Monday, November 28, 2011

My reading project continues, pt.2

As my gaming exile continues, my effort to read all the sci-fi classics that I have missed proceeds according to schedule. This month, I have finished two '50s-era novels which couldn't be more different, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

Certainly the more literary of the two offerings, A Canticle for Leibowitz chronicles a thousand years of history as it relates to a monastery in the American southwest centuries after a global nuclear war. Divided in three parts, corresponding approximately to the Dark Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern era, the book explores the cyclical nature of history and the conflict between faith and reason. While not exactly a page-turner, Canticle is clearly an important work in science-fiction. Many of the tropes we've come to expect in the post-apocalyptic genre were clearly articulated first in this book. Interestingly, A Canticle for Leibowitz was the only novel Miller published in his lifetime. A follow-up, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman was released posthumously, nearly four decades later.

Asimov's I, Robot is more appropriately described as a short story anthology, although each story is presented in a linear chronology as a complete narrative through the reminiscences of a "robopsychologist" who participated in most of the events described. The narrative basically describes the history of robotics from the humble beginnings in the late 20th-century to a time in which robots basically run everything in the latter half of the 21st-century. Like Canticle, I, Robot is somewhat dated and, at times, a bit of a dry read. One amusing "Austin Powers" moment arose when the main character, fearing a rogue robot which had somehow broke out of its programming was hiding among a shipment of some 60 identical robots, recommended that the entire shipment be destroyed. Others in the company argued against it as it would cost the company TWO MILLION DOLLARS! So, in about 20 years the unit cost of a sentient robot will be roughly on par with a base model minivan. Still, I, Robot is, without question, an influential book, and if you can get past the fact that Wil Smith is prominently displayed on the cover these days (mercifully, it bears little resemblance the film), it's worth a read.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Pathfinder MMO....bold move or suicidal overreach?

As the gaming world breathlessly awaits what is grinding away behind closed doors at WotC, Paizo is taking advantage of the deafening silence to make some big moves. There was the release of the well-received Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box and now this! Now I know precisely squat about the business of online gaming, so others may correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume launching a new MMO would be the type of project that requires insane amounts of money. Paizo is a pretty big fish in a small pond, but they don't have Hasbro to bankroll their adventures. I wish them luck.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Adventure Paths

Someone at the gaming table said something last weekend which echoed in my head. "I have this great idea for a character..." I have this problem all of the time. Pathfinder has so many options, many of them sound cool and there are tons that I'd like to try out. The problem is that we tend to play Adventure Paths. They take 6 months to a year to finish and we usually play one character for the duration. Kingmaker was close to a year and near the middle many of us introduced a second character to act as the "B" team when our original PCs were busy running the kingdom. Mainly this developed because we wanted to try other classes.

As we are currently just starting Book 2 of Carrion Crown, I expect us to be playing this campaign for at least another 2-3 months even though I intend to end things at Book 3. I've noticed the last couple adventure paths, the PCs have either been largely unaware of the meta plot or just haven't cared. If this is the case, why not just run Modules or the more self contained AP parts? We could play more characters, and let our ADD shine through. Derobane can play even more crazy characters.

Just tossing that out there.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My reading project continues

I have finally completed the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, all 2300 pages of it. I won't go into details of the story, as there is a thorough synopsis on Wikipedia for anyone who is interested. However, I will say that I enjoyed the first two books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion more than the last two, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. Although comprising four books, the Hyperion Cantos is really two novels, each released in two parts. The two novels are separated in narrative time by almost three centuries. I would say that the first pair is pretty near perfect. The characters are deep and compelling and the story is impossible to set aside once you have immersed yourself in it. I simply couldn't put it down.

I can't say the second novel was quite as good. It was almost 300 pages longer than the first and it really felt like it. I confess that I didn't read the second book completely in the order in which it was written. About a third of the way through the second book (which would be the fourth book overall), I was beginning to feel so bogged down by what seemed a rather repetitive and overwritten plot about the messiah-like figure Aenea spreading her message and fleeing her pursuers that I skipped ahead and read the ending first. I did eventually return to where I'd left off and read the entire book, but upon completion, I never felt those initially skipped pages added much more to the narrative. I would suggest the author could have probably dispensed with a couple of hundred pages and not harmed the novel in any way. Having said all that, the entire series was extremely well-written and well-worth reading.

So, next on the agenda, I have the following titles queued up and ready to go:

A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov (yes, surprisingly, I've never read it)
The Book of the New Sun - Gene Wolf
A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge

I'll definitely need to take a break after that.