[reading] What have you read recently? (continued)


The Guvnor
Staff member
The Solo Wargaming Guide
William Sylvester

This is a very personal, readable and yet essentially disorganized set of memoir, advice and scattered rules that focus on the strategic campaign level and yet never explain the tactical... but making assumptions as to the tactical rules when developing and explaining the strategic. However it's difficult to be churlish, if you are a miniature wargamer using a common set of wargame rules, you will glean much of value, and probably enjoy the slightly quixotic tales and asides.. I did. If you want a tight, concise, well structured rule set, this isn't it.



The Guvnor
Staff member
Dogs of War
Adrian Tchaikovsky
T just keeps exploring biological SF in a way that is fascinating. This is all about Rex and the Multiform Assault Pack he leads, operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, south-eastern Mexico.
Rex is a Bioform, a thing, a piece of property.. Rex is a Good Dog
Read this.. 10/10

It's a free loan on Prime reading on Amazon..



The Guvnor
Staff member
Bear Head
Adrian Tchaikovsky
First.. excellent writing and well imagined. Not quite as 'wow that's a new perspective' as the first book 'Dogs of War', but more 'wow that's a great plot line extending from the premise'.. This is enclosed, gritty Mars workspace and then the truly sociopathic hell that is the world around the very-Trump politician Warner Thompson. It's a very good depiction of a lying sociopathic populist politician, and it's core to the story. This is a good read.. but read 'Dogs of War' first..


View all my reviews

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race
Reni Eddo-Lodge

An excellent primer into the realities of structural racism in Britain, in particular the insidious collusion of white privilege and power. Useful expositions on the issues of race in feminism, and the use of class to accentuate the plight of the whites. I have lived through much of the recent history in Britain, but due to my status it has not touched me.

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First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Dungeons & Dragons Vol 1-3: Shadowplague, First Encounters, Down
Writing: John Rogers, Art: Andrea De Vito

A rollicking tale of swords and sorcery out in Nentir Vale, the 'Points of Light' setting for 4e. Nicely drawn and told with that much sought after 'party banter', the five adventurers get into a continuous series of encounters out and about and down below. They brought me a continuous smile. They also provided black and white pictures for colouring in and character sheets for the heroes! Loved them.

A quick shout out to Comixcology the app that I have used to read them. Found on (at least) the Android Play Store, it ran on my Chromebook, giving me a big screen view of the comic and allowed me to navigate the stories pane by pane with dynamic zoom. Really enhanced my reading experience. I rated the app highly, only to find a string of poor reviews regarding performance. Maybe an 8GB Chromebook made up for it? Smooth on my hardware.
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Asperfell,by Jamie Thomas

Picked this up in a Daily Deal earlier this month and started it yesterday. A straight-up fantasy, it can be summarised as Arya Stark visits Gormenghast.

The book starts very Game of Thrones in tone - Briony Tenebrae lives with her elder sister and parents; she's a tomboy, and her sister is far more lady-like. Her father is on the King's Council. When the King dies, apparently murdered by his heir (who is a mage), the heir is exiled to another dimension called Asperfell (which is a one-way trip). His younger brother takes the throne and after their mother dies becomes cruel and paranoid, exiling mages to Asperfell if they won't serve him. Briony's father is aghast at the turn of events, and along with others helps mages escape to neighbouring countries. When his network is discovered, Briony is arrested and is discovered to be a mage herself - and is sentenced to death. However, the remaining members of the network sacrifice themselves to send her through the gate to Asperfell instead - where she is supposed to find the heir and try and find a way back to the kingdom to replace the king.

Not bad at all; it's the first in a trilogy with the due out next month. Recommended.
Born Magic: The Diary of Scarlett Bernard, by Melissa F Olson. A 'sequel' to the Disrupted Magic series, and the last (as of time of writing) in the Old World universe. I now must make time to reread the entire meta series in order.

When we left Scarlett Bernard at the end of Shadow Hunt, she was pregnant - which is supposedly impossible for a null. However, it turns out nulls are only fertile with each other; when they do give birth, the baby is a super-witch - capable of rejuvenating the ley lines. The other wrinkle is that these super-witches come into their powers very early - shortly after birth instead of the usual puberty. The story is written as diary entries following the birth and is concerned with being a new mother, being a mother to an insanely powerful super-witch, and getting back into the Old World after maternity leave.

