Books of 2018

I read a bunch of stuff in 2018 so far.  Some of these you should read, some maybe not.

I started off the year LIGHT because I had just finished a heavy history of the early American Colonies that took months for me to get through (The Barbarous Years).  Heavy history is the real deal compared to the pop stuff most people read that I also, shamefully, like, but if you’re not in a scholarly mood, they can be rough.

The first book of the year was a Dashiell Hammett that I hadn’t gotten to yet: RED HARVEST (not the bullshit starwars novel).  Cool name?  Well that’s what the fuck it is.  The first half is excellent and then about the middle end, when one of the main characters gets knocked off, it feels a bit rushed to me, like Hammet didn’t want to revel in the final carnage and high body count (or felt it would be unrealistic for his protagonist to survive if shit got too crazy).  Overall a strong book in the genre and a fun read.  Recommended.

this is the worst cover of any of the printings…

Second, I stayed the course on the Pulp Crime but got into heavier, more nihilistic stuff with Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280.  This is a classic untrustworthy narrator style book with a self-proclaimed idiot Sheriff of a small town who turns out to be quite different than he tries to lead the reader to believe.  This is one of Jim Thompson’s best.  Highly Recommended.

Since I borrowed it from a dude at work, I was obliged to read Guns, Germs and Steel next.  This is on the poppy side of history books but the author’s experience and angle through the narrative is unique, though I think the full extent of it would take many volumes.  What he sets out to answer to his Polynesian friend is why the white folks have all the good “cargo” and he does so by showing that development of different foods, domestication of certain animals lead to people in Northern Europe to become the dominant group (until they ended their dominance via WW1 and WW2, like all groups do, by annihilating themselves in internal conflicts— just like the Mongols and Romans did). While “guns” is in the title, it’s really about FOOD, DOMESTICATION and GERMS– but that ain’t a sexy title.  I disagree with his assessment that leader’s decisions do not truly influence the course of history of humanity.  Caesar and at least three of the Mongol conquerors changed things beyond recognition, yet he may argue in turn that they were playing with the same set of germs and steel where Polynesia and the Native Americans were not.  Recommended.

After this, I planned to read Twain due to promptings from Maat, but I realized I had not read the entire Border Trilogy yet and plowed through All the Pretty Horses in about a week, and then started on the beastly The Crossing, which is a much longer work.   All the Pretty is an excellent read and not too heavy, much like No Country for Old Men (a Jim Thompson novel if I ever saw one!) and The Road.   The main character, while incredibly capable at everything he does, is still believable and the mess he gets in with his friend Lacey is as interesting as it is horrifying.  This book was hugely influential on a lot of SCHLOCK films and books that got way more attention (Horse Whisperer, Brokeback mountain which shamefully steals lines of dialog DIRECTLY from All the Pretty Horses). Leave those aside and experience the real deal instead.  Don’t watch the movie.

The Crossing is more along the lines of Suttree (which is on par with Blood Meridian) but it doesn’t seem so at first, and I think the first 120 pages or so are astounding (the wolf part).  After the first act of the book, you realize that this is going to be a picaresque and not as tight as All the Pretty Horses story wise.  The book reminds me most of Stuart Little, except with a lot more violence and overt philosophy.   While All the Pretty deals with an amazingly talented cowboy, the Crossing deals with a much less ubermench as the main character, Billy, in fact you could say he’s not all that great at what he does, so is more relatable to the reader (like Suttree).  He gets in bad troubles after some really bad things happen to his family and his brother and then there’s a nuke (yes a nuke), but Billy is more of an observer than actor (like Suttree). In fact, his brother seems to have a much more exciting and book worthy existence than Billy does, and I think that’s one of the lessons of the novel.  While All the Pretty Horses is the most popular of these, some people really love this book out of the trilogy.  The beginning is so sad, I had to put it down for awhile, and then it gets worse.

