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So What Have you Read Lately? And other favorite books!

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4 hours ago, Sanael said:

I will second this!

 

I've read several of Kristoff's series now, and I would say any of his books are worth picking up.

I've been picking up his Nevernight series, but I haven't cracked them open yet. I'm waiting until I get the full trilogy before going crazy with it.

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5 hours ago, Disciple of Sakura said:

I've been picking up his Nevernight series, but I haven't cracked them open yet. I'm waiting until I get the full trilogy before going crazy with it.

I really enjoyed Nevernight. Good stuff!

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Just finished To Clear Away the Shadows, the 13th and latest book in David Drake's RCN series. The series is one that I have very much liked over the years. But this is by far the weakest so far.

 

None of the regular main characters makes an appearance in this book, the book is structured more like a short story anthology than a novel, there are two viewpoint characters and the switches between them are abrupt and confusing, significant secondary characters are barely even sketched in (among other problems that I would consider spoilers), and the book ends abruptly and without much in the way of resolution.

 

The individual stories might be useful for generating RPG scenarios, but otherwise not recommended except for hardcore Leary-series fans.

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2 hours ago, Doug Sundseth said:

Just finished To Clear Away the Shadows, the 13th and latest book in David Drake's RCN series. The series is one that I have very much liked over the years. But this is by far the weakest so far.

 

None of the regular main characters makes an appearance in this book, the book is structured more like a short story anthology than a novel, there are two viewpoint characters and the switches between them are abrupt and confusing, significant secondary characters are barely even sketched in (among other problems that I would consider spoilers), and the book ends abruptly and without much in the way of resolution.

 

The individual stories might be useful for generating RPG scenarios, but otherwise not recommended except for hardcore Leary-series fans.

 

That's one of my favourite series but you're not the first one I'v heard saying this wasn't so good. I haven't read it yet because of the reviews. Normally I jump on them as soon as I know they're out.

 

I just finished reading Vimy by Pierre Burton. It's a well written short overview of the battle of Vimy ridge between the canadians and germans in WWI. For a large part of the 20th century it was considered one of the most important events in canadian history and our development as a nation. Now it isn't even taught in school and neither of my boys had heard of it. Guess what book is on their summer reading list?

 

The French and British had lost around 200,000 men in attempts over a couple of years to dislodge the germans from the ridge. It was so heavily fortified they decided it was impossible. By the end of 1916 the canadian corps had developed a reputation as some of the better soldiers in the british army. They had shaken off their earlier lack of discipline, reequipped with better weapons and gear and were determined to not make the same mistakes the much larger french and british armies kept repeating. They planned meticulously, ignore class and officer/enlisted restrictions prevalent in other armies and rained everybody from the privates up on what the objectives were and how to achieve them. They developed sophisticated methods for detecting where enemy artillery was located and counter battery fire and introduced creeping barrages to cover the advancing soldiers. They also mad use of many other common techniques for trench warfare such as tunnels and mines under the german lines. They also assembled the largest concentration of every size of artillery ever seen up to that point in history. 

 

When the attack started the germans were stunned by the amount of artillery, the creeping barrage and planning allowed the canadians to advance very quickly by WWI standards through the german positions killing and capturing thousands of the enemy. Within 6 hours they held the majority of the ridge despite serious problems on one end. They took roughly 10,000 casualties compared to the hundreds of thousands lost earlier. It took a couple days to clear out that area. It was the largest advance and victory by the Allies up to that point in the war. The german divisions in that area were shattered and ran away in disorder. Unfortunately nobody except the canadians actually thought they would succeed so there was no support to take advantage of the breakthrough. Plus the use of so much artillery made it nearly impossible to move the heavier equipment forward. The front line had to break off pursuit to stay within friendly artillery range and keep contact with british units on the flanks. Due to french and british failures in their attacks at the same time it ended up being a minor victory in a larger failure of the Arras battle but it won the respect of the world for Canada. After that the canadians were consider the elite of the British Commonwealth (along with the Anzacs). 

 

For Canada it was a pivotal moment in forming a sense of national identity. Before that many of the canadians who were immigrants or children of immigrants identified more with their old countries. We were very much still a part of Great Britain more than an independent country. After that all of the soldiers and many other people became canadian first although they still maintained close relations with Europe. It also gave Canada influence with the older countries on the world stage.

Edited by Zink
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No one has greater respect than I for the achievements of Canadian troops in 2 world wars than I, but there is an element of mythology in some books about Vimy, just as there is about the ANZACS at Gallipoli.

