Things I've been reading

(with varying degrees of success)

Of the various light novel and manga series I’ve been reading, most of the good ones are either released very slowly or just dead. So I look at Amazon and try out something new occasionally, and it’s increasingly full of fail and faux-Japanese “LitRPG” (a self-applied label that made my oh-hell-no list over five years ago).

  • Mushoku Tensei (as Pixy put it, “reincarnation of a slime”): volume 1 is a tough slog, because the author went out of his way to make the protagonist repellent, and even his attempts to “do better” in his new life are hampered by his basic sociopathy. I’m told he gets better around book 3, which is approximately 1.5 books too late.

  • In The Land Of Leadale: the books are more coherent than the anime, but still suffer from a fundamental lack of things for Our OP Heroine to actually do. It all comes crashing down when she’s reunited with her frenemy from the game era, who reveals what’s really going on, including the fact that the game was originally written specifically for her. And she kind of is the game now, even though the world is also real. Not going to lie here: that explanation did not make sense…

  • Private Tutor To The Duke’s Daughter: I’m not sure who the audience is for a conflict-free story where the modest, handsome, insanely OP protagonist obliviously narrates his acquisition of an underaged currently-platonic harem of heiresses, all the while believing himself to be underpowered and not fit to marry any of them. It reminds me a lot of Littlewitch Romanesque without the sex scenes.

  • Reborn To Master The Blade: Our OP Legendary King gets reborn as a girl (OP from infancy!) and quickly grows up into a lush-bodied teen hottie with twin appetites for food and combat, and a complete lack of a sex drive. Meanwhile, the world has gone to shit since now-her time, and plot coupons are doled out very slowly as she rampages across the land as a squire desperately trying to avoid responsibility so she can just beat up people and monsters. The cast quickly spirals out of control as very little progress is made towards uncovering What Went Wrong.

  • Disciple Of The Lich: Our Hero is a gullible reincarnation from Japan who mouthed off to the gods and got dumped into the lowest level of a lethal dungeon, where he was rescued by an undead tsundere necromancer who power-levels him as an excuse to keep him with her longer, which he’s too dumb to figure out, even when he finally goes to the surface world and facerolls every enemy he meets. He’s so convinced that the world is super-dangerous that he inflicts the same training on the first girl he makes friends with, so they can faceroll together while his jealous teacher stalks them.

  • The World’s Strongest Rearguard: this one is actually fun, with the harem antics kept under control by the fact that they have two clearly-defined missions they’ve been working on since book 1, and while they’re progressing through the dungeons at a blistering pace, they’re not completely OP, and must get better to deal with the challenges they face each book. Not high art, but consistently entertaining, although I wonder how long Our Back-Door Hero can remain oblivious to the fact that his always-on powers make the haremettes finger themselves to sleep every night (off-camera). Yes, I skip over the stat blocks.

  • Solo Leveling: the translated comic is way overpriced for how much material you get in a volume (remember all those looooong vertical panels? they get broken up across multiple pages and end up as the primary constraint on how much story gets told); the novels have progressed well past what most people read online, and remain interesting.

  • Gun Gale Online: I am so sick of Squad Jam.

  • Banished From The Hero’s Party… (McPharmacist & Waifu, which I have to specify because there are a bunch of these now): this was a lot more coherent than the anime, but I’m losing interest as Our Slow-Living Couple keep getting dragged into big conflicts, and Our Recovering Sister Hero’s brocon trends more and more towards the sexual. But she’s willing to share with women she respects, which he’ll be horrified to eventually learn.

  • Now I’m A Demon Lord!: there can be no conflict when Our Dungeon Lord is backed up by the power of the most insanely OP dragon in the world, who’s also his loli waifu.

  • Reincarnated As A Sword: the manga oversexualizes Fran, and the “another wish” spinoff manga is at best adequate, but the novels are good stuff.

  • Survival In Another World With My Mistress: Our Hero is not only OP, he is a certified miracle from the gods, and if it weren’t for the massive stamina boosts he gets from leveling up his skills, he would be dead after a single night spent satisfying his ever-growing harem. Seriously, he’s fathering an empire with girls of over half a dozen species, and I don’t think the author even keeps an accurate count of how many bedmates there are after a while. And they keep facerolling all opposition, to the point that he’ll probably end up ruling the world, or at least servicing all the women in it.

