RPG: One-Shot Crazy

Years ago now, when I first started trying to explain my Role Playing Group to my wife, it was clear that she didn’t see what I saw.  Didn’t see the epic battles, the intense negotiations, the realization that discretion really is the better part of valor and retreat is always an option.

Rather, she imagined foam swords and bad accents.

Since then I’ve imagined convincing her to take part in at least an RPG one-off night where I could show her what it was really like.

She wasn’t interested in playing with a group more experienced than her, so decided I’d have a newbie one-shot night an invite some other friends who I thought I could arm-twist in to playing with me, even for an evening.

I decided it would be D&D 5e because even though I hadn’t GM’d 5e before, I felt I was familiar enough to guide a bunch of starter players through a night.  I also wanted them to have enough cool things to do that it would feel epic, so I also decided their characters would be fourth level as, from my reading, it seemed as though the first couple levels might not be all that much fun for a starter players.

At first, I thought I’d simply download a free one-shot and play that and that’s pretty much what I did.  I found The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse on the very cool site The DMs Guild.  It felt about right, it was very well written and made it easy for me to run as a first-time D&D 5e module. Also, I knew I could get pre-generated characters for the players so I wouldn’t have to make them go through all the cruft of generating characters from scratch.  A few emails asking what they want to be and I’d be ready to go!

So, ready to roll, right?  Just invite folks over and make it happen.

Would that my brain would let it be that easy…

The rational part of my brain thought I was in pretty good shape.  The obsessive part of my brain said, “Oh!  This’ll be fun.  How about if we…”  and then started bombing my brain with ideas to try and make this a special night.

I did email the players and discuss what kind of characters they would be and thus was born the Party:

  • Sister Camille, the human Paladin, devoted to Bahamut, god of law and order
  • Rinin, the shifty half-elf Rogue, what is he hiding and whose pocket has he picked?
  • Kwai Chang Caine, halfling Monk, in search of peace and tranquility, but seemingly doomed to find neither.
  • Zoas Ulaxim, epic Elven Sorcerer, searcher of knowledge and power (and he has a crow familiar because the player thought would be cool!)

Me: “Now we’re ready to go, right?”

Brain:Nah, wouldn’t it be cool if, in addition to their pre-gen character, they got a custom mini and dice?

Me: “Sigh…”

The dice were easy, I found that was selling dice reasonably.  The minis, well there went a week of free time, but I liked the results:

One-Shot Party!

And it went on like that.Me: “Ready?”

Brain: “Nearly, but you know that cool scene near the beginning where they’re negotiating passage and they have their first fight encounter?  I know you were going to just draw that out, but wouldn’t it be even cooler if there were an actual boat for them to fight on and around?

Me: “Seriously?  Geez…”

And there went another week of free time, but again, the results were kind of cool.

Note: The ship is constructed from XPS Foam insulation, cut, glued and carved, 3d printed elements added and then paint.

Pink foam floats
Da Boat.

Me: “We good?”

Brain: “That was fun.  So … the boat is at a dock.  You going to just draw that?  They’ll be at different heights.  Doesn’t seem quite as cool.  Needs a dock.  Don’t you think it needs a dock?”

Me: “Crud.”

So, I had to build some docks.

The docks use jute twine for the ropes around the pilings and use XPS foam for the pilings, tongue depressors for the boards, paint and hot glue.

Me: “Now, we’re done.  Shut up brain.”

Brain: “Yeah, no, you’re doing great.  Looks good.  You know how that GM screen you were going to use is alright, but not awesome?  Isn’t it about time you built your own GM screen that is 3.6x times more awesome?”

Me: “No, I don’t think it is.”

Brain: “You are wrong.  Try to sleep now.  Can’t do it, can you?  My job is done.”

Me the next morning: “Brainzzz…  Shut up Brain.”

So, I had to do that because clearly I’m just along for the ride at this point.

The screen is made from a sheet of 1/8″ hardwood plywood, some cool brass bits for the corners and hinges and some cool Chicago screws to hold it all together.

I painted the decorations on the front after tracing them on to the wood.  Then sanding gently to go for a weathered look (not entirely successful).  The brass parts were “aged” using a mild acid to remove the shiny.  All of this is a combination of what my dumb brain came up with and some ideas I stole from various other projects.  Oh, and I used a dremel to inset small magnets on the inside of the screen so I can attach my own content on the inside or outside as needed.  Finally, before application of the hardware, there were  three coats of polyurethane with sanding between layers.  Four pieces, two sides, three times.  24 times applying polyurethane.

