27 September 2012

When Gaming Reflects Real Life

I get that it can be kind of lame to gush about how super awesome your role playing games are, whether leading them or playing in them. As I'm (relatively speaking) new to the role playing universe, I've never really gotten that - if something is awesome, you should share it with others and without reservation. Especially when it comes to the intertubes, where it's super easy to scroll past things.

On my books/games/music blog a year and change ago, I wrote about how I'm a spoiled gamer, how my gaming experiences have been superior essentially since the beginning. I'm in a great D&D game with great people (and we're actually porting to 13th Age and I can't wait to talk about it), and my friend Mike (of Renfusa) has run a series of games with this core group for a number of years now, in which I joined in with his Mage: The Awakening game in the beginning. Mike is a Harvard-educated historian, a person who's research and storytelling skills make me feel meek and feeble, and is also a diabolical mastermind who makes Lovecraft's worst fever dreams appear normal and pedestrian. To get an idea as to where he comes from, you can read his gaming idea Tumblr, and specifically his essay following the death of my Mage character, Ernst. For those who don't click through, our Mage game takes place in 16th century Prague under the reign of Emperor Rudolph II, who may be known more for his interest in the occult more than his actual governance (which explains why this time frame is a perfect setting for Mage).

I don't write this and share here for the sake of praising my friend for his ability to craft an excellent game, though. I could do that any day at any time, and don't enough. The reason I write is because of the really deep impact playing on Tuesday night had for me. It brought me back into why I wanted to role play back in high school when I first learned of it, and why, as a 31 year old adult with a mortgage and a sick parent and more responsibilities than he can handle, continues to play games with dice and inhabit other human beings - to learn more about himself. Follow for some master-level navel-gazing...

17 September 2012

Review: Unraveling

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had hit a bit of an overall rut in my stack in the last few days, and I finally got to Unraveling, a bit of a tome by Elizabeth Norris. Judging by the cover, I was...well, not very high on this one. With sci-fi for teens being so polarizing, and with dystopia all the rage, I wasn't especially looking forward to the teen heroine in the unrecognizable world making good and saving whatever it is that needs to be saved.

Unraveling is not that book. It's not dystopia, it's not simple heroics. Instead, it's a thrilling adventure ride that's part The Event, part Fringe, and really all awesome.

The book follows Janelle, who is a lifeguard during the summer and who, quite abruptly, gets hit by a truck coming out of nowhere and is killed. At least she should be dead, except for the mysterious person who healed her on the side of the road as the ambulances came. She was okay in the end, but she knows she should be dead and thinks she knows who healed her.

Her father, an FBI agent, has problems of his own - victims are popping up with severe radiation burns, and there is an IED of sorts running a countdown. Oh, and the guy who hit her in the truck? He's severely burned as well, and for no reason they can come up with.

It's up to all these people, intertwined in ways they could have never imagined, to figure out exactly what the countdown is, and the road to get there is a ton of fun. It's a little profane, a little mind-bendy, and there's just a ton of good stuff going on. I definitely recommend it, it's a pleasant surprise overall, and really one of the better recent sci-fi books I've read.

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