Shelving Collector’s Hardcover Books

As a collector of fine books, I love to put them on display on my bookshelves. Stacking a nice leatherbound hardcover book has its own challenges. The out hardcover extends few millimeters beyond the printed paged and when stored vertically, the weight of a nicely printed book will sag, including pulling on the spine that makes me cringe. That can also offset the boxy shape of your book.

There is always an issue of weight that makes the book sag, and stress the spine. One way is to shelve them horizontally, but that has an issue of pulling the books out. 15 years back, I found a way to solve this problem, so the books retain their shape. I made a video that shows the method we use. If you like to store them vertically, here is a way to take care of your books.

Also, check the links below for the supplies and books featured in the video. Your purchases help this channel. I hope you find it useful.

Featured Books

Supplies

Music used in the video – Sunday Groove by Michael Korbin.

JPS Nagi
May 21, 2021

The Mortuary

I was never exposed to Dungeons & Dragons while growing up in India. During my later years, as I came to know about it, I have always been fascinated by the game that plays in the theatre of your mind. My friends at work set up an introductory D&D session for me. Another friend suggested a new campaign “Waterdeep: Dragon Heist” which I am having too much fun playing. My character in the campaign is Neldor, an Elf Druid. The story presented here, “The Mortuary”, is not the beginning but somewhere in the middle of the campaign, where our heroes have brought a Cleric, Loren,  with them who knows how to speak with the recently deceased. This is the version of the story, and how it played in my mind and the dialogs are how I imagined them.


The Mortuary

The torso of the gnome corpse stood upright taking in a deep breath, as Loren Allspark finished her incantation. “You have 5 questions. Make them simple”, she said while turning around to face the group. The group had already determined from the appearance that the gnome was Drakhaal, the spy who was hired to tail Renéer, by his father.

The eeriness of the blank dead eyes of the gnome and charred skin was making everyone uncomfortable. Blue nodded to Tig’rod indicating to go ahead and ask the questions the group had decided. Tig’rod took a step forward while everyone stayed back. Loren was the only one who seemed comfortable. She gave Tig’rod an encouraging smile.

Hello Drakhaal, my name is Tig’rod. I wanted to know how did you die?”, Tig’rod asked in a shivering voice.

Drakhaal’s blank eyes seemed to look in Tig’rod’s direction, and in a hollow breathy voice, he replies. “I was … coming to deliver … the stone to folks … at the Thunder Ale Tavern. Then I saw an orange glow, there was fire, heat and then I guess … I guess … I died”.

Ersi, Roh’gar, and Neldor were looking at Drakhaal with wide eyes. They knew about the spell. The spell granted the semblance of life and intelligence to a corpse of your choice within the range of the spell, allowing it to answer the questions you pose. The corpse must still have a mouth and can’t be undead. The spell was only effective on the corpses that had died in the last ten days. Until the spell ends, you can ask the corpse up to five questions. The corpse knows only what it knew in life. The answers are usually brief, cryptic, sometimes repetitive. Seeing the spell in action was unsettling for everyone.

Loren nodded at Tig’rod indicating that he should continue.

Where did you get the stone, Drakhaal?”, Tig’rod asked his next question.

I … I stole the stone … from the lair …”, he took another breath, “the layer of the beholder … Xanathar … in the sewers”, Drakhaal continued in his breathy voice.

Neldor’s eyes widened to know that the Xanathar, the head of the Xanathatr’s guild is a beholder. He had not even considered that. Beholders found mostly in the Underdark, are large, orb-shaped beings with ten eyestalks and one central eye, each contains powerful magic. They are powerful and intelligent creatures and are among the greatest threats to the world. Neldor’s elf ears started twitching. Roh’gar put his scaly Dragonborn hand on his shoulder. Neldor looks at Roh’gar who tilts his head towards the gnome. Tig’rod was getting ready with his next question, and his hand was slowly moving towards his whiskey flask around his hip. Blue slaps his hand and indicates him to ask the next question they had decided.

Do you know who killed you, Drakhaal?”, Tig’rod voice was quivering now.

Drakhaal’s eyes never blinked and in his breathy voice, he started talking again. “No, I do not. I … I saw the fire and then … then I died”.

Loren rolled her eyes, as if Tig’rod had wasted one of the questions. With everyone so quiet, she was the only one who seemed to think, this was not uncanny. Tig’rod continued, “Can you tell us if Xanathar or Zantarum were involved in your death?

I think … Xanathar must have me tailed … when he realized … realized the stone was stolen. I heard”, Drakhaal took another breath, “I heard … Xanathar blamed … Zantarum for the robbery. But … but … Zantarum came to know … that it was me… so they started tailing me too … black cloaks … three folks in black cloaks … were from Zantarum… I saw their tattoos. And then … and then … I died”.

Loren winked at Tig’rod, glad that this question got some answers. “The last question”, she said to Tig’rod.

