What have you been reading?

Necrozius

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I'm tapping into my ancestral roots (Denmark and Sweden).

The Poetic Edda, translated and edited by Jackson Crawford.

The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes: Crawford, Jackson: 9781624663567: Books - Amazon.ca

Fascinating and surprising so far. I watch Crawford's channel in parrallel with my readings, to add further context and reflection on the passages.

Next up is a translation of Beowulf (recommended by Crawford). The translator is Dick Ringler (the child in me always chuckles when I see that name). Again a translation in common, non-pretentious English for people like me who aren't scholars.

Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery: Ringler, Dick: 9780872208933: Books - Amazon.ca
 

under_score

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I'm tapping into my ancestral roots (Denmark and Sweden).

The Poetic Edda, translated and edited by Jackson Crawford.

The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes: Crawford, Jackson: 9781624663567: Books - Amazon.ca

Fascinating and surprising so far. I watch Crawford's channel in parrallel with my readings, to add further context and reflection on the passages.
I've been going through the Poetic Edda the past year as well. It's been a great reading, and Crawford's channel is always insightful.
If you want further analysis, the Northern Myths Podcast goes line by line through it (as well as other material).
 

Séadna

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Read Toby Wilkinson's "The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt".

His information on the rise of Egypt from prehistoric times until the foundation of the state under the first pharaoh Narmer is probably the most readable summary to be found. This is then followed by very good quick explanations of the major social and national themes of the Old, Middle and New kingdoms. Most books about Ancient Egypt cover the main points he mentions in these sections on the three kingdoms, there's nothing shocking or new. Most to the book's credit is the coverage of the Intermediate periods, which are often full of wild speculation in other books.

In general he's pretty good at spotting when competing theories aren't worth discussing when they don't affect the overall narrative. For example there are volumes upon volumes dealing with different theories about exactly how the state was first formed, what Narmer himself and his father and grandfather did, to what extent they conquered versus gained economic power etc. He passes over this to give the main thrust of events which everybody agrees on.

There are only two bad points, but they're quite bad.

Throughout the book he never stops talking about how oppressive the pharaohs were and linking them to 20th century fascist dictators and so on. It's not that this is incorrect, a guy who builds a statue of himself symbolically crushing peasants and gives himself the personal name "he with the divine body of gold" is probably fairly autocratic. It's just he keeps going on and on about it and acts like he's the only person to spot it since every other Egyptologist is too emotionally invested.

Second his treatment of the religion is too cursory. Now he does spend a significant bit of the book on the cult of Osiris and a little bit on the Sun cult. However the Egyptians were really a deeply religious people with a state faith that informed every national and private act, considered their gods as the true gods, etc. Even to other societies in the Ancient world they were known to be very pious. It's quite hard to understand and philosophically abstract*, but it's of more importance to "getting" them than any other single aspect of their society.

So it's a bit of a mixed bag, but I'd say worth a read overall.

FRONTCOVER-4207-768x1179.jpg

*I would say exceeding Catholic Christology in complexity for anybody who knows that.
 
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BedrockBrendan

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Just read the book The Howling. A big fan of the movies, and the novel is a pretty quick read. Quite different form the film, yet oddly very similar. The story is a lot simpler in the book, and the whole serial killer subplot isn't present (something similar kind of happens at the start of the book, but that is meant as the thing that catapults the story and establishes an important theme). Very effective use of putting the character in a remote location without a convenient telephone and not having the protagonist know how to drive. That made it more frightening.
 

BedrockBrendan

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As someone who doesn’t know how to drive you now have me interested in tracking down a copy.

The reason it works here is the story really plays up the feeling of isolation the character has. Basically she and her husband move to a remote town in California in the woods. He drives, she doesn't. And their house doesn't have a phone (so they have to walk to the one local shop to use the phone there when they want to make a call). So she can't just hop in the car and drive away to safety, and she can't easily pick up the phone to have someone else drive her to safety. Obviously she can still attempt to drive, as you don't need a license or experience with it to make the attempt: but that adds its own sense of tension and danger because the controls are so unfamiliar to her.
 

