Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin

A wonderful book, set in a the world of the Aeneid. (I’ve never read it, but I have read many references to the Aeneid before.) LeGuin takes her character from the margins of the poem and delves deep into her life. It reads as historical fiction, which was amplified by some of the choices she made [and explained in the afterword].

Lavinia’s life is regimented and “poor” for a princess– the kingdoms of coastal Italy aren’t huge and lack the impressive tax base that comes later. Religion and faith are constant and soothing– and smaller scale. It’s the gods of the hearth, not Olympian gods striding the battlefields.

The lives of the simple kingdom are turned upside down by Lavinia’s actions and the interference of “the poet”. The presence of the poet was mixed to me– in many ways I appreciated his presence and tie to the poem, but it doesn’t mesh well with the detailed life that we see and experience. If they were missing, I’d have enjoyed it as pure historical fiction… but there’s a constant umbilical that keeps this from drifting back into pure fiction.

Lavinia’s role is circumscribed by society– you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a warrior woman wielding a bloody blade. There’s a lot of action and struggle and the world changes, which was plenty for me.

I enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who would appreciate a story of powers viewed on edge. This is the story of moving and shaking, but subtly.

Dead to Me by Anton Trout

The first book in a series lent to me by Stacy. Thanks!

It’s an appealing story about Simon Canderous, who can read the history of objects with a touch. It doesn’t always take intent, which kicks the book off with a bang. As the book goes on, we learn about his employer (the Department of Extraordinary Affairs) and we’re introduced to a few other vivid people.

The plot moves along, and poor Simon gets drug through alleys, slopped in slime, encounters a compelling ghost, raids an upscale cult headquarters, and more. His love life is horrible* [in a book sense: certainly active and compelling from my POV, but anyway…], but things turn around as it goes.

It’s similar to other “White Wolfesque” books– similar to the Dresden Files, and could easily be in the same universe. There are a lot of people who are in on the secret world– an entire Bureau in New York alone. It seems likely to spill out into public knowledge with so many people in the know… but that’s true with just about the entire genre.

In the end, it was a fun book in a sub-genre I typically like– and the power was handled interestingly enough that it didn’t trip my “been there, done that” fatigue.

Random recent links

Saga Character Sheet (pdf), Random dungeon maker review
Free 4e character manager, 4e power organization tip, Good GMing advice for beginning players and GMs
Free 4e trial reviewed and direct link.
4 commonly missed 4e rules
4e Skill challenges revisited, More card substitutions

Candids as 3.5 race

RMap web builder
Game to try: Passage
Random Average Wiki home

PTA: Have games, will travel talks about their season of PTA
Doyce tries PTA again… Home, Pitch Session, and Pilot Episode.

Mouseguard: Doyce, MJ Harnish and Martin
Burning Wheel Resources

Larping with kids
Character background development with: Cards and online

Official Map of the Verse

Operation Damocles Errata–
Phase 1:
• Mission 1: The asterisk (*) on the secondary objectives means that the defender cannot access these benefits.
• Mission 4: The area shaded in blue is the defender’s deployment zone. The defender also has an access zone on the lower edge of the map.
Phase 2:
• Mission 4: The node must be controlled to be able to influence the nanodisturbance.
AT-43 cards

Haywire’s Hobbies: Modding AT-43 figures
Star Ranger’s Full Thrust page

Other Games:
Board Game Quick Reference Sheets (Awesome!)
Zombie Cinema sounds like a very interesting game.
Roll through the Ages: The Bronze Age (2009) Playtest Review by Shannon Appelcline (5/5): A well-designed and fun dice game that gives you all the enjoyment of building a Civilization to last the ages in 45 minutes or less.
Fun little (free) dueling game
Small World (5/5 by Shannon).A terrific fantasy war game that tracks the rise and fall of civilizations and plays in just 90 minutes.

An easy polenta meal
Cooking w/ dried beans

ASCE journal RSS feeds
James Tyner’s poetry
Free SF (claimed as scientifically accurate)
An interesting traffic phenomenon & A tale of two exurbs
Credit crisis explained (11 min video)
Hilzoy’s video
Easy wine guide (for Dad)
Poor non-gnomes
Comic to Investigate
Honest and mostly my questions too

WWW:Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

This book was a very quick read; easy to keep track of even with distractions. I polished it off in a couple of days and enjoyed it. The book seems very tidy–each of the seemingly unrelated threads advances at a good pace and signals ties for later.

