A New Morning

Today’s the day. You’re turning thirteen. You wake up, tap your wrist to turn off your alarm, and blink into the foggy early spring morning. There’s a slight pain on your left side, easily written off as a misadventure in tossing and turning while carousing the dream zone. Your head’s a little blurry too, like a signal’s getting interrupted, but that’s just waking up, right?

Your mom calls from downstairs. Breakfast. School. The usual routine demands, and you follow them. All the way through to the shower, the clothes, and while you don’t need a backpack – something your parents laugh about – with all your books and notes stored in the Tama on your wrist, you’re nonetheless checking that you haven’t forgotten anything as you reach for the lift’s call button – it’s a long ride to ground in the stacks – when it hits.

At first, it’s like your skin is burning. Only not just your skin but everything inside it too. Except there’s no flame. No sound either except your own shouting, which you realize you’re doing when your parents run over, their faces showing a deeper kind of fear than you’ve ever seen. This isn’t concern about a skinned knee or the flu, but an existential crisis.

And you know why. You’ve been told, taught, tested. Warned that some anomalies are never caught before it happens. Now it’s happening to you.

You’re kneeling now, hands pressed against the faux-wood flooring, a quiet plea to nature in this metal place. Take a breath, your mother’s saying, and she reaches for you even as your dad tells her not to. You feel her hand on your shoulder and it’s a reaction honed by years of parent-child support to reach up and grab hold.

The burn becomes kinetic, a fiery thrum coursing from your right hand, still on that wood, through your shoulders, your nerves, through your left arm to that clasped hand. You’re looking right at her when it happens, and the shock in those eyes as they turn brown and knotted will stay with you forever.

Next comes your father, unwilling to believe what’s happened, and you, tears doing their work on your eyes, turn to him for answers. You touch his shirt, you grab his hand, and the fire burns again. Sharp, but even in this horrible moment you begin to understand it, measure the flow and, like flexing a muscle, turn it off.

You are a miracle. A genetic lottery winner. A silent house cheers.

Read Your Old Work

Writing, painting (digitally, anyway), and other creative endeavors are some of the few activities where you can look back at your old work and see whether you’ve grown (or regressed!) since you began. Play an instrument and you can probably tell whether you’ve improved, or maybe you took the time to record yourself and post it to YouTube in a early bid to make yourself a star that flamed out amid endless laughter from friends and classmates… where was I?

Right.

At this moment I’m polishing up a prior work whose world I’m planning to go back to for some future stories, mostly because I like the setting and characters enough to hang out with them some more and see what they have to say. Because years had passed between that piece and me coming back to it, I somewhat expected rereading it to be like pulling the dusty cover off an old couch and discovering maggoty, rotting insides. I’d see countless mistakes staining every chapter, a molding frame that wouldn’t stand up to even a cursory inspection, and the general fetid air that comes from a shambling tale told dully.

But here’s the thing – it’s not bad! Things to clean up, sure, but they’re more akin to spare threads sneaking loose or some wood that needs a new stain. Hardly a total loss. In fact, I’d even say it’s readable!

Even with that, though, I can see where I’ve grown. The way I write scenes, now, more complete. The settings more evolved and detailed. So on and so forth. The fun part of this, though, is seeing that the early bars aren’t quite so low, and yet I’ve still leaped quite a bit higher on my latest efforts. In other words, I’m improving, but I didn’t start all that far back to begin with.

And that, I think, is the best part. You get a bit of a boost for yourself – realize you’re not as hopeless, and never were, as you might think you are at the lowest points. Rereading my old work helps give me the confidence to keep going. Those old stories are a measuring stick – not only for how far I’ve come since, but how far I’d already gone when I started.

So, if you have the chance or ability, take the time to look back at where you’ve come from. Might be you’ll laugh, might be you’ll shake your head, might be you’ll find inspiration to keep on going.

