Books Read in May, 2019
May, 2019 Reader’s Digest
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh (r)
Linesman by S.K. Dunstall
HeX-Rated by Jason Ridler
John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook by Richard August, Jennifer Baughman et. al. (RPG) (r)
Amaryllis and Other Stories by Carrie Vaughn
Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh (r)
The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
And that was my reading for May, 2019. As can be seen, this was a particularly slow month of reading, though I did manage a couple of books the last week of the month, and two of the six books read were re-reads. The reason for this was that most of May I was tied up with a seriously sore neck and working on the various adventures that I was running at CanGames 2019. Considering the month that it was, I actually feel like I had a good month's reading. Anyway, the books that I enjoyed the most were...
Linesman by S.K. Dunstall - What an interesting premise! The Lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy... Linesman is the first novel in the Linesman series and can best be summed up as space opera with FTL travel enabled by humans with the special ability to sense and manipulate "Lines", manifestations of some sort of psychic energy that's currently beyond even their science. We're introduced to Ean Lambert, one of the few Linesmen that can access level Ten, the highest level of Lines and the Line that enables FTL. Lambert is unique in that he sings to the Lines and they interact with him in ways that no other Linesman can achieve. He starts out with one of the Linesman cartels, but has his contract purchased by a Princess of the Alliance, one of the the three main human political powers. The Alliance are about to go to war with the Gate Union egged on by the third political power, Redmond. Princess Michelle has a last-ditch plan to avert a war and requires a level ten Linesman to pull it off. While that's the plot in a nutshell, there's so much else going on in this story. The authors' (yes, there are two of them writing under a single pseudonym) world-building is very nice, the Lines and alien influences fascinating. The politics are ever-present and pretty believable, giving the novel the sweeping scope that one expects in (the best) space operas. The central character, Ean Lambert, is pretty likeable, but his inferiority complex can be somewhat difficult to take for the first two-thirds of the book. It does make sense, however, as he was raised in a slum and is lower class than the majority of other Linesman out there, in addition to being trained when he was a lot older. That, and his strange singing abilities. This is a solid book for the first book of a series, with a reasonable and mostly satisfying conclusion for a first book in a series, but clearly there is som much more to come, notably with the mysteries of the aliens and the mysterious artefacts they have left behind. Highly recommended.
HeX-Rated by Jason Ridler - This is the first book in the Brimstone Files series. Fall, 1970. Los Angeles has always been a den of danger and bliss, but even darker tidings brew in the City of Angels. Cults, magic, and the supernatural are leaking into the worlds of glamour and dives of the gutter. To the spectators walking down Hollywood Blvd., it’s just more proof that La La Land is over the cuckoo’s nest. But to former child magician and Korean veteran turned newly-licensed private investigator James Brimstone, it means business is picking up. After attending his mentor’s funeral, Brimstone signs his first client: Nico, a beautiful actress with a face full of scars and an unbelievable story of sex, demons, and violence on the set of a pornographic film in the San Fernando Valley. The cops chalk it up to a bad trip from a lost soul, but Brimstone knows better. He takes the case, but the investigation goes haywire as he encounters Hell’s Angels, a lost book of Japanese erotica, and a new enemy whose powers may fill the streets of L.A. with blood. He’ll have to us his carney wits, magic tricks, and a whole lotta charm to make it out of a world that is becoming... Hex-Rated. I don't really know where to start with this book, except... Urban fantasy is a popular genre, and there are plenty of sub-genres encompassed by it. One of the most popular forms of urban fantasy is that of the private investigator style mystery. Think of Mike Hammer or Sam Spade, with magic. Needless to say, the grandfather of this sub-genre is Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series. If Harry Dresden is Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, then James Brimstone is a Mike Hammer of the lurid pot-boilers of the 1970's filled with buxom women who fall into bed with the protagonist at the drop of the hat... the cover and the back cover of this book tell you everything you have to know about the plot, which is fairly pedestrian if you're familiar with the genre. What makes the book amazing is the voice of the author. This is vintage '70s cheese, but the language is amazing, in places absolutely poetic. What is amazing is the author's voice... this is vintage 70's cheese... the language is amazing. There are places where his language is positively poetic. The book is not perfect, 'cause we're not living in 1970s when a book like this would have gone over so well, so in some ways it has a forced feel and is moderately unpleasant in terms of the descriptive prose and there is a good deal of sexual content to the book that some may find uncomfortable. That said, the plot takes some interesting turns, the world is one that I want to see expanded in future, and I found this a good, diverting read. I'd recommend it, but it's not for everyone's taste. However, it does catch the flavour and feel of the 1970s in a way that is rather neat, adding the magic to it all, of course.
John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook by Richard August, Jennifer Baughman et. al. (RPG) - Yes, it was a re-read, but still... This is a lovely 280-page rulebook for the roleplaying game based on the Barsoom stories written in the early 1900s by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The book is a landscape format work, rather than the standard portrait style, and as such makes the rulebook almost a coffee table book. Clean text and a good palette of colours for the backgrounds and text makes this book eminently readable. I’m not going to talk about the rules here, though they are excellent. What makes the book shine for me (even on the re-read) is the writing of the game and the sheer amount of information about the world of John Carter and the planet of Barsoom (what we know as Mars). With very dense text and lovely illustrations, this game is a very good book, not just a roleplaying game, and offers up the marvels of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s highly inventive and stunning world in a roleplaying game context that is highly readable. The only thing that mars (no pun intended!) the game for me is the landscape format, which is awkward to hold and read. But that’s true for all coffee table books. Fortunately, this book won’t sit on a coffee table for me. I highly recommend this book as a source of material on the John Carter of Mars world and mythos, even if the reader doesn’t intend to use it as a roleplaying game.
Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 1 RPG and RPG product, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in May. This brings the year total in 2019 to a set of numbers that look like this: 34 books, 7 RPGs and RPG products, 9 magazines, 83 comics, and 0 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)