This went on for a while with me waaaaay overdoing it and putting far more time in to prep than I would use in that one five hour one-shot.  Like 10x.  Yeah, I’ve got issues.

And, in the end, not only did we not get through the one-shot which I really knew wouldn’t be a one-shot, we really only got through about a quarter of it.  But we did use the boat and dock.  And I got to use my GM screen.

I think the Party had a good time and my wife and friends got an introduction to playing role-playing games.

Me: “So, brain, we’re done now, right?”

Brain: “When’s the next session?!  I’ve got ideas.”

Me: Stabs brain with sharp pencil.

 

RPG: Hero Forge Miniatures

We were starting a new campaign and gaming system in our RPG group and I couldn’t find a mini I liked.  I enjoy the process of creating the backstory for my character and that means a certain look and feel to the mini would be ideal, something that matches the version in my head.  I couldn’t find anything for this guy, either between the box of Bones minis I have from their Kickstarter or online.

I decided it might be time to try Hero Forge an online service that allows you to create a completely unique mini and then have it 3d printed and sent to you.

The user interface is all web-based and you get to build your mini on some templates for race, gender and then you can customize to your hearts  content.

This guy, my new character, saw himself as a self-made man, a bit cocky, certainly self-assured.  A bit of a swashbuckler and trying to live above his class.  His main weapons would be a pistol and an assassin’s blade.  With that vision in mind, I went to town on the user interface to try and create my character.

This is what I ended up with:

It took a couple weeks to receive the printed miniature as it gets outsourced to another service for printing but eventually I received a small and very light package containing my one-off miniature.

I painted him up and the paint job is just okay.  I botched the face, going a little nuts on dirtying him up and then not knowing how to clean him back up after it dried.  But, on the whole, it was a close fit to my vision.  I did add my own 3d-printed base custom fit to have the other base atop it.  Additionally, I have space underneath to insert/glue a washer which gives him a good heft and reduces the odds that he topples accidentally.

 

On the whole, I was very satisfied with the experience.  I got a mini that looked just like what I wanted and looked just like the 3d render that I used to create him.  It’s worth noting that I would not do this regularly.  The cost for the service is just too high for me to justify unless I either felt in dire need of a mini that I figured I’d use for a long period of time, maybe for a year or longer or, as was the case here, I was willing to front the additional cost for the experiment and I plan on using it for a year.

New Coat of Paint!

So, that was a year, wasn’t it?

I’m not going to make any excuses, but 2017 was quite a year on many fronts.  Folks far more able to describe it clearly talked about how everything going on with our country and our politics and in the world made it nigh impossible for them to focus on, well, much of anything.  And so it was for me.  Updating here or writing or much of anything else besides just getting by got pushed to the background.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

But, it’s a new year and time to start looking forward and pulling myself out of the hole I’ve been living in for much of the last year (and occasionally wanting a blanket and a great deal of comfort), brushing myself off and getting moving forward again.

I suspect the new year will be better, at least in some ways.

Personally, there are changes for me as I’ve started a new job which is much closer to where I live.  Alone, this frees up more than an hour a day of additional time.  I don’t loathe climbing in to a car to drive 2-2.5 hours per day.  You can only listen to so many podcasts and I have listened to many.

I have found time to do some Making of stuff, and I’ll post at least the results of some of those.

I updated the front page of the site from something arguably artisanal (in the non-mechanized sense) and bespoke (in the made to order sense) while at the same time being of questionable quality and definitely showing it’s age to something that at least looks like it was made in the last few years.  That gave me a chance to look in to some more modern libraries like Bootstrap, so that’s good.

 

Goals 2017: April Update

This update takes place at least in the first week of April, so I’ll give myself a small pat on the back for that.

Goal 1: Health

March continues the theme of challenging on the health front.  I continue to fight wanting to stick 100% to the eating plan and, as a result, more carbs sneak in and before I know it, five pounds have climbed back on.  I’m hopeful that the return of better weather will provide me more opportunities to get out and walk and that will help because staying active has to be a part of this, so fingers crossed.

Grade: C (Little improvement month-over-month)

Goal 2: Tech Refresh
I’m going to cut myself a bit of a break here and acknowledge two small things:

1. I worked on a cool, little Arduino project which required some wiring and some programming of a NeoPixel LED strip.  I got it working and programmed a couple of patterns (starting, of course, with a sweeping, red Cylon eye pattern which you can watch here.