Rather fun, and takes the story on nicely.
The Night Raven, by Sarah Painter (Crow Investigations 1)

Not a bad urban fantasy - magical London crime families and their offspring. Somewhat derivative of Rivers of London - the magical lineages being one, a character called Fleet whose mother's maiden name was Kamara who may have come from a different lineage.

Lydia Crow has escaped London and moved to Aberdeen where she is training as a PI. She's been raised 'normal' - her father, Henry Crow, accepted this as the condition for Lydia's mother agreeing to marry him. His father wasn't happy for Henry to move away, but Charlie (the eldest son) persuaded him into it. After a case turns sour, Lydia needs to get out of Aberdeen, and accepts Charlie's offer of a place to stay in London. This happens to be a flat above a family-owned café, and Lydia is doing Charlie a favour by living there - oh, and can you look for your cousin who has run off?

It reads a bit like a first novel, but it's not. The story was interesting, but didn't seem to flow very well, feeling more like linked scenes. I'll probably pick up the rest of the series, but I'll be waiting for them to come up in deals.



Lay member
Recently finished Cathedral by Ben Hopkins. I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction but enjoyed this immensely. A varied and well drawn cast of characters came together to forge an interesting story.

I've started The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and am expecting to be blown away, given the lavish praise it has received.
A Spell of Empire by Michael Scott Rohan

An enjoyable picaresque romp that is reminiscent of Avram Davidson's Peregrine series. Very whimsical in style. A half-elf apprentice mage is at a loose end when his master attempts to summon a demon and it all goes horribly wrong. Leaving town before the Inquisition start asking pointed questions (or questions accompanied by sharp pointy things), he is hired by a merchant to escort a caravan from Germany to Sicily to recover a demonic artifact. Except the merchant is assassinated before the caravan gets going.

A fun story set in a fantastic Europe where other races abound. The grim-dark aspects reminded me of Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark.


The Ice King by Michael Scott Rohan. Difficult to know what to say about this one - it's not normally something I would read, being more on the side of supernatural horror than urban fantasy.

A team of archaeologists excavate a Viking ship burial in a NE England coastal town and disturb very unpleasant things man was not meant to know (TM). I wasn't entirely convinced by the way they went about the excavation (build coffer dam in the estuary and severely annoy the local fishing fleet, pump out water, excavate as opposed to 'proper' underwater archaeology), but who am I to say...

OK, but not really my cup of tea.

Tales of the Werewolf Clan, by H Warner Munn

This is the combined Werewolf Clan stories, originally published as short stories in the 1920s, and collected as 2 hardbacks in 1979. It's been a while since I read them; there's a definite Klarkashtonian vibe in the explanation of how the clan came about. Stylistically rather dated now (being rooted in the pulps), but still a good read.

Basically the story of a clan of werewolves from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, told from the point of view of various family member who usually end up dying horribly.

Recommended if you like that sort of thing

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories, by Charlaine Harris

All the Sookie Stackhouse short stories that have previously been anthologised elsewhere. Nice, light shorts to dip into at my leisure or when I have 15 minutes to spare.

Recommended, although the US gun culture is very much to the fore in some of the stories.


The Guvnor
Staff member
Inverted World
Christopher Priest
"A uniquely powerful novel of a society in decay. On a planet whose very nature is a mystery a massive decrepit city is pulled along a massive railway track, laying the line down before it as it progresses into the wilderness.
The society within toils under an oppressive regime, its structures always on the point of collapse, the lives of its individuals lived in misery. No one knows where they are going, why they ..."

All I am going to say is.. 'truly excellent' and 'why have I never heard of Priest before?'
10/10 yes.. that good IMHO
I've just reread Marching Through Georgia by S M Stirling. This is an alternate history which alternates between action sequences in the novel's 'present' and flashbacks to the protagonist's earlier life, framed by quotations from fictional philosophers and historians, and written in 1988 and first read by me about 1991 or so, when I started developing a fleeting interest in 'alt-hist'.

