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At work recently, Corporate has started doing a monthly survey for employees, of a rather random nature. I think it's because they don't understand how 'employee engagement' is supposed to work, but that's another topic.... These aren't particularly work-related questions, but just supposed to be little diversions where we pick from four provided answers. This month, the question was along the lines of 'Which minor power would you like to have?' and the most popular choice has been 'Eidetic memory' (at about 40%), which is sort of understandable. What I don't understand, though, is why there's no love for my choice, 'Never get tired.' It's barely gotten 10% of the vote, despite being, in my opinion, immensely more practically useful. (I can't even remember the other two, which says something about how interesting those choices were.)

I mean, my memory isn't exactly great, but it's functional enough, and beyond a minimum level, a better memory just doesn't do that much for you, does it? (As opposed to a pocket full of sticky notes, which seems to be my solution... *grins*) Whereas not getting tired... Granted, part of my enthusiasm for this is because depression sucks, but even apart from that, it would mean extra hours literally every day to get stuff done, of whatever stuff you had to do. Even if you still had to sleep, the additional control over the timing of your days would seem incredibly useful.

I don't know, what do you think? Why isn't this getting more love?

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Books 69, 70: The Siren Depths, and Stories of the Raksura, by Martha Wells. I have Crystal to thank for recently letting me know that Martha Wells had a new Raksura book out (and also reminding me that I hadn't yet read the third one somehow) so I was quite happy to pick them up, having very much enjoyed the first two. (For those who didn't read the previous books yet; shape-shifting flying humanoids and their court/clan politics, against an insidious invasive threat.) The Siren Depths was great, and it was good to see what the characters were coming up to next. I also appreciated seeing the main character continue to deal with his own personal issues, and the way they continued to color his thoughts even when he knew things were different.

I was really pleased with the Stories as well, especially because they were several novellas fleshing out a bunch of the backstory of the world. Getting a different perspective on things was great, especially The Tale of Indigo and Cloud, which while most obviously about an elaborate and rocky courtship, also made pretty clear that the Arbora (the flightless "worker" caste) were as much in charge of things as any of the flying Ariaet, just more focused on practical matters.

Anyway, if you can't tell, I'm recommending that you go out and pick up the books right away -- there's another volume of stories coming next spring, and I'm sure it'll be as much fun as the previous ones.

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Book 63: The Godless, by Ben Peek. Perhaps I waited a bit too long, but I didn't have much memory of this book. It's an interesting setup in world of dead gods, but it does feel very much like a setup to a longer series rather than a complete story itself. Also, I'm not sure it was gripping enough; there was only really one character that I cared much to see what happens to her, and there was't much promise of the world revealing secrets, so this is pretty much a 'meh' from me.


Book 64: The Broken Eye, by Brent Weeks. This was a very good book, as expected, but the first thing I saw on opening it was a list of books on the title page that revealed the existence of a fourth book in the series. I _really_ wanted things to wrap up here; it was a lot of fun, and as always he's got interesting tricks and turns up his sleeve for the plot to reveal. I'd gladly read a follow-up trilogy in this world, and I can't complain about this actual story at all -- I just want to meta-gripe about series bloat, I guess.


Book 65: What If?, by Randall Munroe. This was light fun; I'd already read the ones on his What If blog, but there was plenty of other interesting new questions that he played with here, and overall something I'd really recommend.


Book 66: The Winter Long, by Seanan McGuire. This is a great addition and stepping stone in the October Daye series, and gets a good payoff out of quite a few details from previous books. It's also great to see the changes (also in the last book) that are keeping things from being 'Yet another of October's adventures' that long-running series can eventually turn in to. You shouldn't start here, but it's a great reason to recommend that you start the series if you were cautious about it.


Book 67: The Grass King's Concubine, by Kari Sperring. Rereading this; it's still slow to begin, but she does a wonderful job of having things build up until I can't put it down.


