Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

They Are Like Text Adventures Without a Command Prompt, See..?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 31, 2011

So I’m going for a slight deviation of usual topics here.

One of the regrets of my lifestyle is that I don’t have much time to read fiction. I don’t have time for a lot of things, like TV, but I generally don’t regret much missed TV, as I have no real interest in remaining “current.” And I don’t mind watching shows on DVD (or streaming online) that were popular years ago.  But I do wish I could read more. I have a big list of novels to read that grows faster than I can get through them.  Since my social group tends to be avid readers, I’m always feeling a little like the slow kid.

But between some audio books on a trip to Oregon, and catching up on the newly-released post-cliffhanger of a favorite series, August wasn’t too bad for me in terms of enjoying the written word. So I feel a little like sharing this strange little linear entertainment form I’ve rediscovered. 🙂

First off: Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher. It follows the cliffhanger ending of the last novel in the Harry Dresden series, Changes. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about this one without it being a spoiler, especially if you haven’t read Changes.  If you are unfamiliar with the series, Harry Dresden is a wizard living in modern-day Chicago. He’s got a problem with authority figures, be it the council of wizards which he ostensibly serves, the age-old status quo of supernatural races which he’s alternately worked to preserve and destroy,  and even godlike beings of legend whom he (later in the series) has increasingly frequent contact with. The first couple of books in the series are definitely weaker than the later ones (no big surprise), but they are still quite enjoyable. What I do like best is that the author is not afraid to take the series on quick 90-degree turns that really change everything.

He’s done it enough that I trust him with the changes by now. With the latest book, my wife wasn’t too satisfied with the ending. I, on the other hand, felt it was a good “transitional” novel. While I wanted Harry to avoid a particular fate at the end, it is probably more satisfying (and more interesting in future novels) that he rather discovered some truths about himself and the nature of said fate that he is able to go in on his own terms.

And that’s as specific as I want to get.

On the trip to Oregon, I was able to enjoy the audiobook Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.  I’ve not read many Discworld novels, though some players and readers have stated that Frayed Knights has a similar style / approach to turning fantasy tropes on their ear. Wyrd Sisters is something of riff on Shakespeare, particularly MacBeth, generally taking the point of view of three witches in the unfolding of political treachery and regicide. While neither this book nor most books in the series have the kind of humor that makes me laugh out loud, it’s instead the kind that makes you just grin and inwardly smirk as you find yourself truly drawn into the story.

On the return trip, we listened the the recording of The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold. With my long list of unread novels, there aren’t many that I’ve re-read, let alone read three or more times. This was the third time for me, but I got to share it with my daughters. I was wondering how well they’d get into some good ol’ space-opera adventure. Based on their enthusiasm and laughter, I’d say they did. Yes, it is at times laugh-out-loud funny, though that’s often as much from a release of tension as from the humor of the situation.

I’ve recommended this book before on this blog, and I’ll do it again here. It’s not necessarily the “beginning” of the series, though it’s really where the story of Miles Vorkosigan starts, and a great introduction to the series. He is the young son of a famous hero and powerful political lord of a space-faring empire, one with a dangerous reputation in the galaxy for its recent history of conquest and expansion. A failed assassination attempt on his parents during his mother’s pregnancy gave Miles some extreme physical limitations and a stunted form. But he’s also something of a hyperactive genius with a nose for getting him into trouble. In this first book of his adventures, what begins as a simple off-planet vacation with a childhood friend he’d like to turn into a romance quickly escalates to Miles becoming an arms smuggler, mercenary captain, and soon the de facto commander on the formerly losing side of an interstellar war.  If that sounds like a wild ride, it is.

Not all the Vorkosigan books are rollicking space opera like this one – in fact, one of the hallmarks of the series is how the science fiction, far-future setting is really just an interesting setting for all kinds of different story styles: Mystery, political intrigue, and even romantic comedy. I’m thrilled my daughters have now been introduced to the series. Probably just as thrilled as my wife was when she finally got me to start reading the books.

So there you go – some urban fantasy, some humorous fantasy, and some science fiction. Maybe you are like me and those books will go in on a very long “to read” list, but there you go!


Filed Under: Books - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

  • jzoeller said,

    Sitting down to read a good book is something I wish I had more time for too.

  • Ruber Eaglenest said,

    har har, that’s the good thing of audio-books, you don’t need to sit down to read them.

  • Xian said,

    I still manage to fit in a lot of time to read. I got a Kindle nearly a year ago and I think I have increased my reading quite a bit since I got it. I still find plenty of opportunities to read, while waiting on the kids with their piano lessons, any doctor/dentist/DMV office while waiting, and usually a chapter or so before going to sleep.

    I have been reading the George R. R. Martin Song of Fire and Ice series after seeing Game of Thrones on HBO at a friend’s house last May. I am on the fifth one, the latest to be published, and it is been a very good series, though well over 4,000 pages in total.

    I may read the Jim Butcher books next; so far I have only read the first in the Harry Dresden series.

  • Felix Pleșoianu said,

    I’ve recently read The Warrior’s Apprentice, and loved it. But it was The Mountains of Mourning that I literally couldn’t put down until I finished. The only other book that had such an effect on me was Ender’s Game. Which, come to think of it, was published only a year prior. Must have been a special decade. 😛

  • UDM said,

    You read Jim Butcher too? Jay, you’re officially a bro now 😀

    I haven’t read Ghost Story yet. I only found out about Butcher five months ago. I’m still ferociously devouring everything before Turn Coat. My favourite has to be Dead Beat, for obvious reasons. Any story that features a scene like in the finale has to be treated with reverence.

    Of course, my first Harry Dresden book was actually Turn Coat, so I pretty much spoiled 90% of the endings of the series for myself when I was done with it. Nevertheless, the process of learning about Harry’s life is really fun and enjoyable. Oh there are a few Harry Dresden books that I think are quite dull, but most of them are really, really enjoyable. As a huge fan of classic literature (Robert E Howard, Edgar R Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith), I like such stories because they’re just so fast-paced and never let up on the action and intrigue; at the same time they are descriptive enough with the environment. No doubt (as mentioned in the Author’s Notes section) Butcher’s literary style is often inspired by these authors too.

    You have to read Simon R. Greene too if you like Butcher. His Nightside stories are fantastic – quirky, fast, fun and vividly painted.

  • UDM said,

    Gotta mention, I like how Dresden is often seen by others as one tough-as-nails SOB. Except for those who are closest to him, like Murphy and Bob, the truth is he just happens to hide the hurt, both physically and emotionally, really well. I think the wisecracks help too :P. Gosh, life would be boring for a wizard without some sarcasm thrown about in the face of danger.

  • Tormod Haugen said,

    Yes, Pratchett’s work is very much grin and smirk, punctuated by a short moment of laughting out loud once in a while.

    Each book reflects something (different) about our world and, while each book stands for itself, they (and the characters) make more sense and show progression when read in sequence. As I reread books I like regularly (every few years for the most read), I now pick a character (Vimes, the Witches or someone else) and read the books featuring them as main characters.

    And now I need to get me some Jim Butcher novels, I guess. It’ll probably be after (my first time reading) the Song of Fire and Ice, and possibly after me rereading Malazan Book of the Fallen (heavy, complex and REALLY good writing/characters) by Steven Erikson.

  • Delve said,

    Miles Vorkosigan is my hero

  • WCG said,

    Lois McMaster Bujold is probably my favorite author. And unlike most series fiction, her Vorkosigan series just got better and better as it went along.

    You really should read them in order, though.