Friday, February 26, 2016

Review of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Author:  Ann Leckie.
Title:  Ancillary Justice.
Publisher:  Orbit.
Copyright:  2013.
Pages:  422.
Price:  $16.00 (US).

Overview & Impressions:

Breq, the narrator of Ancillary Justice, is an AI trapped in a female human's body.  She was in charge of the Justice of Toren, a troop transport in the service of the Radch Empire.  Her vessel is destroyed and she left desiring vengeance.  She encounters one of her old officers, Seivarden, who was trapped in a stasis unit after his ship was destroyed a thousand years before.

This book makes use of impersonal pronouns in the Radchian language.  At the beginning, it took me a little while to figure that out.  A race of aliens have introduced a virus that divides the Lord of Radch into a dozen competing parts.  This brings about civil war.  Breq and Seivarden are trapped into serving the "good" Emperor of Radch who manages to destroy his rival AI components.

Having an AI as a narrator was original.  But I was turned off by Leckie's abuse of she to describe masculine characters.  I think it defeats the purpose of English pronouns.  However, what do I know?  She won a Hugo and Nebula for her debut novel.  First of three in the Imperial Radch series.  Interesting reading...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

More reading of Twilight of the Hellenistic World

I read another 75 pages in Twilight of the Hellenistic World concerning Philip V of Macedonia's Social Wars in late 220 BCE.  Different Greek city states allied with or against Macedonia.  Both sides were worn out by several years of fighting.  I didn't realize Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth still had fight left in them after three centuries of constant warfare.  I'm curious to see where the author leads me to now that I've seen Ptolemy of Egyptians and the Selucids meddle in Greek affairs despite their Macedonian rivals...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Late February Reading: Part III

I read another chapter in Ancillary Justice today.  Not as much I would have liked.  But some progress.  It's an interesting book having a female AI as the narrator.  The whole pronoun thing is burdensome.  I don't think I'll bother with the other books because of it once I'm done with Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie.

Mad dash to find Vietnam, Indochina, and Korean War books...

I listened to Combat Colours (Steve Hood) the other day.  I decided to finish my Cold War book collection for now.  I bought the following:

Six Silent Men:  Book Two, Six Silent Men:  Book Three, Streets Without Joy, The Last Valley, and The Coldest Winter:  America in the Korean War.  That should round out my Cold War reading.

I also purchased the following:

Once They Moved Like the Wind and Empire of the Summer Moon.  Once They Moved Like the Wind is about the Apache Wars and Empire of the Summer Moon is about the Comache.  I want to expand my limited knowledge on the Pony Wars.  I'd thought about gaming it.  I can't find a rules set I liked and didn't want to be the one putting everything together (like I did on 15mm SYW and 28mm FPW).

I also purchased speculative fiction.  Namely Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds and Vicki Peterwald:  Survivor by Mike Shepherd.  They go on the to read pile.  Like everything else...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

15mm SYW Game, 20FEB16 - AAR

Here are photos of a 15mm SYW game that pitted the French against the British/Hanoverians using Koenigs Kreig rules.  This game pitted Steve Hood (Combat Colours) vs. Glenn Wilson (Mute Bystander) in the first game I've hosted at my house with new gaming tables:

                                          15mm SYW initial battle lines.

                                          The armies advance.

                                          The cavalry battles separate from the infantry engagement.

                                          Hanoverian Horse take on French Gendarmes.                                        

                                          The game ended on Turn Eight when the French failed their Army Morale.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mid/late February reading....

I spent today reading the beginning of Twilight of the Hellenistic World.  It's set in the Alexandrian Successor states in the late 3rd/early 2nd century BCE.  I'm reading about the different Greek city states and their various alliances.  It seems Macedonia would play different factions off in the quest for predominance on the Achean mainland.  Sparta and Athens were still two large players.  There were others.  Rome put an end to all this when it consolidated its holdings in the eastern Med against the crumpling Greek states.

