Book Review: The Monsters Know What They Are Doing

The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters by Keith Ammann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a really hard book to rate. It isn't a book of stories or any narrative really. It is a collection of blog posts that provide a description/recommendation on how to run each monster in D&D. On that front this book is very successful. The insight and writing is very well put together and I really learned quite a bit on how to approach encounters.

The real complaint I have with this book is the formatting and layout. This is really a reference book. Unfortunately, the layout and formatting doesn't lend it to be used as a reference book. The book is laid out in "chapters" and a narrative style. I think if the book was formatted more in a dictionary format, two columns per page and with an in-depth index, this could be infinitely more useful for Dungeon Masters to utilize.

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Book Review: Finder

Finder by Suzanne Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun read. A fun, light sci-fi adventure following Fergus Ferguson as he finds himself caught up in adventure too large for the likes of him while at the same time only solvable by him.

There is nothing heavy or overly sciencey about this book. It is almost like a pulp fiction novel, putting the sense of fun ahead of any sort of realism. The cast of characters is just as enjoyable as the main character, with people who inevitably end up loving and hating Fergus at the same time. Think of a Han Solo or Rick O'Donnell and everything around that notion. Humor mixed with dumb luck.

If I had any critique of this book, it would be the almost innumerable amount of Deux Ex Machina situations with Fergus and his endless bank account somehow always pulling out ahead. It could have very easily made the book an "eye roller", but somehow Suzanne Palmer is able to make it work and still have the reader rooting for our self deprecating hero through each misadventure. If you can let that go and let the story take you for a ride, you almost have to enjoy this book.

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Book Review: Binti


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really an interesting novella and deserving of all of the praise and awards it has received. I haven't read a good sci-fi book in quite a while an this one does a really great job of focusing on what I think sci-fi's strongest point really is, cultural critique and not science.

The book is told from the perspective of Binti, who comes from a tribal heritage. It is not explicitly stated where she comes from, but it is presumed to be Africa. The book covers quite a bit on topics of race, cultural differences, and family values, all while tying these anchor points back to a much larger story that expands to an interplanetary conflict. Binti is an very smart and very strong female lead character. She is known in her world as a "Harmonizer". The book never explains precisely what this is, but it is a topic that becomes important to the story as it progresses. The challenges she face progress through the novel and flow through her progression from leaving Earth to traveling to another planet. The story does a really interesting take on transferring her challenges from very relatable ones (i.e. a family not wanting her to leave her tribal land, expectations of woman and marriage) to the broader intergalactic problems, which she must deal with. 

To say any more probably would give away the story. This is simply really well told and at under 200 pages can be read fairly quickly.

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