The background supposes that members of the losing side in the American War of Independence are dumped in Africa, where they establish a ruthless fascist state supported by slavery, the Domination of the Draka. By the 1940s, a recognisable version of world war two has begun, but with the addition of the Draka as a superpower to rival America, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Japan. The action sequences tell the story of a Draka paratroop unit fighting the SS in Georgia (the one in the Caucausus, not the one in America).

This book is followed by Under the Yoke, which deals with the occupation and enslavement of western Europe, The Stone Dogs, which shows the end game between the two surviving superpowers, fought with spacecraft, nuclear missiles and bioweapons, and Drakon, in which the genetically-optimised descendants of the Draka, and the cybernetically-enhanced descendants of Americans, discover how to travel between parallel universes, and spill over into ours. There is also a collection of short stories written by other authors but set in the same universe, Drakas!

Of the four novels, I prefer the first, as it ends on an optimistic note, in which one of the key Draka characters decides to work within the system to build something better. Later works demonstrate that he failed, and become increasingly dark and depressing; I'm unlikely to read the second and third novels again. This is a universe where the bad guys win, big time.

Telling the stories chiefly from a Draka viewpoint helps to make them feel real, rather than the two-dimensional villains they could easily have been, but the author seems overfond of his evil super-soldiers, to the point where I started to wonder if he is advocating their society as a model.
Funny story about Georgia. My ex who worked for the US State Department said during one Presidential term, when they were handing out Ambassadorships to political 'friends', a staffer asked why they needed an Ambassador to Georgia apparently not realising there was a country named Georgia and they were not proposing an Ambassador to go to a Southern State of the US.
Sex in History, by Reay Tannahill.

Stop sniggering at the back there, it's more pop sociology than salacious. Somewhat dated now, it was originally published in 1990. There is some discourse on methodology, but it's more about how sex fits into society from post-glacial hunter-gather tribes to 20th century cities. Given the time-span, it tends to the superficial.

It's as much about how women fit into society as it is about mores, but it does give a good historical grounding in the varying attitudes to women, sex, marriage and procreation, and will help understand pre-pill attitudes.

I won't say recommended, but it would be useful reading for anyone designing a historical game setting.
A couple of graphic novels: Age of Reptiles Omnibus and Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians, by Ricardo Degado. The first collects the initial 3 miniseries from Dark Horse - Age of Reptiles (collected as Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare), Age of Reptiles: The Hunt and Age of Reptiles: The Journey. They are a pure visual format; no dialogue, just action, and the story is expressed for the character reactions.

Yes, the characters are dinosaurs.

The first 3 miniseries are set in Cretaceous North America, the last in Cretaceous North Africa. Age of Reptiles follows a band of Deinonycuses; deprived of their kill, they exact a bloodthirsty revenge. Age of Reptiles: The Hunt follows a juvenile Allosaur after his mother is killed. Age of Reptiles: The Journey follows the migration south of herds of herbivores. Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians follows a Spinosaurus aegyptiacus in a swamp in what will become North Africa.

The books are very nicely drawn; the accuracy is pretty good as far as I can tell, including the skin coloration. They are very detailed and depict a full eco-system, not shying away from the nature red in tooth and claw aspect. However, there is a certain amount of anthropomorphism in the stories, especially in using emotional reactions in place of dialogue and ascribing anthropoid reactions to non-anthropoids. I was rather reminded of the Disney nature documentaries I recall from my childhood.

The Mask of Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler.

Technically a stand-alone, there is a sequel (The Intercom Conspiracy) which is set about a decade later.

While visiting Turkey during the 1930s, author Charles Latimer is introduced to a Turkish police chief, and accompanies him to a mortuary to view a body fished out of the Bosphorus. Here, the policeman tells him about the body - it has been identified as that of a criminal of Greek extraction. Latimer is intrigued by the dossier, and sets out to find out more, retracing Dimitrios' footsteps from Smyrna in 1922 (where Dimitrios starts his criminal career with the robbery and murder of a money-lender and the framing of his accomplice for the murder) to Paris in 1939 where the explosive denouement takes place in an extraordinary flat of one of Dimitrios' former gang members.

Throughout the journey, Latimer comes to understand his own motives for tracing Dimitrios' journey. Initially thinking it would form a plot for his next detective novel, he develops an obsession with Dimitrios. From encounters in seedy bars and train carriages, from luxury villas to shabby hotels, the pre-war Balkans are skilfully drawn.