Insertion Part Seven: Swamp Life

A sewer. That’s what this planet felt like, and Sai had only been on it for a minute. The fog seeped down in great green-gray sheets, a sticky mist coating his armor, clogging the breathing vents, and sending its rotting odor into Sai’s nose. The filters would kick out anything harmful, but smells could stay. Sai would like to punch whatever engineer probably declared, all those smug degrees running through their voice, that keeping scents could be useful. Sai wouldn’t be making any good judgment calls if he kept coughing like this.

Gregor put his armored fist against Sai’s back as the two of them stood on the drop shuttle’s side. If Sai didn’t take a step soon, Gregor’s weight said, the big man would push Sai into the swamp. Dynas didn’t have crushing gravity, but Sai’s weight, with the armor, would be enough here to drag him down to the depths. Where, naturally, the suit would let him breath. But if things were this ugly up here, imagine what they’d be underneath the yellow-green glop?

“I’m moving,” Sai said, keeping his voice on the squad channel. “Settle down.”

“I’m not excited,” Gregor replied. “We are vulnerable up here.”

If the skiffs could see them through the fog, they’d already be dead, but Sai didn’t argue. Instead, he took the first step down. Off the shuttle and onto what looked like a muddy rock. His foot hit the material, and sank right down through. The metal boot descended, and his leg followed up to his knee before Sai hit something not quite solid, but thick enough to support his weight.

“Careful,” Sai said. “The ground here likes to eat people.”

The others followed, though Sai noticed they stuck to walking on the shuttle itself. Kept to its fins and floating hull. He felt their eyes on him. Waiting to see if he disappeared. If he became a casualty, a statistic.

Well, screw them.

He heard Aurora start talking to Eponi, and decided to take a second step, leaving the shuttle entirely and clomping in the goop. Then a third, though lifting his right leg out from its muddy prison took far more effort than he cared for. His respirators confirmed that the atmosphere was indeed breathable, five times thicker than Earth’s. Humid and drenched. So much so that if they stayed on the surface too long, even their suits would start to rust over.

“Sai, what are you doing?” Aurora sounded like a taut ripcord, one tug away from losing it. “Do you know where you’re going?”

“Standard protocol,” Sai replied automatically. “Get away from a crashed ship after landing.”

“As you may have noticed, this isn’t standard,” Aurora said, then seemed to check herself. “But Sai does have a point. Eponi, you know where we should go? Where’s the station you were heading for?”

Eponi, standing on the nose of the shuttle, pointed off to the distance, to Sai’s left. From what Sai could tell, insofar as the suit’s compass told him, Eponi’s heading went north. A working compass was a small miracle — whether DefenseCorp cheaped out on them or Sever managed to dodge planets with magnetic polarity, the little red and white arrows proved more useless than not on their missions. Here, with visibility maybe ten meters, any distant navigation would be done by non-visual methods. Regardless, the chosen direction didn’t match where Sai had been trudging.

Sai twisted, swung his legs through the muck. Took a step forward. His left leg lurched. Slid back. Something grabbed his foot. A steady pull, no yanks. Drawing Sai deeper into the muck.

“Something’s got me!” Sai yelped. He twisted, the only thing he could see was that damn mist, the burbling, slimy mud. His left hand fumbled for the spitter on his hip. Grabbed it, swung around, and almost pulled the trigger. DefenseCorp standard regs said not to fire without a clear visual of the target — collateral damage cost cash, and came out of Sever’s paycheck.

Sai’s right hand tapped his helmet, pressing against his temple, and the visor flipped from standard to infrared. The mustard greens faded to blackish-blue, except for his own heat, and that of the thing coming after him. The thing had had wrapped itself around his foot, large and roiling.

Sai may have screamed.

“Gregor,” Aurora answered Sai’s panic with a solution. If Sai had to pick one trait about the commander that explained why Aurora held the position, it would be this one: when the tight cord keeping her control snapped, she became razor ice, cold and ruthless. “Jump in.”

