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 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.