Thursday, July 24, 2008

You Know You're Reading Stackpole When...

How to know that you're reading a Michael A. Stackpole novel. Now let's start off with the fact that I do enjoy his books, they're some of my favorites, with Talion and a Hero Reborn always holding a special place in my heart, however, there are a few elements that tend to get reused. And since I'm just finishing up The New World, the third in his Cartomancy(actually properly Age of Discovery but Cartomancy is easier to type) series of books, I felt that this would be more useful(not to mention entertaining) than a straight up review.

Before you take a look, take note of two items. 1. I didn't include novels from Battletech or Star Wars since those are shared universes. 2. I only put down books that I've read, and there may be some inaccuracy due to the fact it's been some time since I've read a few, particularly Eyes of Silver and Hero Born. If there is, feel free to tell me to add in the appropriate area, or even suggest a whole new category.

Now let's go over the highlights of the chart.

Talion Eyes of Silver Once A Hero A Hero Born(Chaos Rider Universe) Dragoncrown Cycle Cartomancy Universe
Wandering Swordsmen Dispensing Justice 1

1 3
Dinosaurs In All But Name

1 1 1 3
Created Cannon Fodder

1 1 1 3
Fallen Empire 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
Fallen Empire of Near Immortals

1 1 3
Mecha or Magitech Golemns

1 1 3
Magical Radiation

1 2
Amnesia/Reincarnation/ etc.
1 1 1 1 1 5
Meet Me At The Ball 1

1 1 1 4
Circle Duels 1

1 1 3
Limited Shapeshifters/Natural Magicusers
1 1
1 1 4
Huge Statues Crafted/Moved by Magic 1

1 1

5 4 4 8 10 11

Wandering Swordsmen: Simple enough for Talion, the Talions themselves. A Hero Born I included the Chaos Riders, not specifically targeted at justice, but certainly protectors. The Cartomancy universe has them as well, with a italicized and hard to pronounce name. I was tempted to include the Fortress Draconis universe, but I don't think Crow can count as more than an isolated adventuring party.

Dinosaurs in all but name: Fortress Draconis has the temeryces, Hero Born has various species warped by chaos, and Cartomancy has the creations of its sleeping evil and mad grandfather.

Created Cannon Fodder: This was a hard one to label. The main creatures that fill this niche are the Gibberers from the Dragoncrown cycle, a slight variation also appears in Cartomancy, and while debatable, I included the chaos creatures from Hero Born. I could have included the "goblins" from Talion, but they didn't really fulfill the same role.

Fallen Empire(Of Near Immortals): Yup, every single one of them fulfilled the post shattering/after the fall of empire theme. And we ended up immortal overlords many a time, Once a Hero had the Reithrese, Dragoncrown cycle had, what else, dragons, and with Cartomancy we have the Viruk.

Awakening/Reincarnation/etc: Moraven Tolo, Neal Elfward, Locke, Kereena Dost(whose name reappears in the Cartomancy series), etc. I think Talion is the only one where this doesn't feature in somewhere.

Meet Me At The Ball: Actually these make up some of my favorite scenes, the Bear's Eve Ball for Hero Born, the ball to kick off the expeditions in Cartomancy, the coronation ball for Talion. The Dragoncrown cycle one eludes my memory though.

Limited Shapeshifters/Natural Magic Users: Actually I cheated a little bit in combining the two categories, but I think they fit as usually they're the anathema of magicians. The Dost's shapechanging ability from Eyes of Silver seems to clearly have a legacy in the UrZethi of the Dragoncrown books, and the Dreel and Fennych of Once a Hero and Cartomancy might as well be cousins.

Anyways, whether it's a good or bad thing that these tropes appear more in his most recent works. Well that depends on how much you like them to begin with, whether he's pulling his vision of a fantasy world together, or just repeating himself. Either way, I enjoy his writings, but dammit! I wouldn't mind a few surprises to look forward to.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Linkfest 6

Well, I've had a pretty intense last few weeks, between the whole Airport fiasco and moving up to NC for grad school, so take this as a teaser, with a full update hopefully coming soon.