Voros

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Reading this bio on John W. Campbell and the famous writers he was close to.

Quite balanced although I think he's a bit too generous in praising some overrated 'golden age' material as masterpieces when I've read most if not all of it and lot of it is mediocre or even dreck.

But his potted histories of Asimov and especially Heinlein and Hubbard are first rate. Heinlein benefits from having the mountain of detail in Patterson's (quite good) biography pruned away for clarity and with a significantly less apologist and worshipful tone.

The material on Hubbard is really good as his other biographers are for obvious reasons more interested in him as a cult leader rather than writer and ever since he founded Scientology there has been a tendency in sf circles to downplay his popularity as a sf writer at the time he was active. But by using the sources of the time we see that Hubbard was widely viewed as one of the biggest sf pulp writers of the time, with lots of praise from Campbell, Heinlein and Asimov.

36590401.jpg
 

Stan

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Reading this bio on John W. Campbell and the famous writers he was close to.

Quite balanced although I think he's a bit too generous in praising some overrated 'golden age' material as masterpieces when I've read most if not all of it and lot of it is mediocre or even dreck.

But his potted histories of Asimov and especially Heinlein and Hubbard are first rate. Heinlein benefits from having the mountain of detail in Patterson's (quite good) biography pruned away for clarity and with a significantly less apologist and worshipful tone.

The material on Hubbard is really good as his other biographers are for obvious reasons more interested in him as a cult leader rather than writer and ever since he founded Scientology there has been a tendency in sf circles to downplay his popularity as a sf writer at the time he was active. But by using the sources of the time we see that Hubbard was widely viewed as one of the biggest sf pulp writers of the time, with lots of praise from Campbell, Heinlein and Asimov.

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I read that last year. I like how he made no attempt to sugar coat everyone's failings while still showing how remarkable their efforts were. Heinlein never got to be the hero he dreamed of being. Everyone at the time seemed convinced that Hubbard was a man of heroic proportions - I can see how he was able to transform into a cult leader.
 

Fenris-77

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Eventually I'll get around to reading the new book by David J Chalmers - Reality+. He's a philosopher of mind type and has done some seminal work in theories of consciousness and whatnot. I haven't actually read his core works, so I'm going back to read The Conscious Mind (from 1995) and Constructing the World (from 2012) first.
 

Dammit Viktor

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Signed back up for Kindle Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited, so I've been taking advantage-- found a number of fantasy periodicals I could subscribe to, including Fantasy Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Savage Realms Monthly, and Sword and Sorcery Magazine.

Have also picked up the... space opera sword & sorcery series Talon the Slayer, which I'm enjoying immensely so far.
 

Acmegamer

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I've been re-reading the Wheel of Time books on Kindle since watching the Amazon series. I'm on book four already and man did Amazon do a disservice in my opinion to the series. They simplified it in a way that makes it hard for me to enjoy, my wife really enjoyed it but it's one of the few series that she hasn't read. So in the end I feel like that's the secret to truly enjoying the Amazon series, best not to read the books.

I don't get all overly fanatic about these things or least I try not to or be aware if I'm slipping into that point of view. I try to approach such things with a stance curiosity, to understand why a change was made. Was it not feasible? Did it not add to the main story plot? etc. I'll take the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies as an example. While I love ole Tom Bombadil I understood that that whole section of the story line could be cut because Jackson had a lot of material to cover in the three movies. So Tom had to go since he wasn't necessary for the main story.

With Wot on Amazon, the show runner claims to be a fan of the series but honestly he feels disingenuous to me after reading his remarks and having watched the first season. Either that or he's incompetent. (shrugs) For me to enjoy the Amazon show I have to basically ignore the books and everything I'd ever read about the books. Then the show is "eh" but not bad. Anyhow that's what I'm reading lately.

