Games are a broad category, something immediately apparent from any attempt to define them. When I was younger, I used to criticize sports like golf and running for ‘not being real sports’. My critique? You were competing against somebody only inasmuch as you were being compared to them. To use mild jargon, there is no way to interfere with your opponents. Now, of course, I know better, but it leads me to the thought of the number of different types of competition you can have in a game, and how that sets the tone.
Well, it’s not complete done yet, but I felt it better to post it than to tweak it forever; here is the first chapter of a slowly building novel! I really want to call this a first draft, and many changes may be made yet, as there is one character I want to rework (too tropey), two scene I want to re-conclude (awkward ending), and one scene I need to re-write (just all around too staccato and not flowing well enough). But overall, I hope it’s enjoyable :)
I’ll be updating formatting over time, and will keep the final version of each chapter here, with the most recent update date at the top.
If you cast a wide net across my book list, you’re bound to come back with some controversial books: Wheel of Time, Way of Kings, or Game of Thrones (less controversial in the post-HBO era, I suppose). And I’m not going to lie, when people ask me why they should read these books, I sometimes struggle.
It’s not that these books aren’t good, but they have certain qualities which can make them…unpalatable. And these qualities come out immediately if you talk to anybody about these series. It starts off simple; you ask them about the books and they say ‘oh, it’s like Lord of the Rings, but‘ (oh, not everything is actually like Lord of the Rings, but if you’re explaining a fantasy novel to somebody who doesn’t know fantasy, that’s a pretty good starting place, but then the list of ‘but’s starts to grow longer and longer until you’re not even sure the book is fantasy anymore).
And they start getting excited, they say:
Consistent readers may notice that I’ve gone completely off of my usual Tuesday/Thursday schedule, so here’s an update as to what’s up:
- It’s my birthday! Or…it was. There was cake and stuff.
- I’m moving. Moving is stressful! Gotta find a new house, and apply, and pay lots of money and stuff.
- I’m starting a new blog. It’s mostly unrelated, but I feel bad for not having new stuff to post, so if you liked this post or this post or this post, you may like my new blog, Black by Popular Demand. But it’s not about games or science fiction, and it’s generally heavier.
- I’m moving more towards creative content (short stories or chapters) here. That takes a little longer, but I’d like to think it has more payoff! The first one should be around next week!
I figured I should get around to reviewing this game at some point, because, well, it’s sort of where I made my writing debut. What is League of Legends and why do I think it’s so great as to spend a ton of time on it? It’s an entirely different type of game than everything I’m used to commenting on, so this post will have a much different tone. League of Legends (or LoL) is what we call a MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Essentially, it pits teams of 5 players, represented by their champions (heroes in the League of Legends universe) in a battle against each other. I think League of Legends (or LoL) is one of the best run and designed games I’ve ever played because the company that produces it (Riot) pays so much attention to its upkeep, and today, I want to talk about a few areas where League of Legends is revolutionizing gaming and eSports.
Choice is the name of the game when it comes to Action-RPGs. Old RPGs (especially Japanese-style RPGs) didn’t have much choice, and they play a lot more like interactive movies than games. Your ‘choice’ came down basically to your character (and not ever his crucial character elements, but simply how you geared him. I say this not to impugn that style (the Final Fantasy series is one of my favorites), but only to point out how the Western RPG market diverged. If you look at earlier RPGs like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate, not only do they flesh out character creation (instead of having a set character you can outfit, you build your character from scratch), but you get increasingly more options, via sidequests and choices of which factions to ally with. But I argue that these choices are hardly real. Why? Because they do not meaningfully impact the game. Sure, you can ally with the thieves’ guild against the mage’s guild or vice versa, but honestly:
- what difference does it make?
- Isn’t it basically determined by the class you play?
This can be most exemplified by more sandbox RPGs, where the extra ‘freedom’ you have is to explor ethe continent doing sidequests. But ultimately, the gameplay doesn’t change all that much.
But I don’t really think the above captures how much I like dinosaurs. My parents swear that my first real word was ‘dinosaur’, I still know the names of far-too-many dinosaur species, I can give you a compelling argument as to why the T-Rex was likely a scavenger, not a hunter, I have practiced several dinosaur noises, although I remain jealous that my phone makes this noise when texted, as I doubt I could ever be trained to replicate it, and I once nicknamed a lady I dated ‘raptor girl’ to my friends because she did a raptor impression on the internet and gave me a dinosaur head (cut out of a magazine) attached to a popsicle stick on our first date — boy was that a good move! — and we remain close friends to this day. Basically, I want to be a dinosaur when I grow up. When Jurassic Park was re-released recently… let’s just say that the number of times I saw it is shameful, or would be if I were capable of feeling shame about my love for dinosaurs. So you can imagine when I saw this trailer for Pacific Rim, I all but soiled myself. IT’S DINOSAURS FIGHTING ROBOTS! But having seen it, I must admit to a mixed reaction.
