And there we go!
Graydon Saunders — Under One Banner
Hey hey, it’s another Commonweal book! This is so deep into the previous events in the setting that I don’t see much point reviewing it as an independent object, so instead I’ll just say that it’s a solid Commonweal book ~if you’re into that sort of thing~ (AND I AM). A new main character dealing with different kinds of problems, and a move back into a more March North-style military milieu after the last two books’ wizard homeschool setup.
In terms of series-scope movement, this advances the slow-motion freakout about the Second Commonweal’s fairly dire situation vis-à-vis getting enough resources on-line to deal with a very likely existential threat (whose outline you still can’t quite make out over the horizon but whose kicked-up dust is starting to make a little bit of distant haze).
Anyway, I dig these, see prior reviews for more, and I’ll reiterate that these books are not at all cliffhangery and are a safe exception to your policy against starting a new unfinished open-ended fat fantasy series.
Graydon Saunders — The Human Dress
I enjoyed this quite a bit, but I don’t think I can give it a general recommendation! (Good thing everyone knows not to come here for general recommendations, lol.)
Anyway, this is a standalone, it is LONG, it is weird, it is frequently digressive, it has Norsemen and dinosaurs, and it is occasionally deliberately obnoxious for comedic purposes. It is intensely satisfying if you enjoy following down the implications of strange aspects of the way a fictional world works. The character writing is an odd mix of high melodrama and chilly stiff-upper-lip-ism. It's straight and horny in a way that was honestly kind of surprising given the at least moderately-queer sensibility of the Commonweal novels.
In short, there are plenty of reasons not to read this book, but it also gets a fair amount right that's not really possible to find anywhere else. I had plenty of fun with it, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) I think I'd be more likely to recommend the Commonweal series to most of y'all.
I might have mentioned this before, but Saunders' writing style fits my particular brain really well — it has something to do with the amount of connections he leaves un-drawn, where a lot of the later action in a book depends on understanding something he never actually explicitly covered in the prior text. I realize that probably sounds like an obtuse pain in the ass to a lot of people, but it fulfills some innate need for interactivity that I seem to have, and I tend to read his books at binge speed. I feel like I had this with The Wire too, where it was like thank god, someone finally figured out how to distract me enough that I don't get bored during a TV show.
Evan Dahm — Vattu vol. 1: The Name and the Mark (comics)
An intense and vivid drama about a nomad child and an empire. I'm not wholly sure where this is going, yet.
This is part of the same universe as Rice Boy (I think it's called "Overside?"), but it isn't dreamlike or surreal in the way Rice Boy was; much more linear and mimetic. (Well, the interludes into the War Man's memories are fairly dreamlike, but it's clear that his experience of time and events is very different from Vattu's and the imperials'.)
Kohei Horikoshi — My Hero Academia vols. 1-3, 4-5, 6-7 (comics)
Dec 23, Dec 27, Jan 1
I was feeling that urge to read some fight comics, and this is the one everyone's been gaga about for the last couple years, so I decided to hit the library and see if it's good. It is!
It's really no surprise that this is popular, because the premise is straight-up "Harry Potter except superheroes instead of wizards." Right down to the outrageous character names! (Although that part's all Japanese, so it's not necessarily obvious in the translation.) And the execution is really solid; excellent art and cartooning, interesting subtle depths to a lot of the characters, unexpected interactions of powers, solid fight choreography/plotting, etc.
I feel like there are a lot of manga that are roughly this good, but what's got me hooked is basically All Might. What a weird and fascinating character.
Bonus Level: Fortune 499
This is a game about investing too much of your identity in a day job that you never actually decided to care about, but which somehow has taken over your life anyway because you accidentally went on autopilot three or four years ago and are just now waking up at the wheel. A topic near and dear to my heart! And I quite liked the graphics and music.
It's also got some surprisingly fun and challenging turn-based combat — the basic mechanic is a randomized rock/paper/scissors game, but you can manipulate fate to improve your chances (and even literally cheat, though that'll eventually get expensive), and there are a lot of weird variations on the rules that you end up having to deal with. In general the dungeons are more like puzzles than like the turn-based crawls I grew up with — there's no random encounters, and you often need a specific plan for each fight, based on clues in the dialogue and an assessment of, like, the office equipment on each floor.
I was about to say "this is a short game about etc. etc.," but then I realized my standards for game length are actually completely incoherent at this point and even I have no idea what I would mean by "a short game." Anyway it's a streamlined indie RPG with a beginning, middle, and end, it took me about six hours, and it costs like five bucks.