Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub (Amazon): The sequel to the horror duo’s 198x The Talisman is a far darker, grimmer book than the original. In it, Jack Sawyer – the 12 year old who traveled cross country through two worlds looking for a magical talisman to heal his mother – is all grown up. The 30-something Jack has rationalized away his child hood adventures, but when he sees something that brings back a flicker of memory, he immediately quits his job as a Los Angeles cop and flees to a small town in Wisconsin. There’s no hiding from the past or the future for him there though, because a serial killer turns up, one with connections to that mysterious other world known as the Territories. The book’s told from a second person plural perspective in which we – as readers tagging along with the authors – are told about the events unfolding around “us”. It occasionally drops into third-person perspective, but never stays there. It’s a disconcerting approach that adds to the overall horror of the book, and the horror itself can be as revolting as its characters are heroic.
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (Amazon): My reunion tour with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books will hopefully continue this month. I say “hopefully” because Audible’s been a real pain in the ass about releasing this title; initially they said it would be out September 1, then November 1, now they’ve got November 9 as the release date. Make up your minds people!. Anyway, it’s been a few years since I read this one (listened to it, actually, via Books-On-Tape — but if memory serves, this is where the series really starts to get cooking. I’m a little fuzzy on the details — I know that Rand & Co. go to Tear, but I’m not sure if this is when that kingdom’s fortress falls to the Dragon Reborn. In any case, I enjoyed it the first time around, and I’m looking forward to my second “listening” of this book.
Wired 12.1: This month’s Wired delves into the independent music scene – the really independent one that’s utterly divorced from the brutish RIAA. It includes a CD with 12 tracks released under the “Creative Commons” license which basically allows listeners to trade, modify or otherwise butcher the tracks to their hearts’ content. It also includes interviews with some of the bands and digital music experts. While I agree with the RIAA for standing up for their intellectual property rights, their methods have been ham-handed at best and downright despicable at worst.
The Pointman/Fixer Class Guide: When the d20 espionage game Spycraft was released, its publisher also printed three class guides expanding on the classes from the core book. At the time, I couldn’t see a reason to by them – sure, splat books are nice and all, but I thought the classes were handled competently enough in the core book. Years later, I have come to realize that the class books had as much material for the game master as they did for players, and that of the three books. Of these, fans say that Pointman/Fixer is the best, and I agree. It offers much-improved Mastermind system that’s includes feat-like threats that grant additional capabilities for criminal organizations, class-like agendas, which allow the organization to grow in power along with the players, and action sites, which provide quick-and-easy rules for creating secret bases. It’s an excellent book that has me tearing apart my Spycraft villains and rebuilding them from the ground up.
A Magical Society: Ecology & Culture : Expeditious Retreat’s follow-up to their Western Europe book approaches world design from the view point of a god, reinterpreting things like ecology, geography, and society from a magical perspective.