WARNING: with most media, I feel obligated to introduce a complicated system of spoiler tags. But there is no plot of which to speak in this movie. So if you fear the spoilers, don’t read on, but know that I’m judging you.
Those who know me will know of my love for steampunk. So are many others; steampunk has been a bit of a buzzword in recent years. But what exactly IS steampunk?
These two genres are considered largely similarly, despite vast differences between them. They’re both kept in the same section of book stores, they’re both definitely ‘nerd’ books, and they’ve both been a part of the explosion of recent sci-fi/fantasy movies, between LotR/Harry Potter, superhero movies, or Star Trek.
They have one thing in common, that distinguishes them from typical literature; whereas fiction describes events that occur in a world that is largely our own, these genres tend to describe events in a world that is significantly different from our own. That is, science-fiction and fantasy are both speculative fiction: they answer questions of the form “what if…?” This is why we consider novels like Brave New World, 1984, and Harrison Bergeron to be science-fiction of a sort (they are typically referred to as ‘speculative fiction’). But from there, they diverge wildly. To sum it up, with a quote from Miriam Allen de Ford: Science fiction deals with improbable possibilities, fantasy with plausible impossibilities.
Today’s post is a bit on the light side, but I’ve had a few requests for this, so here goes: my favorite science-fiction and fantasy series. Oh, and there’s actually 26, plus some at the end I haven’t read yet but want to. I’ve only put a brief blurb for each, or this would take 400 pages, but don’t worry, I’ll review most of these in the future. And sorry if I left X series you love off, I’m sure it’s fantastic, but I own too many books to go thoroughly through them all.
- Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Game of Thrones is a masterpiece of genre-defying. If you read this in reverse order, you’ll know that I said that most fantasy is derivative of Tolkien to some degree. Well, Game of Thrones is one of the series that doesn’t stand a chance of having that accusation placed. Gritty? Check. Humans only? Sort of. Fantasy almost doesn’t feel like the right genre for Game of Thrones. I think the right genre is medieval politics with a dash of ‘man, life really sucks’.
- Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
Everything LotR wanted to do: establish a mythos and a history and build a huge world, Robert Jordan has done a hundred fold, and with a better writing style, to boot (although it falters around books 9-11). LotR follows more PoVs than you’ll ever be able to keep track of, names every character and expects you to remember them when they return, and is all-around THE example for all-encompassing world-building. This series is SO EPIC that I made my first post on Fistful of Wits about it.
- Stormlight Archives – Brandon Sanderson
1 book out and it gets my #3 slot. I can’t begin to express how much this book is the beginning of an epic series. The first book is well over a thousand pages, and there are a supposed 9 more coming. So all of you who just got over your epic fantasy addiction when you wrapped up Wheel of Time? Let’s get ready for some more pain and suffering as we wait painstakingly for a series to finish before the author dies.
- Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Dude. It’s LotR. I only didn’t put this in the #1 spot so I wouldn’t be accused of being old-fashioned and biased. Everything most fantasy series have done since? Copied from LotR. Elves? Dwarves? All given vastly diferent representations in TOlkien than in previous literature, and it influences all fantasy that will follow. World of Warcraft might as well be called ‘World of We-All-Really-Wanted-To-Play-A-LotR-Fanfic’. If you’re reading non-gritty fantasy with non-human races? It probably has Tolkienian influences.
- Runelords – David Farland
I almost put this above LotR. The magic system is a fascinating metaphor for the feudal system, and the series plays very well, until the author either ran out of ideas or decided on a new direction, and it derails a bit (book 4 or 5).
- Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is a pretty cool trilogy with an extra random book and two more trilogies planned. Basically bad shit has happened to the world, with a tyrant Emperor and maybe a tyrant God, and somebody’s got to overthrow them. As with all Brandon Sanderson, expect a Deus ex Machina ending.