Oh and I'm reading Ruins of Symbaroum for DnD 5e. They've not shipped the physical books yet. I'm just finally getting around to reading the pdfs, I'd been busy with other game material lately. I figured I should have a read through to see how Free League's Adapts their setting to DnD 5e. It's looking interesting but man I think it would make a great world setting for DCC.
 
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Ralph Dula

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So in the end I feel like that's the secret to truly enjoying the Amazon series, best not to read the books.

That’s pretty much how I summed up my displeasure with the last Suicide Squad movie, as well as Peacemaker. I really enjoyed the serious runs of the characters back in the day, and I can’t reconcile that with their film and TV appearances.
 

Voros

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Signed back up for Kindle Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited, so I've been taking advantage-- found a number of fantasy periodicals I could subscribe to, including Fantasy Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Savage Realms Monthly, and Sword and Sorcery Magazine.

Have also picked up the... space opera sword & sorcery series Talon the Slayer, which I'm enjoying immensely so far.

Do those subscriptions go back that far? Lots of classic sf stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
 

xanther

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Read a lot but most recently read The Murderbot Diaries series. It starts with "All Systems Red" The series name is ironic, not really any murderboting by said "muderbot." It does answer the eternal question what would AI do if it gained its freedom, watch soap operas of course...just love the parts where it has its shows queued up to watch while humans take so long (minutes upon minutes) to make decisions, or will miss what humans say because it is watching a show then have to play back its ongoing recording of its surroundings to catch up. :smile:

Before read "The Children of Time" and "The Children of Ruin." Want some great takes on what non-human intelligence and cultures could be like, read these.
Now reading "Rosewater" part of the Wormwood trilogy. In no way related to anything C.S. Lewis.
 
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Voros

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More Russian history, this book is a common reference in other histories, the definitive account of the massive campaign of assasinations and robberies by 'revolutionary' terrorists in pre-Revolutionary Russia.

9780691025490.jpg
 

Simon Hogwood

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I picked up Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's Tiger recently, as they're the first written and first chronologically of the Sharpe series. Any opinions on which I should read first?
 

Klibbix!

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So, I just finished Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique, which collects his Zothique Cycle's 16 short stories. I'm a bit late to the party, like many decades late, but I can say without a doubt that this has been one of the most important and influential books I've ever read. Having been a big Lovecraft and Howard fan since my youth, I'm ashamed to have neglected Smith and yet immensely appreciative that I got to enjoy his work during a period of my life that's been lacking a sense of wonder.

The language is baroque and strange, the world beautifully described and somehow different than most other fantasy settings despite being an early example of some pretty well-worn tropes. I can see elements of Zothique in Vance and Wolfe and Clark and a host of other authors.

There were portions of the stories, mainly descriptions of some of the peoples of Zothique, that I found fairly distasteful, but on the whole I was very impressed. It has a pseudo-mythic feel to it, almost biblical, that I found simultaneously timeless and antiquated.

I can see how influential these stories were upon the growth of D&D. Characters are small compared to the forces, cosmic and mundane, arrayed against them and most of the stories end in tragedy...like many a dungeon-crawl in my experience.

I can't say I would recommend Smith's writing to everyone but Zothique resonated with me in a way that little fiction I've read recently has. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, though....

Zothique_(Clark_Ashton_Smith_collection_-_cover).jpg
 

David Johansen

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I just finished reading Dan Simmon's Hyperion. I read it, scratched my head and then read it again. The first time I thought he was being clever by having a story named after an unfinished poem that doesn't have an ending. The second time I thought he just wanted people to buy the second book.

I don't know, I didn't really care for it but it did take two read throughs to get it straight. It seems like literary pretentions meets the discovery of sex and swearing in the teenage years. I will confess, the poet's bit about not being appreciated in his own time is pretty funny. I'll probably pick up the sequel if I happen across it in the used bookstore at some point.
 

Acmegamer

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Interesting. I recall really enjoying each book as they released, though the first two were the best of the Hyperion Cantos books. I'll have to re-read them and see if I still find them an entertaining read.
 