  • The Executioner And Her Way Of Life: I abandoned the anime, and this too after a while. TL/DR: everything you’re told about the world at the beginning was a lie, and the reveal is way too long and tedious.

  • The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, or as I think of it, The Dungeon Harem Only I Can Enter But Never Seem To Get Around To: the anime had some squicky bits about him basically training his already-obsessed little sister into being a Dom, but after N books, nothing has really changed in the harem dynamics. All the girls want him, none of them have put out yet, and little sister is the girl most likely to be the first to make a serious play for his dick.

  • A Late-Start Tamer’s Laid-Back Life: I can’t remember anything that happened in this, except that everyone in the game squees over how cute his pets are.


I just had a refrigerator moment and realized there is a significant plot hole in the final episode of Hoe Harem. No, seriously; stop laughing. Yes, in a story that was already falling apart every time they stopped to explain things, the ending has a real whopper.

In the middle of the fight against his formerly-dead childhood girlfriend, time stops, and the mysterious angelic chick explains that she’s the good god, and the evil god’s power that Deadloli is trying to activate in him is the reason he suddenly became so OP in episode 1. So she quickly exorcises him and gives him some of her own power instead, which he uses to magically grow combat weeds.

When he gets home and finally fights back against an orc that’s eager to rape him, his Super KO Punch no longer KO’s, and Helen gets him to whip out his stat card (which we haven’t seen since episode 1), and, sure enough, he’s no longer insanely OP, just “better than most adventurers”. And he’s surprised by this, because he hadn’t noticed a change.

But he got to the other continent to fight Deadloli by using his powers to run super-fast across the surface of the ocean. How did he get back without noticing?

(also unrelated, in recognition of the end of Ash’s decades of on-screen Pokemon battles, we celebrate the Original Best Girl of the series)

Losing and Winning Customers

Dear Blurb Writer,

I’m pretty sure no fan of either of those graphic novels has ever thought that was the one thing they were really lacking:

“In the tradition of Watchmen and The Dark Knight, but with more cussing. Zephyr is the superhero fiction series you’ve been waiting for.”

Vaguely related, the author of Konosuba apparently has a tech/fantasy isekai crossover series, Combatants Will Be Dispatched! (novel, manga). In which Our Hero is the top agent of an Evil Corporation sent to conquer a fantasy world with the help of his loli android sidekick.

In the color teaser pages for the second volume of the manga, Our Wrong-Genre-Savvy Hero laments the fact that absolutely nothing ecchi has happened to him yet, despite being the protagonist assigned to a group of sexy female adventurers.

Why, yes, there will be an anime version.

Please Don't Tell My Parents I Found A New Publisher...

When Curiosity Quills imploded, Richard Roberts’ books ended up in limbo. After reclaiming the rights, he went searching for a new publisher instead of putting them up on Amazon himself, and the first Pennyverse book is back online. He thinks the second one should be up any time now. Decent Kindle price, painful paperback price.


The Writer Beware blog is an excellent resource for learning about the many con artists and general scum preying on would-be authors. Sometimes, however, there’s unintended comedy (emphasis mine):

There’s some disagreement over whether there actually is such a thing as a hybrid publisher–a company that charges substantial fees yet provides a service that’s otherwise equivalent to traditional publishing, including rigorous selectivity and editing, high royalties, offline distribution, non-bogus PR, and more.

Perhaps they should post a list of precisely which traditional publishers qualify under these guidelines, which are widely reported to be more often promised than delivered…

Good Omens

I’ve been reading Good Omens every year or so for quite a few years now, so I had my fingers crossed that the Amazon/BBC mini-series wouldn’t screw it up.

They did not, in fact, screw it up. Pity they didn’t manage to get the two Doctors into the same scene, but Morrissey’s role was quite small and not really connected to Tennant’s.

Only one spoiler comment:

They did not undo the grisly fate of the telemarketers. I like to think that this reflects a positive change in society.

Bosch burnout?

Since our recent Bosch binge, I’ve been reading the novels. The first one I had to set aside for a bit was the author’s experiment with a second PoV, but that was minor compared to my issues with book 14, Nine Dragons.