I hope to add more scenarios, make it controllable remotely (it’s a tiny microcontroller that actually has a web interface) and possibly wire in a light sensor and/or a motion sensor.
2. I also did some woodworking, electronics wiring and general Making.

Grade: B

Goal 3: Read some non-Fiction
I’m going to coast on being ahead of my goal and knowing that I’ve got a book on Mindfulness that I’m reading next called “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)

Grade: A

Goal 4: Document some Projects
I’ve got one on some lamps I’ve been working on for a while ready to go today or tomorrow.  On track for the goal.  (Still need to do some level of writeup on the leather working).

Grade: A

Goal 5: Volunteer
I was asked by a friend if I would mentor his Senior through his Senior Project because he wants to manage projects and do software.  I’ll have my final meeting with him this week to review the results, but that was a fun little side project that I enjoyed.

Extra Credit: A

The aggregate score gives me a 3.4 or a B/B+ with the extra credit.  I think I should have weighted the grades a bit as my primary goal’s reasonably low grade it being pulled up by the other goals.  Not sure I’m okay with that or not.  Oh, well, moving on.

Note: Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darts_in_a_dartboard.jpg and is a Public Domain photo.

Goals 2017: March Update

I’m roughly a half month late in reviewing February, but it’s still fresh enough to allow me to rate my progress. It wasn’t a great month for progress on some personal fronts, but still, I need to hold myself accountable.

Goal 1: Health
February was tough. I reached my initial goal and celebrated by loosening the restraints a bit and SURPRISE (Not), the weight wants to come back! The takeaway for me is probably that the diet I was on works, but it’s awfully restrictive and my body is quick to return to it’s default state. Additionally, the weather around here has been uniformly ugly, so since most of my exercise is outside walking and that wasn’t happening, I shouldn’t be surprised I struggled.

Grade: C (It was, at best, an average performance)

Goal 2: Tech Refresh
I got side-tracked and have not been as focused as I’d like to be on this goal so I’m going to be hard on myself and say I didn’t really meet my expectations.

Grade: C

Goal 3: Read some non-Fiction
Read a book on questions to think about as you approach retirement. I won’t mention the specific book because I don’t think it was great and was really focused on a specific sub-section of potential retirees and much/most of the content didn’t really apply to me well, but I still take credit for the read.

Grade: A

Goal 4: Document some Projects
I’ve got one queued up (Leatherworking), but I need to sit down and write it. I can’t take much credit since all I’ve done is prep pictures, but I’m still on track for the goal for the year.

Grade: B

Goal 5: Volunteer
I volunteered at an work-sponsored event at the Children’s Book Bank which was great.
Additionally I gave blood this month.

Extra Credit: A

The aggregate score gives me a B-, but I’ll allow the Extra Credit Goal 5 to nudge myself up to a B. A generous B. Don’t let it happen again, me, okay?

Note
Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darts_in_a_dartboard.jpg and is a Public Domain photo.

Goals 2017: February Update

If you’re going to publicly post your goals, you ought to remain publicly accountable. At least that’s what I read. On the Interwebs. Somewhere.

So, how am I doing? I’ll use a classic US letter grading scheme and see how that goes.

Goal 1: Health
I had a very good January. I picked an eating plan (the DASH diet) and have stuck to it reasonably well and I got a really good jump towards my goal weight. I’m cautiously optimistic because the diet is not easy and is based on dramatically cutting back on carbs which I still love and crave and occasionally dream about. While I’m happy I was able to stick to it for the last three weeks, the real test is staying on it, hitting my goal and sticking with it.

I haven’t been as successful on the exercise component. In part due to some spectacularly bad weather where I live in January in to February, but that’s just an excuse if I were really committed.

Grade: A- (knocked down for the lack of exercise)

Goal 2: Tech Refresh
I’ve put off working through more directly applicable tech refreshing (eg Java) in favor of learning a reasonably complicated piece of 3D software called Blender. I love CG (Computer Graphics) animation and modeling and Blender can be used to create 3D models which I can then print on my 3D Printer, which has been a goal for some time. So, this is where I’m spending that time.

My results so far are roughly akin to a six year old with a box of crayons and more colors than they know what to do with, but I’m having fun.

Grade: B+

Goal 3: Read some non-Fiction
Read a DASH Diet book which sort of served multiple goals, but that’s totally okay.