 

There had been no earlier British attempts to take the ridge. The French initially occupied this area and tried several attacks in 1915. The BEF did not take over that section of the front until early 1917. The Canadian Corps at Vimy were part of a British Army (The First, under British General Sir Henry Horne). Most of the (very well thought out) planning and preparation was done by British Staff officers and the well conducted Artillery plan was almost entirely carried out by British units. Very roughly 170,000 Troops were committed to the battle, 97,000 were Canadians.

 

 You have also underplay the most significant reason that the attack at Vimy was so startlingly successful: 5 very large mines, (dug and laid by British engineers and miners) were set off at the moment the attack started, this allowed many initial objectives to be taken at (by World War 1 standards) very low cost. 

 

 As you point out; the very success of the artillery meant that the ground would be broken up to the extent that exploitation could not proceed faster than the Germans could send in reinforcements. It is noticeable that the subsequent days of the battle produce smaller advances and more losses, and this is true of every battle on the Western Front until the Germans perfect their infiltration tactics in spring of 1918. (And the Allies produce enough reliable tanks to do the same thing.)

 

 As I say, I mean no disrespect to Canada by pointing out these facts. In an enormous conflict like WW1 against a large, well-prepared nation like the German Empire no one nation can claim a disproportionate amount of credit. It took more than four years of grinding attrition and there were no "short-cuts".

 

To anyone interested in the subject I recommend the following;

"Great War Generals on the Western Front" by Robin Niellands

"The Battle for Vimy Ridge", by Nigel Cave and Jack Sheldon

and "The 1917 Spring Offensives" by Yves Buttetaut

Edited by paintybeard
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I've read through my previous post and I do hope that I don't seem to belittle Canadian heroism or sacrifice in any way, Zink. Apologies if anything I said caused the slightest offense.

 

The fact of the matter is that, in all major conflicts all nations create myths about their actions. How can they do otherwise? The sacrifice of blood and treasure has to be justified somehow and to tell your population: "Well, we weren't that good, we made a lot of mistakes" isn't going to encourage anyone to keep fighting.

 

I suppose the important thing is the degree of dishonesty involved. To say: "We did all the real fighting at Gallipoli" is irritating but comparatively harmless. To say: "We lost the war because the Jews stabbed us in the back" is very dangerous indeed. 

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Paintybeard, I have no issues with you pointing out the myths/points I missed. You posted a second time while I was still writing a response. The "we weren't that good, we made a lot of mistakes" describes the canadians early on. Luckily they made it through the rough years, learned and weren't destroyed in that time. We never had the manpower to sustain losses like the french took.

 

Without the support of the rest of the British army the attack would have failed. The majority of the artillery I believe was British and there were several battalions of British infantry attached to the Canadian Corps involved as well as the mines. Without the British divisions on either flank attacking at the same time it would have failed quickly. There's no part of Canada's involvement in WWI that didn't have a large British component. The Canadian Corps became the speartip for part of the British army. A spear tip is no good without the rest of the spear in support. The Anzacs were used in a similar way and there were tougher British units used likewise as well.

 

My reading is is generally canadian/british/commonwealth centered so I sometimes show off that attitude and downplay the efforts of other allies like the french. The French army had serious issues but they also did the larger part of the fighting on the western front. 100,00 (1/2 a million for the war) canadians is a good addition to any force but not enough to seriously affect the almost 3 million germans on that front. A lot of the higher ranking officers involved were British that were sent to "the colonials" because they didn't fit in as well to the stratified British Army. Their free thinking and willingness to give canadians under their command freedom to think and act was a large part of the success. It marked a change in how the British army operated on a larger scale as well.

 

I don't like getting into discussions about who did the most/best or won the war single handedly. Without everyone doing what they did we may not have won. Gallipoli is a good example. IIRC there were more British there than Aussies but the myth is that the Aussies did it all and the British high command was to blame for all that went wrong. WWI is full of mistakes made by all involved but many of them weren't incompetent. The sides were just so closely matched that it came down to a long grind. I do like to point out the relatively small canadian corps did as much or more than the US army that was 10 times larger that "saved us all" from the germans. :poke: Not to disrespect their efforts either. They might not have won the war single handed but it helped a lot.

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Very gracious of you Zink. I agree with your every sentiment and wish everybody was so level-headed and broadminded.

 

Oh, and if you ever want to really upset one of our antipodean friends, point out to them that there were more French than Australians at Gallipoli, and they took more casualties.

 

:devil: :devil::devil: 

Edited by paintybeard
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A D&D member said to read the goofy fanfic Harry Potter and the Natural 20 (theme self explanatory, operates on 3.5e rules).

