Review: ARMADA by Ernest Cline (Century)

ClineE-ArmadaUKThe highly-anticipated second novel from the author of Ready Player One

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada — in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills — as well as those of millions of gamers across the world — are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?

Ready Player One, as I’ve said many times on here, completely blew me away. I was sent an ARC, and started it pretty much immediately. I devoured it in two gleeful, gloriously entertaining sittings, breaking only to get a few hours sleep. I’ve been waiting for Armada ever since. It was a very pleasant surprise, therefore, when an ARC arrived in the mail a few weeks back. With high expectations, and confidence that it would be another tale filled with geek references, nostalgia and gripping storytelling, I dove right in. What I found, however, thoroughly disappointed. Continue reading

Guest Review: FINN FANCY NECROMANCY by Randy Henderson (Tor/Titan)

HendersonR-FinnFancyNecromancyUSReviewed by Ryan Frye

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of fifteen, when the surviving victim of a dark ritual was found in his bedroom. Convicted and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty-five years — twenty-five years as a disembodied soul, tormented by the Others — Finn is now being set free. But his return is met by a magical attack on his escorts, and Finn is framed again for dark necromancy.

Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find enough evidence to prove it to Arcane Enforcers who already view him as a criminal.

Unfortunately, his family are little help. Father has become a mad magical inventor. Brother Mort fears that Finn wants to take over the family business.  Sister Sammy is now a jaded hacker allergic to magic. And simple but sweet brother Pete still believes he’s a werewolf because of a childhood dog bite, yet wants Finn to help him find a girlfriend.

Finn is joined by Zeke, a former Arcane Enforcer and fellow exile seeking to prove himself worthy of returning to duty — even if that means proving Finn guilty. Together, they will battle magical creatures, family drama, and the challenges of Finn’s love life as they race to solve the mystery of who wants Finn returned to exile, and why.

Finn Fancy Necromancy is a book that came in completely under my 2015 “Hey that looks good I should check it out” radar. However, when I read the blurb I was sucked in, and accordingly bumped it up the reading pile for rapid deployment. Like many Urban Fantasies, this one features a first person perspective and a fast paced plot. Henderson doesn’t waste any time in ratcheting up the action and adventure. We first meet the titular character, Finn as he is being released from twenty-five years’ worth of magical exile. He’s been cut off from the world since 1985, so as you can imagine, he has lots of catching up to do.

Upon his return, Finn is immediately framed for another crime that will certainly put him back into exile unless he can somehow prove his innocence. This crime he’s been framed for sets up all the action for the remainder of the book, and since this all goes down in the very early stages of the narrative; it gives the book a breakneck pace which makes the pages just fly by. Continue reading

Well I’ll Be Damned — My 16yr Old Self…

Gubbinz-1999I stumbled across a pair of articles today that have brought a rush of memories back to me: my first two “published”… well, “articles” — the quotation marks are entirely appropriate, as you will see below. The articles are on tUGS.

When I was a teenager, I was quite fond of Games Workshop’s games — especially those that didn’t require much financial investment (NecromundaBlood Bowl, and GorkaMorka). Partly this interest in the “smaller” games was lucky, because I also didn’t have anyone to play the games with, thanks to constantly changing country and attending a school whose denizens were oh-so-obsessed with “cool”. (Yup, I was that kind of geek.) Nor, for that matter, could I afford the ever-increasing prices.

Anyway, in my enthusiastic teen years, I submitted two articles of “rules” for GorkaMorka, the Mad Max-style tabletop game of ork warfare. Both of them were accepted and published in Gubbinz, a compilation of extra rules and whatnot. Up until today, I had completely forgotten about them.

So, with a certain amount of nostalgia and slight embarrassment, here are my two, insignificant contributions to Games Workshop’s back-back-list of games: Rokkit Paks and Rebel Grot Pogo Stikks. (The posts contain download links for PDFs of what I cobbled together.)