Browsed by
Tag: books

Poison City

Poison City

20160229_poison-city_paul-crilleyPoison City (by Paul Crilley) reads a bit like Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch and a twinge like Charles Stross’s books about The Laundry. Probably more former than latter. And, perhaps, with a dose of Hellboy and Night Watch thrown in for good measure.

Gods, monsters, vampires, spirits, angels, demons, fae, and worlds outside our own, mixed up with folklore and mythology from across the world. Set against a South African backdrop, I’ve really enjoyed the first 200-pages of this book – despite my desperately poor reading speed and diabolical reading average this year.

I borrowed this from the library – as you can only get a hardback at the moment, following a release earlier this year – and I’m on my third renewal. I need to do better. I need to stick to the 25-pages of book a day target I intend for next year, but might as well get on with now. In the Goodreads Book Challenge, my effort stands at 3 books finished for 2016. I think that’s selling me short, but it might be right for whole books read. I need to find a way to account for articles, short stories, novellas and so forth. It’s all words and pages; all fodder for the creative process.

Gideon Tau works for the Delphic Division of the South African Police Service, dealing with complex and dangerous occult investigations. He has little support, aside from a cantankerous DCI from Yorkshire and a drunk canine spirit guide, but somehow he gets the job done – and that despite only a tenuous grasp of magic bordering on the amateur. While others in the Division have specialised, Tau’s grasp of ‘Shinecraft’ still relies on a physical focus – a wand – and sometimes he makes really bad decisions that land him in deep trouble with the wrong kind of entities.

All very entertaining and fast-paced. Feels a bit like an origin movie at the moment, skirting over a lot of ground with scant detail. The occult world holds a lot of surprises and here we glimpse dozens of them, with the lingering promise of many more books in a series somewhere ahead.

I can see potential in using this as the backdrop for a roleplaying game – Night’s Black Agents, World of Darkness or, probably, something driven by Fate. Light on magic, high on action, investigation and peril from entities beyond mortal ken. The Esoterrorists might work as well – as you’ll be wanting to Veil Out most of the action and magic seems more dangerous than useful in the greater scheme of things.

December 12th Update – So, I finished reading this over the weekend, having extended the renewal yet again.

Liked this a lot. Definitely an “origin” book for the series and without spoiling anything, which is tough, Tau makes a ton of enemies in the latter half of the book. He makes enemies amongst his friends, colleagues, associate organisations, angels, orisha and others – directly or by the result of his actions.

The state of play at the end of the books has multiple sequels splattered all over it with all kinds of angles – and I can see tabletop role play potential aplenty. Indeed, I can see even more potential now that I’ve finished the book than before. And angles on the world as well.

You could have a ragtag group of player characters made up of Delphic Operatives, minor supernaturals, wing-clipped angels, soul-damaged mortals, and possibly even Fae (though I’m inclined to believe they have a sordid and dark road ahead of them in later books that might put them mostly off-limits).

A game in this world would have all the repercussions of this book to deal with and still have a whole other world to consider.

Poison City was released in August 2016 and you can currently grab a copy in hardback or on Kindle. It’s well worth your reading consideration and certainly something I will come back to and re-read; most likely I’ll re-read with the intent to run a game against the backdrop, probably with Hollowpoint or the Cypher system.

Hollowpoint seems to fit for reasons that will become obvious as you read. The Cypher system with something dredged out of Gods of the Fall might work, too.

Book Pile: August 2016

Book Pile: August 2016

Beyond-the-Gates-of-AntaresThis past weekend provided some solid gains in the roleplaying department – and explain why I never post much in the thread about resisting purchases.

I got a dinged copy of 13th Age from Games Lore because I have heard so many positive things and had two good games. I couldn’t not buy it for £20 including postage. It almost seemed rude.

I have played this twice with Guy Milner – who runs a great game with fantastic bursts of compelling enthusiasm. I love Pelgrane for all the GUMSHOE goodness. And I have read so much good stuff. If nothing else, I would hope to find ways to adopt and adapt elements to other games I run. Failing that, it looks nice!

When it arrived on Friday, I also got Lone Wolf: Heroes of Magnamund come through from Cubicle 7, the second physical reward from Lone Wolf. It looks gorgeous, but I would never expect anything less.

I used the PDF for one of the games I ran at Seven Hills, so the physical book has been slow coming – and the whole KS remains glacial. I like the book and I enjoyed running the stuff out of the PDF – because it makes for a much more interesting group game when everyone isn’t a Kai initiate in the Lone Wolf vein.

