#526 – DB by James Hahn

Here is today’s Modem Problems from Matthew McAndrews:
Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #526 – DB by James Hahn – January 12th, 2009

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Just a quick post

Okay, so I almost missed posting on Friday again. Mhari and I are fine. We’re busy with things related to Further Confusion 2009 happening in 2 weeks, and our playing on City of Heroes. Mhari and I are both having our usual back issues, Mhari a little more than me as usual. But we are otherwise healthy. My glasses broke Thursday and today I Worked from Home so I could go get the frames jury-rigged so that they will work until my eye appointment for a new prescription in February.


We’ve done a lot of playing on City of Heroes this week, and plan to do more next week because we won’t be doing hardly any the week after as that will be Further Confusion 2009 week. Doesn’t it figure that Double XP Weekend and Further Confusion 2009 fall on the SAME weekend. Grump. Doesn’t matter, when you play in a team of 6-8 two to three times a week, the XP comes fast and furious anyways, especially with Patrol XP either causing the extra XP it normally does, or soaking up the XP Debt from defeats. We sure needed that secondary feature tonight during our ‘Wolf Pack’ villain night. We had a full 8-team running, and we were getting mobs that were +1 to +2 above us as well as multiple bosses per mob group. So there were a number of defeats. But since we started the night doing, and completing, the Skyway Mayhem mission, we all had self-rez powers as well as the rez powers of our Pain Dominators. A Couple people had a left over Winter Event self-rez. They all got used at one point or another.

Going up against groups like that, however, comes with a LOT of additional XP even without Patrol XP (which we all used up one way or another). And we all went from level 19 to level 21 during the night. To top it all off, when we got out of our final mission, there was a Rikti invasion going on so we hung out to fight them and didn’t sign out until it was done. (Except for Mhari, she was so tired, she signed out after about 50% of the invasion and went to bed.)

Next week our Thrilling Adventures team of Heroes on Guardian are going to band together after a long break from playing that team AS a team. We are going to do the last of the Freedom Phalanx Taskforces, Numina’s level 38-40 Taskforce. That will get us all that have been a part of Thrilling Adventures from the start the Task Force Leader badge.

Then, if we liked it enough, after Further Confusion 2009, we will do the Taskforce AGAIN as the more recent team, Delta Squad. Then after that we will see which team, Thrilling Adventures, or Delta Squad, people would like to push for level 50 with. Both teams are at the Level 40 spot.


That’s all for this late-Friday posting. See folks NEXT week! Have a GREAT weekend!

Book Review: ‘Saturn’s Children’ by Charles Stross

Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

Synopsis from the web: "Sometime in the twenty-third century, humanity went extinct-leaving only androids behind. Freya Nakamichi 47 is a femmebot, one of the last of her kind still functioning. With no humans left to pay for the pleasures she provides, she agrees to transport a mysterious package from Mercury to Mars. Unfortunately for Freya, she has just made herself a moving target for some very powerful, very determined humanoids who will stop at nothing to possess the contents of the package."

All in all a very good book. However, I’ve liked other things that Mr Stross has done way better than I liked this one. But then I went into this book with some misconceptions. I was under the expectations, based on something someone else wrote about it, likely in the promo literature from the Science Fiction Book Club that this was going to be Mr Stross writing like Heinlein meets Asimov. And it sort of is, but in a totally different way than I was expecting. I was expecting the sort of work from Heinlein’s work for the juvenile market, not his later post-Stranger in a Strange Land work.

Stross starts out with the quote of the three laws of robotics, but right from the start you get the sense that something has gone wrong… humans are no more, they died out quite a long time before the story begins. The solar system (and beyond) is filled with man’s robotic creations. They have full AI, and they are not limited to the looks of human kind. In fact, as we learn VERY early in the book, most of these persons (for they ARE all persons) are short, squat and better adapted for ‘life’ in the extremes of the solar system.

The book starts with our main character, Freya by primary name, feeling depressed and alone on Venus when she gets on the wrong side of an Aristo just from being in the wrong/right place at the wrong/right time. It then goes to Mercury, then Mars, and so on… Our main character goes through many changes along the way, both to her person and her mental being. It’s a character journey in many, many ways. And it is only when viewed from the perspective of someone that has completed the book can you really see how Stross DID manage to pay good homage to both Heinlein and to Asimov.