- Kingkiller Chronicles – Patrick Rothfuss
Only two books and I’m hooked. The premise isn’t all that interesting: boy goes off to magician college and becomes the most badassingest boy ever to study magic. The character is one giant Gary Stu who will irritate you consistently, and the world is populated with characters who are made more annoying to make it easy for you to side with him. He’s then given unstoppable obstacles and tricks his way around all of them in a way that is explained away by his being the most connivingest boy ever to connive. His character motivations all go on the backburner constantly, until they come up suddenly and they are EVERYTHING to him. And yet none of that matters because Patrick Rothfuss has a writing style that sucks you in and won’t let go.
- Saga of Recluse – L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Every time I lend the first 4 books of this series to a friend, they come back a week later and say “MORE”. You will get more of the same, unfortunately, as there are really only 3 or 4 plots that L.E. Modesitt uses in this series. His books tend to stress balance, rather than good and evil, and feature interesting combinations of magic and technology.
- Codex Alara – Jim Butcher
I hate Jim Butcher. DESPISE him. I think his pulpy writing style lacks substance, and I always feel like I’ve just wasted time reading his books. And yet I couldn’t help myself with these books. The premise of the series? He contested he could make anything interesting, and the challenge presented was to combine ‘lost legion of Rome’ with ‘Pokemon’. Somehow, he delivers.
- Coldfire Trilogy – C.S. Friedman
Friedman presents an incredible view of a type of magic that is very unique and a history that is very interesting, along with a surprisingly diverse cast of characters. Her views on magic have influenced my own writing more than any other author.
- Oath of Empire – Thomas Harlan
This is your typical ‘ancient Roman epic with magic thrown in for good measure’. If by typical, you mean fantastic.
- Night Angel Trilogy – Brent Weeks
Boy trains to become assassin to get revenge and finds himself part of so much more.
- Engineer Trilogy – K.J. Parker
I’ve only read the first one; the character was a bit of a Gary Stu, and the writing style was occasionally dry, but it showed promise, so I’m putting it on here
- Deathstalker – Simon R. Green
I’ve talked at length about Deathstalker, and I think it epitomizes (and parodies) Space Opera to a degree that makes it undeniably the most self-aware science fiction I’ve ever read (something you might miss if you mistake the sheer amount of over-the-top it possess as serious).
- Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Space Opera at its finest, drawing back to historical earth, with Keats as a character. What’s not to like? One of those Sci-Fi novels that says ‘to hell with combat, I want to do exposition and describe a universe’.
- Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
It’s hard for me not to put this at #1. When you think ‘boy growing up to save the world, you tend to think Fantasy, but this sci-fi novel takes a much grittier approach, where ‘growing up’ doesn’t mean ‘getting magical powers and learning to fight’, it means ‘learning the hard facts about life’. The series has some stumbles in later books, but the first two books are just straight up fantastic.
- The Unincorporated Future – Kollin Brothers
I see this book less as sci-fi and more of that weird brand of political fiction that Ayn Rand was trying to write when she projectile vomited her objectivist crap out. Except well written. And interesting. And nuanced. And worth reading.
- Foundation – Isaac Asimov
Sort of a classic of science-fiction.
- Hitchhiker’s Trilogy – Douglas Adams
More on the comedy end of sci-fi, but very enjoyable
- Dune – Frank Herbert
Defined the space opera genre. If every book but he first hadn’t made me want to curl up in a ball and cry from boredom, this series may be hire up.
- Star of the Guardians – Margaret Weis
You know those series’ Deathstalker is parodying? This is one of them. Worth reading just for the context.
- His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
I could put this not in Young Adult and it would still stand up with the best sci-fi/fantasy books of all time. A war against god tears the fabric of the universe, sending people into other universes to try and fix the damage that has been done.
- Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld
WWI re-imagined with a technological Austria (walkers and tanks) and a Darwinian UK (genetically modified whale zeppelins)? Try not to like this
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The movie couldn’t even do the sheer emotional impact of this book justice. Expect to cry.
- Redwall – Brian Jacques
Woodland critters with weapons and religion! It’s exciting!
Intending to Read
- The Miles Vorkosigan books – Lois McMaster Bujold
- Felix Castor Novels – Mike Carey
- The Baroque Cycle – Neal Stephenson
I tried to start these books, but then I went off to college and never got back to it.
- Everything else L.E. Modesitt Jr.
A lot of his series’ are hinted to take place in the same universe, and that attention to detail intrigues me.
- First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie
- Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
I’ve tried to read these like 10 times and failed halfway through book 1 each time. But Henry assures me they’re good. One day. One day.
- The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
Fine, I’ll read it! I’ve actually read book one, and enjoyed it a lot. But in the same way that one might enjoy eating 5 bags of skittles.
- Sword of Shadows – JV Jones
- Everything by Raymond E. Feist