Out of the box, Lone Wolf offers a very basic game – for a very reasonable price; but, you need a bit more to make it feel like anything more than a one-off or an introductory game for younger players. Having used Heroes to run a game, I feel it makes all the difference.

On Saturday, at Britcon Day #1 with All Rolled Up, I picked up The Force Awakens Beginner Game for the Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight.

I spotted this going for just over £20 – and it comes with the fancy dice that sell separately for £8 or more. I had noticed it the week before somewhere else, but £5 higher. I’m an idiot for buying new stuff, but I still have a budget!

I wanted to see what they might have tweaked for the setting of the new film… and when I get a chance to read it I’ll find out! I have enjoyed all the games I have run with this system. I continue to love the dice mechanic that drives the crunch and story alike. I know that this divides people, but I definitely lean toward the like it side – and this has BB-8 in it.

Finally, on Sunday, at Britcon Day #2, I had my eye on a wargame called Beyond the Gates of Antares, written by Rick Priestley (who wrote the original version of Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader, back in the Olden Days of Yore) and published by Warlord Games. They had a stall directly across from us and the book just stared at me the whole weekend.

This is a wargame, written with a variant of Warlord’s Bolt Action system. However, I love the original WH40K setting and Rick has a great rep in my opinion. The game had a thickish background section and a narrative scenario section – and a supplement… and I just had a good feeling about it.

Last time I had a ‘good feeling’ about something I picked up The Black Hack and I picked up Symbaroum – and both of those good feelings panned out pretty well.

I have a mind to pillage the background – and elements of the rules – to run as a roleplaying thing later in the year. I might even consider running this with my own 214 system, but we’ll see how the reading goes.

When I can get round to it…

H is for History

H is for History

img_20160410_100429.jpgHistory has become the backbone of my life. Well, maybe one of the big bones in my arm. It’s significant.

I enjoy history like I enjoy a good book. I enjoy history books more than any other book for that matter.

Mind, I’m not necessarily talking about all history. Some of the recent stuff I find of interest, but I would spend a lot of time studying it. In truth, there’s so much history that if you spent more than a moment considering any given any element in detail you’d simply run out of time.

My wife often asks me whether I’d be interested in a book she’s found in a second hand or charity store. She’ll ring me up while I’m at work and ask would I be interested in “X”. Sometimes she’ll take a stab at a period of history and query whether she’s got the right bit.

See, I like my history late Tudor. I’m talking 1550 – 1603, but mainly Elizabethan. I occasionally roam outside that region, but that’s where I focus. For example, I have an interest in Doctor John Dee, who served as Elizabeth’s advisor and court magician, and his childhood extends outside that period. I like to know where people came from and what influenced their thinking.

Anyway, 1550 – 1603. If I cared to drill down further, I tend to look at the socio-economic stuff, the business of everyday life and living. Again, I’m not beholden to that view. I have books on espionage, sea battle, exploration, magic, European relations, religion, Shakespeare, armoury… but I keep coming back to the common people. What living in a farm or a specific small town boiled down to during this period.

I’m not certain why this sort of thing has become my core interest. I have no particular account for when it happened or why. I take an interest in the high-flying politics and the bloody warfare over land, religion and family – but I’ve a greater interest in urban development, begging, how weather affected farming and the way guilds changed work.

I like the nose to the ground detail of people living their lives, likely quite oblivious to the big changes sweeping across in the backdrop. Given the state of communication and the insular life of the ordinary people, you have to wonder whether many even knew when they were at war, when key nobles grabbed control of distant regions or even when the monarch died.

It fascinates me. I would definitely recommend that you pick a spot and look long and hard at it. Find a person or a place and dig deep.

B is for Books

B is for Books

That (below) is a picture of a sliver of one bookshelf. I think my bookshelves both excite and frighten me in equal measure. You might care to throw some curiosity into the recipe and a dash of love.

I do love books. No doubt about it.


People take holidays, I buy books. I would much rather get lost in the pages of a book than lounge on a beach somewhere. I could probably manage to sit in some room with a view and read – but it would have to be the right spot.

Somewhere near the coast or overlooking a landscape. Preferably somewhere temperate, as I don’t do well in the heat.

My curiosity for books might offer a sniff of a suggestion about why I own so many. I have quite a few – many unread, though with good intentions. I have read – or at least partially read – most. I’m not hoarding. I have donated a few short stacks of books to charity where I’m certain I’ve read something – or never will – and feel the need to pass it on.


