Survival: Species Imperative #1 by Julie E Czerneda

Mac (Dr. MacKenzie Connor) is one of the last characters that you’d expect to go to space. She’s a dedicated, hands in the earth biologist, who studies salmon in an earth post-diaspora.

Brymn is a Dhryn, an alien who comes to get her help with his people’s struggles. They are set against by mysterious aliens–the Ro–who are long on murder attempts and short on slaughter.

The heart of the story is the Chasm, a stretch of dusty, long abandoned worlds. Disappearances along the Chasm have begun, and the fear that some dark force is active again spurs Mac and Brymn into investigation.

It’s a good story, but clearly incomplete. I’ll check out the whole trilogy, Species Imperative, and see how it is as a greater story.

The Deed of Paksenarrion reread

I was looking at books to recommend to Jennifer and thought she’d enjoy The Deed of Paksenarrion. A few weeks later, I decided that I must have been craving it for myself, so I reread it.

It’s still very good. It’s interesting, in that each book goes 20% past what you think the conclusion is going to be. Like, book 1 is training, and the first year, which is dramatic–including the awesome return from Dwarfwatch sequence. But the book continues on into season 2, which has a few dramatic scenes–including one where Paks is knocked out and almost dies after fighting priests of Liart. Her calling is clear as she recovers… but the book doesn’t stop there, either. The campaign continues until its end against Siniva… but even there hangs with deeds undone.

The second book begins with dismay at garrisoning cities that… fear their new pirate lord, Alured. That’s brief (a few chapters), followed by a couple of chapters as a caravan guard, followed by a novella long quest alongside Meaceon. Then into Brewersridge for another several chapters–it’s the heart of the book. Then on to Fin Panir, then onto the quest, then onto the bitter consequences. It’s really interesting–it’s five or so discrete and pretty balanced chunks, each with its own tone.

Anyway, it was good to read again. I’ll probably ask for the five book sequel trilogy that follows; I’ve read a few from the library, but think I’d like to have them all.

The Ballad Of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

A well written, interesting take on Cthulhu’s mythos, with an engaging main character to start–Black Tom. Unfortunately, at the midpoint the book shifts protagonists (due to madness), where it’s somewhat less successful.

The story of New York as its various barely connected cities, each with their own character, was great to read and experience. I had little idea that the city’s boroughs were so stratified; that Harlem was black and cool, yes, but the degree of suspicion and exclusion out on the lines was a solid reminder that less than 100 years ago the world was very different.

Tom is a great hustler, and his POV feels consistent, rich, and full of intriguing detail. His relationship with his father, work, and Lovecraftian mysteries were all interesting. The police officers, on the other hand, are shallow to start-particularly from Tom’s POV, but we’re barely asked to ally with them once the story is theirs.

In the end, I really enjoyed the first half–and some of the details of 1920s life all through.

Odds and Ends

Great sector generator for Stars w/o Number

Fate/FAE encounter design– http://station53.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-tao-of-fate-creating-challenging.html
(for Josh’s game?) http://fategroups.com/
http://fate-srd.com/stunt-maker/

A strong post about “the worst ever” and deflating motivated responses– http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2016/02/23/opt-out/

http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20513/thus-began-the-adventures-of-eowyn#latest

Rejected Princesses; women being awesome in history, with great explanations.

http://www.dicemonkeys.com/you-dont-have-to-be-a-cartographer-to-have-great-rpg-maps/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=page-post&utm_campaign=Great-Maps

Guard Mouse sketches — https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/gBaGQB

Aesthetics, mid– https://hyenaswine.wordpress.com/

Dal Fry (Dal Tadka)

Fatayar recipe (yum)– http://www.maureenabood.com/2012/03/22/lebanese-spinach-pies-or-fatayar-or-whatever/

http://nixoniad.blogspot.com/

Music: investigate Metric, Pagans in Vegas

Lots of interesting looking games– http://ludicreations.com/crowdfunding/

Wipe & wipe reusable graph paper — http://tinyurl.com/pog2oqc

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

The first book written, but the second I read and the second in sequence. It continues from Dirty Wings… it’s the next generation, Maia and Cass’s daughters.

Reading, it was interesting to see what our narrator gets “wrong” about Cass and Maia’s journey… and to think about what our narrator misunderstood versus what she was mislead about. This book’s journey is somewhat less harrowing, though Aurora’s (and even our narrator’s) lifestyle isn’t one that mom’s are going to encourage their daughters to follow.

