Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Star... er Space Viking Book Review

Title: Space Viking
Author: H. Beam Piper
Year: 1963
Pages: 191
Rating: ★★★

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking inspired many idea in science fiction gaming. There is a reference to it in Traveller, in the form of the Spinward Marches' Sword Worlds.

It is somewhat a post-apocalyptic genre, all action takes place in the Sword Worlds, colonies founded by the losing side in The Big War. In the aftermath, a Federation of planets has collapsed into barbarism and is under siege from the titular Space Vikings.

 Trask, the leader of the so-called Space Vikings starts a campaign of conquest and revenge for the murder of his wife.

Space Viking really doesn't break any new ground, but all of the pieces of a classic science fiction story are there. Space Battles, check. Technology hampered by resources, check. Intrigue and revenge, check.

It's a solid read, but doesn't really soar.

You can get the paperback at Amazon for a couple of bucks. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.



But the Kindle version is free.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

What is Dungeons and Dragons? Book Review

Title: What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Author: John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann
Year: 1982
Pages: 231
Rating: ★★★★★

Way back when, my dad took me to The Tek Pharmacy and told me flat out, "I don't have any extra money to get you anything." As he shopped I made my way to the book section and was perusing the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. I didn't want another, I felt like I had "graduated" from those, even though they were always enjoyable.

Back then, things were not like they are today. Being a small pharmacy, the books on the shelves would be by today's standard very old. The books were perhaps as old as 5 year since their publication date being sold as new. This is why I can't nail down the exact year of this visit. But in all likelihood, I probably look like either one of the kids on the right.

After Dad picked up his script or whatever he was buying, he found me looking at a book called: What is Dungeons and Dragons? by John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann.

As I put it back on the shelf to leave, my dad said, "Oh, a book. I have money for a book. As long as you read it." I was probably 10 or 11. Now I am almost 48. And I'll tell you, I read the hell out that book. The pages were falling out, the spine was shattered and the cover had gone missing a long time ago. Finally, the book met it's end when the basement flooded. It was a sad day because this book has been out of print probably for decades.

As you will note, this is my second 5 gold star review. My first was Nate Treme's The Moldy Unicorn. If I had it do over again, I would make What is Dungeons and Dragons? the first and The Moldy Unicorn second. My Mom is a publisher, my Dad writes game books and I write, too. I don't go forking out 5 gold stars for shits and giggles. (Normally, I don't cuss either, but it is what it is.) The content has to be not just superior, it has to be memorable.

I've read both over and over again and they both evoke the same feeling of nostalgia. Each was something wildly different than what I had encountered in the past.

Within Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann's book, you get a ground up approach to game play. The first 8 chapters cover a massive amount of ground. Back in 1982, this was the closest one could get to "The Internet". Chapter 1 is an introduction to D&D. Chapters 2-5 walk the reader through character generation, dungeon design, an adventure with examples, and the role of the Dungeon Master in the game. Each of these topics are presented in a solid and memorable framework, with the section on The Adventure standing out. The sample adventure is not a classic in the sense of many great modules, but is a model of what one could realistically expected to produce on one's own. And that is great!

The next several chapters cover more advance details, such as figures, accessories, computers and even AD&D with the same solid reporting of the first 5 chapters.

The final chapter addresses other game systems, in a rather cursory fashion when compared to the information now available to us now. At 231 pages, some of which are maps, diagrams, and indices, there is no way for this book to rival information available on even a couple of web pages, but this is all I had back then.

This book is a treasure. At this point I am going to throw an ad at you. If you love the history of the game, go purchase this book. My link is to Amazon, but seriously, shop around and try to get your hands on one by any means possible.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

H. M. Hoover's The Delikon Review

Title: The Delikon
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1977
Pages: 148 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ten year old Atla, 12 year old Jason and 307 year old Varina are children in the palace at the time of the coup. H. M. Hoover likes hooks like that, and this hook is fabulous.