The book examines intelligence and self awareness from several angles, including an AI coming into its own and a bright ape that masters representation and communication, questioning exactly what level of intelligence has rights…

The threads are bright and obvious and lack the subtlety of LeGuin in Powers. Despite that, it’s a fine read, clearly the beginning of a series; I’ll keep my eye out for the next.

Gaming Unlikely on Friday, May 22nd

Our next game would ordinarily be D&D on Friday, May 22nd. Eric’s currently scheduled to make it in early Friday night, which throws off ordinary plans. For now, assume the game is canceled for this weekend, unless you get a call otherwise.

Eventually, we’ll resume where we left off, shortly after the strange dwarf/wolf encounter on the road. A pair of fireballs did their job, but a few of the beasts seem to have escaped. Are you ready to continue up river, into the heart of dwarven territory?

Powers by Ursula K. LeGuin

By far my favorite of the Annals of the Western Shore, this book is a great continuation of an interesting world. More important– this book is about Gavir, a house slave in the city of Etra. It is very well written, empathy for Gavir is immediate and strong.

Gavir provides a great viewpoint of the world. His house, the city, and the world are all positively revealed through his eyes. As the book goes on, Gavir learns, but his core nature remains unchanged. His relationships involve a huge mix of relative power and authority. His book knowledge is widely respected and makes him popular in many ways, but it alters the way he’s seen consistently.

I’ll have to reread the first two books in the series [though there’s no direct connection, not even characters]. The theme running throughout this book (about trust and power) is strong, so if you dislike coincidence in service to a theme and it gets your hackles up, this might trip your radar. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Next Game: Friday May 15th

The upcoming game is Serenity. We just assembled a crew and have our first contract: a quick dog delivery to Whitefall. We’ll soon have a hold full of them– and we have just two hours before we hit the black. I’m really looking forward to seeing our crew come together.

Please let us know if you’ll have any problem making it. Ben, this weekend you’ll have Emily, right?

Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

I really enjoyed this novel. While it has a very YA feel (kids get things done that adults can’t), there are good explanations for Beka’s gifts and drive.

Throughout, Beka feels like a real character. Her navigation of the path between shadowy friends and learning to be a good “Dog” is interesting and tense. There are a lot of stories within stories at the fringes of Beka’s story, which really makes the world feel full of vibrantly developed characters.

All in all, I enjoyed it and look forward to checking out its sequel, Beka Cooper: Bloodhound.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

After hearing about this book for so long, I was glad to finally dig in and try it out. It’s a solid book, with a lot of fantastic elements and near-steampunk technology. The main characters are very well drawn, and his non-humans do a good job of being truly alien. That’s aided by their non-conventional forms– no dwarves and elves, he uses birdmen and ant-headed people instead.

I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by China Mieville. The book didn’t encourage swiftly reading it and setting it aside, but instead encouraged lingering and inhabiting the world.

The Postman by David Brin

A very quick book– I gobbled it up in a few long stretches over the weekend. It has an interesting protagonist– a college student when the war broke out sixteen years ago. It’s an interesting world– several times the narrator mentions that it wasn’t the war that broke the world, it was the crazies that took advantage of the situation.

I noticed myself comparing it to Warday as I read it, noting the differing devastation from each world’s limited war. One big question missing from the Postman was “what about the rest of the world”? At least in Oregon (and the rest of his travels), no other has nation swooped in to pluck the carcass. It looks like devastation was more evenly distributed in Postman world. [Some of the biological warfare is specifically mentioned as targeting East Asia, etc., so it makes sense.]

I liked the characters and the narrow focus of the world. In some ways it seems like “the Postman” has it too easy… but it’s clear that there is a strong interest in the rest of the nation that was just lying untapped. The sci-fi element of the super soldiers was a quirky twist– not really necessary to the book, but it doesn’t detract either. In the end, I enjoyed it– it was another good David Brin novel.