Please Recommend Me Some Books And Games

My holiday is booked or, as they might say online, incoming. July 31st, only four weeks away, is the start day and I’ll then be enjoying a two week break in Tokyo, Japan. I haven’t been to Japan for a couple of years so I’m excited about returning with my wife. It’s going to very hot (35C/95F) and humid but I’m sure I’ll survive – air con FTW. And don’t fret! I’ll still be blogging although maybe a little less frequently than usual and no doubt you’ll see some random posts about Japanese curiosities.

Anyway, I’m going to have a 14 hour plane journey to pass along with a few odd spare times in the hotel so I’m starting to think about books to read and some games for my laptop. Fortunately this year we’re flying first class (Virgin Atlantic Upper Class – I’m a lucky devil, I know) so not only am I actually going to be able to fit in the seats (and bed) this time, but I’ll have a power supply for my laptop. Luxury gamage! If only they had Wi-Fi…

What Games?

My laptop is pretty decent but the Windows Vista install makes it run at about 70% of it’s potential I’d wager. Still, it can run World of Warcraft OK and less demanding games like Sins of a Solar Empire. I’m planning on picking up the Sins of the Solar Empire expansion, Entrenchment, as I loved the original and it’s only $9.99 and possibly Galactic Civilizations II and/or Demigod. Are they any good?

I was also thinking about installing EVE Online or DDO but I’m not sure they would run. Anyone got an experience with them on laptops?

What Books?

I bought the first Dresden Files book, Storm Front, last week but I haven’t started it yet so I’m considering holding off and keeping it for my holiday. I’ve also got Peace and War by Joe Haldeman gathering dust on my shelf and also the Dark Tower saga to finish. I can buy Western books in Tokyo but the selection isn’t great so I’d rather take a couple with me just to be sure. Last time I was there I wizzed through the second Dark Tower book and spent the better part of a day hunting for somewhere that sold the third novel.

Anyone recommend me some books to read? I’m in the mood for messed up, dark fantasy or sci-fi like the Dark Tower, however I’m open to anything. For instance, probably the best book I’ve read this year has been Generation Kill and that’s nothing like what I normally read.

Please give me your recommendations!

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  1. Beej says:

    I downloaded the DDO F2P beta yesterday, and it’s kind of fun. It doesn’t seem to take even the resources WoW does to run. I am also downloading Portal from Steam, and I’ve heard good things about Fallout 3 (it’s half-off this weekend on Steam), so I’m thinking about it myself.

    Books, well, get into those Dresden Files! Other than that, you could try “Scar Night” by Alan Campbell. I’ve not read the sequel, but it’s a dark fantasy that was a pretty fun diversion. I am also re-reading the 6th Harry Potter book before the movie, and plan on delving into the online audio reading of Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” soon.

  2. Ysharros says:

    I’d recommend starting the Dresden book *before* you leave — if you like the style you’ll discover they read quickly and they’re very more-ish, so you may want to pick up the next few to take with you. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them, actually (being a literary 1st class hons English snob and all), but the style is perfect for the content and the characters are fun (as are the plots).

    Can’t say I liked his fantasy much though — derivative and trite, for the most part. I feel mean saying that and YMMV etc etc.

    The KIASA boys reminded me of William Gibson the other day, and anything by him is worth picking up if you haven’t read it already. I’m also a huge fan of most anything by Iain (and M.) Banks, though his last sci-fi opus was a bloated piece of poo. What, me, mince words?

    Other than that I tend to read a lot of female authors — not necessarily out of rampant feminism, but because I tend to prefer their take on things (I’m more char-driven than space-opera for SF, for instance, so I love Cherryh’s incredibly long Foreigner-saga mental meanderings).

    Speaking of meandering, I should probably stop.

  3. Andrew says:

    If you haven’t played it, grab “Beyond Good & Evil” from Good Old Games.

    Also, Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is great if you can get your hands on a copy.