Cities of the Plain is the sad ending to the Border Trilogy as it closes out the cowboy (and even rural) era of the United States in the wake of the Second World War and the rise of the Military Industrial Complex.  The book involves characters from both of the previous works and is a pretty rough ride at times.  The core plot revolves around the All the Pretty Horses guy and things go terribly wrong for everyone and the story ends in 2002, so the whole Trilogy goes from 1940 to then.  The best part of the book for me is when the cowboys go hunting for a pack of dogs that have been killing calf on the range, you want to find out how people should write stuff, look at that part.  This is a sad book as the end of the characters is also the end of a way of life.  What happened to Lacey?

I recommend these highly, and if one has never read McCarthy, probably start with All the Pretty Horses or Suttree.  I will need to read The Crossing and Cities of the Plain again to really assess how these fit into his whole body of work.  Obviously these books are an absolutely surreal experience and the prose is unmatched and not to be taken lightly.  I read these on the bus and would get to very important parts when people were talking or playing their shitty songs on their shitty phone speakers.

So next is Twain, lots and lots of Twain (then probably Blood Meridian or Suttree again, YAY!).

Comic stuff 2016!

Sheet. I haven’t posted in a long time here. Work has been kick me up inside the backside and I pretty much come home, do stuff I have to do and then veg out in Fallout 4 then it’s up early and back to the grind.

First, I found on drive thru a  FREE updated version of FASERIP.  This is that old yellow box Marvel game TSR put out that we tried to play instead of Champions or TMNT for once… and at 12 years old or so, failed utterly.  I owe it to myself to try it some time as I tossed the yellow box and contents into the garbage about 10 years ago.

I’ve read some comics recently, some good, some bad, some in the middle. Needless to say, the superhero genre is only loosely represented in what I like to read.

Legacy of Luther Strode

traddmoore

This was an interesting series, 6 issues, and the very end of the Luther Strode series (really?).  Tradd Moore’s art is unique and very clean. The first few issues were excellent, though light, fare.  However, near the end and especially the last issue, It was a bit of a let down, just not dense and at the end of the last issue, I was like: why did I pick this up?  I felt like I missed everything and had no idea what the characters were talking about when they were talking and not throwing down.  However, many of the fight scenes in these are fantastic.  Maybe you had to know all the characters first?  Looking forward to more Tradd Moore stuff though after this taste.

 

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LOW

I liked this book a lot, until the mutant mice appeared and then… I just kept plodding along with issues. I’m hoping it concludes.  It had moments of absolute brilliance early on. Tocchini is amazing.  Read about the first 12 issues.  Then stop.

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HEAD LOPPER

Adventure Time style art and Ultra violent viking shit.  What’s not to love?  It’s a lighter book (what did you expect?) but quality through and through.

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BPRD

This series has been going strong for awhile now.  I picked up some of the older trades in a used bookstore a few weeks back and was very impressed.  BRPD is an offshoot of HELLBOY: this series is the fish guy, the fire girl and some others who are paranormal investigators and destroyers.  It’s a bit like THE OTHERS board game or Xmen vs Cthulhu, and of course, could be compared to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a lot less tracking of allusions! Recommended.

The FUTURE

Looks like fans of Moebius and Numenera/The Strange has another friend in Rick Remender with his upcoming comic: SEVEN TO ETERNITY. First issue looks like it’s out now.

seventoeternity

Comic Recommendation

Head Lopper.  Get it.

While I think LOW, one of my current favorites, may have jumped the shark with sentient MICE, I was happy to find issue 3 of Head Lopper sitting on the shelf and it’s superlative.  Think viking violence mashed in with adventure time.  I also picked up Miracle Man Olympus from the Alan Moore period where he teams up with the soon-after-to-be Swamp Thing artist.    Also just finished Junji Ito’s UZUMAKI, which I had only read parts of on the internet in the past.  Highly recommended.

lopped
lopped

IDW lands Micronauts and ROM

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Two big comics from my errant youth may be back in action– both TOY BASED and should have been total shit, but both the early Micronauts and the middle run of ROM were excellent.   Yes yes, the endings of both series were quite bad, but at that point both had been handed off to various other teams and artists and it just naturally turned to shit.  I’m very interested in what IDW does with these two.  The plot of ROM was fantastic for one, and Micronauts wasn’t too shabby either.

