Books, Again

I haven’t written much lately about what has been going on in my world, book-wise. I haven’t been reading as much as usual, on account of all of the other stuff going on in my life.

A few weeks ago I picked up Rules of Play, a textbook covering many aspects of game design and game theory. Despite what some of the less-than-impressed reviewers have to say about the book, I am finding it to be an absolute treasure trove of ideas and observations about everything game related. It is very much a “think about this”, rather than a “do it this way” – type book, and as such is useful for a much wider variety of projects than would be a “Learn 3d lighting algorithms for animating hair in Maya for Doom XVIII” – type book, which is what the detractors seem to expect.

A little while before that I picked up Rainbow Stories by William Vollmann. I have read a few of his novels, and of course Rising Up and Rising Down (which Amazon.com is currently listing for $475!!!), but this is the first time I have read his smaller works. And they are brilliant. His characters are prostitutes and junkies and ancient Babylonian heroes and doctors and police and everyone in between. And though the stories can be ugly, the writing is beautiful and very much worth the effort.

Rewinding a little more brings us to The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. This one had been hovering around the edges of my perception since I picked up Red Mars a couple of years ago. It is a speculative history novel which explores the idea, “what if the Black Plague wiped out 90 percent of Europe instead of 30 percent?”. Each chapter explores the world through the eyes of several characters who are continually reincarnated into interconnected lives, from the years of the plague up to roughly the year 2090. I have always enjoyed “what if?” – type books which explore the effects of single events on the cascade of history, and this book is one of the best of them.

Shortly before that I picked up 40 Signs of Rain, also by Kim Stanley Robinson, which follows members of the scientific community as they try to raise awareness in time to stem the disastrous results of global warming. This one is not as accessible as his other works, and sounds a little pedantic at times, but it is superbly researched and does a wonderful job of showing the day-to-day efforts of the scientists who, more than anyone else, understand what we are doing to the planet, and what it will take to counter those acts.

Just today, on the way home from work, I picked up Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. I am a little in to the second chapter, and I have to say this: Buy the book. Buy it now. I am impressed enough after 20 pages that I feel I can safely say that this will be one of the best books I read this year. And after so many years of reading science fiction, it takes a lot to impress me.

So there we are. Fitting in a little reading in the nooks and crannies of my insanely busy life; usually between 11:30 and whenever I finally drift off to sleep on any given weeknight.

Up next: Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton; the sequel to Pandora’s Star, which was a rollicking good read, as are all of Hamilton’s books. It hits the shelves this upcoming Tuesday, and the week after that is spring break, which means an extra eight hours of reading time for me before the long slide into the final weeks of the semester. Eight more weeks before I am free from the insane schedule which I have inflicted upon myself.

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