Book Challenge #91: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

I’ve been reading at what feels like a pretty good pace, and so it is challenge time once again! This is #91 on the list, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury published in 1951.


This is the second book in a row that made me wonder how the heck it ended up on this list. Unlike the last one, this one isn’t mediocre or out-of-genre. It just isn’t a novel. The Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories, tied together loosely through the construct of the titular illustrated man, whose moving tattoos tell stories that play out every night. The illustrated man concept is a neat wrapper, but it didn’t fit all that well with the general theme of space stories over most of the book. Overall it was enjoyable, but this book feels weird to have on this list. Although now I’m really interested in a “top 100 sci-fi short story collections” list because I would read the hell out of that.

Since it is a collection it is a bit difficult to pin down any general thoughts on this one. I enjoy Bradbury’s style and there’s some nice thought-provoking tales in here. Some of the writing feels dated at times, and occasionally suffers from the curse of “this feels really cliched now but it probably wasn’t as much of a cliche when it was written”. Many of the stories are also very grim, so much so that this collection could instead be called “Many new and awful ways to die in space.” Even when the content is harsh the stories are usually thoughtful, and often contain a humanity that often gets lost in short fiction like this. Too many times short stories can be more about the twist or “aha!” moment than about characters or places, but some of these stories combat that nicely. One of my favorites from this collection is about a family where the father is a spacer and the mother acts like he is already dead to shield herself from what she believes is his inevitable death out in the stars. There’s still a twist but by the time you get there you at least understand a bit about this family and how they survive with each other.

 

TL;DR:  A nice collection of Bradbury’s short stories, in which many people die in space.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Rating: 4/5 stars

Verdict: I’d recommend it if you like Bradbury or sci-fi in general from that era. With lots of stories you will likely find something to enjoy.

Next up: The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock

Season Journeyed

Season10I can hardly believe it, but last night I finished the final step for the Guardian level of the season journey in D3.

When the season journey was first introduced in its current incarnation, it was something I was excited about for the cosmetic rewards far more than anything else. Since I’ve been participating, I’ve grown to love the “new game smell” of the start of a new season, complete with a decent sampling of my friends flocking back to the game to see what’s on offer, level together, and get the new goodies. I was completely casual about my playtime, enjoying murdering demons for the fun of it without pushing myself too hard. A few seasons in, I started hanging around with a few friends who would go all out at the start of the season, and were willing to carry me around so I could progress a bit farther. Those carry seasons saw me get my first bonus stash tab, and saw me start to push myself a little bit in terms of difficulty even when I was playing solo. The evidence that it was possible to meet the goals of the season was in front of me, and I got the urge to spend less time getting carried.

The past two seasons have seen me push way outside of my original comfort zone. I unlocked all my bonus stash tabs, and pushed into higher and higher greater rifts. Last season I got pretty close to completing the Guardian level of the season journey. I had all my conquests done, I just stopped short of a few other goals. The current season has been a little strange, since way fewer of my friends decided to come back for this one. Other than a little bit of paragon level farming in the first few days, I didn’t get carried to anything this time around. In fact, I was the one carrying some of my other friends more often than not, or at worst trading power leveling so we could do the set bonus conquests.

I pushed myself to get to GR70 solo as soon as I possibly could, so I could unlock the sweet sweet primal ancient drops. (Sadly this determination was repaid in a primal ancient Blackthorne’s piece and yes I am still bitter.) I ran rifts and bounties to gear up and level gems. I worked my way through 8 set dungeons and GR55 with 6 different set bonuses. And last night I soloed Adria in under 15 seconds on torment XIII and finally finished the Guardian requirements and officially completed the season journey. It was stressful sometimes and frustrating at others, but in the end it was an achievable goal and I’m glad I finally got motivated to follow through on it. I’m not sure whether I want to keep going in the season or switch to my non-seasonal stable. I am sure I will probably be taking a break from D3 soon, but maybe not right away. A friend recently asked if I was going to try for the achievement and wings for mastering all of the set dungeons for every class and I dismissed it because I figured I’d be working on the season journey for a while longer. Maybe I will try to get those wings after all.

Legion’s Profession Problems

After my WoW alt update post last week I decided to level my druid next. I just couldn’t resist the joy of flight form, cheering many quests and sniping all the herbs. For some reason I enjoyed the process way more than when I leveled my Alliance druid. I’m not sure if it was having flying, or not being an elf or what, but I had a lot more fun. I’ve been tempted to get the new flight form glyph because it looks really nice, but I just can’t bring myself to give up my awesome bat form.