Grade: A

Goal 4: Document some Projects
Did two in January (Vancouver Rocks and 3D Risers) and I’ve got at least one planned for February, so I’m on track for this goal.

Grade: A

Goal 5: Volunteer
I’ve signed up for a Volunteer opportunity at work and I’m donating blood, both in February, so I’m doing well on this.

Extra Credit: A

Using my advanced math skills, that’s an aggregate grade of 3.75, so a solid A-. I’ll take it!

Note
Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darts_in_a_dartboard.jpg and is a Public Domain photo.

Goals: 2017

Rather than make resolutions, which tend to be a bit trite and are typically abandoned soon after making them, I thought this year I’d try to make some specific and concrete goals for 2017. I’ve also read that one way to make yourself more accountable for those goals is to share them since it add accountability, even if it’s imagined accountability.

In my experience, goals benefit from being SMART. Variations exist, but for my purposes: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Trackable. The last, T, could have been Time-based but since these goals are for 2017 and therefore time-based or time-bound isn’t relevant, but trackable is.

That means there should be some sort of regular check in for progress. I’m choosing monthly as a period because it’s enough to show progress but not so much that I lose focus.

Goal 1: Health
What: Get my weight down to my target goal and keep it there on my scale and maintain for at least three months.
How: Adjust diet, get more consistent exercise, maybe add in some resistance regimen.
When: By 7/1/16
Measurements: Weight (Withings Scale/App), Blood Pressure (Cuff/Manual Entry), Data from phone/app
Specifics:

  • Walk 10000 steps 3x weekly (Q1)
  • Walk 10000 steps 4x weekly (Q2)
  • Maintain (Q3/Q4)

Goal 2: Tech Refresh
What: Pick something to refresh and take a(n online) course.
How: Set aside a chunk of time weekly to work through this. Maybe a few nights a week or four hours a week on the weekend.
When: By 7/1/17
Tracking: Completion of the Courses

Goal 3: Read some non-Fiction
What: Read 6 non-Fiction books this year. Any subject, any (reasonable) length.
When: By 12/31/17
Tracking: Addition to Books:Reading Log

Goal 4: Document some Projects
What: Document some Projects that I work on. Painting minis, lamps, leather cases, whatever. Blog post is fine.
What: Document 4-6 Projects this year with pics and text.
When: By 12/31/2017

Goal 5: Volunteer
This is a stretch goal and I won’t hold it against me if I don’t do it, but it seems like a good thing to have as a goal for the year. This one will not be tracked monthly

That’s it! Let’s see how it goes.

Note
Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Darts_in_a_dartboard.jpg and is a Public Domain photo.

Vancouver Rocks! And It’s Spreading…

Have you heard about Vancouver Rocks? Here’s a story from the local paper. Here’s the Facebook page which describes and shares some of the creations.

Basically folks have been painting, hiding and finding rocks up in Vancouver where I live. My wife told me about it after she became aware of it. One weekend morning a few weeks ago we wandered Orchards Community Park for my first time and looked for rocks. We each found a couple and had a really nice walk exploring a new park. Also met a couple of other rock hunters who were thoroughly friendly and enjoying the hunt.

We had so much fun with it we even painted a some rocks ourselves to hide when we get a chance. Christina already hid a few of them. Here are a few we have left and one of the rocks I found on my first adventure. (I painted the Princess Leia. It’s my favorite.)

This last week, as I was exiting my parking garage in downtown Portland, some color caught my eye and I spotted the rock up in the cover photo. And with such a simple message: Love.

I’ll probably hide this somewhere else downtown just to spread the fun.

I feel it’s this kind of act of creation coupled with the serendipitous and unexpected joy of discovery that can offset many of the realities of life that may get me down about current events and helps offset some of the fear I have of the future.

Here is something that is a purely positive event which takes place in the real world. You find a rock, you celebrate. You paint a rock and someone finds it. One person gets the joy in the act of creation, another the joy in discovery and maybe the pleasure that comes with re-hiding and hoping someone finds it as everyone moves forward putting that positive energy back out in the world. From one small act, many ripples can occur.

There’s no great reason for it, there’s no message or goal, it seems, other than to create moments out in the real world between people who will never meet but still find a way to communicate with each other.

How wonderful is that?

2016 – Well, that was a hell of a thing.

Let’s start off the new year with a picture of a pretty meadow as way to be mindful that as much as 2016 could be described as many things, not all good, we also have things to be thankful for.

