Books I read in 2021 (part 1)

stack of books and text that reads "books I read in 2021"

I thought it would be fun to share some book recommendations, so here are some mini reviews of 7 books I read in 2021. It’s a mix of science-fiction and non-fiction, with lots of essay collections. This is only one third of the books I read, you can check out the entire list here

Too Like the Lightning 

Ada Palmer 

Book 1 of the Terra Ignota series. It imagines a future in which everyone has access to flying cars that let you get anywhere in 2 hours or less. With the breakdown of borders, people are no longer bound to the government in which they are born . Instead they can choose from 7 Hives, each with different ideologies and interests. But that’s just the barest description of the world building, there is much more to this series. 

The book is framed as a piece of in-world history, told by an unreliable narrator. So, it’s pretty difficult to get into. I actually hated it when I first read it, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about it. So January 2021 I picked up where I left off in 2020 (turns out I only had 1 chapter to go), and was hooked on the series for the rest of the year.[4.5/5]

The Etched City: A Novel

K.J. Bishop     

I don’t remember much about this book, other than I really liked it. I’m tempted to describe it as a weird fantasy slice of life, but that doesn’t feel right. The setting is pretty vague, in a way your imagination fills in the rest of the details. Good characters who spend a lot of time talking about life and philosophy.  [4.5/5]

Savage Gods     

Paul Kingsnorth 

In December 2020 I purchased a bunch of essay collections from a local publisher, this is one of those.This one feels like a very good writer’s diary. Lots of random thoughts about writing, life, and Ireland. Honestly, not the most interesting premise, but I enjoyed the book. Made me want to check out some of his other work (haven’t done that yet, as of writing this). I may re-read this one. Reading about someone else’s struggles with writing (or any creative work really) is inspiring. It’s nice knowing that we all feel those ways sometimes.  [3/5]

Frequencies: Volume 1 & 2 

Various contributors

Lumping these two together. Another set of essay collections from the local publisher. All 4 volumes were very cheap, and after reading them, it’s easy to see why. I really hated just about all of these. Not a single essay in volume 1 was memorable, and I recall really liking one in volume 2 about someone traveling to a small town in South America. Never bothered to read volumes 3 & 4 after this. Vol 1: [1/5] Vol 2: [2/5]

A History of My Brief Body

Billy-Ray Belcourt 

Last of the Two Dollar Radio essay collections I read this year. The author writes about his life as a young queer, indgenous writer, in Canada. This one was the most difficult to read. The intro actually even makes a point of calling out that the language would be dense and difficult. Maybe it’s the way I read books (in bed before sleeping), but I had a tough time reading this one. Made me feel kinda stupid. That said, I did find it very memorable. Many of the essays had a lasting impression on me. I would like to revisit this one in the future and give it a closer read. [3/5]

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami 

I’ve read quite a few Murakami novels*, but this one made me start to lose interest in him. It’s about a guy who’s cat goes missing, then his wife leaves him. This is a long one, with many scenes of people sitting in holes. After looking at a plot synopsis, there are parts I liked, but I mostly forgot about them. To be honest, a lot of my feelings regarding this book are related to how I feel about 1Q84, so I will elaborate more when I get to that book. Overall I thought this book was just OK. [2.5/5]

*Kafka on the Shore is my favorite Murakami novel. Great piece of magical realism. If you want a more grounded book I’d recommend Norwegian Wood. I also like the short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Battlerite Review – Arena Brawler

In 2011 Bloodline champions came out.  The concept was simple, turn World of Warcraft’s arena combat into an entire game. This was accomplished by taking elements from MOBAs, fighting games, and top down shooters.  I always felt like this game deserved more attention than it received.  For new players and viewers, it’s easier to understand than a MOBA or RTS, but features team based matches that fighting games lack.  By utilizing the best elements of other competitive games, this game seemed poised to be the next big thing.

But it wasn’t meant to be, for whatever reason the game never caught on.  Outside of a vague feeling that the game should be bigger than it was, the only other thing I remember about the game was its unique tribal art style and theme.  Fortunately, Stunlock Studios didn’t die out, and now they are back with BC’s spiritual successor Battlerite.  This game recently launched as a free to play title.  With fond memories of the old game I grabbed some friends to try it out.


Continue reading “Battlerite Review – Arena Brawler”

100 Word Game Review: Rayman Legends

rayman legends

The more I play it the less I like it.

Early levels created a great sense of flow as you moved through them. Running, jumping, punching and hovering are fast and smooth. New worlds brought along new mechanics, explored them through level design, and ended with a bang, introducing me to a new concept: level design as music video.

Later levels amped up the difficulty by shrinking platform size and narrowing timing windows through safe routes.  These stricter requirements remove the ability to move through levels your way, requiring specific inputs at precise times, resulting in gameplay reduced to trial-and-error.

Score: 5 ~ (PS4) Inspired by these articles