The X-Files: Cold Cases

The X-Files: Cold CasesThe X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

This is definitely the X-files you grew up with, in both the good and the bad.

The Good: All the people are exactly like I remember and are voiced by the actors who played them in the series. David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and all the others do an excellent job voicing their parts. The same tensions exist and the same personalities, etc.

The book itself reads (or in this case sounds) exactly like the series. The writing is entertaining, and has the same feeling. It is like they just took up where they left off more than ten years ago. I do find this partially good and partially bad.

The Bad: The bad mostly falls into personal likes and dislikes. There is one single technical issue I disliked though, that would be the environmental sounds. It seemed very much on an audio stage and not sounding like it was filmed in an actual place. The echoes were off, there were seemingly missing ambience sounds.

This might just be a personal preference though, I haven’t heard a single audiobook who approaches it with multiple actors and using sounds instead of reading descriptions that has worked for me.

I stopped watching the X-files religiously as the seasons went on, especially the last season or two of Mulder and Scully (and I didn’t really watch it after they left). Not because there was anything technically bad about the acting or writing, but because I was tired of aliens.

The height of the show for me was when it was a “monster of the week” show with some plotlines that ran through the whole show. I didn’t even mind some of the alien/black virus/black eyes situation.

However, I stopped watching when it became all about a single government conspiracy with all knowing bad guys responsible for all the different things. I would have been ok if it was scattered conspiracy, but an all knowing invasion of aliens, followed with movies that only followed the same was frustrating.

This book does the exact same thing. There is one “episode” that deals with a monster of the week type situation (revisiting one of my favorite episodes) and it was great, the remaining episodes were very much one long alien conspiracy hunt. I won’t say anymore, I just want that out there to warn others if they don’t want to have to deal with it.

Overall though it was worth it, I got it on sale and I did mildly enjoy it. I will probably try any other book that comes out in the series, but I would rather it be done in a novelized/audible format and not that multi-actor/fake sounds setup.

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Succubus!

Succubus! (Hell High #1)Succubus! by Michael-Scott Earle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book as something quick to listen to between two larger audio books. I figured I would listen a few minutes at a time, but I just ended up listening to the whole thing. I think I picked it up for under $5 and it was worth the risk.

The story itself centers on a senior in high school and the things he sees in that high school. The story involves monsters, demons, devils and a hot succubus girl. I will admit, about 10 minutes into the story I was hooked and found myself enjoying it.

The ending is too abrupt (but it was at a stopping point). This is to be expected since it is only a 90 minute book. I just found out that there are two more books that are about 3 times the size of this book (over four hours each). I will end up picking those up.

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasThe Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a long time since I read anything from Ursula K Le Guin, and I wish I had read this back then, although I may not have fully understood it.

It is a bit dated, not in a bad way, but in what feels a more simplified way things were written back in the 1970s. The overall message though made me uncomfortable when I read it (I won’t give details, I don’t want to spoil it).

I got a lot more out of it though because at the same time I am listing to one of the Great Lectures called the Great Utiopian and Dystopian Works of Literature and the professor covered this story in the first lecture (and honestly thats why I read this story).

I do have to admit though I don’t know if I will seek out re-reading any of Le Guin’s works after this. I fear having the same thing happen with their work that happens with other authors. I find that taken in context in current day the book just doesn’t stand up to what I read/thought back then.

It is only 30 something pages, it is an easy read and I would recommend people read it.

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The Last Wish

The Last WishThe Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally understand the whole wish/shared destiny thing with Yennifer and Geralt and that alone was worth the read.

It is better than that though. A lot of the stories were retellings of common fairy tales (including retelling of Beauty and the Beast). That specific story (and you will know it when you read it) was a fantastic retelling that turned the story on its head, without being too hammer to the head.

It is an anthology series that weaves together and I also may think I like that format for Geralt, The Witcher more than the novel I read. I will read all the other books I think, and I hear I will like them, but this book so far is my favorite.

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Days of High Adventures

Days of High AdventureDays of High Adventure by Elliott Kay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I came into this book with elevated expectations. After the unexpected success of NPCs that I reviewed last year, I was hoping this would be a similar thing, a fantasy novel based on the idea of real world characters interacting with a gaming world and having real world consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no problematic elements in this book. There is nothing I find objectionable (unlike the Slave Harem idea from Wild Wastes), in some ways it was worse, it was just meh. It felt like there wasn’t enough details, but the weird part is I couldn’t tell you what details were missing. On top of that, it was all the standard tropes, nothing that interesting or new.

