nerdarchy today, I write a little about how I don't consider most of my fiction writing to be all that dark, despite what some have said about it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ResAliens Blog: Review of The Kobalos Trilogy

ResAliens Blog: Review of The Kobalos Trilogy: Review by Lyn Perry The Kobalos Trilogy by Ty Johnston  is a high fantasy series featuring Kron Darkbrow. Here are my short reactions t...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 4 -- The Awakened II

edited by Hal Greenberg

Started: January 21
Finished: Feb. 15

Notes: My short story "Marazook" appears in this anthology, based upon the upcoming The Awakened RPG from Samurai Sheepdog. I've read some of these tales, but not all of them, so I figured I'd check out what my fellow writers accomplished.

Mini review: It was nice to see what others have done with this fantasy world in which some people gain magical powers when they turn 19 years of age, a world where kings vie for the powers of these Awakened, even to the point of kidnapping them, in groups or individually. My favorite story was probably the last one, "Ice" by Jaleigh Johnson, because it had a soft, personal touch absent from most of the rest of the tales, but I also truly enjoyed "Many Tentacles, Reaching" by Ed Greenwood and a handful of others. As of now, there is to be an "Awakened Modern" book and "The Awakened III," and I'm looking forward to taking part in them and reading them.

Monday, February 13, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Adventure, the video game

This week my Nerdarchy article is another Blast from the Past, this time looking all the way back to the Adventure video game for the Atari 2600.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Nerd shopping

This week over at Nerdarchy, I take a look at just what you can buy at the Nerdarchy store. No kidding. They have shirts, hats, mugs, and a thong. Yes, I said "thong."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: When the cat's away ...

The Nerdarchy guys recently went on a cruise out of the country, so this writer had a little fun with it in his weekly article.

Monday, January 23, 2017

At Nerdarchy.com: Magic items

If you play Fifth edition D&D and are looking for some more magic items, check out this week's article over at Nerdarchy.com.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 3 -- Echoes of Valor II

edited by Karl Edward Wagner

Started: Jan. 5
Finished: Jan. 20

Notes: Continuing my recent Sword & Sorcery readings, I now turn to this 1989 KEW collection of reprints. Included are notes about and these stories by Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Manly Wade Wellman, Ray Bradbury, and Leigh Brackett.

Mini review: This was a fun mix of stories, though I don't consider all of them winners. One fault, in my opinion, was starting off the book with a couple of Howard tales, as Howard's writing is so strong many of the others fall short in comparison. So, I would have put the Howard tales at the end. Wellman's story of Hok in the Stone Age (or possibly even earlier) was probably my next favorite of the lot here, though I didn't care much for Bradbury and Brackett's work on "Lorelei of the Red Mist." To add, not all these tales were Sword & Sorcery, with a few being Sword & Planet or a mixture of sub-genres.

At Nerdarchy.com: Wheat pennies

Nerds come in all types. Some of them even collect coins. Which is why today's Nerdarchy article takes a look at the basics of collecting wheat pennies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 2 -- Conan the Mercenary

by Andrew J. Offutt

Started: Jan. 2
Finished: Jan. 5

Notes: After just finishing "Red Nails," I felt like reading some more of Conan the Cimmerian. Looking around my to-be-read pile, I stumbled upon this, forgetting I had it (probably for years). While Offutt was rarely a strong writer, he did have a certain lovable goofiness to his prose, and occasionally there were sparks of mild genius; I tend to think he was a better short story writer than novelists, but that's just my opinion.

Mini review: Offutt's writing was more subdued in this one, but it read more like an extended short story than a true novel. In this one, an 18-year-old Conan hires on with a noble and then discovers a plot of treachery within the royal palace. Not a great book, but not awful. Still, only Offutt or Conan fans need apply.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Books read in 2016: No. 66, Books read in 2017: No. 1 -- Red Nails

by Robert E. Howard

Started: Dec. 26, 2016
Finished: Jan. 1, 2017

Notes: For too long have I not been reading enough speculative genre fiction, and for too long have I not read any Howard, so I was thrilled to see this tale from the author available for free on Amazon. I've read this one several times over the decades, but it's always enjoyable to come back to Howard every once in a while.

Mini review: What with the holidays, I didn't have much reading time lately, but it was nice to drop back into Howard's writing. As always, his prose here was excellent. The story I've always found a bit predictable, but I suppose it would seem so after one has read so much Sword & Sorcery over the years. Anyway, a solid read worth the time of any fantasy fan.