Speaking of herbalizing from the skies, I also decided to give professions another go, mostly because I knew Darkmoon Faire was coming up and I figured at least I could get 5 free skill-ups that way. Unfortunately professions in Legion are still completely awful. I wanted to focus on my priest, who has tailoring and alchemy, since she’s my most nostalgia-heavy character and those professions made me a ton of gold over the years. Sadly the biggest moneymaker she has is still probably the 30 slot bags from WoD. Meanwhile leveling tailoring requires doing the Suramar questline, which I was avoiding like the plague on my alts. I loved Suramar, but it was long and had a rep grind and I don’t have any desire to repeat it if I can help it. On the alchemy side I’ve run up against the RNG of learning upgrades. Having to make a billion potions that are too low to give skillups to try to learn new ranks that might give skillups does not appeal. On top of all of that, you also have to run multiple dungeons for each profession. At least now that I’m 110 I can be carried through heroics by people with way more gear in a matter of minutes, as long as I don’t make myself depressed by looking at the damage meters.

The huge disconnect between how easy it is to level up an alt and how annoying it is to level their professions is really messing with my normal path to expansion/patch lull enjoyment. This is the time in prior expansions where I’d be raking in gold. Sure, we all got spoiled by how easy that was in WoD, but even in prior expansions I could level an alt and be useful making flasks, bags, gems, or transmutes pretty quickly. This time around even my main only got her professions maxed by staking out the Darkmoon Faire, and my alts are getting to around rank 760 (out of 800) at best before I hit a wall of dungeons or RNG or both. It has been fun to see a bunch of the class hall stories, but feels really strange that these alts aren’t being useful like they should. All that investment into leveling alts feels very hollow if I stop logging into them as soon as I’m done with their story. Oh well, at least I can keep selling plenty of Draenor-era bags. Maybe I should park my alts back in my garrison again…

WoW?! Alt Overload

If you had told me at the start of April that I would get heavily invested in WoW again that month I would probably have laughed at you. For better or worse I’ve gotten back in the habit of messing around in Azeroth. It turns out that lifting the pressure of trying to keep up has done absolute wonders for my enjoyment of the game. I’ve still been logging onto my main to do occasional world quests and each new piece of the class quest when they are available, but otherwise it is alt time all the time.

After leveling my pally I got my warlock up next. Leveling as affliction was incredibly easy, which is good because when I swapped to demonology for the weapon quest I was totally lost. I guess it has been a while since I spent any quality time with demo. Much like beast mastery hunters they seem to have put the focus on quantity of pets instead of quality, and I am not a fan. Once I hit 110 I struggled a bit more with soloing than I did on the pally, but I’m still pretty functional. The artifact knowledge 25 token that I can buy with resources from my main makes a huge difference, as does the cheap nethershard gear from the broken shore.

My plan is to at least finish the original class hall quest line with everybody, and make progress on the class quests for the mounts as much as I can. I’m prioritizing that on my monk, and waiting to see if there are any bottlenecks in terms of difficulty or resource requirements that will make it a waste of time on alts. I’m hoping I can get at least the priest and druid ones done if they’re reasonable.

Running the same four leveling zones over and over is starting to get a bit tiresome, so I’m not sure how many more alts I’ll get to 110 before I get sick of it. I still have a lot hordies sitting at 100 and in need of love*. If I’m still motivated to play but need a break from leveling in the broken isles I can always either work on professions (hahahahahaha no…professions in Legion are awful) or level something I don’t have near 100 yet horde side. Raiding is still firmly off the table for now, because I am enjoying not worrying about the pressure of learning the fights and showing up on a schedule.

I’m still slightly baffled at how much I’m enjoying being back, but that’s the allure of comfort gaming – it works best when I don’t think about it too much.

*My current roster on my primary Horde server (yes I have even more alts at 100 elsewhere, please send help) looks like this:
Priest 110
Pally 110
Warlock 110
Druid 103 (have 110 Alliance-side)
Mage 100 (have 110 Alliance-side)
Hunter 100 (have 110 Alliance-side)
Rogue 100
Shaman 100
DK 100
DH 98
Warrior <10
Monk <10 (110 main Alliance-side)

What would you level next?

