13 September 2011

Oh, I Forgot To Mention The New Johannes Cabal Novel

I have been greatly enjoying the Johannes Cabal books, and the third one - Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute - just came out. It's just as good as the previous stories. Recommended to everyone, if you don't like these you must be a bad person.

11 September 2011

Here's Some Good Books I've Been Reading

First, Monster of the Week relevant works. I seem to have been on a bit of a monster hunting reading binge recently.

I absolutely love Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces series (Child of Fire, Game of Cages, Circle of Enemies). I really like the guy telling the story, a chap called Ray Lilly. [Astoundingly mild spoiler] He got involved in some nasty magical events and was recruited by the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers dedicated to killing all the other sorcerers who endanger the world. It's a pretty grim series, as Ray was a semi-professional criminal before all the magic and stuff. That and the fact that magic can be used for some very scary purposes. The action and mystery side reads a bit like Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy, and the spells and magical creatures are terrible and awesome. Recommended if you like the sound of the Dresden Files, but with all the cute stuff removed.

Also good are Mike Carey's Felix Castor books. These follow a London exorcist in a world where the dead have come back - ghosts, zombies and werewolves are all becoming more common. As a detective, he's as hard-boiled as Ray Lilly. The stories are generally a mystery centered around a ghost problem, although usually not in a straightforward way. As the series has gone on, it has also built on what's gone before (both in the novels and in Castor's backstory) to add more depth to the world. There's a very detailed sense of Castor's London as well - it feels like Carey might have paced out the places that chases happen, that sort of thing. The mysteries are pretty grim here too. Recommended for the same reason as Connolly's books, above.

Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International is another good one. Not as good as the other two, but good. It's in much more standard techno-thriller mode, with lots of guns and violence and a thread of libertarian "anything to do with government is bad, anything to do with private enterprise is good" in there. But the basic monster hunting ass-kicking action is great. I haven't read the other two books in the series yet, but plan to get to them soon.

In another direction completely, Harry Sidebottom has a good historical adventure series set in Roman times. They follow what the afterwords explain is a historical character - a Roman general originally an Angles from past the German frontier. It seems like the historical record is just a few mentions for the guy so there's plenty of room to add adventures, and Sidebottom has done a great job doing so. He also manages to fit in a lot of historical details as the story goes on. Recommended for anyone who likes reading Roman historical adventures.

Quick Game Review: Blowback

The regular game had one missing and one sick but present, so we did a one-off of something we hadn't tried. It was Blowback, which is an unofficial game of Burn Notice.

We quickly put together a couple of ex-spies and their civilian friends, and I threw together a pretty basic plot. Character generation is simple, but I think we went a bit too quick. Additionally, two players isn't really enough for the game. I suspect the sweet spot is 3-5 players plus GM. Maybe we should have gone with a single professional and single civilian with just the three of us there.

The mission worked well, although we stumbled on a few of the rules. I really liked the way that you do a section of preparation and intelligence gathering, then make a plan and execute it, quite separately. The four skills the game uses even have totally different effects in each phase, which adds a lot to the feel of things.

One of our rules errors was one that made things a little easy for the agents, so I think we didn't get quite the feel of things going out of control on the operation that I suspect is what normally happens.

Overall impression was positive, but that we picked a bad way to try it out. Recommended if you want to play a game like Burn Notice or find the idea of the innovative preparation/operation mechanics intriguing.