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A Book A Month 2018

This year I’ve made my way through seventeen-ish books, ranging from “meh” to “totally awesome!” Here’s my reading year in review.

As we’re getting closer to the end of 2018, I’m also getting closer to the last page of my A Book A Month project’s December book. Columbus Day by Craig Alanson has been a somewhat rocky ride. But as it looks right now, it’s a book I’d be happy to recommend to any fan of the saving-Earth-from-technologically-superior-aliens-genre.

 Science fiction and various related sub-genres have, not surprisingly, been the prominent topic of most of the books I’ve read this year. I’ve also spiced everything up a little with books that cover both science fiction and gaming, which is another favorite past time of mine: Phoenix Point: The Briefing is a collection of stories which help establish the setting and narrative themes of Phoenix Point. Available around summer next year, Phoenix Point is a strategy game with turn-based tactics combat. The game is designed by Julian Gollop, who designed the original X-COM series back in the days. That’s a recipe for success, if I every saw one.

But I digress. This post isn’t about potentially genius computer games, it’s about books.

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Time

I’m getting myself into a time problem, and I’m not sure how to solve it.

So, yeah, as you know I’ve got a wife. And we have kids. I’ve also got a job. I need to sleep. And I’ve got hobbies: Running, gaming, writing posts for this site, and reading books.

I’m terrible at multitasking, but I’ve managed to combine some of these hobbies to a certain degree. I placed an old television set in front of the treadmill, and hooked it up with a Chromecast dongle. So now I cover some of my gaming needs by watching other people play games on YouTube or Twitch while I’m running.

I’ve also tried to combine gaming and writing by putting together quite a lot of computer game reviews over the years. This isn’t ideal, though, because the reviews often feels a bit forced, probably because I played the game just to write a review. What’s the fun in that? Playing the game should lead to writing the review, not the other way around.

The third multitasking-esque thing I do is reading books while I’m commuting. This actually works out very well. I’ve had the A Book A Month project going for about three years now, and it’s been a raging success. I don’t think I’ve ever read as many books as I do these days.

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“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher

Writing a review of Storm Front 6 months after I finished the book is probably less than ideal. But this year I’m making an earnest effort to finish some of the 35+ post drafts I’ve got lying around. A half-finished review Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy novel is one of them.

The word “stormfront” isn’t something Joe Sixpack would normally associate with a book. When the word was used on the news last year, it was either because of really bad weather on the horizon, or when neo-Nazis plowed their cars through crowds of anti-fascists. But fantasy fans thankfully think of something a whole lot nicer when they hear the word. Storm Front is the name of the first book in the The Dresden Files, a series of urban fantasy/detective noir novels.

Storm Front is set in modern-day Chicago. The story’s protagonist, Harry Dresden, is a professional wizard who specialize in missing items, paranormal investigation, and consulting. But he doesn’t do love potions, or children’s parties. You have to draw the line somewhere, right? There are not many real wizards like Harry around. Still, business is slow, and he lives paycheck to paycheck.

Then a damsel in distress steps into his humble office. Monica Sells hires Harry to find her husband, and the scene is set for a fast paced adventure full of magic, spells, demons, faeries, drugs, vampires, love, and sex1.

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“Ringworld” by Larry Niven

Larry Niven’s Ringworld is a piece of classic science fiction that everyone interested in the genre should read. Here’s my review.

The year is 2850 AD. Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. To make the day last as long as possible, Louis moves west1 through transfer booths, when one of them suddenly malfunctions. He finds himself in a hotel room with a Pierson’s puppeteer, a peculiar-looking, two-headed alien. The puppeteer has an offer for Louis, and it’s an offer he can’t refuse.

The puppeteer propose that Louis joins him, and two additional, unnamed, crew members on a journey to an undisclosed location. Louis reward, should ha accept the mission, will be access to a space ship with quantum II hyperspace shunt engines. These engines, developed by the puppeteers, will cut travel time through space to a fraction of what it currently is. Any race with access to the engines would find themselves in a superior position compared to races that only have access to conventional, hyperspace shunt engines.

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“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044. The world has gone to shit. Unemployment. Civil unrest. Famine. Pollution. Overpopulation. War. People’s only escape is OASIS, a digital utopia where you can forget all about the real world.

OASIS is a digital virtual reality simulation, accessible to players by using a visor, and haptic technology. The few rules that apply inside the simulation were defined by its creators James Halliday and Ogden Morrow1. Concerned people were using OASIS to escape the real world, Morrow leaves its parent company, Gregarious Simulation Systems. Halliday remains the sole owner of GSS and OASIS.

Upon his death, Halliday announces a competition: Whoever manages to find an Easter egg his has hidden inside OASIS will inherit GSS, OASIS, and Halliday’s entire fortune. To find the it, the egg hunters, quickly nicknamed gunters, first have to locate three keys that open three different gates. Soon, everyone and their grandmother are searching for the egg. It become apparent that Halliday’s affection with the 1970s and 80s of his childhood is the right path to find the egg. With enough knowledge of 70s and 80s pop culture and nerd trivia, and the ability to connect the dots, a player should be able to find the keys, the gates, and thus the Easter egg, and Halliday’s big pile of dough.

But the first key proves to be hard to find, and years go by without any progress, until suddenly, one day, a name appears on the top of the Scoreboard: Parzival.

Parzival is the avatar of young Wade Watts. An orphan living with his doper aunt in the stacks surrounding Oklahoma City, Watts uses the OASIS to attend high school. It’s also his escape from the real world. For Wade, and most people of his generation, OASIS is in many ways more real than reality itself. His mother used OASIS to raise him, and OASIS is where he spends most of his time. And for Watts, Halliday’s Easter egg becomes an all-consuming obsession.

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