Not all that is described is as it is. Hoover weaves a tale of an alien teacher guarding her charges as the world turns upside-down. Her prose is sanitary, succinct as is the world these characters exist in. As a Young Adult book should be as it is meant for children.

The focus of the story is the many dilemmas faced by Varina as she tries to guide her charges to safety. Varina's people have reshaped Earth's society and reshaped Varina to navigate between these societies. This creates a number of problems as Varina protects her charges in a place between two worlds-gone-wild.

This book holds itself against progress as the technology described is either utterly fantastic or totally pedestrian, with solid plot and story reasoning for both.

The Delikon is a drama, pasted on top of a world that could be utterly violent. The reader, like Alta and Jason are effectively screen from the violence of the world, while still being touched by the urgency and import of such events.

The Delikon is a wonderful read, a quick page turner. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Review - Magic Items by The Raging Barbarian aka Simone Tammetta

Title: Magic Items - 1d100 magic items for (almost) every moment
Author: The Raging Barbarian aka Simone Tammetta
Rule Set: Agnostic
Year: 2019
Pages: 16
Levels: Low level
Rating: ★★★★★

Oh, this is the month of reviews. I am all off kilter and not reviewing my normal fair of historical books and D&D modules. Last week, I reviewed the wonderful Moldy Unicorn by Nate Treme.

Today, we are looking at The Raging Barbarian's Magic Items - 1d100 magic items for (almost) every moment. First, it's PWYW over at DriveThruRPG and second, it is ruleset agnostic. I'm a D&D player and generally like D&D themed items, but this agnostic book is great for little details and brainstorming. As advertised, it has 100 magic items. General attributes are mentioned, such as triggering mechanism and range. Exact effects are left to the DM. All and all, it is a list of great idea starters or weird little things to inject into a game for light-hearted fun.

The book also has a cool, non-distracting series of drawings around the edge. The images are lineart which saves ink and all of them beg to be colored.

All and all, 5 out of five. It's definitely worth dropping some gold and silver in the tip jar.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review - Population of Loss

Title: Population of Loss
Author: Michael DiBaggio and  Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Illustrator: Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Year: 2014
Pages: 46
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

I hate big screen or small screen characters render in novel form. It's always horrible, little better than the second Star Wars book, Splinter in the Minds Eye. I want to tell future readers that this is a mashup of comic book characters set in the science fiction worlds of 1880s and 90s.

It is, but it really isn't. The prose reminds me of the classic adventure of The War of the Worlds, which it should because it is implicitly set with in that world. Each of the four short stories captures that time period perfectly, no accidental or intentional anachronistic parts at all. The Signalman does remind me of Iron Man, but he is not remotely a superhero in that vein. In fact, I know that he should be a comic book character because that is what he was designed to be, but somehow, he isn't. Nor are any of the other characters.

Its hard to describe what the Celestial Paladin is, but I can tell you where these characters came from. There are hints of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien fused with H. G. Wells. The story "In Hoc Signo" starts in Well's world of Tripod invaders and ends with a taste of Lewis's Out of a Silent Planet. The writing is more than strong, it is powerful. Reading older works is often difficult due to the changing of styles. But Mr. and Mrs. DiBaggio do not struggle with this. They capture the flavor of these works, but also give it a style all their own. The easy comparison is to the past, but the authors manage to infuse this style with a more modern frantic-ness, in the vein of Dagberto Glib ("Love in L.A.") or Louise Erdrich ("The Red Convertible"). Perhaps it is the vignette style of these 4 short pieces that capture a tiny bit of introspection by the authors, which echos through each piece.

Regarding the illustrations, they are from a very different artist from the Shell "Presto" DiBaggio, who engages with her audience on social media. They have tiny reflection of the work of Kahlil Gibran. What is most interesting about the images of the Signalman and The Cyclone Ranger, is that they show an evolution of style over 2 years. The second is more like Mrs. DiBaggio's current artwork, but still reflecting the style of that old era. Like the writing, the illustrations have a touch of modern, frantic energy, while still embodying the works of arts from the past. Instead of being caught in between eras, they are great enhancements to the stories told. They fit perfectly.