Book Challenge #92: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Surprise! We’ve reached reading challenge time again already! We’re up to #92, Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It’s one of the more recently published novels on the list, from 2003. This one left me confused on a couple fronts, not the least of which was how the hell it ended up on this list.

When I started reading this book I was a bit surprised it was on this “best of” list. For the most part it looks like not a lot of “horror” or horror-adjacent novels made it. The usual vampire novel suspects like Dracula or anything by Anne Rice are nowhere to be found. I do enjoy some urban fantasy so I don’t object to the genre being represented, but I could definitely think of some better choices than this one.

The novel follows Rae, aka “Sunshine”, a coffeeshop baker with a family history of magic who very quickly gets tangled up with vampires. The world building here is a bit different from the norm in urban fantasy, since “Others”, the catch-all term for demons, angels, weres, vampires, etc., are all out in the open and well known to exist and participate in society. The world is in the aftermath of a large-scale magical war, so there is also a small post-apocalypse element too.

Sunshine has magical powers but she had been largely ignoring them because she didn’t need them in her day to day life. When she gets abducted by vampires at the start of the book she’s forced to use them or end up dead. The blurbs I read about this book described it as a fresh spin on the genre but it didn’t feel that way to me. Perhaps if I had read it when it was released I’d feel differently. The story is pretty straightforward. Girl gets abducted by vampires, rediscovers her latent magical powers, reluctantly teams up with a mysterious vampire who doesn’t want to drink her blood for some reason, ~obligatory vampire-human sexual tension~, something something the human and the good vampire triumph over the evil vampires. There’s nothing horrible here, but nothing exciting or new either.

The biggest things which made it hard for me to enjoy this book were the point of view and style. We get the constant internal monologue thing which is so common, but every once in a while there’s a weird fourth-wall breaking moment thrown in too. It is definitely a style thing that didn’t work for me. Some of my favorite urban fantasy novels are my favorites because I enjoy the main character’s personality and point of view, but that was not the case here. I get the reluctant heroine thing, but it wasn’t fun reading an entire book where the main character is constantly complaining that they wish they were anywhere else. By the end I was wishing that too.

If I was feeling a bit more charitable I would give this one a 3/5, because it really is not in the same class of terrible as A Spell for Chameleon. It would make a fine throwaway beach novel. However I do think it was below average, so I can’t quite bring myself to give it an average rating. If I could assign half points this one would be a 2.5/5. Not awful but not really good either.

TL;DR:  Middling to below-average vampire novel.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Rating: 2/5 stars

Verdict: If you love the southern vampire (True Blood) books you might find something to like here, otherwise this one is a safe skip.

Next up: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

May Gaming Goals

Holy moly how is it May already? I need like 3 filler months to get things done before June gets here.

Last month I set up some really modest goals and then didn’t do any of them. Why do I even bother? Oh right so I can look back and laugh at how I thought I could remotely predict how I’d spend my gaming time in any given month.

April Goals

FFXIV: Do the new Hildebrand quests. NOPE. I started them. I think. It’s super hard to be motivated to do these when there’s no trials associated with them this time around.

Finish the umbrite step of the anima weapon for my SCH. NOPE. Hell I still haven’t finished the aether oil step. I have only really been logging in for raid night. I guess I did say I wanted to prevent burnout before Stormblood…

WildStar: Play once a week. NOPE. So much shame. I love this game but it’s increasingly difficult to make it mesh with my playtime.

Mobile Games: Find a replacement for JMV. NOPE. I played some alphabear for about 15 minutes and that’s the extent of my mobile gaming for the month. I also played FFXV just so I could get a JMV fix. Please send help (or suggestions of mobile games that might scratch the JMV itch).


May Goals

FFXIV: Get enough scripture to buy a weapon, and get it upgraded. I have the micro tomestone or whatever it is called laying around but I don’t have enough Rowena’s tokens to purchase the weapon and I should fix that. Still haven’t decided if I want the SCH or AST version though.

Finish the aether oil step of the anima weapon. If I keep lowering the bar maybe eventually I’ll trip over it and get something done.

Diablo 3: Complete the season. I’ve never actually completed every step of the season journey. This time around I’m pretty close, with 3 conquests done and mostly some speed run stuff to do. This is ambitious because my interest in D3 is on the wane.