    Jennifer Government – by Max Barry
    The Gap series (5 books) – by Stephan R. Donaldson
    The Otherland (4 books) – by Tad Williams

  4. Tesh says:

    Star Control 2. It’s free these days, masquerading as “The Ur-Quan Masters”. Or MechCommander 2, also free, direct from Microsoft.

    Books… I’ve picked up Jules Verne books again, and would recommend them, but that’s not exactly dark fiction.

    Have fun out there! Say “hi” to Ixobelle, eh? ;)

  5. Beej says:

    @Ysharros: Yeah, his “Codex Alera” books are lackluster. Or maybe they’re great for pure-fantasy fans, but after reading something like the Dresden Files, they just come across as dull and tired.

  6. Tamarind says:

    In all honesty, I would get out of The Dark Tower while you still can…

    Dresden Files are lots of fun, in an easy going way.

    In terms of dark fantasy, have you encountered Joe Abercrombie? Very interesting low fantasy, almost deconstructs the fantasy genre.

    I would wax more eloquently and lengthily but this comment comes to you from a tiny eee an a wall in Cambridge.

  7. Some recommended boooks:

    Banewreaker and Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey. I recently recommended these bookos. A duology of typical fantasy from a (sympathetic) point of view of the “bad guys”. What if orcs weren’t just cardboard cutouts for the good guys too slaughter?

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson. Guy gets transported to a fantasy land that he must save. Oh, except for the “hero” has leprosy and believes the fantasy land to be an elaborate delusion of his dying mind. A shocking scene in the first book turns some people off, but it fits the story and becomes a major issue he has to deal with in future books.

    Chanur series by C.J. Cherryh. A series of five books that have been collected into 2 “omnibuses”. Science fiction stories told from a distinctly non-human point of view. Vivid characters and setting with a pretty good story to boot. Another great series for putting yourself into another point of view not often represented.

    The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle. Great series of short stories all based in a fantasy setting. Really vivid characters and setting. I’ve talked to Peter on multiple occasions, and he’s said he’d love to have this series turned into a game. If you haven’t read his book The Last Unicorn, pick that up too; it may seem a bit kiddie, but this book was one of the first I was able to appreciate on a deeper, more literary basis.

    If you’ve happened to have read all those, let me know and I can suggest more. :)

  8. Ysharros says:

    Definite seconding on the Peter S Beagle stuff.

    Recommending books is hard — I read voraciously, then when someone asks “give me some ideas!” my mind goes blank.

  9. JC says:

    The most “messed up, dark fantasy” I have ever run across is Matthew Stover’s “Heroes Die.”

    The most “messed up, dark sci-fi” I’ve ever run across is Peter Hamilton’s “Night’s Dawn” trilogy, beginning with “The Reality Dysfunction.”

    Both are among my favorite authors as a result of how awesome their stuff is. IMO, anyway ;-)

    If you can find a copy of Orson Scott Card’s “Hart’s Hope” — it’s a pretty messed up dark fantasy as well.

    I’ve read all the Dresden books and love them. Butcher’s “Codex Alera” series is also primo.

  10. Wonderwyrm says:


    Try George RR. Martins series A song of ice and fire. Its quite good, fantasy mixed with political intrigue and some rumblings of long forgotten magic and mythical beasts.

    A warning though, theres a lot of characters to keep track of, and main characters are killed off all the time, you wont even see it coming.

  11. Sharon says:

    Hmm… I’d recommend Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books. Sapkowski is Poland’s top fantasy writer. Only two books translated into English so far: The Last Wish and Blood of Elves.

    Now, I’m off to look up everyone else’s recommendations! :)

  12. Gordon says:

    Looks like Dresden Files is a winner. I’m going to start the first book ASAP and then maybe, if I like it, take along the second one. I’ve read all of the George R.R. Martin Books (they are awesome) and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one. Not out until October though :(

    I quite fancy some Peter F Hamiliton… then I realised I had The Reality Dysfunction sitting on my shelf. I’d read 100 or so pages and then gave up. Maybe I should get back into it… is it really that good?