My list revolves around family and my kids and my own relationship. We also made progress on some financial goals we wanted to get resolved in 2016, though it took much longer than expected. While there were certainly nights of shaking our heads, some insomnia around fear of the future and certainly frustrations, on balance I remain a fortunate man who is working to be mindful and appreciate my life.

I’ve been giving some thought to personal goals for 2017. I haven’t decided if I’ll write them down or make them public, but I’m leaning that way.

For no good reason, it appears I haven’t written anything worth posting for almost 18 months. Just the way it works out.

As it is the new year, I put a new coat of paint on the site and may tweak it a bit more. The top domain page hasn’t changed in far too long, so I should think about that.

Looking at the site, it does have me wondering whether it serves any purpose aside from self-gratification. Once upon a time, having your own site was akin to staking out your own corner of the new World Wide Web! It was virtual real estate. The reality today, though, is that aggregation to places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have shifted things away from words but also away from personal sites more towards these controlled publishing venues.

I’ve made clear before that I really, really don’t like the Facebook model. It controls who sees my content, not even guaranteeing that people who I have explicitly indicated are Friends will see the content, but those same people will certainly see ads inserted inline every four or five stories. Similarly, Instagram is inserting ads in my streams. Frankly, I don’t get Snapchat, which officially makes me an “old”.

The best argument I’ve heard for continuing to publish on my site is that I own the content and presentation. That’s not exactly a compelling argument since I’m not writing for a wide audience, but it’s at least an argument for paying the $10/mo to have it as an option.

That’s it. I’ve got no great point other than to write something here and get 2017 kicked off. Here’s hoping you are able to make this year everything you want!

Note
Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/people/29069842@N02 and licensed via Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. For more info, see http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en

Book Reviews

I recently finished a book which made me want to do a quick review. Then I wanted to contrast that with a different book. Then maybe toss in a third book, just for contrast. Finally, I thought I’d mention a book I’m looking forward to. I think I’m doing some book reviews!

 

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

TheMartian_Cover

When this book came out, I originally gave it a pass. For reasons I don’t recall, I somehow thought of this movie as Castaway on Mars. I had visions of a Space Wilson and Tom Hanks, all on Mars. Maybe some kind of Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

Tangent Alert Did you know that there was a movie in 1964 called Robinson Crusoe on Mars?! Apparently he is stranded on Mars with his monkey. There is an alien man Friday, slaver-aliens, air pills and explosions!

Back to our novel. Eventually I read a couple of reviews which, again, raved about The Martian and I started to think I needed to give it another look. About that time I heard that the book had been optioned to be made in to a movie (With Matt Damon, squee!!) There’s little I like less than having a good book spoiled by a bad movie so that added to the pressure to give it a read before I started to see images from the movie.

I absolutely loved this book! It’s probably one of the most fun and enjoyable books I’ve read in a very long time. I enjoyed the main character very much. He is a NASA astronaut (mission specialist), so he’s smart and he knows his science! He can think on his feet and he can think his way out of whatever sort of problem he’s faced with. Sure, he occasionally gets emotional, but he was always able to bounce back and come back positive.

One criticism I read said they were turned off by the cycle of “Disaster-Panic-Recovery, rinse, repeat”. I didn’t feel that at all. I and the story were propelled from one event to the next very fast and with what felt like real momentum. I cared about the guy. I wanted him to survive! It was, in the old parlance, a page turner despite the fact that I was reading it on my iPad.

One of the things I really liked about it was that it was pro-Science and pro-Math and pro- being smart. The main character was intelligent and he was resourceful and that was constantly fun to read about and feel a part of.

At the end of the day, that’s one of the things I liked best about it: I really enjoyed my time with that adventure and really sad to have it come to a close.

On a related note: I’ve seen the official trailer for the movie (YouTube Link) and it looks really, really good. Favorite line from the trailer: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m faced with only one option: I’m going to have to Science the shit out of this”. Not a line in the book, but very much in line with the character from the book. I’m looking forward to this movie, too.

Now, I’m going to move on to a book that I wanted to enjoy but did not.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Seveneves_Cover

Stephenson wrote a couple of books that I enjoyed a great deal: Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. Both of these were about Big Ideas and playing out the consequences of those big ideas. I enjoyed them both a great deal for those Big Ideas, for the characterizations and for the story that was told.