 

It is thoroughly ridiculous and punny, with much cleverness. The author is very detail oriented with D&D rules, but I'm pretty sure he got the rules for Explosive Runes wrong. I used those in my campaign recently (with the hilarious side effect of making the scout scared of paper). The reader should go boom, and whoever is around the object - even if the reader is using a telescope, and the item is far away.

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A book that might be of interest to Military History nutcases like myself:

"Destructive and Formidable: British Infantry Firepower 1630 - 1765" by David Blackmore.

This discusses how British infantry units experimented and evolved to achieve three things;

1. Make sure that their first shots should be as effective as possible. (To break the enemy quickly.)

2. Arrange to make rapid and almost continuous fire after the first shots. (In case the enemy does not break immediately.)

3. Still maintain "reserve fire". (In case a second enemy appears.) 

It is a very specialist book, but interesting and "readable" if the subject appeals to you.

Cheap on Amazon at the moment too.

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Just finished the first volume of Kodansha Comics' Ghost in the Shell deluxe edition by Shirow Masamune.

IMG_20190717_234306637.thumb.jpg.54e0c95376c0d59da60abb2158d95128.jpg

 

The story is harder to follow than Alita/Gunnm: it's very clear this started off as a magazine serial (so did Alita, but Kishiro handled the format better from a story-flow perspective). Shirow also gets very verbose and very preachy in his footnotes, so I would suggest reading those after reading the actual story rather than page-by-page.

 

That said, I definitely see where a lot of later stuff cribbed pseudo-spiritual Cyberpunk themes from GitS (oddly enough, Neon Genesis Evangelion's "instrumentality" concept owes quite a debt to GitS). And the last two chapters come together really nicely. 

 

Art-wise, I appreciate Kishiro's attention to anatomical detail and body-horror themes in Alita, or Otomo's sweeping vistas and environmental minutiae in Akira, a bit more than Shirow's more sketchy style, but he does draw action well, and there are a few wide-angle shots that set a tone beautifully. It's also an incredible example of "1980's fashion is the future," which I actually love. The deluxe edition also has many color pages, including some great poster pages for the chapter titles:

IMG_20190717_234325515.thumb.jpg.69cb77cf2866dad5108d1324c2068456.jpg

(Seriously: look at what she's wearing. Look at that background. Those colors. That hair! 80's Cyberpunk is truly the best Cyberpunk.

 

... Also, I want a pet fuchikoma robot.)

 

 

All in all, a good time if you like Cyberpunk, and I think GitS' political and economic themes are probably a must if you intend to run a game of Shadowrun.

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I decided to read some manga.

 

Tokyo Ghoul

 

1.jpg

 

Tokyo Ghoul is a horror manga operating under the premise that humans are not alone. There also exists a race know as ghouls that feed off of humans while hiding amongst them. College student Ken Kaneki is attacked by a ghoul and gravely injured, but just before he is eaten a stack of I-beams fall and crush the ghoul. One trip to the emergency room later (and a bit of time in recovery) he's as good as new... or is he? What would you do if you became a monster? What would become of your morals?

 

As one might expect it can get a bit dark at times but I found it to be worth reading.

 

Tokyo Ghoul:re

 

Set two years after the conclusion of the first series, part two focuses on Haise Sasaki, a CCG investigator that has been saddled with four newbie ghoul investigators. Problems happen. Considering it's a sequel to the above I don't want to say too much about it, except that while it starts seinin it turns into shounen. It is still worth reading but by the end I found I wasn't enjoying it as much as the first series.

 

Also, for the anime fans, the series has spawned some TV to watch. The first season covers the first half of Tokyo Ghoul while the second season does its own thing and is non-canon. The :Re anime apparently takes some liberties with the story and concludes with volume 14, which would mean the last two volumes weren't adapted. Someday I may watch it, but its too soon after reading for me to enjoy it. OTOH if you already watched the anime you can still read the manga for something of a different story.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Auberon said:

I decided to read some manga.

 

Tokyo Ghoul

 

1.jpg

 

 

Thanks for that. I've watched the first two episodes of the anime and liked it; this may be a good one for reading. I've seen some of it at the library, so I can likely get most of it that way via inter-branch transfers.

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Just finished "Fall" by Neal Stephenson.

the best part of the book was the one chapter set in an informally divided America.  He had some ideas that will probably set up in the back of my head.  

His ideas from his other books have occasionally taken up long term residence - his Sci-fi can be incredibly predictive, even if it hasn't come true yet, doesn't mean it won't.

So I have to keep checking if his ideas have become reality, yet. 

 

most of the book was about a computer-based uploaded afterlife which wasn't that interesting.  

 

 

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