As with all of Stross’ works, it is well written. It’s just that he has done better works. I think it honestly held him back some to limit himself to the sort of story might have come out of a collaboration between the aforementioned Heinlein and Asimov. It’s very interesting to see what would happen with Asimov’s laws of robotics if the humankind that they are designed to protect where no longer a part of the equation. The character work is excellent, and the sexual content (which is limited and not explicit, and is part of why the book was not reflective of the Heinlein I expected) fits in very well with the nature of the main character’s construction and purpose of her model back when man still lived.

One of the things I like about Stross’ work is something that is very rarely seen these days, namely the stand alone novel. These days so many books are designed to at least operate as the starting point of a series. But most (as I haven’t read them all) of Stross’ work stand alone and don’t call for or lend themselves to sequels. Now, that’s not to say that they can’t have spiritual sequels, or conceptual ones. But usually his stories are self contained and you feel mostly happy with the ending without being tormented with trying to figure out where things will go next or what’s going to happen to this dangling plot line over here.

This novel is no exception, and the ending is fitting. It could easily have a sequel, but the real story has been told, and doesn’t need to be continued, as it served well to explore the concepts it was built apon and really does the job that Science Fiction is supposed to by telling a ‘What If?’ sort of story.

This was a good read. I recommend it, but don’t judge Mr Stross’ work by this one novel. Try some of his others to truly see the author doing what he does best: push the envelope of the concepts he selects.

This book is currently only available in hardback. The paperback is coming to the USA in June 2009 and the UK in July 2009.

2009… so what?

Okay, so I don’t REALLY feel that way about the new year. But It doesn’t feel THAT different from the old one. Though those two four-day weekends really do seem to have made something of a difference. I do feel a lot better today than I did a week ago, today. So that’s a good thing. Right?

Well, as expected, I missed my Friday post, as is so often the case when I don’t work on the Friday in question. But it was for a good cause… relaxing and resting as best I could.

Mhari and I are doing well. Our backs weren’t so good late in the week, but a visit to Dr. James last night helped a lot. For me, at least. Not sure about Mhari. I left her sleeping away when I headed out the door for the day at o-dark-thirty. I hope she’s getting a good start by now.


MMOs:
City of Heroes: Finished out the year doing lots of Baby New Year quests, and opening presents on the street. My baseball-themed Mace Tanker Fremont Slugger got play time as it is the off season for Baseball still and he can get all his head bashing out of his system. I grabbed him some Candy Canes and got him a Jingle Jet at the Candy Keeper so he could get from mission to mission a little faster without using up fuel on his Raptor Pack. Got him 2 levels that way. It was sort of nice.

On the other hand for Stand In I tried out using the Multi-Build feature they added with Issue 13 to give her a ‘Solo Build’. She’s an Empathy/Dark Defender, so there’s 6 powers out of 9 in the primary set where you can’t used them on yourself at ALL. They benefit other people only, so in this build I didn’t take ANY of them. In their place I took Boxing, Tough and Weave from the Fighting set, and Stealth from the concealment set, plus I took ALL the offensive powers from the Dark Blast secondary set except for Blackstar (since it leaves one without Endurance for a considerable time after used). And I took Swift, Health and Stamina from the Fitness set.

It all makes for a rather strong defense, for a Defender, and as tough an offense as a Dark Blast Defender can be… but darn if it STILL, even with 52+ months of veteran powers, makes for a poor solo’ing experience. She’s level 44, and had some stale level 39 missions in her que. Some of them were defeat all’s. So here I am, taking two or three shots to take down a GREY mob that doesn’t give me any experience… that’s just LAME. In general, doing a mission with even-con opponents, she can generally take on up to 3 even cons (with one a LT) and deal with it. Mostly thanks to her self-heal. But it is very slow going if there are more than that in a group of mobs, or if the mob group is +1 and considerably difficult if they are +2. I guess I am spoiled playing tanks. *grin*. But it is a VAST improvement on her group-build, that’s for sure.

Other than that, I think this is the first holiday season where I did NOT make a passel of new characters. *chuckle* I -thought- about making some, but I didn’t.

As to other MMOs this past week… I didn’t play any. I did Further Confusion dealer room stuff and played some Amazonia for a number of hours, and generally relaxed and recovered from 2008.


Yup, end of the blog. I’ll likely have a Book review this afternoon or tomorrow sometime. I’m almost done with the book I am reading… And as for blogging, I’ll be back on schedule this Friday, I think.