I found this site with some free wargame rules, and plenty of battle reports. Well written and quite interesting, so go ahead and check out Damned Human Race - Miniature War Gaming

Here's an unrelated but possibly quite useful tool. Stun your audience, players, or victims by knowing the impact effects of a meteor or asteroid hitting the Earth. Cataclysm or romantic night out? Will we fall into a hundred year winter, or will the planet simply go kablooey? Well, in much more technical terms than that of course, but....

Also, I feel a need to share the wealth. Have you read any Zelazny yet? If not, then go ahead and try out the first book of his epic Amber series, Roger Zelazny. Nine Princes In Amber.

Now here's something that you might not have seen, or even known, that Robert E. Howard, best known as the creator of classic pulp characters such as Conan, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn, was also a prolific poet. Actually Howard scholars will know this, but for the rest of you, I would like to give you a little taste of what he had to offer, so here's a link to a website that has many of his poems for you to enjoy.

While we're in a artistic and musical mode here, Zooey Deschanel stars and sings in the new music video by She and Him, "Why do you let me stay here".

For you BSG fans....we have a trailer for Caprica! Wooooo! Hopefully that'll keep us from going into total withdrawl when BSG ends.

And simply because this is so totally awesome, I just have to link this. A little late, I know, but it's there. The Great Office War.

Also, here's a nice little tidbit written by a friend of mine on how to Mod Firefox. Useful for the less tech savvy of us.

Finally, something I should have done already. I'm adding in Gunnerkrigg Court to the webcomics list. I'm also thinking of taking several off due to inactivity. Does anyone have an opinion on whether I should leave them on for sentimental reasons or take them off to reduce clutter?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Flying Dutchman. Or: How I learned to stop the yawn.

This is a bit of a personal post, but given that I haven't done much on here I thought I would give you all a bit of an explanation.

You may not know, but I went up to visit a friend in rural Harbor Beach Michigan over the weekend. Getting up there I was delayed two hours, but nothing compared to getting back. First off, Harbor Beach is a good 2-3 hours from the Flint airport, with a flight scheduled to leave at 5ish, and needing to get something to eat, I left at 1pm. That's when the travel time clock started.

Arrive at the airport to see that the flight has been delayed until 11pm. Fortunately there is another, earlier flight, the 3pm flight(it's now 4pm with it scheduled for 6). Get on that flight and wait, and wait, as it gets delayed, and delayed. As it is delayed past 8pm, I change tickets for my connecting flight. As it gets delayed past 9pm, I change tickets again for the last flight to Ft. Lauderdale out of Atlanta. As it is delayed past 10:30pm, I realize that it is impossible to make that and change the ticket once again to Miami.

Two hours of flying time so far for 10 hours of travel time. The plane actually leaves at 10:50pm. Enter, Atlanta. After an hour sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open up, I learn the Miami flight is canceled. As all the flights have been delayed the terminal is packed, standing room only, and there is a line of about 200-300 people for the customer service.

I estimate about 2 hours of wait....I was wrong, it was more like 4.5 hours. I got in the line at 1:30, I got out of the line at 5:30am. They were able to put me on standby for the next 3 flights out to Ft. Lauderdale, unfortunately the only flight they could confirm me on was the next day, about 28 hours away.

The 8:10am to Ft. Laud leaves without me on it. But I did luck out and get a emergency row seat on the 9:10am. Finally getting me in at around 11:30 or so due to delays. Finally get home around noon.

So, all in all, 23 hours of travel time. Yeah, for all of 4 hours of flights.

