This week I read:
Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
A good second instalment in this politics-thinly-disguised-as-hard-sci-fi series. It’s set a few decades after the events of the first book, but with many of the same characters, due to the longevity treatments developed during the first book. The right to self-rule is the main theme of the book, but another significant one is the rule (not necessarily by law, but certainly by influence) of an ever-aging elite, despite the bulk of the population becoming more and more culturally distinct from these elites.
Often, literature snobs look down on “genre fiction” as just being about tropey stories with no real message to tell. Devoid of value, as if it’s only worth reading “literary fiction” (which is just as much a genre as any other) or nonfiction. And I fully admit that is true for a lot of stuff, even stuff I’ve read and enjoyed. But I would hold up the Mars Trilogy as an example of genre fiction that does deliver a message, and does it well.
The Halls of Arden Vul
We spend half of this week’s session doing downtime stuff: selling loot, getting magic items identified, convalescing, and founding a hospital to be the target of their future philanthropic giving.
The hospital is quite exciting, as it’s the first time the party have unquestionably made their mark on the world: this’ll get them noticed by local important NPCs for sure, and it’s likely to lead to more adventure as the PCs try to build up the wealth to not only keep it going, but also to make it better equipped and more important (using the Downtime in Zyan institution rules).
After that, the party headed back to Arden Vul to explore the ruined city on the surface some more. I think the players are realising just how much stuff there is up there, outside the dungeon proper, that they’d overlooked before. However, the stuff in the ruined city isn’t disconnected from the dungeon. One of the things I like about Arden Vul is how it sprinkles high-level content and campaign-altering mysteries all over the place: the players might not be able to make sense of everything they find, but they can tell that there’s some secret to uncover.
It’s another new anime season, so I’m checking out a bunch of shows. It’s a good season for sequels, but there’s also some interesting-looking new things too. It’s also nice to see that the isekai tide is finally starting to recede, as there’s plenty of just normal fantasy this season without the totally unnecessary framing device of the main character being a magically transported Japanese guy.
Frieren came out of nowhere for me, I’d not heard of it before, but it is really good. Anime of the season, for sure. It is about an elf mage and her adventuring party, set after they completed their 10-year quest to defeat the dark lord and save the world. The defining event of a lifetime for the human party members; a short errand for Frieren. The theme is the passage of time, loss, and how sometimes you only realise you didn’t spend enough time with someone until it’s too late.
I’ve already ordered all the books.