The only worry for me is that Micronauts has had at least one reboot (not including Micronauts Voyages which killed off all the characters in the end) and it was awful, so we’ll see…  Go Baron Karza Go!

Pinterest’s new zoom search feature

It’s terrifying and awesome. Basically you see a picture you like and you can click on it, then you can search for more images LIKE that one by zooming in on a part of the image. While this could be very useful for just about everything, the obvious use is obvious.

of course I'm just searching for a camel-toe style bathing suit for Spring...

of course I’m just searching for a camel-toe style bathing suit for Spring…

 

Seriously though, it’s pretty great for other stuff as well– really it is.

Feng Shui 2 looks gorgeous!

I kickstarted this for the love of Feng Shui and the Zman/Daedelus Shadowfist.  I got the beta-PDF early and just didn’t have time to go through it.  Recently the real-deal PDF has come available and I’m just starting to crack open the rule system. I thought it would be near exactly the same, but there’s a lot more going on than before.  The few of you that played with me years ago, it was all about the single action value– say you had Guns 17, that was pretty much your most important stat (a bit like Diablo 3’s failed design with only DPS making any difference at all) and while the game was never boring to play, there was no true difference in characters with a couple exceptions.  Also the stunting sucked in retrospect, but at the time it was a really awesome new mechanic.  The new version seems to have a ton more going on with each character archtype, of which there are TWENTY SIX.

Here’s a shot of the Big Bruiser.  As soon as things settle down again, I’ll be grabbing people to play this either on Roll20 or IRL.

Fengshui2big

Kickstarters to back

I was challenged by Matt when I stated that Boss Monster 2 was probably not the best kickstarter to back (since it’s a 2 really and not the original game, why would they need to kickstarter it at all?).  Boss Monster is a good light game, but not great (like Condotierre or Glory to Rome or 7 Wonders in the same vein).  Caveat to this I would say Boss Monster 2 may be one of the better ones for gaming up at the moment, but that’s because we just came off Winter kickstarter madness with stuff like the new Bulldogs and Bloodrage.

I don’t come off as a cunt without suggesting REPLACEMENTS, so here are kickstarters that you should back that are up now.

  1. De la Soul’s new album.
  2. Goodman Game’s 5th Edition Fantasy – even though I don’t yet play 5th, I have 1 and 2 of these and they are solid (one is Michael Curtis so there’s that) and can be used with any of the good D20’s that aren’t 3.5.
  3. Car Wars Classic Arenas:  I played as a kid but am not a big car wars fan– yet playing this out in a cabin in the woods would probably be pretty great.
  4. And from Wisconsin: Dice Display box and roller.  Fucking awesome.

I can’t back all these (only backed #2) since I’m spread out on Patreon and Kickstarter already too much recently, but you should since you have a lot of spare money right?

Secret Wars II: Cloak and Dagger

For those of you steeped in Marvel geekery in the mid-eighties, this is a fucking brilliant read about the abhorrent Cloak and Dagger Secret Wars 2 crossover.  I had come out of my “buy everything Marvel” phase around this time with just how shit ROM had become and how piss Secret Wars II was from the outset– even as a little kid it was obvious something had gone terribly wrong with comics that would only be redeemed by the shallow but beautiful Image comics late in the decade.   This was also the time I started getting into Epic Magazine, Heavy Metal, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Cerebus (which was just a confusing mess for a kid really) so it was a distinctive shift from mainstream comics.  Reading this, you can fucking SEE why in all the gory detail.

Beyonder checking out some booty.
Beyonder checking out some booty.