What frightens me is that I know I don’t have time to read everything I’d like to – and that includes many works I don’t have in my library. I could do with reading more of the classics. I could do with more plays and poetry. I do have examples scattered amongst what I have, but many I haven’t laid hands upon.

What excites me about books is their ability to transport me. I’m not just being cute with that statement. I’m not suggesting a physical or mental translocation either.

When I read a book, I sort of spirit my thoughts away in a kind of Holmesian ‘Mind Library’ with comfy high-backed leather chairs, fine tea and good lighting. I can all too easily be doing something when I glance at a book – and fifteen minutes later re-emerge to the distant sound of my name being called.


Just to be clear, I haven’t passed out during the interim.

I just get lost in the words and the pages. Sometimes I can do the same with a trawl through Wikipedia, but it isn’t quite the same. With the right book in hand, I can disengage my anchor on reality and run with the words.

I’d be overdoing it to say that I find it exhilarating, but it isn’t far off.

Reading and Writing

Reading and Writing

Heck, today is just going to have to be one of those days when I simply type something out for the sake of typing. That isn’t to say that I might not turn this into something with a little more purpose and value. However, to do that certainly normally requires that I have some measure of inspiration.

Having spent time yesterday reviewing, or at least ending a review started the previous today, I have some hope that this will become something of a mainstay. I have more than one location where I have the need for a review on an ongoing basis. However, I also have a reading pile that seems to have become a source of more stress than enjoyment. I read one book and accumulate three more. It doesn’t help when those books seem to be endless – despite apparently only really running to two or three hundred pages.

Take the book I’m currently reading on the subject of ITIL Continual Service Improvement. This has to be a book that someone has decided to write while I’m reading it. I can’t understand how I always seem to get through only a dozen pages a day and yet I never seem to get closer to the end. How, in all honesty, can something like that be possible?

I have so many fiction books I’d love to be reading, but the work related stuff simply has to get in the way. I have that book on the last Sherlock Holmes case, the one that got made into a film. I have the murder mystery book about the ghosts. For heaven’s sake, I have the book about the Imperial Guard I would dearly like to get back to and also the one with the huge tank. Those have been begging for my attention over the longest period of time. I’m prepared to believe that might even have formed part of last year’s reading.

I have to get better at reading with speed and purpose. I realise that reading at speed might mean that I get less out of the experience sometimes, but if I need to get any value I could always read a book again. I feel I have to get better at skimming through the content and garnering what knowledge I can from the first pass.

Heck, maybe ITIL comes into this… Faced with the raw data of a book, the first pass should provide me with information. If I need knowledge, then I can go at it a second time. Where wisdom comes from… well, that would be when stuff really sticks. I suspect wisdom doesn’t come with re-reading. Wisdom comes from writing and taking notes. That sort of thing has nothing to do with devouring a simple novel or a slab of short stories.

If I feel the urge to write something down it will come from reading something with a measure of self-improvement mixed in. Or, I may need to take notes when I read through a game supplement or adventure, knowing that I will have to run it at some point. Recollection comes more easily after writing something down a few times, which I find an ideal method for consolidation after coming up with a new password.

So, here I am, writing. Not writing with purpose, but for the simple sake of writing. If I linger, I’ll have the thought cross my mind that writing with genuine with purpose seems to allude me. It seems like the longest time since I last wrote something with genuine intent, to write something to order.

In truth, that isn’t true. I did write for the Dracula Dossier, but that feels like an age ago. It was an age ago! I started working on that last December and finished the first draft of everything over the festive break. November strikes tomorrow, so that means 11 months have passed.

I disappoint myself with that kind of inertia and cannot hope to improve as a writer without practice. Like speed reading, ‘speed writing’ is not something that I’m going to perfect just thinking about it. As with my reading pile, I have a bunch of writing that I know I need to do. My game ‘The Dee Sanction’, for example, has been waiting a year since I completed a first and very brief draft. I have no excuse and nothing worthy enough to justify the lack of progress.

I suspect that will come next, as part of this process of writing every day.

Booked Up

Booked Up

Christmas provides a wealth of reading material this year, as ever. I actually like a good book, so it helps. I got a book of 20th century poetry, an almanac of historic customs, a book on Chris Morris, and one on horrible jobs through history. All excellent stuff, now piled by my bed, with a few choice hardbacks in the loo (both 2nd hand books, so I understand).

However, I still have my writing on beggars to complete, so I’ll have to resist the urge to ‘read around’ and stick with the task at hand…