    Warbreak sounds interesting. Isn’t he the guy who’s taking over The Wheel of Time? Now that was a disappointing series of books. It kinda climaxed around book 7 for me and then I completely lost the plot and had no idea what was going on. He also developed an annoying habit of cramming everything into the last 50 pages of the book.

    As for games, I’m going to check out DDO and Trine (looks great fun). I’m not convinced that DDO will run OK on my laptop but I’m really curious to try it.

    Thanks to everyone for all of the awesome recommendations! They are sure to keep me busy for quite some time :)

  13. Stabs says:

    Eve is a good choice. Play it alt tabbed while playing DDO.

    The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
    He’s a new author just starting out. The books are low fantasy, superbly written story of an abused child rising out of the gutter to find himself as a man. In a somewhat violent way. The magic and action is very well done.

    Empress of Mijak by Karen Miller
    Another new writer. Her first two-book story was great but this third book is fantastic. The main character is absolutely fascinating, a sociopath for reasons that make complete sense. It’s the start of a trilogy she’s going to really have her work cut out to make the rest of the story live up to the standard of the first book, Empress.

  14. JC says:

    Reality Dysfunction takes a while to “figure out.” It’s got so many different elements to its future world that it takes a while of immersion in it before it starts to make sense.

    Even so, I’ll say it’s definitely not for everyone. I loved it though, and as a result have read everything by Mr. Hamilton and even buy his hardcovers when they come out anymore.

    I’ve read good reviews of Warbreaker, but haven’t read it myself yet. Sanderson’s other works (Elantris, and then his “Mistborn” trilogy) are primo, though — and pretty messed up and dark too, tbh.

    I gave up on Wheel of Time at book 7 or 8 as I recall it. It’s been a long time since I cared about that series.

  15. Gordon says:

    I’ve heard some good stuff about Karen Miller, I’ll need to check her out.

    Plan on installing EVE on my laptop although I just realised I don’t have a huge amount of HD space on it. Bah! I need a new laptop…

    Also considering the Reality Dysfunction. I think I’ll take my old copy has a ‘backup’. I travel like a pack rat and always bring way more stuff than I ever need :)

  16. Ysharros says:

    It may or may not be your cup of tea but I’m a huge fan of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion/Endymion series (, and his more recent Tempest-and-Troy inspired stuff (Ilium and — ack — whatever the second one is called) are also pretty good. They’re also weighty though, which may or may not be a good thing when packing for travel.

  17. Mattexl says:

    I have to reiterate Ysh regarding the Dresden files. I picked these up when I first moved to Boston (around the time the series came out on SciFi) and burned through them quickly! Great stories, fun read, amazing characterization. I’d suggest you pick up the first five or so, depending on how fast you read, as they are grab you by the seat of you pants, drag you through the story as quickly as possible to find out what happens next type reads. I can’t WAIT for the next one to come out in paperback. Shoudl be soon… I’ve picked up Butcher’s fantasy series, but haven’t read any yet, so no comment there.

    I’ve also been reading through the Myth Adventures omnibus books (Vol. 1 and 2) in between text books recently. Another really fun fantasy series, funny, crazy situations, with hilarious “real world” references that make you scratch your head as you figure out how they fit perfectly into the world we’re looking at.

    Last year I tore through Asimov’s Foundation series. I got interested in reading his stuff after I saw Bicentennial Man (great movie btw, seeing Robin Williams do something other than goofy comedy) and really enjoyed the entire series. Taking a break from him before I dig into the Robot series…

    For travel gaming I usually take along a few arcadey types for the PSP (Currently carrying around Luxor and Pipe Mania) and something a little more in depth for the DS (Henry Hatsworth and Guitar Hero:On Tour have been seeing the most screen time lately, with Lock’s Quest sitting on the sidelines). Both systems are perfect for long flights, as I can alternate between them as my ADD kicks in.

    PC Gaming, I usually go with my standby (if I have an internet connection) of EQ2. With Sims 3 installed to the hard drive, I may end up playing a bit of that when I head home to CA, coincidentally the same time you are traveling.

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