Book 68: City of Stairs, by Robert Bennett. I've been seeing this recommended a lot, and I'd have to say it lives up to the hype. I don't know if I'd call it a spy story, but it's certainly got a lot of that feel to it, too.

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Book 57: The Horns of Ruin, by Tim Akers. Reread and quite enjoyed because I really wanted some steampunk apotheosis.


Book 58: The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman. An interesting conclusion to the trilogy, although I still liked the bits with Quentin the least.


Book 59: One-Eyed Jack, by Elizabeth Bear. Gorgeously told American mythologizing.


Book 60: Traitor's Blade, by Sebastian de Castell. Good swashbuckling, with hopefully more intrigue to come.


Book 61: The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler. You can tell it's a fantasy revolution because a turn of intrigue always just in time kept the streets from running with blood.


Book 62: Dead Iron, by Devon Monk. Steampunk and dark fay made a pretty good mix here.

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Book 54: Full Fathom Five, by Max Gladstone. This was an excellent book that inexplicably got left off my list of things read; I'd picked it up as soon as it came out. Even more so than the previous books in the series, this is also a very bitter story, probably because the main character is being very directly betrayed by everything around her. It's also, as I'd said, an excellent read, and still a very hopeful book in the end. I'm really looking forward to more from Gladstone, if you couldn't already tell...


Book 55: Black Bottle, by Anthony Huso. This finished his duology, and I still think I find the world more interesting than the actual story -- it's got its twists and turns, but the ending (of both books) seems to grapple unsuccessfully with the nebulous monstrosities of the rest of the story and comes up short.


Book 56: Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews. This was a very good entry in an ongoing urban fantasy, and wraps up a lot of plot threads that had been dangling for a while. I'm very satisfied with what they've done here (just discovered via jacket text that it's a husband-wife writing team) and pleased to have a satisfying resolution in the middle of the story they're telling.

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Book 50: Rhesus Chart, by Charles Stross. This has been a good continuation of the Laundry novels, and actually seems like it might be a good place to jump in if you hadn't read the entire thing so far. Bob gets to experience vampires, and it gives you a taste of the history behind things, but it's not really necessary to follow the story -- plus, it's a fun plot with interesting convolutions, so I'd recommend checking it out.


Book 51: Falling into Place, by Amy Zhang. I picked up the ARC of this because it was written by a high-schooler local to where I grew up, and seemed worth checking out for that. A book about a teen's attempted suicide isn't what I'd normally read, but it was pretty good for all of that -- very full of emotion, and it was compelling for that. It also makes me glad that it wasn't my high school experience at all; I was socially oblivious, which had its own downsides, but at least meant I didn't get stuck in other people's dramatics.


Book 52: Sword Art Online, by Reki Kawahara. I wanted to read this manga because B&N was promoting it for their pop culture thing that's happening this summer; it was good enough for a "trapped in VR" plot that I was willing to read the next one about another VR world that they can actually leave, which is more interesting to me. Half my interest in games I can't play myself is what's going on outside them, and how that intersects the action inside; I'll probably check out the anime at some point too, because it looks like it'd be pretty, and that sounds fun to me.


Book 53: Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley. A graphic novel about a chef trying to open a restaurant, and changing her own past to fix mistakes -- this was actually pretty interesting, and I'd recommend looking it up.

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The first fortress started out well. The dwarves found a forest clearing to start building in (well, more like chopped down a forest clearing for themselves) and laid out the foundations of their fort with an entrance and training yard for the militia, and separate chambers for pasture and the trade depot. They were visited by a group of badger-men who were as scared of us as we were of them -- but when they started wrestling with our dogs, the militia was sent to beat them down, and get vital combat experience. Stone outer walls were raised, and wooden inner divisions to keep things partitioned in case of attack. An aquifer was also discovered underneath the fort, and while the fresh water was welcome, plans began to dig down through it to seek out the caverns below. Unfortunately, after a year of hard labor, it was discovered that the clay beneath the aquifer was only a small pocket, and the water seeped into the stone underneath as well. The fortress was retired as a small trading outpost. (Also, a new version was out that fixed several large bugs.)