“Yes.” Gregor, in his midnight blue suit, reached over his head and grabbed his hammer. Pulled it over, readied it in both hands.

“Wait!” Sai started, hoping for a chance to get away from impending disaster, but one could sooner stop a comet than halt Gregor’s assault. The monstrous man crouched and jumped. All suits came with push pads in their boot soles. If needed, they could supply a microburst of downward force. Add two to three extra meters on a jump. In this case, that gave Gregor plenty of height to swing with his hammer and come crashing down beyond Sai, leading with his hammer. Gregor drove the weapon through the mud, followed by its owner. Sai couldn’t tell what happened, because a wall of muck slammed over him. Mad laughter filled the comm.

Sai flipped back to standard vision, wiped away the dreck and stared at what’d become of his assault armor. His suit had been emerald green. Now, Sai had perfect, foul-smelling camouflage. No metal in sight.

Not that Sai had much time to think about it. Because, with Rovo and Aurora announcing their arrival to the fight with a hail of yellow laser blasts scorching the slime in front of Sai, the thing Gregor had swatted with his hammer rose up from the waters. Then kept rising. Until it stood more than three times higher than Sai himself. It seemed unfair for something that ugly to be that tall. As if mud had suddenly achieved life, and brought along the gunk, sticks and stones to sentience with it. Pieces broke and drifted off of the creature, splashing into the swamp water around Sax.

“It’s got tentacles,” Rovo said, splashing in next to Sai. “Because of course it does.”

Gray and mottled, coated with spots of mold, the tentacles shivered as the thing grew out of the swamp. They draped along the thing’s sides, and Sai counted at least ten, possibly more, with the ends vanishing beneath the surface. Sai looked for a mouth. For eyes. Found none. This monster was a giant blob, one seemingly intent on turning Sever Squad into its next meal.

When My Cats Welcome Me Home

YouTube videos by the dozens (thousands? millions?) show a dog’s twitchy anticipation of their owner’s imminent arrival. The pooch might move from the window to the door then back again, hop a little, their tail wagging back and forth so fast it seems in danger of flying off like a little furry missile. What I’m saying is, they’re excited and they’re ready to shower all kinds of puppy love on the whomever comes through that door.

Now, my cats, of which there are two. They have their own greeting, yes, but if the dog’s is one of love and joy, these cats regard my arrival in the strict terms of an economic arrangement that just became more attractive. A lucky break, if you will.

See, the kitties (correctly) recognize that I am a potential source for food, treats, and the coveted, most desired prize: a couple hours leashed up in the backyard (I hear your questions and I shall answer them at some later date – cat leashing is not the subject of this post, thank goodness). They are willing to provide some cuddle time in exchange for these things, and when I come home after several days out of town, well, they (correctly) perceive I am cuddle deficient.

Like an oil tycoon sizing up a small town for a takeover, they approach with the offer on the table, and it’s one I can’t refuse. Nuzzle here, nuzzle there, ok champ it’s time to go. If I think about pushing back, instead of hired muscle and town debts, the cats turn to endless yowls, scratching at the furniture, and pointed demonstrations of what gravity can do to our small plants, drying dishes, etc.

So I give in. After sitting in planes and airports for hours, struggling through rough sleep in hotels, I don’t have the energy. The cats have me, they know it, and so they get what they want – a chance to chew some grass and hope some chipmunk stumbles into their range.

It’s not quite puppy love, but it’s what I got.

The Setting

As I get closer to publishing the next book, I’ll be writing some posts describing the world in which the story takes place. Mostly because when you create a really cool sandbox, it’s fun to play in it.

Chicago. Somewhere around the year 2100, though most people can’t believe how little’s changed. They’re still working, still buying food from a store, and robots haven’t infiltrated every corner of life. In fact, if you manage to listen in the right corners, you’ll hear whispers about how much better things used to be. How perfection has become anything but.

Promises were made, and those promises float overhead every day. Mechanized overseers, doing the bidding of a new aristocracy chosen not by wealth, not by (as if) popular vote, but by random chance. The drones hover like clouds, cataloging everything – metal angels for the Paragons.