David Johansen

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I will say that a story following the format of The Canterbury Tales with six unreliable narrators, each in turn revealing more of the setting and the plot each with enough flashbacks to cause Martin Silenius to complain that none of the company knows how to tell a straightforward tale, anyhow it's an ambitious undertaking. The literary references are the stuff of high school English classes, I expect that's wise as obscurity wouldn't help the reader to understand the fractured and convoluted narrative. The themes are grand and the idea of going backwards in time one day at a time is interesting.
 

Silverlion

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Sun's Blood by Jeremy Bai, I was rereading Wearing the Cape series, wrapped up my reread of War Maid's Choice (I started it then wanted more superhero stuff for a bit.). I also read "Faerie Protection Service" which was pretty short. I'm planning on reading the Tea Master and the Detective if I don't find something more super heroic to read.
 

Necrozius

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I just finished Beowulf, the translation by Dick Ringler (recommended by Jackson Crawford).

I read through the poem on its own first. Some of the digressions and descriptions of historical events were kind of dull and some things were kind of odd and abrupt.

HOWEVER, as I read the translator's analysis of the text, I have to read it all again. The "digressions" are fascinating and deliberate. The story is full of irony, dramatic juxtaposition, rhyming story beats and all around cleverness. But also sadness. There's a major theme of "nothing lasts forever" and in the very beginning, immediately after describing the wonders of Hrothgar's golden hall, we're told that it eventually gets destroyed by internal strife (both literally by fire and figuratively by familial murder over the throne).

Wow did Tolkien borrow from this story. From obvious ways, to subtler ones (the dragon at the end is roused into destructive fury because an unassuming, low-class burglar stealing a single cup from the vast hoard...)

Excellent, very glad that I read this and gave the "boring" bits a chance. Sometimes I really need an expert's review and explanation to better understand a text's subtleties and cleverness.
 

Necrozius

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For me to enjoy the Amazon show I have to basically ignore the books and everything I'd ever read about the books.
Very, very true. Having read all of the comics, I was quite excited to watch Locke and Key with my wife.

I couldn't make it past the first episode! I thought that it was just me, but my spouse didn't really like it either. She thought that all of the character were annoying.

That was the last straw. I flat-out refuse to watch anything now if I've read the book/comic first. Dune was a a hypocritical exception of my rule, because I somehow knew it was in good hands.
 

Klibbix!

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Very, very true. Having read all of the comics, I was quite excited to watch Locke and Key with my wife.

I couldn't make it past the first episode! I thought that it was just me, but my spouse didn't really like it either. She thought that all of the character were annoying.

That was the last straw. I flat-out refuse to watch anything now if I've read the book/comic first. Dune was a a hypocritical exception of my rule, because I somehow knew it was in good hands.

I was so disappointed with Locke and Key! The comics were so good and the show was just terrible. A real shame.
 

Acmegamer

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Very, very true. Having read all of the comics, I was quite excited to watch Locke and Key with my wife.

I couldn't make it past the first episode! I thought that it was just me, but my spouse didn't really like it either. She thought that all of the character were annoying.

That was the last straw. I flat-out refuse to watch anything now if I've read the book/comic first. Dune was a a hypocritical exception of my rule, because I somehow knew it was in good hands.
Gonna agree with your wife, I also found the characters annoying when I watched it. My wife was more tolerant of it but even she was a bit critical.



Edit: Mankcam Mankcam I was such a fan of the Earthsea books back as a kid in the 70's. I'll have to re-read them. I think the last time I read them must have been in the early 90s.
 

Giganotosaurus

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Lofgeornost

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I will say that a story following the format of The Canterbury Tales with six unreliable narrators, each in turn revealing more of the setting and the plot each with enough flashbacks to cause Martin Silenius to complain that none of the company knows how to tell a straightforward tale, anyhow it's an ambitious undertaking. The literary references are the stuff of high school English classes, I expect that's wise as obscurity wouldn't help the reader to understand the fractured and convoluted narrative. The themes are grand and the idea of going backwards in time one day at a time is interesting.
IIRC, Simmons was still teaching when he wrote Hyperion, so the high-school level may not be coincidental. I really enjoyed Hyperion when I read it a couple of years ago. None of the sequels quite live up to its promise, they were still worth reading. Simmons really isn't afraid to 'swing for the fences' in those books.