WoW: Level one more class that I don’t already have at 110. I got my pally and warlock up in 2 weekends so this should be doable. I’m not sure what class I care enough about to level next though.


In April I thought I’d be spending lots of time in FFXIV doing last minute housekeeping in the lull before Stormblood. Instead I played a ton of Diablo and WoW. Sometimes I think the process of setting these goals curses me to lose all interest and move to entirely different games. Ah well. May is a new start, maybe this will be the month I actually meet all my goals!

 

Comfort Gaming Marathon

I had a pretty busy weekend with various real life events and crises taking up a lot of my time and energy. That meant that when I got time for gaming I really needed it to be quiet and relaxing time. Often that means Diablo 3, but since everything I need for the season means pushing really high rifts or doing speed runs, I opted for a change of pace. My WoW subscription is still active, since I was trying to finish the achievement that unlocks flying for the Legion expansion zones.

I actually had forgotten that I unlocked flying at the end of last week, and then immediately logged off because I was pretty sick of WoW. Since that was the last major goal I had in-game, and because I wanted something low-key to do, I gave myself permission to not care even a little bit about gear or raids or anything difficult. Instead, I decided to work on my mostly-abandoned Horde characters. I’ve been in Alliance guilds since Pandaria, but Horde is where my heart is, and where my biggest stable of high level characters is too. Of the 9 characters on my Horde server that were 100 at the end of WoD, only my priest had been leveled in Legion, and this made me pretty sad. So I decided to fix it.

First I logged into that priest, who was 110 and had finished the class hall story but not done anything else, and got her up to date with artifact knowledge and the broken shore story. Since gearing up and raiding were unappealing to me, I stopped there and swapped to my paladin. She was in Dalaran and had picked up her first weapon, so I could start straight into questing. Flying makes a huge difference. I appreciate that having control over your movement lets the developers tell you stories and craft more specific experiences, but once I’ve gone through that on one character I really enjoy the freedom of flying. I thought Highmountain would be the most noticeable place where it would make a difference but honestly it felt amazing in every zone. Even more so when I wanted to dart off and grab a gathering node every once in a while. Flying let me pick and choose my questing experience, doing what I enjoyed and mostly skipping the bits I knew would frustrate me. It also let me grab a bunch of treasure chests for artifact power and class resources along the way.

Flying, and switching my focus to alts, transformed WoW from a painful slog into some seriously comfortable comfort gaming. By the end of the weekend my pally was 110. After yesterday I’ve unlocked the broken shore and her class hall quest line is just waiting on a few follower missions to progress. I was expecting to struggle with world quests when I hit 110 because my gear is terrible and I still haven’t unlocked my 3rd weapon relic slot, but surprisingly things went pretty smoothly. I leveled entirely as Retribution, something I have never done since that character was created 10 years ago. It still isn’t my favorite spec, but since I don’t plan on doing any group activities with her it seemed like the most reasonable thing to focus on.

Normally a big reason I like having so many alts is crafting, but since Legion’s take on professions is so painfully awful I don’t know how much I will focus on that. I did her mining quests as they came up, and the few engineering quests so far have not been prohibitive. My priest still has alchemy and tailoring quests sitting in her log for months because I didn’t feel like running dungeons to complete them, so I’m not optimistic about making much more progress on that front. Instead I’m already trying to figure out which alt to work on next. Normally that would be my druid, but since I already have an Alliance druid at 110 I may focus on warlock instead. I got my affliction weapon last night so I’m ready to start leveling.

I’m happy I’m getting more mileage than I expected out of my one month’s return to WoW.

Set Dungeons Round 2

To finish off my second conquest for the season I’ve been working toward clearing 8 different set dungeons. Last night I finally finished this off. I wrote about my experiences with the demon hunter dungeons here already, so now I want to discuss the wizard ones. Well, I mostly want to complain about the wizard ones.

The set dungeons are all incredibly uneven in difficulty. Overall, the demon hunter ones were pretty easy. The worst of those four was probably the Marauder’s, because you had to find and trigger all the rock worms but still avoid being in melee with them. In contrast, that dungeon was probably on par with the easiest of the wizard ones.

The first wizard dungeon I tackled was Tal Rasha’s. I love the mechanics of that set, but the dungeon was not super fun. It is very similar to the Marauder’s dungeon, complete with annoying worms you have to avoid. Keeping up stacks of the Tal Rasha buff isn’t too bad, the biggest challenge in this one is avoiding all the worms while still finding and killing everything within the time limit. I’d say this was one of the two easiest wizard dungeons.

