Look, we're into board games these days. We're going to play them all, and we hope you come down and join us for Game Night (the next edition of which is happening this Sunday, from 3pm to 7pm).
Bebo's The Everything Tabletop Game Book is out this week, and it's basically a checklist with pictures and commentary for all avid board game players out there. Whether you are an old hand who has all the Terraforming Mars expansion cards memorized or a fresh fish who doesn't know the difference between Catan and Carcassonne, The Everything Tabletop Game Book will help you find something new to play.
(Speaking of which, what are we playing this weekend?)
Anyway, games. Games are good. Games are fun. Games are made for everyone!
Okay, we'll stop that now. Let's talk about some books.
Well, James Patterson is storming the castle, so to speak, this week with Sophia, Princess Among Beasts. It's got orphans! It's got mystery! It's got adventure! it's not quite plot-by-numbers, but close enough that you'll read it in an afternoon and rage about how you have to wait three weeks for a sequel. James is a cruel, cruel master. He gives you what you didn't even know you wanted, but then makes you ask for more! Damn you, James Patterson!
Meanwhile, the Magic Tree House series—which has been running almost long enough to make James Patterson nervous—returns with To the Future, Ben Franklin! We really, really hope this is a not-very-subtle political call to action, where Ben Franklin is swept up by Doctor Who and brought to our present where he does rhetorical magic in order to wake us up from this long nightmare we've been in. "Oh, Ben Franklin! Now we see how language has been co-opted by the Adversary and used against us! We promise to be better—"
What? Oh, it's not that story. Ben Franklin sneaks into the magic tree house and wants to know how it works? So, he doesn't come to the future and save— <sigh> Whatever.
And speaking of time travel, we also have This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Max is the author of the Craft Sequence of Accountant Fantasy, which is way cooler than that genre label makes it out to be, and Amal has written a number of Rhysling Award winning poems, as well as that fabulous Hugo / Nebula / Locus Award winning story, "Seasons of Glass and Iron." Together, they've written an epistolary novel (i.e., told through written correspondence) that is, in turns, dazzling, marvelous, delightful, and heartbreaking.
Red and Blue serve the opposite sides in an eternal war, and they can never—ever—meet, but that doesn't stop them from communicating. Their letters start off taunting and challenging, but over time, their relationship changes, blossoming into something that might bring about the end of the war or the end of everything. We think you'll have to read this book a few times to uncover all the marvelous nuances.
And speaking of fighting against overwhelming odds, how about Martin Clark's The Substitution Order? This one is about a high-flying legal eagle who gets grounded and ends up working at "the world's saddest sandwich shop." (We're on-board right here, by the way.) While slinging subs and hanging out with a rescue puppy and an annoying computer whiz, our disgraced barrister is approached by a sinister cabal that wants him to do illegal things. Ponzy-style things. Malpracticey-style things. The system grinds you down sort of things. Naturally, our legal mind is sharper than that, and he sets out to not only fight these crooks but clear his own name! It'll make you remember that time when we were all younger and funnier and John Grisham novels were all anyone ever read. Good times. Good times.
And speaking of good times, Tom Miller is back with The Philosopher's War, a follow-up to last year's impressive debut, The Philosopher's Flight. Miller has done some really amazing world-building with this series (all-female teams of "empirical philosophers" who do magic with sigils and glyphs, against a backdrop of the First World War). As before, the protagonist is Robert Canderelli Weekes, a young man who has been accepted into the US Sigilry Corps even though he's *ahem* not a woman. As grandiose plans continue to put everyone and everything in peril, Weekes struggles to find his place within the Corps. Terribly entertaining, and the clever upending of cultural norms puts a thought-provoking spin on the world.
Speaking of clever, the 2020 Hot Guys and Baby Animals wall calendars are out. We've got one. it provides endless amounts of entertainment as we try to figure out which name goes with which. "Athos likes buttered popcorn and pork sliders. Porthos likes to spend all day lying in the sun." It's hard to tell which is the baby animal and which is the hot guy, sometimes!
Speaking of pretty things to look at, the second volume of Simon Spurrier's and Matias Bergara's Coda is out.Feast your eyeballs on these pages as we are thrown into a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is one half-part Lord of the Rings, one half-part Mad Max, and three-quarters-part Philippe Druillet. That's right! The math doesn't work, but your eyeballs don't care about math! They just want all the pretty colors and zig-zagging lines!
Also, it's never too early in the year to hug a reindeer. Just sayin'.
Anyone want to double-check DK's claim on their One Million Things: A Visual Encyclopedia? We don't know what the prize is for counting all the things in One Million Things, but we'll think of something before you finish. And you, ah, have to show your work. We're not going to be taken advantage of here, thank you very much.
And finally, the Shirley Jackson Awards were announced at Readercon last weekend. We're pleased that literary horror has such an award, and we're delighted to see that Michael Kelly's Undertow Publication continues to put out award-winning books. This year it was Priya Sharma's collection of macabre and moving short stories, All the Fabulous Beasts. We haven't read all of the stories yet, but we still think of "The Crow Palace," and shiver.