The book tackles powerful, senseless teenage love; something that always reads as exaggerated to me… but it works here. The “sisters” are drawn so carefully, as are their relationships to their parents and their deliberate reflection (and rejection) of those parental traits.

It was a compelling read with great characters, despite the superficially lower stakes for the first two-thirds of the book. When she commits, decides to thwart the fait accomplis, she’s almost as driven as Cass and Maia… more so, even, given that she has to do it alone.

I really liked her as a character, and understood her empathy for her near-sister Aurora. She was crazy to go… but it was so true to her stubbornness that I have to just smile and root her on… while staring on in horror. A great kickoff to the series. As the first book, I can imagine Dirty Wings reading like an increase in stakes… and a revelation about Cass and Maia’s journey.

About A Girl by Sarah McCarry

A great conclusion to the trilogy; it’s the last both in publishing and internal chronology. Tally, our heroine, is in the summer before college.

The book starts off jarringly; it’s in Tally’s voice. She’s SO busy letting us know how smart she is with her word choices and casual brilliance that it’s offputting… which, matches the reaction the strangers in her life have to her. Her family and close friend all know her well and put up with (or are charmed) by her positions, vocabulary and diction, which are strong and confident.

Tally’s tale picks up a generation after Aurora and “Aunt Beast” grew up in Cass and Maia’s shadows in All Our Pretty Songs; she’s raised by Raoul (who gets modest screen time), his husband (who doesn’t), and Aunt Beast in a modern mixed family of choice. She’s an orphan daughter of Aurora (she knows), but it’s complicated. She’s surrounded by love, but with both her Mom absent and Father unknown… she’s unsure of herself, emotionally, no matter how she erects intellectual bulwarks.

After the awkward first chapter (once Tally’s not trying to impress us, it seems), the book reads smoothly. The magic is much less metaphorical this time around; it’s more than creepy dreams and bad choices. The overt magic extends Tally’s time on her journey… and, given how straightforwardly she tackles things to start, it was probably necessary to shortcut her having a frank talk and heading home a day later. (I mean, that’s just about how the book ends… but there’s a lot that goes on first because she and others are all being manipulated in the meantime.)

It’s a great book. Tally carries the story and drives everything–and she has the personality and perseverance to make it an interesting journey, even if it’s less obviously perilous than Cass and Maia’s journey. She’s also flawed, but that’s easy to forgive in the moment, and an important component of her authenticity.

Interestingly, her boyfriend Shane is important… but he’s relegated almost to a frame story. It’s a quirky thing to notice afterwards.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

A worthy conclusion to the trilogy.

The last book ended with Tris’ capture–she begins this book held in Erudite headquarters, this time fortunately not alone. The city struggles with the changes brought about by the assault at the end of book 2… and the Tris’s big revelation to the city.

The world grows again–not just out to the city’s associated Amity farms, but beyond the city altogether. Outside… it turns out the cities and factions are not at all natural–they’re somewhat controlled experiments.

This book introduces Tobias as an alternating POV. For the overall story, the addition makes sense, but I miss the immediacy of Tris’s journey alone, as in the first two books. Some of the conflicts that arise I’d probably have explained away more easily with access to only one POV–with both, the thinness of the dispute felt a little more author inserted.

This book is great for explanations and lore, though I completely empathize with Tobias when he bemoans just how many revolutions he’s participated in by the end of the book.

Time is a little more front and center; you realize that the first two books are much less than a year’s action. This book has a somewhat odd pacing for the world behind–a few longer gaps of “not much going on, losing track of time”. And it features an epilogue set two and a half years later, looking back on this crazy time and its lasting impact.

A good conclusion to a fun book. The politics all trended YA simple, but the excellent and vibrant characters kept the action focused where it was strong. Well done, particularly for a debut series.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The sequel to Divergent. If you liked the first book, this is a fine sequel. The book does have the drawbacks of a mid-trilogy book. It starts with a defeat and runs generally down beat–particularly Tris’s relationship with Four.

At times, it felt like progress was being stolen from the hard earned victories of Divergent, but they feel like a natural continuation. We learn much more about Candor and Amity this time; while there are strands of “peaceful hippy” to Amity, and strands of “no filter” to Candor, both have more nuance than their they present to outsiders. We also learn more about the factionless.

Tris continues to struggle, now to survive a life on the run, rather than just adjusting to Dauntless life. She has good allies and vibrant connections to them–they rarely feel like they’re making their decisions motivated by plot.

The book ends with tumultuous change and a revelation that feeds straight into book 3.