Not that I was the worst off, by no means, there were people who had been waiting just at Atlanta for 20 hours or more. Highlights include a group of 20-30 people who banded together to charter a bus to Ohio. An elderly lady with 1 day of medication left being given a ride across two states by the sister of a person she met while in the line for customer service. A man with a medical problem told that the only medical station was in another building, unfortunately he wouldn't be able to get there because he didn't have a boarding pass for that terminal. A family separated as the husband goes out to look for a rental car(none were to be had), only to find they could not get back into the gate area because their ticket was from the day before(about 3 hours), and that there was no way to get a new ticket until the counters opened(another 3 hours). Which was in vain anyways as there were no rental cars or hotel rooms to be had for blood or money, and no shuttles to take you anywhere. And a family with toddlers who learned that the entire terminal was sold out of drinks, it took a gate agent who was going off shift to bring back a little carton for them.

All in all I got two impressions from this. First, that the agents of the airline that were there were helpful despite the pressures, with high level of patience. I complemented the gate crew at Flint on juggling me from one flight to another until the last second. Second, there was no organization. The line was never addressed or separated, services were not provided for those who needed them, especially concern for medical problems. There was no effort made to make our wait more pleasant, even a small gesture would have counted for much, a free water bottle while you waited or blankets. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to have opened up extra counters at the empty gates and to direct portions of the line to be serviced there. However none of these things were addressed. For our troubles, what we got, if we asked, was a hotel discount voucher, good for a reduced rate at a hotel....of which all were filled to capacity long ago.

Anyways, I may be ranting, and I know there is nothing that one can do about the weather, but the weather was only a small part of making that return flight the trip from hell. I've been on longer flights, waited longer times, but never with such conditions that the elderly, families with children, and medically endangered were not seen to.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Dragon Never Sleeps

The Dragon Never Sleeps - Glen Cook

Canon space has been ruled for thousands of years, overseen by immortal Guardships, ready to dispense justice and restore order with extreme prejudice. But the years have taken their toll, and for the crews, constantly undergoing a rebirth cycle to rival any karmic wheel, and the nascent AIs, things are not what they once were. Whole ships have gone silent, prowling about the uncharted rim, seeking the mysteries of the web, and worse, some have gone insane. Some are no more than ghost crewed flying dutchmen, while others have turned into dictatorial fiefdoms, and even the other ships fear their presence. Canon space has changed as well, what was once a human empire is a decaying husk, aliens, clones, and artificial constructs battle with rebel agitators and trade families to carve out their own pound of flesh.

Only one race challenged the Guardships for supremacy, and they have entered into the realm of myths and legends. The Ku recreated themselves into perfect soldiers and tacticians, adapting their race for one thing, the war, and even they were wiped out, except for one. After a hundred generations of rebellions rising and falling, the Ku's last and greatest general has resurfaced, and the time for vengeance has arrived.

But there are other things out there, things more horrible and strange than even the insane AIs of the Guardships. Aliens from beyond the Rim, and they look with hungry eyes on the bloated jewel of order known as Canon Space.

Let me first say, I am a fan of Glen Cook, from his Black Company to Garrett PI books, I've devoured them. And this one is no different, I would compare it to his Dread Empire books, with intricate plots and powerful, sometimes mysterious and unexplained forces pushing schemes within schemes. That said, I've only given the bare outlines of the plot above, but believe me, I couldn't explain it all without reams of pages, not to mention spoilers galore, best is to simply read the book.

As for the book itself, some of the description is a bit sparse, but Cook is able to do quite a bit with a few words, creating the atmosphere of a scene so palpable that you can feel the bulkheads. This is Space Opera at it's best, while still being somewhat believable. There aren't any immortal heroes(resurrected, yes, immortal, no) that right the wrongs of the universe, like the Black Company books, the Guardships have definitely drifted into the gray area of morality. With believable, if somewhat insane, characters, and a twisting plot, this is one of the few books that I can say that I didn't have a clue what would happen even as I turned the page. When I was finished there was that "oh wow" feeling that one gets after reading mindblowing literature, but also a hunger, that there could have been more, especially in the last few pages. But still, this one gets my full recommendation.