For work reasons, I've been away from online posting and from much in the way of pleasure reading for most of 2022. Things have slowed down, though, so I hope to do more of both. One brief book I read recently is C.L. Moore's Judgment Night. This first appeared as two-part serial in Astounding in 1943; I read the recent (2019) Diversion Books e-version courtesy of the local library.

I really like Moore's Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith tales, so I wanted to read more of her work. This title is not as strong as those better-known stories, but well worth a read if you like vintage material. The story concerns a galactic empire (the galaxy is 'Lyonese') now in decay, threatened in typical fashion by militaristic barbarians from its rim, the H'vani. Both the ruling group of the empire and the invaders are human, but the galaxy includes other non-human species. Much of the action takes place on the imperial capital world, Ericon, which has a kind of mystical significance--the state controlling it rules the galaxy. This is not just a matter of convention; the planet is home to a very powerful and mysterious race known as the Ancients who basically control the galaxy's fate. The novel focuses on a 'strong female protagonist' (as they say nowadays), the emperor's daughter and heir Juille, who favors war with the invaders while her father counsels peaceful accommodation. Juille becomes involved romantically with the head of the H'vani while both are incognito on a nearby resort moon, which caters to its visitors every whim. But it's not really the story of a romance, since Juille is little-inclined in that direction. Most of the novel features the plots and counterplots to control the galaxy, including a rather hard-to-believe super-weapon.

One thing at which Moore excelled was the evocation of strange worlds and weird environments--some of the Jirel stories consist mainly of that, in fact. In this novel, the place of that kind of glimpse into warped reality is taken by the pleasure-moon Cyrille. Nowadays, this kind of environment would be described as a series of holodecks, or a virtual-reality matrix, in which people experience bizarre artificial worlds. For Moore, of course, they are all quite physical--elaborate stage-sets, as it were, created by high technology. In a long sequence in the middle of the book, Juille careens from one of these rooms to another, as the pleasure-moon breaks down for reasons I won't specify. Though this shows off Moore's descriptive talents and imagination, it gets in the way of the plot and ultimately adds little to the novel.

One interesting tidbit; though Campbell as editor of Astounding had (from what I've read) a general policy that 'humans must ultimately triumph' this story does not follow that line--in fact, rather the reverse.
 

Voros

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I really like Moore but feel like her best work was at novella length, with Kuttner. 'The Children's Hour' is my top fav of a golden run of stories they had in the 40s.
 

Klibbix!

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House of Leaves

“Massive mind fuck” is an understatement.

I loved the plot of House of Leaves but some of the way the book was laid out ending up really annoying me, even though I understand why it was done.
 

Lofgeornost

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I really like Moore but feel like her best work was at novella length, with Kuttner. 'The Children's Hour' is my top fav of a golden run of stories they had in the 40s.
I don't think I've read that one; I'll have to look for it. I'm a fan of the Northwest Smith tale "Shambleau" and the Jirel story "Hellsgarde," which has more plot than most Jirel tales.

I’m halfway through Sorcery against Ceasar, Richard L. Tierney’s Simon Gitta stories. Loving them, but my wallet is not loving the fact that they made me buy the entire Cthulhu Invictus line to feverishly prep for a game I’ll likely never run!

By odd coincidence, I read this via Kindle just a month or so ago. I liked it too and plan to pick up Tierney's novel about Simon, Drums of Chaos, sometime. A few of the stories were maybe a bit too close to their Lovecraft originals, e.g. "The Treasure of Horemkhu" and "Under the Pyramids." I thought that Tierney's own stories were a good deal stronger than the couple written by Robert Price, or "The Throne of Achamoth" which they wrote together. Tierney used Gnostic ideas and the character of Simon Magus to tell rousing adventure tales, while Price--who is a specialist in Early Christianity and Gnosticism--kind of lets that intellectual background overwhelm the story, most notably in "The Throne of Achamoth."