I'm just getting into the internal politics.  This had been going on since the death of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE.  Right now, the author is just covering mainland Greece.  There were other parts of the Successor's empire.  I think this was the time of mercenaries, too.  I'm only 50 pages into the book, so I'm not a point where I can really comment.  Other than it's interesting stuff... 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Late February reading: part II and other musings

For my nonfiction, I started an ebook called Twilight of the Hellenistic World on my NOOK.  It's by Pen & Sword Publishing.  It looks interesting.  The Alexandrian Successors have been an interest of mine for a long time.  I can't justify the cost in lead and time in order to game with them.  I had 28mm Bronze age Greeks and Trojans.  I got rid of those figures during the move...

I have a retired friend I regularly game.  He isn't in good health.  I noticed he and I game a lot together.  I don't know what I'll do when he finally passes.  My friend Don has gotten me into all sorts of periods.  I'll be able to game with others on the weekend.  However, Don is someone I can get together on a regular basis and roll dice with. 

He loves 28mm Romans.  He loves 30mm WH40K.  Don loves 28mm British Colonials.  Don's vision is getting to point he can't see.  I don't know when his doctors will fix his cataracts.  Don and I talked about gaming 28mm Ancients.  No one else would bother. 

When I moved, I made a concerted effort to downsize.  So the 28mm ancients went.  Now, Don has the figures.  But he literally has no room in his house.  I have room and a place to finally game.  And books on ancient Greeks and Romans.

The 30mm Warmachine figures have been assembled and bagged.  I'll be working on 15mm SYW Reichsarmee. 

I have the following in the painting queue:

15mm SYW Saxons
18mm SYW Prussians
28mm Masai Warriors
28mm Colonial German Marines
30mm Warmachine Rhulic dwarfs
30mm Warmachine Steelhead Company mercenaries

Afterward, it's:

28mm Sudanese Mahdists
28mm Viet Cong
28mm ARVN infantry
28mm 1960s US Marines
28mm 1860s French Foreign Legion
28mm 1860s Mexican infantry

I got rid of a lot.  However, I have nothing to sell in a local used gaming auction (love the irony when I had the stuff to sell, but no room to store it).

Looking at my nonfiction reading queue, I have the following books:

History of Ancient Egypt:  Vol. II by John Romer
Finland at War:  The Winter War 1939-40
The Coldest Winter, America in the Korean War
Such Men as These
The Last Stand of Fox Company
Marine Sniper, 93 Confirmed Kills
The Tunnels of Cu Chi
Six Silent Men
Sunrise at Midnight
They Marched into Sunlight
The Battle of the River Platte
From Eden to Armageddon
Conquer or Die!
Devil of a Whipping:  The Battle of Cowpens
The Road to Guilford Courthouse
 Chief Joseph and the Indian Wars
Armies of the War of the Pacific, 1879-1883:  Chili, Bolivia, and Peru
The Defeat of Rome

That's what I remember.  It's a lot.  I'll post reviews as I get through the books.  But, it's an eclectic mix of stuff.  Outside of my 28mm Vietnam, I'm not going to be doing anything else with it....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Photos of 30mm Steelhead Company Mercenaries

                                          30mm Stealhead Heavy Cavalry.

                                         30mm Steelhead Heavy Infantry with polearms.

                                          30mm Steelhead Riflemen.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Assembled WM Steelhead infantry tonight...

I spent several hours assembling Warmachine Steelhead Company infantry.  I put together about thirty figure before dealing with all the dried Ca+ superglue on my hands.  I put together two boxes of Steelhead Halberdiers and one box of Steelhead riflemen. 

A couple notes on the Steelhead halberdiers: 

1)  It took me a while to figure out how to assemble the figures.  Once I knew what to do, it was easy putting together the second box.  The Steelhead heavy infantry have lots of parts.  It takes a while to assemble a figure.  I did everything in assembly line fashion.  Knowing what I know now, I bust everything into their individual components, remove flash, and pre-fit the joint where I'm going to glue the figures. 

2)  I'm not going to get another box of Steelhead heavy infantry.  It's too much of a pain to assemble.  The new plastic kits are coming out.  They might be easier than the metal kit.