Roll a dice. If the number comes up six, roll it again. Do that four more times and, if you nail that six every time, then you’ve found the odds that’ll place you above everyone else. Anomalies began arising decades ago, and with them came at first the accolades pitched in every superhero story since the dawn of time. At first that’s what they were, too – leaders and champions, guardians of society. 

Humans, though, have a way of spoiling their strengths. The anomalies began to feel used. Yanked around by politicians who needed a smile next to their election campaigns, forced into service by grubby dictators who saw them as another tool, pushed into servitude by normals who saw anomalies as de facto public servants, whatever the anomaly’s own desires.

Play with fire, the saying goes, and you’re going to get burnt. Normals see the evidence in front of them all day long. In Chicago, the Paragon’s tower dominates downtown. Would-be heroes meander, tasked according to the precepts of a world designed to maximize productivity and minimize suffering and that truly succeeds at neither. Greed has changed its stock market for a super-suit. Ambition, like a river, flows around the dams constructed by the original Paragons, those Champions who wrested the world from its discordant dance and froze it in their invincible grip.

Now, that grip thaws. Both normals and anomalies begin to sense, as the Champions grow old, that change is coming. Chicago hums with a new energy, and many hands, normals and anomalies, Paragons and humbled companies, move to use it. The world order doesn’t change often, and there’s only room for one at the top.

Container: A pure economic simulation with boats

The games I grew up with had dice and cards. Lots of random chance that had us yelling in either joy or rage, blaming callous deities for the slight miss of a Yahtzee or the color in Candyland that sent you moping back to the beginning. No amount of pleading would get Princess Lolly to intervene.

Yet, along with my opinion of chaos in life, chaos in board games soured. What had been an opportunity for hilarity, for luck to obliterate skill like the jester executing the judge, seemed instead to be an easy crutch for game design that didn’t want to take the time and craft an intricate dance for its players.

Container does take that time, though the dance is a brash one, full of big molded ships and weighty pieces. There are no dice to be found here, and the one piece of chance, the dealing of secret points cards and the choosing of an opening type of production, are both dealt with randomly and equally. Which leaves the players, upon the opening round, with their own wits and nothing more.

Trades commence. Deals wheel. Production fills the game space with more colored containers while the ships themselves drift from port to port in search of the best deal. If you’re the only person making purple, maybe you price them high. But not too high, because then nobody’s going to be able to afford your luxury goods. Or maybe you want to discount them, try to get them sold off in bulk and make your profits through volume.

When you get those profits, do you spend them upgrading your harbor to store more of those pricey containers, or do you hold it because the Blue Player’s got a full ship and is heading towards the island, full of valuable cargo you want to bid on?

Container is a game of relatively few rules. Within a single round, most of the concepts are clear and strategies emerge. Table talk abounds as the whole game is interaction, though rarely of the negative sort. Most of the time, players won’t know who won or lost till the very end, which keeps everyone invested in shuttling the containers around.

If there’s a negative, it’s the game’s greatest strength. Container is pure economics, and people who don’t have a head for supply and demand, or who have lust for playing price games or trying to cajole someone to please, please, just buy something already are going to find themselves mired in debt and missing out on some of the action. No dice rolls to save you here.

Also, the boats. They’re fantastic. You actually load the containers on them. Talk about killing it with theme. Some nights, all you really want is a perfect distillation of a micro-economy that runs on boats. Container‘s there for you, no doubt about it.

Anniversaries

Time, by virtue of marching forward, gives us the opportunity to look back throughout the year and celebrate what came before. In writing, there are all kinds of anniversaries to toast – a first book, a first fan, a first sentence that took you into your own world for the very first time.

I wish I’d marked more of those for myself, if only because those dates would serve as mile-markers on the journey – not that you can’t turn anything into a journey if you try, but work with me here. Point being: it’s hard to measure progress if you’re not sure where you began. So, note it.

