Saturday, November 24, 2018

Read for fun: The Lives of Confucius


The Lives of Confucius is another book from a college class that I didn't have time to fully read at the time. It catalogues the many kind of "Confucianism" through the ages, and the faces of this famous philosopher, along with charting how he became popular. This makes it a intriguing mixture of literary analysis, cultural examination and historical development.
 
In a nutshell, I found this book to be a concentration of knowledge about Confucius. It is a useful reference to the many ways he was portrayed and is still portrayed. While there is a lot of information packed into these pages, the Suggested Readings section at the end of each chapter demonstrates that there is plenty more to read, research and form an opinion on.

The majority of the chapters are straightforward. The "historical" Confucius, the opinions of his early critics, the use of his name by the Han Dynasty, the academic debates and all the stuff about the Imperial/Ancestral cult stuff, all of these (mostly)  read as the author passively transmitting information. I found all of that interesting.
 
The further towards the modern era the book goes, the more it becomes interaction with the other voices in the, for lack of a better phrase, Market of Confucius(es). This is basically the final chapter, which is appropriately called "A Confusion of Confusciuses". In this chapter, Michael Nylan (the author of this chapter in particular) basically critiques many modern writers of Confucius as deliberately misconstruing the classics for their own goals or accidentally getting the wrong idea through faulty translations. There are three that he praises but most of them get flak. There's even a joke that I find worth including here because it does a wonderful job of illustrating his point. He writes that no one has portrayed Confucius as a proto-feminist yet but he expects that there will be one eventually.

There might even be yet another Confucius in the end of this book. Yes, one of the authors throwing their own hat into the ring; a Confucius of international cooperation, advocate of learning, and a practitioner of humaneness (which may or may not be the same as "social justice").

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Lives of Confucius" a +

(I.e. I don't know how to grade this other than the fact that I enjoyed reading it because it is the only book on Confucius that I've read).

Click here for my next book review (a request): Amanda Moonstone - Darkbane Sorceress


Click here for my previous book review (also for fun): No Game No Life volume 5


Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Friday, November 16, 2018

Read for fun: No Game No Life volume 5

No Game No Life is one of my current favorites. This one here is Volume 5. Like the review requests, I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

This story does not immediately resume Blank's conquest of the Siren. It actually opens with Feel, their opponent in volume 1, visiting another elven nobleman. Yes, this is a snapshot of Feel and Kurami's schemes in the elf's country, and it is impressive. It has the same sort of multi-layer game-plotting and deception as the primary plot, and a similar sense of style. After the first reading session, I had to make sure I only read it at night, when I had more free time, because I didn't want to stop. What follows is a tender-moment, with much character development. Then a scene shift for an immensely funny scene.

Suffice to say, Yuu Kamiya brought his A-Game right out of the gate. The primary plot exceeds it.

The meat of it is a game of tag with the Flügels, which includes a number of twists and additional rules to fit the setting. It was thrilling. Not just the battle itself, which was amazing enough, but the fact that this is the first game that Blank goes into blind. The game and its rules are suggested by Jibril, so Blank can't do their normal "win the game before it starts" methodology.

The game appears to have the lowest skates of any game so far, but the real stakes are much higher and more personal.

This particular arc has a great conclusion to it; a satisfying resolution and with an unexpected result.

CHARACTERS

Jibril gets a lot of development here. This book taking place in her hometown, we learn a lot about her; her past, her relationships, and how she differs from other Flügels. For instance, while all the Flugel love reading, she is the only one who cares about the books themselves.

We meet another Flügel, Azrael. She is the First Unit and one of the Flügel's leaders. This makes her the big sister of the Flugel, and she is quite proud of that fact. Thus the comedic contrast with her behavior matching that of a flaky and annoying younger sister. There are a lot of layers to this character. Saying anymore would be a spoiler.

 
There is also a side plot dedicated to Stephanie and Izuna. It is awfully cute, and relevant to the overarching plot of the series.

POLISH

It looks good. Yuu Kamiya has this tight and flowing prose style that works extremely well in high energy scenes such as the game of tag, but also highlights slower and emotional moments.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "No Game No Life Volume 5" an A+

Click here for my next book review: The Lives of Confucius


Click here for my previous book review (also for fun): Dungeons and Dragons - Monster Manual 3.5E

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Read for fun: Dungeons and Dragons' Manster Manual for 3.5 Edition



I picked this one up to add to my understanding of D&D and combat in pen-and-paper RPGs in general. A base of knowledge about monsters, and mechanics and varieties; this is certainly the place for it.

There is SO much more to them than the capacity to inflict damage to a player's health. Indeed, death-in-battle is the least of an adventurer's worries when there are creatures that can convert them into monstrous thralls, use them as incubators for its young, or trap their souls. Imagining all these creatures inhabiting the same world gives one the idea that the adventurers live in a terribly dangerous place. Granted, not all of them are in the Material Plane, that is, the world most humans inhabit. Even so, they exist and can cross over to join the native horrors.

It makes me think that stories such as "Goblin Slayer" or "Berserk" have the right idea of things. An adventurer is just one or two bad die rolls away from a dreadful fate, and even a skilled and experienced one may not be equipped to face a particular foe. It would be easy to become a Killer-Game-Master, and not even deliberately. The kinds of monsters appropriate for new adventurers are obviously outnumbered by the ones that are not, and even the weak monsters can get lucky or overwhelm with numbers.  How scary must it be, to live as a non-adventurer (a commoner farmer, for instance) in such a world?

It was a fun exercise, to look at the challenge level of each monster and work out what precisely went into that decision, and then compare it to other monsters. There's a particular plant monster, completely immobile and without a strength stat, that is a challenge level of 2 because of special abilities. This means it should be as tough as SIX goblins (challenge rating of 1/3 each). I didn't figure that out one. Then I came across a shadow-like monster with a higher rating, and a similar condition.


 I was puzzled until I realized a few things: it can only do strength-stat damage, and at zero strength, the victim turns into the same sort of creature within the battle. Every character has a lot more HP than strength and a non-strength character would go down faster.  I have a dwarf paladin at level 2 which has a strength stat of 15. Given initiative and maximized dice rolls, this shadow creature could kill him in as little as three turns.  I thought "this is something I'll fight from a distance".

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dungeons and Dragons' Monster Manual for 3.5 Edition" an A+

Click here for my next book review (for fun): No Game No Life volume 5

Click here for my previous book review (a request): Misaligned


I also reviewed another useful author aide, the Dungeon Master's Manual.

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).