The second fortress was begun on an obsidian plain, next to a cauldron of bubbling magma. One dwarf took it upon themselves to explore, and began climbing around the inner lip of the volcano -- unfortunately, before a rescue stairway could be completed, his grip failed and he plummeted into the depths, leaving only a single shout to bubble up of his discovery of adamantine below. Her loss was mourned even more as it became clear that the dwarves were the last survivors of their civilization, from desperate tales told by stragglers arriving at the fortress. Construction quickly began on a series of magma-powered forges, and one of the dwarves declared herself the new queen and began demanding fitting quarters be provided. With only a bit of grumbling, new chambers were hewn out, and things were looking up for the fortress. Unfortunately, a treacherous human caravan arrived bearing a load of bugs and crashes, and the fortress was abandoned.

The next fortress burned down, collapsed, and sank into the swamp. (Well, not really... but a new version came out to fix a few more bugs.) So now the dwarves have found themselves on a jungle slope leading up towards another volcanic crater, hoping to put the lessons of the previous fort to good use. Step one -- clear cut enough space that dwarves aren't tempted to brachiate; it doesn't work out well...

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New version of Dwarf Fortress came out yesterday, so I'm looking forward to getting to play around with that. (For those not familiar already with the game, it's sort of like the Sims meets the Hobbit. The game generates a large fantasy world full of elves and dwarves and humans, and then lets you either create an adventurer to do stuff in the world, or embark with a group of dwarves to dig a new fortress out of the rocks. I usually play in Fortress mode, which means managing a bunch of industrious alcoholics while I try to get kitchens built, mines dug out, and enough warriors trained to defeat the inevitable goblin raids.) Chief among the many improvements in this version is the continuing activity of the world -- other civilizations will now keep doing their own thing, rather than just stopping when the world is made, and you can retire and reactive your own forts to help your dwarven civilization expand.

So in the world I've created to play with, two features stand out -- one is a western peninsula overrun by dwarves; it looks like the spread out of the mountains to the south, found the land to their liking, and decided to fill it. The other is a forest to the north that used to belong to the elves, but started sprouting necromancer towers about a 100 years into world generation. I have a feeling that the elves aren't feeling so happy about this right now.

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Book 47: Stormwarden, by Janny Wurts. This was an interesting old-school fantasy (with SF elements) that unfortunately just didn't really grab me. I think it was the combination of all the set-up she was doing, as well as the sense that there were exciting adventures in the past, and adventures to come, but this book was itself mostly just the training montages for the new generation of heroic sorcerers. I might read the next books at some point, but it'll take me a while to get around to it.


Book 48: Prince of Fools, by Mark Lawrence. An interesting new trilogy, covering the same time as his previous one, but with a much less bloody-minded protagonist. Well written, and a good match for Prince of Thorns; I kind of wish it could have matched the same scale as Emperor of Thorns, but I think he's planning to work back up to that.


Book 49: Lexicon, by Max Barry. Reread this now that it was out in paperback. Still good, but also still not quite what I wanted the story to be. (I'd have enjoyed a less 'magical' take, and one that focused more on the social control and manipulation aspects...) But still an interesting read, so worth checking out.

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Book 45: Thief's Magic, by Trudi Canavan. This was interesting, but didn't really go anywhere, part of the current trend where the first book in proposed trilogies are mostly just setup. I liked the characters so I'll be looking to see what happens next, but it felt really short and thinking back, there wasn't much there.


Book 46: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I really enjoyed this; I'd seen several people recommend this, and the one that caught my attention mentioned how nice it was that the main character was kind. They were right -- it's a very refreshing read because of that; it's full of political intrigue and other difficulties, but there were so many people in it that I just liked that I felt good after reading.

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Ben T-Gaidin
Name: Ben T-Gaidin
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