Next up was the Firebird’s set dungeon. The layout was easy enough to memorize, but I struggled a bit with the objectives. You essentially have to group up mobs and let them “kill” you to spawn the meteor from Firebird’s set bonus, and hope you have collected enough to meet the objective. Since there’s a long cooldown timer on the meteor you only get a few chances over the length of the dungeon to finish this. The other objective, causing enemies to burn, was much easier. This dungeon is weird since to achieve both of the main objectives you have to artificially weaken yourself, so enemies can kill you and so they live long enough to catch the burning effect. It made clearing the whole place within the time limit a challenge, and it took me quite a few tries to finish.

The third wizard dungeon I attempted was Vyr’s, and honestly it was the worst of the four. The two objectives were actually fairly simple: getting stacks in archon form and killing enemies in archon form. Those things happen almost automatically in the normal course of clearing the place. What makes this dungeon awful is the size of it, combined with the number and type of enemies. Contrary to the Firebird’s dungeon, here you need to be as powerful as possible, to increase your archon uptime and to quickly kill all the enemy swarms so you can move away at high speed. The map is a maze and absolutely requires you to spam teleport to clear it in the time limit. Making things worse are the fallen-type enemies. The little guys run away which makes it hard to track down everything for the clear, and the shamans keep summoning more so they’re hard to keep track of. I spent an entire evening working on this one, and by the end every failure came down to one or two enemies that I had lost somewhere on the huge sprawling map.

Nervous after the rough time I had with Vyr’s, I put off the last dungeon for a couple days. Finally, last night I finished up with Delsere’s dungeon. I had a hard time finding written guides for this one for some reason, so I had to resort to watching a video guide, which I do not usually like. It turns out I really did not need to worry about it at all, it was by far the easiest of the wizard dungeons. Delsere’s is one of the set dungeons with a weird requirement that doesn’t seem to stem directly from the set bonus itself. In this case it means that you have to reflect 200 projectiles using wave of force. Luckily this can be done very early in the dungeon by finding a big group of bees and standing in a slow time bubble until they shoot a ton of tiny horrible bees at you. As long as you don’t get murdered by evil bees the only other thing you have to do is catch a few large groups of enemies in your slow time bubble and your main objectives are done. The map layout has some awkward spots that require a bit of backtracking but it is small enough and the enemies are generally grouped enough that it wasn’t a problem to finish in time.

Finishing the last wizard set dungeon netted me some achievement spam, finishing up my second conquest and completing the Conqueror tier of the season journey. I’m not sure it has been fun exactly, but mastering all eight of these set dungeons has at least been an interesting challenge. And I’ve learned which ones are easy to do for future seasons. Now I’m debating whether I want to try to finish the final, Guardian tier of the season journey. I have never actually completed that tier before, but I suspect I could make it this time around if I don’t burn out on the game first. I’ve already finished GR70 solo, extracted 40 cube powers, and leveled three gems to 70. That leaves a 4 minute (T13) speed run, a 15 second Adria (T13) kill, and one more conquest to do. We will see if I stay motivated long enough to finish those off.

Weekly gaming grab bag

I’ve been adrift a little bit in my gaming over the past week or so. The D3 season keeps progressing in smaller chunks, and I am getting close to finishing my second conquest. I just need one more set dungeon mastery, since I did Tal Rasha’s, Vyr’s, and Firebird’s after finishing my 4 demon hunter ones. The wizard dungeons have been harder overall than the DH ones, with Vyr’s in particular being quite awful due mostly to its size and spread of monsters to kill. I did the basic completion of Delsere’s before, but never mastered it. I guess as long as it isn’t worse than Vyr’s I should be fine. I am very much looking forward to being finished with these.

I’ve mostly wandered away from FFXIV, with most of my play time happening on Tuesday for our weekly raid night. There’s so much I could be doing but I’m in a really solid place to start the expansion so anything else is not very vital. It’s nice to stop obsessively grinding lore. I also made yet another attempt at FFXV and yet again bounced off it super hard. I guess I need to admit that the combat in that game is just not for me and let it go. At this point it is not that I can’t do it, it’s that I really just do not enjoy it at all. Instead I booted up a new game of Horizon: Zero Dawn and put in an afternoon reliving that joy. I think I’m going to try to motor through the story this time instead of doing all the side quests and exploration, just so I can have it fresh in my head to talk about with friends who are playing now.

