Saturday 22 February 2014

Appendix N[ow]

This Christmas I decided to try to read more, notwithstanding my addiction to Assassins' Creed: Black Flag's mix of rum, sodomy and the lash. I think that I've gone proper Grog, as I was actually thinking of making an argument that books have far better acting, cinematography, and special effects than films - while mediocre fantasy and science fiction films often leave me unsatisfied, my imagination can make even a bad book passable.

So what have a I read so far?

Conan the Conqueror, Robert E Howard

So I've been reading a lot of Conan. It is always good for gaming fodder. In this, the only Conan novel (and even then it is only a couple of hundred pages long or so), we have hints at a dungeon adventure to retrieve a magical artifact, Conan exploring a temple of evil, Conan infiltrating a castle, an encounter with a mysterious woodland witch... Oh, and pirates! I've said in the past that Mentzer Expert is one of my all time favourite RPG books. It has rules for ships and sailing (and the included adventure demands that your PCs get themselves shipshape!), something that all fantasy RPGs should have.  

The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell

This was my favourite book of this bunch. BY FAR. I must confess that I have never read any Bernard Cornwell. I might have watched a few episodes of Sharpe, and that is about it. My mum has been trying to push Cornwell's Saxon books on my for a while now. So, once I have finished his 'Arthur' books I will almost certainly be moving on to those. I also can't wait for the RQ6 Mythic Britain book now, which is heavily inspired by this series.

In short: A vivid picture of dark ages Britain, with a (magical?), mysterious, and dangerous behind the scenes schemer - Merlin - bloody, frightening combat and, and... I really want to know what happens next!

The Black Company, Glenn Cook

I found this hard going at first, but gradually 'got' the writing style, and the setting. It took me some time to understood that the world was both gritty and relatively high in magic. I only read the first book in the series - this is the only book for which Google Image Search couldn't bring back exactly the cover of the book that I had read - but I'll be picking up more of the Black Company series.

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

Reading this, I had the opposite experience as I did when reading The Black Company. I started off loving this book, and ended up bored. Over 600-odd pages, I would expect more. I'd at least expect the book to cover the whole of Kvothe's childhood and education, even if we didn't get to his legendary deeds. At one point I thought to myself, 'this is what Harry Potter should have been', and by the end I thought that, just like Harry Potter, it was too little stretched out over too many words. I probably will pick up more books by Patrick Rothfuss - he is a very good writer - but hopefully we'll have a slightly higher adventure to page ratio next time.

The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge, Harry Harrison

I bought this book along with a whole bunch of other 'Traveller' inspirational reading ages ago. The other books included Larry Niven's Ringworld and a handful of Dumarest novels by E.C. Tubb. And I preferred those. I think that the humour was lost on me - nearly half a century on from the time in which this book was written. As for the adventure, while it provided some inspiration for Traveller-esque capers, all too often Slippery Jim diGriz succeeds by virtue of heavy-handed author's perogative. Earl Dumarest, by comparison, feels much more 'vulnerable', even though they are both extra-humanly capable characters.

I did enjoy the 2000AD strips back in the day. Perhaps my next encounter with the Stainless Steel Rat will be in the form of James Coburn chanelled through Carlos Ezquerra. 


  1. I rather enjoyed Peter Morwood's The Horse Lord a while back and happily found two of its sequels in a charity shop in Keswick the other week - The Dragon Lord and The Demon Lord.

    Can't beat a bit of Conan though!

    1. I forgot to cancel my Amazon Prime account, so I'll make it earn some of its money by order the full series of the Morwood books.

  2. I think that if I had a great forest with thousands of 'Magician's Nephew' pools spread out before me, each one travelling to a great fantasy or sci-fi realm, I would seek out the one leading to Howard's Hyborian Age.

  3. Hi Andy,

    Could you to tell me who did the cover art for "The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge"?

    Can't get enough of that old school sci-fi artwork.


  4. It's the 1974 Sphere edition, and I can't find any details of the cover or cover artist in the book at all. Not on the back cover, not on the 'copyright' page, and as far as I can see there is no signature on the picture itself. There isn't even a credit to an agency. It does tell me that the book is set in 'Intertype Times', mind!

  5. According to the comments on this Flickr image, the art is by Bruce Pennington:

  6. Small world - Conan the Conqueror was the first Conan stuff I ever read in exactly that edition with the Frazetta cover, and The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge was the first diGriz stuff I ever read also in exactly that edition. Enjoyed both but have not returned to either for a long, long time.

  7. Coop, did you return the books to the wild? I picked these up from a second-hand book shop, so...

    Oh, and it is good to see your blog back up and running.