I was only vaguely aware that the book contained artwork, and I would suggest to the reader that they obtain a paper copy as paper will always render the artwork closest to what the artist intended. It is an inherent flaw in all ebook technology.

I will give this book one more read, maybe two before purchasing the next title. It was an excellent primer for the world of Ascension Epoch.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Appendix N+ Michael Reaves' Shattered World

Michael Reaves' Shattered World

Wizards rise to battle the Necromancer and reforge the Shattered World or not. Follow the adventures of Pandrogas, the jerk-ass wizard, his girlfriend (?) Ardatha, Beorn the shapeshifter and the totally awesome, but impractical Cloakfighter as they wrestle the runestone of Darkhaven from the demon. Defective, hostile heroes make for an excellent story.

Also, who doesn't love floating island worlds.

ISBN: 0671559516
Publication Date: 1985

Appendix N+ Louise Cooper's Lord of No Time Series

Louise Cooper
The Initiate
ISBN: 1594260842
Publication Date: 1985

The Outcast
ISBN: 1594264155
Publication Date: 1986

The Master
ISBN: 1594261385
Publication Date: 1987

Louise Cooper's 1977 Lord of No Time was reworked into this trilogy. The story covers the epic battle of law vs. chaos, with Cyllan and Tarod as pawns of the gods.

Not only is the story captivating, I found the cover art to be fascinating.

Available at Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies.

Appendix N+ Terry Brook's Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold Series.

I have decided to reformat the Appendix N+, so the first 3 entries show a post date of July 1, 2019.

The first offering for Appendix N+ is the Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold Series.

Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold!
ISBN: 0-345-31758-0
Publication Date: 1986

Follow Ben Holiday on an adventure to an impossible magic kingdom where none is as they seem. The series includes 6 books spanning two generations of heroes.

The Black Unicorn
ISBN: 0-345-33528-7
Publication Date: 1987

Dirk the prism cat's introduction to the series, as unicorns race through Chicago! Seriously, the best damn non-sequitur ever!

Wizard at Large ISBN: 0-345-36227-6
Publication Date: 1988

If I had magic, I'd want it to be like powers of Questor Thews. Unsure, uncertain but always on the right side.

The Tangle Box ISBN: 0-345-38700-7
Publication Date: 1994

Squick results when The Tangle Box opens.

Witches' Brew ISBN: 0-345-38702-3
Publication Date: 1995

Brookes explores Fey magic with the introduction of Mistaya, Willow and Ben's daughter.

A Princess of Landover
ISBN: 0-345-45852-4
Publication Date: 2009

Mistaya is loaded with charm and magic, but being Ben's daughter means this story isn't going where you think. It's a horrible ending to a great series, but an excellent reason to write one more book.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

A couple of months ago, I signed up for Audible. My first order was Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It's 126 hours long. I'd be lying if I said I finished it.

The audio is high quality and Charlton Griffin's narration is excellent. It's hard to believe this book is 200 years old. If you merely want to read this book, it is also available on Gutenberg. This version is also excellent.

One thing that you miss from the Audible version is the maps. Gibbon meanders through history and of course he assumed you'd be holding the book with the maps as you read. I am surprised that Audible provided a PDF for the record, but didn't include the non-copyrighted maps. It is an odd omission. I have pulled the maps from the Gutenberg copy and loaded them here. Perhaps some day I will make a PDF of just the maps for easy printing.

West East
North West of Western Empire

North West of Eastern Empire

North East of Western Empire

North East of Eastern Empire

South West of Western Empire

South West of Eastern Empire

South East of Western Empire

South East of Eastern Empire


The list price attached to the ad is for an purchase outside of your Audible account credit. An Audible account is $14.95 a month, which entitles you to one credit or book per month. Well worth the cost.

Also available for download at Downpour.