I have also been logging into WoW every once in a while to work on my reputation grind to unlock flying. I’m hoping I can get it finished before my subscription runs out because I doubt I will pay for another month right now. The game is fun enough but the manic joy from the Legion launch is long gone and everything in front of me looks like a horrible long grind. While many of my WoW guildies have embraced the grind, it just makes me want to check out and do something else.

The same combination of overwhelming amounts of new stuff to do along with a long grind for character power rewards is keeping me away from WildStar as well. Every time I log in I have fun for a while but when I look into the long term progression I check out. These kinds of mechanics are great for people who are super invested in one game and need something to keep them engaged, but seem like this unassailable mountain that you will always be behind on when you’re a new or returning player. I guess this is one of the reasons why D3’s seasons are so appealing to me, because no matter how progressed or not my non-seasonal characters are, everybody gets to start over from scratch at the start of a new season, and you avoid that sense of “I can never catch up” that’s so demoralizing.

Well, that’s what I’ve been up to over the past week or so. I can feel the start of a super introverted spell coming on as I start poking at more single player games and avoiding group content. I’m mostly fine with this since I have a lot to keep me busy on my own, and my friends are somewhat dispersed across multiple games right now too. As long as I’m out of this mode by the time Stormblood launches I know I’ll be fine.

Book Challenge #93: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

I finished another book on my list, and that means it is reading challenge time yet again! This book is #93, A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, first published in 1992. This is notable because it tied with the Doomsday Book by Connie Willis for the 1993 Hugo. Definitely a good year for genre fiction. On with the show!


This book is an interesting amalgam. It is partly a sci-fi novel about artificial intelligence and interstellar conquest, and partly a fantasy novel about warring tribes of creatures with no advanced technology. Bridging the divide are a handful of humans who happened to be in the wrong places at the wrong times. The book opens with some human explorers/scavengers who uncover and activate a malevolent Power, or artificial intelligence, which gets released out into the galaxy. Only one ship escapes, carrying a family, a cargo of all the settlement’s children in cryosleep, and some fragment which may either be a piece of code the Power, eventually known as the Blight, requires or some means of stopping it. Either way the Blight desperately wants it.

The ship is able to escape mainly because of the “Zones of Thought” that this series is named after. This is the interesting conceit that there are different bands of the galaxy that permit more and more complex technology and things like advanced AIs and faster than light travel. Most Powers or AIs have to be in the Transcend or the High Beyond. The escaped ship ended up in the bottom of the Beyond, near the “Slowness” where high technology essentially breaks down and becomes useless. I think these zones make for a really interesting narrative device, but I was a little frustrated because they aren’t really clearly explained until fairly deep into the book, and because they feel like a plot device and not something that is scientifically plausible.

The story follows the two children who were awake on the escaped ship after they have an emergency landing on a low-technology planet populated by the Tines. These are creatures somewhat like dogs, where each pack of 4-8 individual animals is one whole person. I really enjoyed the thought experiment of what these creatures would be like and how their societies develop. Their politics and interpersonal relationships drive much of the narrative. There are major differences in how they respond to the fact that aliens have dropped down from the sky and bring technology and potential access to the stars.  The ship’s distress beacon is picked up by the crew of the Out of Band II, which escapes a Blight attack in the High Beyond and is racing against the Blight and warmongering aliens to get to the Tines world and hopefully find the countermeasure. By the time they get near their goal they have been tailed by three different fleets of aliens, and will have to deal with a war between different factions of the Tines, and hopefully be able to save the human children in addition to saving the galaxy.

There’s a lot of high concept ideas going on in this novel, and to its credit it still manages to be engaging and have interesting characters. It is also quite entertaining watching the rest of the galaxy respond to the ongoing crisis of the Blight via what is essentially a galactic message board system, complete with probable sources and bad translations. My only real complaint is that the mechanics of the way the different zones work are weird and slightly immersion breaking for me.

TL;DR:  Some high-concept ideas executed in an approachable and engaging way.

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

Rating: 4/5 stars

Verdict: Read it if you like thinking about how alien races and AIs might think

Next up: Sunshine by Robin McKinley