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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Radio Active #9: Ender's Shadow, Libris Mortis, Toddlers & Star Wars

by Ken Newquist / June 30, 2005

I make good on my book review promise, and take a look at Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow. There's also some thoughts on toddlers and Star Wars, news about the extension of the Atomic Swindlers CD giveaway, and a plug for the new scifi magazine podcast, Escape Pod.

Getting the Podcast

You can get the podcast in two ways:

Show Notes

  • Intro
    • Welcome Comicology and Geek Fu Action Grip listeners -- and many thanks to Neil Gorman for the mention in Comicology #28 and Mur Lafferty mentioning it in Geek Fu #27
    • Atomic Swindlers CD Giveaway Contest
      • Win the Atomic Swindlers' first CD, "Coming Out Electric" as well as a band t-shirt.
      • Since Radio Active #8 took so long to get online, I've extended the deadline for entries.
      • Here are the rules again:
        • Check out Radio Active #8 and note which Atomic Swindlers songs we played.
        • Send an e-mail to with the names of the songs, your postal address, and an e-mail where you can be reached.
        • When I receive your e-mail, you'll be entered to win the Atomic Swindlers' first CD, "Coming Out Electric" as well as an Atomic Swindlers T-Shirt.
        • If you send an audio comment with your e-mail, you'll receive two entries in the contest.
        • Four winners will be selected, and the contest will end Monday, July 11; everything will be mailed Tuesday, July 12, 2005.
        • Restrictions: In order to prevent me from going broke mailing out the prizes, this contest is restricted to the continental U.S.
      • To learn more about the Atomic Swindlers, read Nuketown's review of "Coming Out Electric" or visit their Web site
  • "I no like SaWas"
    • "I've got a bad feeling about this" -- Star Wars clip
    • Will Jordan forever turn away from Star Wars because of seeing the Ep 3 trailers at age two?
  • Ender's Shadow
    • by Orson Scott Card
    • Tor Books
    • Released in 2000
    • 480 pages
    • Interesting concept for a book: retells the events of the science fiction classic Ender's Game from the perspective of one of Ender's fellow students -- and his eventual second in command -- at Battle School. In this book, like the original, humanity was nearly wiped out by insectoid invaders known as "Buggers".
    • Knowing that Earth could not survive another invasion, its military leaders start building an international fleet, and found a command school committed to finding -- and educating -- the next great military genius. They start young -- some kids aren't even teenagers, and Ender was the youngest ... at least until Bean showed up.
    • Upside
      • Fascinating to see the story from a different perspective -- you know what's coming, but the path Bean takes to arrive at a given point is vastly different from Ender's own. And it's so well done that you could read either book first ... but I'd still recommend Ender's Game as the initial read. It's the stronger of the two books.
      • This book -- and its sequels -- tells the story many fans wanted Card to tell: what happened on Earth and its colony's after ender won the Bugger War?
      • I'll take any excuse to return to the battles and its 3D mock battles in the Battle Room.
    • Downsides
      • Bean's back story -- that of a super-genius baby capable of reasoning and rational thought at only several months of age -- strains the limits of credibility, but Card makes up for this far-fetched aspect by writing one of his best narratives in years. Yes, it's hard to believe ... but Card makes you want to believe.
      • Takes too long to get to the Battle School; the first quarter of the book is dedicated to Bean on Earth, and his from street urchin to cadet.
    • Rating: 9/10 -- A worthwhile visit with an old friend.
  • Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead
    • by Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell
    • Wizards of the Coast
    • Released in October 2004
    • 192 pages
    • Undead -- and the cults that worship them or create them -- have long played a part in my "Blackrazors" D&D campaign.
      • One of their primary foes was and is the Cult of Death Undying, a cult obsessed with returning a lost demiplane known as Necros --which is ruled by liches and crawling with undead -- to the Prime Material Plane.
      • Their minions, the Followers of the Skeletal Way, are fanatical footmen who's fondest dream is to die so that they might be reanimated as skeletons or zombies.
      • Recently, this group re-surfaced as the inspiration for sending a group of Blackrazors into Maure Castle (full-size module published in Dungeon #112), the logic being that whatever the cults were interested in, it couldn't be good.
      • To that end, I wanted some new tricks with which to spice up these old enemies, so I bought Libris Mortis, WotC's Book of Undead.
      • It's a prestige format book, similar in design and production to the earlier Draconomicon source book, which focused on dragons.
      • As with that book, Libris Mortis reads like a supersized "monster ecology" column from Dragon Magazine, but its much more than that. It introduces new feats, prestige classes, spells and monsters as well as small -- but fully detailed -- lairs and sample NPCs.
      • The Good
        • Great resource for spellcasters, as many of the feats are geared towards them. If you've ever wanted to bulk up a necromancer's animated undead, this is the book for you.
        • Better version of the "true necromancer" prestige class from Tome and Blood, which offers a better level progression and powers befitting the name "true necromancer".
        • Pre-generated NPCs are great. I might not use them in my campaign, but they're excellent for seeing how to put together a high level threat, and as an inspiration for your own NPCs.
        • Pre-generated lairs are useful right out of the box.
        • Swarm Templates: Finally I can create vampires and mummies like you see in the movies. And which actually are based on rules!
        • Undead encounters rock: as with dragons, undead are something that DMs may only run a handful of times, even in a multiyear campaign. Having advice on how to run Mummies, Ghosts and Vampires is great.
      • The Bad
        • The feats are too arcane/divine oriented. I was hoping to find a few good combat feats I could give my Skeletal Way footmen, but the book didn't give many that were appropriate.
        • The ecology section is very small; I'd like to have seen more attention given to the effects that the undead have on their environment, and possible connected plot hooks.
        • As with Book of Exalted Deeds, didn't like the whole "positoxin" thing, which are basically poisons that affect undead. We have plenty of folklore remedies for combatting undead, why not create magical versions of those?
        • Magic item section is only six pages; I'd like to have seen more magic items, particularly more unique ones alone with a few lesser artifacts.
      • Rating: 8/10 -- good, but not essential. Worth picking up for anyone for whom the undead play a major role in their campaign.
    • Escape Pod
    • Talk to you later