Anyway. I’m writing this from a hotel half a country away from my wife, Nicole, with whom the date of August 26th, 2017 went from a random dot on the calendar to the pinpoint moment in all of cosmic history the two of us joined hands in front of people we loved and said we, too, would love each other. It’s the kind of sentiment that conquers physical distance, the kind of promise that keeps a lonely evening from getting too chilly, the kind of dedication that prompts posts like this one because you want to take some time to write about the one who means so much to you.

It’s so easy to mark our lives with moments of change – the new house, the job change, the meeting of that special someone – but harder to recognize how those moments actually changed us. Personally, I know these words wouldn’t be here, those books wouldn’t be out there, if not for Nicole. But more than that, it’s the every day constant of her being that suffuses me with confidence, courage, and the determination to keep on, well, keeping on.

We celebrate our anniversary on August 26th. I love her every day.

Insertion Part Six: Into the Fog

Aurora heard Rovo’s warning call and responded with habit, “Set them up and let them loose.”

Three Severs sat at the back in their crash harnesses, and each of them pressed a small button under their right hand. The ceiling of the shuttle held drop-down screens hanging from metal bars. The displays swung right in front of the Sever’s faces, each one perfectly aligned thanks to micro-cameras measuring appropriate eye level. Each screen flipped to show a cannon’s feed. Two on the bottom – split to the bow and aft of the shuttle – and one on top, all charged and ready to fire.

Aurora’s snapped on first, giving her the front-facing lower cannon. Showed the world of stormy, musty yellow-gray fog they were descending into as the shuttle went lower and lower. Nothing appeared on her scopes. Who knew whether Dynas had any kind of defense, but survival dictated acting as if the planet bristled with death.

“I’m picking up a heat signature, looks like energy use,” Eponi said through their transponders. “Gonna land on top of it. Feel it’s as good a spot as any.”

“Just don’t get us killed,” Sai said.

“Do I ever?”

“Any sign of threats?” Aurora snapped. She had no problem with squad banter, so long as it didn’t distract in a dangerous moment.

“No,” Eponi replied, but her voice trailed even as she spoke. “Wait—coming behind. A pair of Darter-class skiffs.”

Skiffs? If they flew open top craft like those here, Dynas had a thick atmosphere. Breathable. Skiffs also meant Dynas didn’t understand who they were dealing with. Sure, not having a plated hull or windshield might make for pretty views, but it also made for an easy target. Couldn’t shield open space. Aurora would have loved to trigger a few shots and let go the tight knots always forming in her muscles as missions began, but Gregor had the rear cannon, and the first chance to speckle Dynas’ fog with bits and pieces of an enemy.

The drop ship didn’t shudder when Gregor fired his cannon, a total lack of feedback Aurora should have been used to by now. No projectiles, like in the old models, so no recoil. Just a hum. The whine of a battery being drained. As battle went, lasers made the whole thing feel artificial, like they were playing a game. Aurora knew that feeling would vanish with the first casualty showing what a laser’s direct strike could do to a person, and Gregor’s fire didn’t deliver that absolution.

“They’re splitting their approach. Lightly armed,” Gregor said after his initial volley. “I see two cannons on each one, mounted bow and aft. I’ve already neutralized the front cannon on mine.”

“Only because your pilot doesn’t know how to dodge,” Sai added. “Mine at least understands the concept of a maneuver.”

The soupy fog broke as Eponi soared the shuttle down. Lush deep green poked through, caught by the drop shuttle’s lights, which Eponi switched on as the clouds now above consumed any light daring to try and get this far. If Aurora had to guess, the reason Dynas had life at all came down to its heat trap of an atmosphere boiling up biologic sludge from whatever unlucky collection of rocks collided to form Dynas in the first place.

“Keep your eyes open for ground defenses,” Eponi said.

The shuttle rattled as Eponi finished. Something popped and smoke flooded into the cabin. No, not smoke. Fog from the outside.

