Sunday Book Reviews – 12/15/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Kobold Guide To Board Game Design by Mike Selinker (Open Design LLC, 2011)

This is a great book for people who are interested in developing new skills or have an interest in games. Replete with relevant anecdotes from many prominent game designers, it provides insight into what goes into board game design, production, packaging, marketing and distribution.

In other words, if you’re stuck for a gift for someone who likes to play the occasional board game, it’s just about perfect. It provides plenty of expert opinion to make them feel informed enough to create their own game and bring it to market without getting bogged down in the actual mechanics and higher math involved in game theory and probability that are the standards for most game production books.

On the negative side, the lack of that math makes this book little more than a motivational tool for someone who’s seriously interested in making a complex, balanced game with “replayability”… but there already exist multiple collegiate-level tomes on the math of game design. A motivational tool and guide to things like how to work a game around a theme is a perfect supplement to those, and it’s a fun book for people who just like games and enjoy learning new things.

Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley (NRB Classics, 2012)

This is a collection of short fiction by the late science fiction non-Master, Robert Sheckley.

The use of “non-Master” is deliberate and in no way a slight on the man’s writing or personality. He was an excellent writer, and an engaging, insightful man. Rather, it is a recognition of his place in the field. Sheckley was a dominant voice in the 1950s, with a quirky view of the world and a vision of a future that both held great promise and the potential for devastation of what constituted fundamental humanity. Writing with an eye toward both wit and sociology, he presented stories that stepped outside the normal boundaries. He, like Philip K. Dick, R.A. Lafferty, Avram Davidson and Cordwainer Smith, consciously shifted science fiction more toward a modern literary structure.

Unfortunately for him, as great as he could be with a short story, he had serious difficulty constructing novels. As markets shifted away from short fiction he found himself losing relevance, and when publishers started demanding 280 page novels in the 1980s, he found himself unable to produce adequate original work and took to writing books in established series to make ends meet. His later years are peppered with novels for properties like Star Trek and Aliens.

Because of his influence on the field, the most prominent science fiction writers’ group wished to bestow upon him the title of “Grand Master”, something they do for one person every year. Due to his then-current output being almost exclusively work-for-hire and fairly pedantic, the youngest members demanded that he not get the prized award. In the end, a compromise was reached and he was given the title of “Author Emeritus”, normally reserved for authors who had died or were no longer capable of producing stories.

The incident depressed Sheckley, but it was, in its way, a Sheckley story from the 1950s come to life and he bore it, as he did most other things in his life, with good humor.

This collection ranges through his years of writing, weighted toward the early days but including pieces through the end of his life in 2005. It’s a great introduction to an oft-neglected body of work.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.