Some time after those came Cryptonomicon, which was the first of what was to be a “epoch making masterpiece” in the words of one reviewer. Personally, I found the book to be very, very long. And very self-involved and while I did make it through the book, I totally lost interest in anything that followed in that world or from Stephenson.

Recently, however, he released Seveneves which was reviewed well by some folks whose opinions I value. Additionally, it had what seemed to be a killer hook that asks the basic question: What would happen if the world were ending. Stephenson proposes a huge, cataclysmic disaster and them proposes to follow it through. Even better, the story was going to come back much later in the future to see how the world was impacted and how mankind recovered and was changed by the event.

It was enough to bring me back on board and give it a try.

Unfortunately, the book was simply not enjoyable to read. I did manage to suffer through, but I didn’t enjoy it. In the end, I finished it out of perversity and stubbornness as much as anything else.

The big disaster which drives things starts off very unemotionally. It just happens. Which is just fine. Sometimes things just happen and the interesting story is in watching how it affects the characters.

Unfortunately for me, the characters, with the exception of one, were largely uninteresting or unpalatable. The felt one-dimensional and I was unable to engage with them as people. In contrast to how I felt about the main character in the previous book, I just really didn’t care what happened to any of them.

On the upside, this may well be a book for someone interested in the science of a disaster like this. It might also be interesting to someone who follows the space program, enjoys physics (in the abstract) and is fascinated by astronauts as they are, really, the heroes of the story and that’s laudable.

Eventually, about two thirds of the way through the book, the first portion with all the characters we’ve been following winds down and there’s a giant flash-forward in time to see how the mankind fared in the interim and how, or if, the Earth recovered.
Again, I found the story cold, unengaging and, ultimately, uninteresting. I was, sad to say, bored.

It may simply be that Stephenson’s prose and story telling are not engaging to me and that’s okay. But at this point I suspect it would take a very large truck to pull me back in to trying another story from him.

Now, in fairness, I’m bashing a book that’s currently a bestseller from an author who has received multiple awards, all of which may simply indicate that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but it remains my opinion.

From that, I wanted something to clear my palate, so I read a book in a series which I’ve been enjoying. It’s a book in the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey

TheGetawayGod_Cover

I enjoy this series. It’s a mashup of a very noir L.A. coupled with a fantasy series involving monsters of various stripes, demons and angels as well as Lucifer and a God that’s got a bit of multiple personality disorder (literally!). And our main protagonist, Stark, known to many as Sandman Slim.

The world is, quite literally, going to hell and Stark, often reluctantly, is the one who stands between the forces trying to tear it all apart and the rest of us, obliviously living our lives.

I like how L.A. is where (at least on Earth) we spend most of our time in the books because the glitz and glitter of L.A. is reflected in a Hell that looks and feels much the same.

Stark is a hard-drinking, hard-living man who is always ready with a quip or a fight. As with the best of noir characters, on the face of things, he’s not all that likable, but he’s always fun to watch. And, really, at the end of the night, all he wants is a drink, good takeout and good movie to watch.

Our world sits on the edge of annihilation and all that stands between us and the end of all things is Sandman Slim.

This is the sixth book and in each, Kadrey has managed to ramp up the suspense and the stakes. I’m not sure how long he can keep doing that, but as long as they’re fun to read, and they are, I’ll likely come back every year or so for another.

Finally, I’ll mention a book I’m looking forward to.

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

TheEndOfAllThings_Cover

This is the last (for now!) book in the Old Man’s War series. It takes place in a universe where humans are out and about interacting with a variety of other space-faring intelligences, many of which are bigger, badder and more capable of killing than humans. We are not, by any stretch, the big kid on the block.

I find the Old Man’s War universe to be very enjoyable and a fun, easy read. Scalzi was answering the question recently on reddit whether his writing can be compared to eating popcorn. I suspect it was implied that somehow being compared to eating popcorn was a bad thing. On the contrary, if you’re in the mood, a snack is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it’s exactly what you’re looking for. In a fairly self-aware response, Scalzi notes that his goal is to write books that sell – he has a family to support, after all. And sell books, he does! And, I like popcorn.

I’m not buying the book (and, to be clear, I will be buying the book) because it’s necessarily the best piece of literature ever, I’m buying it because he writes books that I’ve enjoyed, tells stories that I want to read and I have a pretty high degree of confidence, based on his track record, that I’ll enjoy this book as well.

The End of All Things comes out August 11, 2015. Now, Mr. Scalzi, TAKE MY MONEY! And let me know when you write something else. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll buy that, too.