“What was that?” Aurora snapped.

“The skiffs.” Sai replied. “Not the main cannons. Something weird. From handheld rifles. My guess, homing drones with explosives attached. Can we move any faster?”

“This is a drop shuttle, Sai. We’re basically falling.” The cocky sass vanished from Eponi’s voice, signaling a pilot focusing on her flying.

Which meant a serious situation. Aurora cut off her own urge to ask Eponi for details — one of the hardest parts about leading Sever lay in trusting the crew, holding off the urge to question their every action, ask for and approve of every detail.

“The second skiff is cutting overhead!” Gregor yelled.

Aurora didn’t need to hear anymore. Her view screen flashed bright yellow in the upper left corner; the shuttle’s scanners indicating a target. Aurora used her eyes, dragging them to the target’s position. The move aimed the cannon, and she stared back up into that fog. Waited. The active contact between Aurora’s eyes and the screen kept the feed active, the cannon primed.

A long dark shadow cut across the screen. Aurora blinked both eyes and the cannon fired a bright green bolt into the ether. Aurora blinked again and again and again, sending a series of shots towards the shape, which flared into a beautiful orange and red rose. Skiff down.

“Took care of it,” Aurora said.

But the fog kept flowing into the drop shuttle. Aurora couldn’t see the hole, and unstrapping during a potential crash landing scenario would put Aurora on the wrong side of every DefenseCorp guide. And common sense — the drop shuttle still continued doing what it had been made for: dropping. The ship wouldn’t have to hold up for much longer.

“Sorry, Sever, seems like that shot killed my coolant. Engines are overheating. Going down here because, uh, otherwise we’re all getting cooked.” Eponi said. “Brace for a wet landing.”

Aurora aimed her cannon down in time to see massive branches, trees, and vines snag the shuttle and swallow it up. The cannon feed held, then shook and went dark. The shuttle filled with roaring, wrecking, tearing as Sever shook in their seats. Seats that didn’t break, because DefenseCorp bolted every drop shuttle chair to the floor with heavy metals. Meant to handle an impact, and to stop a sharp object from piercing through the floor and hurting its occupant.

Aurora had been in plenty of crashes — a standard hazard in this line of work — but most had been on land. One on a beach, as part of a rescue in a resort overtaken by discontent alien tourists. But none into a swamp. So when the shuttle smacked into the water, bounced forward, and settled into a noxious mix of slimy water and terrible gasses, Aurora had a new candidate for worst place ever. She unclipped, clocked the power readings on her suit (all greens) and made for the shuttle’s opening sides. Swamp water had the same idea, flooding into the ship to greet Aurora with frothy filth.

“Pop out!” Aurora said the words that nobody needed to hear. Gregor and Sai, following her, scrambled out through the open door in the left hull, made larger courtesy of a now-downed tree that’d taken its final stab through the drop shuttle’s side.

Eponi and Rovo were already outside, having climbed out through the shattered cockpit window. Rovo looked towards the sky, hunting for any further skiffs, while Eponi leaned back into the cockpit, swatting at buttons. Protocol said it’d be best to shut down the drop shuttle’s systems, drain the batteries in the event of a harsh landing to prevent bad things like enemy scavenging and random explosions.

“What happened?” Aurora yelled to Eponi when the pilot settled back on the drop ship’s nose. “You didn’t make the hit sound serious?”

“Whatever was they fired at us?” Eponi shot back. “It kept going. I lost systems one by one. Had to take us down fast or we would have run right through these trees going a thousand kilometers an hour.”

Aurora looked out over the desolate swamp stretching as far as she could see, which, given the dark, misty conditions, wasn’t all that far. Their attackers, whomever lived on Dynas, weren’t looking for visitors. They were ready to kill keep their world quiet, but they’d missed their chance.

Sever wouldn’t give them a second one.

