Tuesday, October 21, 2014


MandiblesMandibles by Jeff Strand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unusually huge fire ants terrorize Tampa, Florida. Will anyone survive this plague?

Mandibles is a creature feature by Jeff Strand about large fire ants overrunning Tampa. That's pretty much it. It follows the lives of office works, people in a dentist office, a couple stickup men, and an entomologist during the rampage of the ants.

It might be that I've come to expect home runs at every at-bat from Jeff Strand but this one didn't make me want to sit outside his house and "pretend" to run into him so we could eventually be best friends like a lot of his other books.

I love the premise but the characters didn't really do it for me this time. In my opinion, for a story like this, there needs to be a couple strong central characters to build the story around. Since this one had a death rate per page equivalent to a George R.R. Martin book, there was no one to root for for every long. It seemed like the characters I cared about the least were the ones to make it to the end. Also, I thought the ending was kind of weak and the source of the ants didn't make that much logical sense.

Still, it was a fun read for the most part. People getting stung and eaten by fire ants of unusual size was pretty entertaining and they made a believably frightening enemy. Unstoppable fire ants the size of squirrels (and larger)? No thank you, sir.

Three stars and Strand had to work hard for every one in this outing. I guess I can't be mad at him for not being perfect, though.

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Designers & Dragons: The '70s

Designers & Dragons: The '70s (Designers & Dragons, #1)Designers & Dragons: The '70s by Shannon Appelcline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Designers & Dragons: The '70s chronicles the history of role playing game companies whose genesis was in the hallowed decade of the 1970s.

Reading about role playing games isn't as exciting as playing them but I still found this to be an interesting look into the history of the hobby. While I knew quite a bit about TSR, Gary Gygax, and the father of all subsequent RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons, a lot of it was new to me.

Appelcline briefly touches on D&Ds wargaming roots and then proceeds to take the reader to school, covering companies that made their own D&D compatible products, like the Judge's Guild and Fantasy Games Unlimited, to competitors to Dungeons and Dragons and its parent company, TSR, like GDW and their Traveler game, Chaosium, Avalon Hill, and many others.

You have to have a certain level of nerdiness to really appreciate this book. What could have been a dull journey to Nerdville was made interesting by Appelcine's engaging writing style, interspersed with quotes from the people involved.

I don't have many gripes about the game. Companies I never heard of got a lot of pages and I feel like I now possess even more role playing game knowledge that I'll never need. I thought the title was a little misleading since it purports to be about RPGs during the 1970s but it's actually about companies who started during the '70s up either the present day or they went tits up.

I don't think I'd recommend it to gaming novices but people who remember spending sexless evenings covered in nerd-sweat and Cheetoh crumbs will get a kick out of it. Three out of five stars.

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