Notes on the Steelhead Riflemen:

1)  These figures were easy to assemble.  Most were one pose.  Or add guns to the standing figures.  They all had backpack accessories to be added like the Rhulic dwarves. I could have up to two Steelhead riflemen units in my Merc army.  I'm just going to have one for now...

The last thing I have to assemble is a Steelhead Cavalry unit.  I pulled everything out of its box tonight.  Looks like a pain to assemble.  However, I was warned about Privateer Press's kits.  Mainly have been pains to assemble compared to GW models...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Here are some photos of projects I worked on this weekend:

                                          WIP, 18mm Fantasy orc football team for Glenn Wilson.  Completed.

                                          WIP, 15mm SYW Reichsarmee infantry brigade No. 2, 14FEB16.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mid-February 2016 reading...

I started Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie last week.  I'm at page 107.  The narrator is an AI turned female human named Breq who wants revenge for losing her command, the Justice of Toren.  She's also part of the Radch empire that rules human space.

Problem is, Radch uses genderless speech.  The only way I can figure out whether someone is male/female is when Breq talks in another language with gender pronouns.  That makes Ancillary Justice different and a challenge to comprehend.  I'll see what I think of Leckie's use of generless speech when I get done with the book.

Also, the review for Masters of the Art:  A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam by Ronald E. Winter is now posted on my blog...


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review of Masters of the Art by Ronald E. Winter

Author:  Ronald E. Winter.
Title:  Masters of the Art:  A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam.
Publisher:  Presidio Press.
Copyright:  1989, 2005.
Pages:  262.
Price:  $7.99 (US).

Overview and Impressions:
Author, Ronald E. Winter, talks about his time as an electronics technician and helicopter door gunner on a CH-46 Sea Knight medium helicopter in 1968-1969 during the height of the Vietnam War.  He was stationed in the north of the country near Ke Sahn and the DMZ.  Winter saw lots of action and lost a few friends.

The author talked about his time at Paris Island and how his Marine Corps instructors prepared him for Vietnam.  Winters enlisted in 1966.  He didn't see any action until May 1968.  The air crews were tight-knit.  Their loss hurt his unit particularly hard.  The time they spent training for Vietnam in North Carolina during 1967 eventually paid off.

However, the author didn't around to describing his combat experience until halfway through Masters of the Art.  His accounts are riveting and harrowing.  The later part of the books is Winter's coming to terms with Vietnam.  Recommended.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Gaming and Painting Table Updates, 06FEB16

Here are some photos of my gaming and painting tables:

                                          Gaming table,  6' x 5' space.  It's the biggest I could hope for.

                                          Painting table, my office:  72" x 30" space.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review of Alien vs. Alien by Gini Koch

Author:  Gini Koch.
Title:  Alien vs. Alien.
Publisher:  DAW Books.
Copyright:  December 2012.
Pages:  498.
Price:  $7.99 (US).

Overview & Impressions:
Alien vs. Alien is a lite "chick-lit" sci-fi parody/satire starring Kitty-Kat Martini and her Alpha Centaurian husband, Jeff.

Aliens are already here on Earth.  They look like supermodels, have great sex, and can move hyperfast.  The A-Cs are also empaths.  Earth is being invaded by a reptile race who want to wipe out humanity.  There's also the human mad scientists who want to side with the baddies.  The good guys are able to use wormhole technology to get around and employ an army of androids to fight the invaders.

Jeff's family from Alpha Centauri show up with their fleet and put a stop to the reptiles' plans for Earth.  They are still upset at their genetically engineered dinosaurs being wiped out 65 million years ago in an asteroid strike.  However, Earth being ruled by Alpha Centauri finally comes out into the open.

Ms. Koch has all sorts of movie and comic references in her novel.  It's a geek's paradise.  There's also the baby drama with all the human/Alpha Centaurian children, who the invaders want to capture.  The Alien series is at least a half-dozen books to its credit.  It's a change from all the "serious" sci-fi/fantasy reading I've done recently.  Recommended.

Early February 2016 reading...