I’m used to Bosch being reckless and breaking the rules; that’s kind of the point, after all. What’s different in this one is that he’s being careless and stupid. Repeatedly. I think the author was trying to show that the extremely-personal stakes are pushing him beyond all limits, but instead it comes off as “leaking brain cells out his ears”. Case in point:

He’s in Hong Kong, and needs a gun. Convenient Local Resource gets him a clean, untraceable 9mm pistol, with one loaded mag. But Harry can’t rely on an unknown gun, so he grabs a pillow and blanket from his ex-wife’s place, and tests the gun by wrapping it up and firing it twice. Inside a moving car. On a crowded street. Without warning the driver or other passenger.

Um, how does that even work? Won’t the slide get caught up on the blanket, making the second shot impossible? Also, where did the bullets go? And how’s their hearing after that? Were the blanket and pillow flammable? And, and, and…

Later he wipes down the gun and leaves it at a homicide scene, conveniently forgetting that he had previously handled the magazine and ammo without gloves.

That was not the last time I put it down, wondering who kept throwing idiot balls at Harry.

No school like the old school...

Dinking with parody O’Reilly covers reminded me of the one I’m in:

I wasn’t involved at all with the book, and I was, as they say, “just another Perl hacker”, but I did have one thing going for me: I ran tut. was our “big iron” back in the day, a multi-user Unix box that had the dubious distinction of running both BSD and SysV Unix, at the same time. It was one of the few machines that was more for research than instruction, and among its many hats were: Usenet backbone site, GNU mailing list to Usenet gateway, anonymous FTP site, anonymous UUCP site, and (for a while) Compuserve’s tape-based Internet email relay.

[seriously; Karl Kleinpaste would drive 9-track tapes over to their office and back]

In its FTP/UUCP capacity, it hosted all the GNU software, and Perl. Because the official distribution method was Larry posting multi-part shar archives to Usenet, until it got too darn big.

Anyway, my only appearance in the book is my old email address on page xxii, as the UUCP contact address. This was still enough for me to get support email a few times, from people who didn’t want to bother “the big names”.

Fun facts:

“The text of this book is set in Times Roman; headings are in Helvetica®; examples are Courier. Text was prepared using SoftQuad’s sqtroff text formatter. Figures are produced with a Macintosh™. Printing is done on an Apple LaserWriter®.”

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Oh, and when I dug my copy out of a box, I discovered two things: it’s signed by Larry and Randal (something I forgot decades ago), and it still has the original postage-paid mail-in card. I’d be tempted to send it in, but they moved their headquarters sometime after 1991…

Bosch botch

He went back inside and got his other gun out of the hallway closet. It was a forty-four with grips and safety configured for a right-handed shooter. The cylinder also opened on the left side. Bosch couldn’t use it because he was left-handed.

I realize I’m 25 years late on this small but entertaining sample of “mystery-writer gun-writing”, but when my sister was out here for the holiday weekend, she mentioned that she really liked the series of novels she’d been reading recently on her constant international flights, about an LA detective named Bosch.

“Oh”, I said, “like in the series on Amazon Prime?”

“There’s a series?!”

We ended up bingeing the first two seasons. She downloaded the other two to her iPad before heading out of the country again.

Having noticed my interest, a few days ago Amazon flagged a low price on the Kindle edition of 5 of the early novels, plus the first in a related series. Annoyingly, the discount was on books 1, 5, 6, 7, and 8, but at least books 2-4 were under my $10 cutoff, and the average price came to $5.75 for all eight.

Skipping down the page a bit, we get to:

And he could have taken it to a gunsmith and had it reconfigured for left-handed use, …

When applied to a double-action revolver, this statement is roughly equivalent to “jack up the license plates and change the car”. Harry Bosch would need more than a homicide detective’s salary to find a pistolsmith who could transpaw a .44 revolver.

Left-handed revolvers do exist, today, but any left-handed cop back in the days before semi-autos took over the market got the standard model, and built up muscle memory on how to reload it quickly.

(and, no, this is not like the very-right-handed target grips you sometimes see; Harry got it from someone who hoped he’d use it to kill bad guys, and he puts it into his standard carry holster specifically so he has something to hand over before crossing the border into Mexico)

(update: …and the cop at the border smirks at him when he sees Bosch sign the form with his left hand after turning in a right-handed gun, sigh. Fortunately, none of these details are actually important to the story; it’s just a bit of flavor text to establish that a cop can easily work the system and manage to be armed in Mexico)

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”