Resistance

After Celestia CV-02, I was worried that the Aurora and her crew would take the backseat for the rest of the series. Luckily, from Resistance, this appears to not be the case. We still do get a wider selection of points of view–on the Aurora, the Celestia, on the Jung controlled world Tanna, and even back on Earth–but the Aurora is once again the core of the story.

Things are really moving along now, with various space battles and intrigue. I do appreciate the focus on the Aurora, but the mechanics of living on a barely functional Celestia, where you can’t even get between the two sections of the ship are fascinating. I’m curious to see if the Celestia can be finished, especially without the resources and allies the Aurora had a thousand light years away.

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Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole completes the second internal trilogy of the Wild Cards, finishing up many of the plotlines of Aces Abroad and Down and Dirty and bringing the Puppetman plotline to the end. The main plot centers around a presidential convention, which is already a bizarre enough system on its own. Bring super powers and assassins–and super powered assassins into the mix–and things go very very sideways.

This book really does show what makes the Wild Cards books shine, with just enough real world (and real world characters) to make it feel like a solid ‘what if’ while at the same time, bringing in the Wild Card and how it changed the world at every level. It’s good to meet a wide variety of previous characters on both sides and, as the stories go on, to see some of those same characters fall.

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Celestia CV-02

As one could probably guess from the title, Celestia CV-02 is the first book (after 7!) of the series that doesn’t focus on the Aurora and her crew.

On one hand, it’s a nice change of pace and gives a much broader view of the universe the Aurora (and now Celestia) and their crews inhabit. On the other, we’ve spent a lot of time with the Aurora now! I want to know what’s next! (We do get some Aurora time though.)

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The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture is quite a book.

It hits all the harder reading it for the first time now, knowing that Randy Pausch died a year after this lecture/book came out, but even that was a decade ago. His children are in high school/college now. His wife Jai eventually remarried. Some things change and move on. Some don’t.

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The Pillars of the Earth

The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.

The Pillars of the Earth is not what I expected. As the blurb said, it’s a book full of intrigue, action, and romance , but it’s also a giant of a book, set in the twelfth century, following the life and times of several families in a Middle Age English town through everything from daily life to the decades long building of a cathedral to a civil war.

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Down and Dirty

Down and Dirty is a bit of an odd duck, with some stories taking place at the same time as the world tour of Aces Abroad while others take place after. There are mafia plotlines, political plotlines with the Puppetman, and a bit of an internal struggle for both Tachyon and the Turtle. As with any of the short story collections, there’s a wide variety of stories, for better and for worse.

Individual stories:

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The Expanse

After half a dozen books, the Aurora is finally back at full strength and on the way home. Their adventures in the Pentaurus Cluster were pretty cool, but it’s about time to move on. All things considered, it was a crazy journey, with a black hole and a centuries old lost colony ship. A thousand light years in a book.

One thing that has been a little crazy this entire series but really comes to a head is that Nathan was charged with bringing the Aurora home. I don’t begrudge many of the decisions he made to make new allies and gain new technology, but the number of times he delays and/or risks the irreplaceable Aurora and her crew is maddening.

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Procedural Content Generation in Games

It’s been a while since I’ve read a textbook. :) This is exactly the sort I would have lost myself in during undergrad (and to some extent did even now).

On one level, there is a lot more summary and general content that I could probably have done without. But on the other, the few concrete examples were intriguing and even the summary sections gave me other papers and terms to search for and read more.

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Head of the Dragon

The first large section of Head of the Dragon follows the Aurora and her crew as they plan just what they have to do to maintain what little surprise Einstein has allowed them before the Ta’Akar learn who, what, and where they are. It’s somewhat plodding and slower than a lot of the previous books, but still relatively interesting.

The last third or so… dang that just doesn’t let go. Ground forces dropping from space, ships jumping all over the place, orbital bombardment, a whole handful of capital ship to ship combats … and a big twist that we really all should have seen coming, but was still well enough done. It’s quite a send off to the first long section of the Frontiers Saga.

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Aces Abroad

After Jokers Wild , I’m glad to see Aces Abroad move on from Fortunato/the Masons (although Fortunato isn’t gone for good just yet). After listening to the afterward by George RR Martin, that seems to have been intentional: the first three books were ordered together and made a self contained arc. A similar pattern will continue through the rest of the books.

It’s also interesting this time that where we were mostly limited to New York and Jokertown before, now we’re getting a look at the rest of the world–in the guise of a world tour taken on by a number of famous Aces, Jokers, and Nats (listening to the audiobooks, I was wondering why in the world they’d be called gnats… swattable? nats makes much more sense). The Wild Card virus may be rare the further you get from New York, but it seems to have impacted every corner of the world in various ways.

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