I don't know about you, but I found Price's introductions--both the general one about Simon Magus and Gnosticism and the individual ones for each story--interesting enough but also dispensable. You really didn't need them to understand the stories. At times, Price's particular axes get ground in them--he's in the 'Jesus was a myth' camp of Biblical interpretation, I think--but he doesn't hammer the reader over the head with the ideas.

Like you, I was tempted by Cthulhu Invictus, but bounced off at the price point. I guess the core book is cheaper if you buy the PDF from the publisher rather than going through Drivethru. I was surprised that the old Chaosium Cthulhu Invictus monograph, the one by Chad Bowser, is still available fairly cheaply in electronic form. Since I don't have CoC 7th ed, which the current Cthulhu Invictus line seems to require, I guess I might go for that earlier version if I ever do pick it up.

There seem to be a couple of other Simon of Gitta novellas or novels. One, The Gardens of Lucullus, Tierney co-wrote with Glenn Rahman; it seems vanishingly rare. The other, Path of the Dragon, Price notes as 'forthcoming from Pickman's Press.' Since Tierney died a couple of months back, I guess there won't be any more.
 

Klibbix!

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I don't think I've read that one; I'll have to look for it. I'm a fan of the Northwest Smith tale "Shambleau" and the Jirel story "Hellsgarde," which has more plot than most Jirel tales.



By odd coincidence, I read this via Kindle just a month or so ago. I liked it too and plan to pick up Tierney's novel about Simon, Drums of Chaos, sometime. A few of the stories were maybe a bit too close to their Lovecraft originals, e.g. "The Treasure of Horemkhu" and "Under the Pyramids." I thought that Tierney's own stories were a good deal stronger than the couple written by Robert Price, or "The Throne of Achamoth" which they wrote together. Tierney used Gnostic ideas and the character of Simon Magus to tell rousing adventure tales, while Price--who is a specialist in Early Christianity and Gnosticism--kind of lets that intellectual background overwhelm the story, most notably in "The Throne of Achamoth."

I don't know about you, but I found Price's introductions--both the general one about Simon Magus and Gnosticism and the individual ones for each story--interesting enough but also dispensable. You really didn't need them to understand the stories. At times, Price's particular axes get ground in them--he's in the 'Jesus was a myth' camp of Biblical interpretation, I think--but he doesn't hammer the reader over the head with the ideas.

Like you, I was tempted by Cthulhu Invictus, but bounced off at the price point. I guess the core book is cheaper if you buy the PDF from the publisher rather than going through Drivethru. I was surprised that the old Chaosium Cthulhu Invictus monograph, the one by Chad Bowser, is still available fairly cheaply in electronic form. Since I don't have CoC 7th ed, which the current Cthulhu Invictus line seems to require, I guess I might go for that earlier version if I ever do pick it up.

There seem to be a couple of other Simon of Gitta novellas or novels. One, The Gardens of Lucullus, Tierney co-wrote with Glenn Rahman; it seems vanishingly rare. The other, Path of the Dragon, Price notes as 'forthcoming from Pickman's Press.' Since Tierney died a couple of months back, I guess there won't be any more.

I agree with your bit about the story introductions, I skipped most of them and read them after the stories, if at all. I did find the introduction to Simon Magus fairly interesting and it's always good to get a refresher on Gnosticism (as I still find some of it confusing). I'll finish up the book soon, I hope. It's made me want to read some of Tierney's other stuff. I have a copy of his House of the Toad coming, so I'm looking forward to that one!

The Cthulhu Invictus stuff was a bit pricy, I must admit. I had a look at the original monograph but I've been building my 7e CoC collection and I figured I'd get the Invictus book to match. The Keeper Screen was probably unnecessary but I'm a shameless collector.
 
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