I spent this morning reading "Masters of the Arts:  A Fight Marine's Memoir of Vietnam" by Winter.  He was an aviation tech and door gunner on a CH-46 "Sea Knight" from 1966-1969.  I'm into his first tour in late 1968.  He talked about medevac missions and being helpless while other US Marines were wounded waiting to be transported to military hospitals.  It's been an interesting read.  I'm at page 162 of 242 pages in my Nook.  I find its easier to read an Ebook than deal with a hard-copy.  I'm hoping to have it finished up two weeks.  I'll write a formal review and post it on the blog when I'm done.

I'm also reading Guards.  Its' a manuscript written by a fellow writer about a schizophrenic security guard in South Boston during the 1980s.  He's just met his old psychiatrist, who wants to permanently commit him back to the hospital where he escaped.  The security firm he works for was awarded the contract for the place and he had to go and check things out.  I'm only halfway through the novel....

The last books is Alien vs. Alien by Gini Koch.  It's a satire/parody sci-fi piece.  It's pretty funny.  Light fare of usually serious subject.  The author has a whole bunch of this chick-lit Alien novels out now.  It's not something I'd normally read.  However, I thought I'd read one book a shot to see what I thought.  I should be done with this in two weeks and will then have a formal review posted online, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New year, new projects...

I've been delayed by a month in putting together any posting on what new projects I'm working in 2016.  Now into February 2016, I thought I mention what I'm doing painting and reading wise...

This past month saw me buy painting and gaming tables for the basement office/den.  I got the painting table set up last week.  I started in priming an entire 15mm SYW Reichsarmee infantry brigade and command.  I got through the first series of base colors before stopping for the week.  That's my own painting.

In painting for others, I'm trying to finish up an 18mm Fantasy Orc Football team pictured here:

My goal is to get them done by Feb. 15, 2016.  I've had these figures since my father's death last summer.  I wasn't able to get around to them until now.  Fortunately, the person I'm painting for understands.

A normal painting routine is Monday evening:  paint for others; Thursdays and Sundays:  paint for myself.  That's how things have worked out over the past two years.

But my literary pursuits got reorganized this past fall.  I went to reading six days a week  Monday and Tuesday was for work related manuscripts; Thursday was for non-fiction; Friday and Saturday was for speculative fiction; and Sunday was for Analog Magazine.

I normally try and read 100 pages worth of work related writing a week; 100 pages of speculative fiction; 30 pages of non-fiction; and 30 pages of Analog Magazine.  When my father was dying, I barely kept up with my work related reading and critiques.  I let Analog Magazine pile up and then let my subscription lapse.

The original idea behind reading Analog Magazine was because I wrote short stories, I should support a magazine that publishes them.  Sadly, there are few magazines that publish speculative fiction.  I've tried marketing some short pieces.  I've met with little luck.  My pleasure reading also took a hit when my father died.  I have backlog of 30 fantasy and science-fiction novels to read.  That works out to about 15,000 pages.  I read about 100 pages of speculative fiction per week.

That's a 150 weeks worth of reading!  Enough for three years.  I also have 2.5 years worth of non-fiction to read.  Much of it is on the Vietnam War.  That was one of my recent book purchases.  I also have books on ancient Rome, the Korean War, the bush wars in Rhodesia, the War of Spanish Succession, and the battle of the River Plate in WWII.  Both hardcopy and Ebook form.  So I'm reading four different things at once.

Steven King suggested a writer spend four hours a day reading and four hours a day writing.  That leaves little time for television or movies.  I'm probably the only person in America not to see Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  What time I spend on television is sports related.  I'm spending about four days a week editing/revising.  This go on for months.  I have three different manuscripts I'm working:  a  novel and two novellas.  All I seem to write now are novellas.  I have the rough draft of a fourth manuscript ready to go.  That won't be started until the end of the year.  It's steampunk related.

I'm trying to focus my speculative fiction reading on authors I should know when I finally start a literary agent query.  I've organized literary agents by the authors they represent and who's open to new queries.  That list has helped mold some of my pleasure reading.

I'll have more on my forthcoming painting projects later...