The technical writing is fine, the story is clear (mostly) but it just doesn’t have a spark for me. I do realize the fantasy world in the book isn’t quite the niche I prefer in fantasy, but it still just didn’t have a spark. even the sex scene wasn’t interesting to me.

I guess maybe I should be happy this was a short audiobook (a little over 4 hours). So it didn’t waste too much time.

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5th ed. Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition)Player’s Handbook by James Wyatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a long 20 years since I have played Dungeons and Dragons steadily. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to start running it again. What I did find was that the writing itself got a lot better.

The game is less focused on a white male target audience. The artwork does have a few slightly sexier images, but it shows women dressed in realistic armor, it doesn’t assume all adventurers are men only and there is even a part where the book addresses genders and the non-binary possibilities:

“You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior.

You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.”

That alone wins my heart and shows a thousand steps forward from what I learned in the late 1980s with the Basic and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

The new system itself seems pretty tight, but I am still new with it and haven’t fully seen it in action. I am definitely looking forward to playing it more.

The only reason it doesn’t get five stars is because I hate rolling up stats for a character, so many years used to using points and customizing it a little more then that.

I recommend it for everyone!

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Wild Wastes

Wild WastesWild Wastes by Randi Darren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a male power fantasy hard erotica. Not as bad as the GOR novels, but definitely problematic in some of its treatment of women, resulting in a longer than normal review from me. I do wish I could do 2.5 stars.

Let us get out of the way the world backstory. You will find more detail on the history of the world on the description of the book then in the book. That is a bit hyperbolic, but other then a few mentions it leaves the history of the world very hazy.

The overall plot of the book, a rebelling province, slaves and an Empire facing change is very loosely written with not a lot of detail. In fact the overall arc of the story serves more as a hanger to rest the interpersonal interactions of Vince and his women. This is not a Game of Thrones but honestly for what the book is about it works mostly.

Vince, the protagonist, and his many women (some whom become his wives) is where it is problematic with both positive and negative issues.

The Pros:
Vince is a ranger who hates slavery. His whole time in the book is him trying to free slaves (most of whom are women). He does free men as well but that is glossed over because the story isn’t about that. The story is more about the “shipping” between Vince and these women of various races.

The women themselves aren’t written badly overall. They excel in various areas including combat, intelligence, wit and magic. In addition, some of the sex scenes are pretty good, some are decent if taken out of context. There is something about his writing that is easy to read, and it went quickly.

Oh and I want to underline that the voice actress who reads the book is awesome.

The Cons:

The women outside of Vince are distinct individuals with strengths, some weakness and do have individual personalities. However the story becomes evident it is a power fantasy because the women do not pass the Bechdel Test, their entire focus for all women are Vince, and their desire to be dominated does have some callback to Gor (although from memory not as bad).

My biggest issue is all the women he chose, no matter their age/occupation/race were virgins. It gave the story a weird slut shaming feel on women. In addition not once during the several sex scenes did he write about Vince performing on the women for their pleasure. All pleasure they had derived, was from his manhood. Personally I feel he would have been a disappointment to any of those women, but like I said this is an erotic male power fantasy, and purely focused on what a typical “guy” would want from the author’s perspective.

I would have been ok if some of the individuals would have been like this, but all of them virgins, wanting to be dominated sexually in various ways by Vince made me uncomfortable. The fact they all wanted to be his wives, not be with anyone else sexually (not even between each other) and have his babies even more so.

Oh, and a side note, one of his wives is half woman (down to the genitals) and then half ant… I wasn’t sure when Vince met that character if the author would go that direction, but of course he did. However, the relationship worked out story wise for me. The biggest issue about that was her ant portion seem to shift size in the story to fit what was needed.

The story started out as a sexy D&D game, culminating in the fight and relationship between his first wife Fess, then rapidly dropping into a purely erotic power fantasy for men. I think the part that bothered me due to connotations the most is that this is being called the “Slave Harem” series.

I am still not sure if I will read the second book, I suspect the answer is yes. However this has made me want to find a more female positive series like this, and if I can’t find one maybe I need to write it.

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