Pandemic Legacy (S1) – A Midseason Report

Before you get worried, don’t. I shall not spoil this board game, which, arguably, began the increasingly popular trend of turning tabletop entertainment into TV series. Rather than a repeatable setup meant to tell a new story every time, Pandemic Legacy and its ilk instead endeavor to tie some measure of every game’s actions to a continuing narrative. It’s great fun, provided you can get the same group together.

And, most important, you’d better like the base game.

Because that’s the biggest critique I have with Pandemic Legacy, some 7 months into its 12 month campaign (each month contains a max of 2 ‘games’). Pandemic is a very specific type of cooperative game, played under a tight time limit and with a heavy vulnerability to ‘quarterbacking’, where one player can, more or less, tell everyone what to do. Sometimes it feels like some sort of Soviet ideal – everyone works together to determine everyone’s turn, and only through communal effort can the group survive.

Of course, fighting global disease requires this sort of cooperation, but we’re moving chits across a cardboard map of the globe here. What matters in a board game are the stories the players tell, both during and (crucially) after the game. If Pandemic Legacy strips players of individual agency, it repays that with cruel twists and sighs-of-relief that come with insane frequency.

I waver on whether it’s enough, and that’s why I’m thankful we’re not playing only this game, or bringing it out constantly. The luck-based pieces of Pandemic are frustrating enough that, combined with the feel that you’re not really getting turns because the group is making every decision together, immersing myself too often in the game would drain my enthusiasm.

So, midway through this adventure, I can say this: the story is rollicking, the additions seeping through are great fun and present true strategic dilemmas for the team to puzzle through. You’ll feel unstoppable one game and then get wrecked by those nefarious pathogens in the next.

My advice, though, would be to mix it up. Play some other games in between Pandemic sessions. Exorcise your disease demons by rolling dice or slapping cards down in another cardboard kingdom. Then, when it’s time to once more strap on the hazmats and start the long laying out of actions, trades, and cures, you won’t reach for the bottle. At least, not till the outbreaks begin to chain.

The Current Reading List

Books find their way to my shelf (both virtual and physical) through a combination of random bookstore visits – supporting independent shops I encounter on my travels is a compulsive habit – and donations from friends and family who shovel hordes of pages my way as if they get a tax write-off for the act.

At any rate, here’s the books I’m looking at in the near-term and what I know about each of them (answer: not much):

Currently Reading: Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy – an enthralling account of WWII that generally takes a narrative perspective, zooming out to give you the lay of things and then zooming in to give you the human take. If high school history courses taught these books, I don’t think we’d romanticize war nearly so much.

Books to come:

  1. Anthony Ryan’s The Draconis Memoria trilogy – It’s been a long time since I’ve dug into a big ol’ classic fantasy march, and this one has dragons on the cover, so I feel it’ll fit the bill. Sometimes you just need some spells, some ships on the high seas, and some cryptic prophecies to fulfill.
  2. Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside – Another fantasy? Maybe with some steampunk elements to it? I dunno but the title evokes all sorts of metal and rivets, with a side of mystery. Normally I’m hesitant to pick up books beginning series that aren’t completed yet – blame Robert Jordan – but I’m taking a chance here, because I’m a wild man. Or something.
  3. S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass – I’ll admit to having this one on my pocket, secret list for a long time but never being in a position to buy it. A lot of my book browsing comes when I’m traveling, and squeezing something this size into the bag requires not only Tetris skills, but also a willingness to haul its weight around. And yet, on this last trip, I found myself with some extra space and the book was right there, staring at me, saying now’s your chance. And, guess what, it was.

So that’s where I’m at currently – I don’t like listing more than three because then things tend to get wobbly, with too much room for a rogue, insurgent title to knock others off. I’ll post back on these as I go, because why not.

Also, a random side shoutout to Dreyer’s English, which isn’t really a novel/narrative, but more a collection of musings and tips around copy-editing, which ought to be boring as dirt but which is, instead, a fun romp through all the oddities of the English language. A great pick-up/gift for anyone into the fiddly bits of words.