You had two pouches, we found only one. Did the other pouch with the stone in it; where is it?

Yes … yes … the stone of Golorr” Drakhaal seemed to be running out of time and started to struggle to answer. “Just before I died … one of the black cloaks … took the pouch … and then … and … then … I … died”. With these words, the air seemed to leave Drakhaal’s body, his eyelids shut, and the animated torso lost any sign of life and slammed against the table.

Everyone was looking at the dead gnome. Loren voice startled everyone, “This spell doesn’t return the creature’s soul to its body, only its animating spirit. The corpse can’t learn new information, doesn’t comprehend anything that has happened since it died, and can’t speculate about future events. So ask the questions accordingly. And yes, remember, the corpse is under no compulsion to offer a truthful answer if you are hostile to it or it recognizes you as an enemy”.

Tig’rod face contorted as if he was about to throw up. He took a flask from his hip and took a big sip of his whiskey. That seemed to calm him a bit. Loren notices everyone still looking at the burnt corpse. “He is dead now. Who do we want to talk to next?

I can’t, you do it this time. Blue?”, Tig’rod looked at Blue.

A beholder? Xanathar is a beholder?”, Neldor was muttering.

Yes. And let’s not discuss this here. Remember where we are. We need to finish what we came here for”, Roh’gar said in his groveling voice. And a small whiff of smoke escaped his nostrils. Neldor composed himself, nodded and looked at Blue.

Looks like the stone is with the Zantarum. Two out of the three black-cloaked figured are here dead. The third one must have escaped with the stone”, Blue said, thinking out loud.

We need to find out where was the stone to be taken by Zantarums”, Roh’gar made a point. “We must talk to the dead Zantarum guys”.

Would they know if we are from Zantarum”, Ersi asks Loren.

Well, they will know, but they may or may not tell the truth. Keep the questions simple”, she replied, checking the back of her hand, looking bored.

Okay Blue, it’s time to disguise yourself in the illusion spell. The black cloak and with the tattoo of Zantarum – the flying snakes”, Roh’gar said. “We need to find out where they would have taken the stone”. 

Blue’s eyes sparkle, and he looks at Loren and nods to her to do her spell. Loren starts her incantation under her breath, while Blue starts his illusion spell. As Loren’s spell ends, the Zantarum corpse gets animated, takes a deep breath and turns its head towards the group. Only the white of the eyes is visible, which makes Tig’rod to take another sip from his flask. This time even Ersi takes a step away from the animated corpse.

I am from Zantarum. We sent three of you to get the stone for us. We haven’t heard from any of you. Where was the stone to be taken?”, Blue asks while making sure the tattoo of the flying snakes is visible as his illusion to the corpse.

The stone, eh”, this guy’s voice is screechy, like small stones grinding against the metal sheet. “The stone was supposed to be taken back to Gralhund Villa, right after we get it.”

Did you hire the Nimblewright automaton to help you obtain the stone?”, Blue asks his second question.

Nimblewright? No, I do not know about any automaton”, everyone flinched at his voice.

None of you made it to the Gralhund Villa with the delivery. Not sure how many people are supposed to be at the Villa. Do you know?

There should be ten or maybe fifteen people there. We were following orders to take the stone and deliver it there”.

Did you know the gnome Drakhaal and what was the stone?

No, we were just following orders. We were asked to take the artifact and deliver it to the Villa”.

Who gave you the orders?”, Blue shoots his last question.

We were following Urstul Floxin, he was with us when we were tailing the gnome”. And with that, the corpse lost the air and his torso slammed on the metal table, making a loud clang! sound.

Well, that was informative” Blue exclaims.

Yes, very interesting”, Ersi said and seemed to be glad that the interrogation was quick.

Yeah, it looks like the stone was …” Tigrod said, while raising the flask towards his mouth. Before he could say anything else, Roh’gar jumped in, “Let us not discuss the matters here. We are here for information. Let’s get it and get out”. This time there was a small spark along with the smoke that escaped his nostrils. Everybody got quiet.

Blue nodded to Loren, who smiled, winked at Blue and started her incantation. The third corpse torso stood up, took a deep breath inside turned it’s head slowly towards the group. The upper right side of his face was burned where the red veins were showing. The mouth and jaw were still intact.

I am from Zantarum. How did you all die? Did the gnome kill you?

No. We cornered the gnome, and then, there was fire and I died”, the Zantarum man had a deep throaty voice.

I am here to find out the whereabouts of the stone you were supposed to deliver to the Gralhund Villa. Where is it?”, Blue asked continuing his illusion.

We were with Urstul. He pickpocketed the pouch from the gnome. Then there was a fire and I died.

Blue pretended to be annoyed, “That’s why I am here, man. Urstul did not show up at the Villa. If he escaped, where would he go, if not the Villa?

Urstul and we were supposed to take the stone and go straight to the Villa. We died, but I saw him escape the fire with the pouch. If he is not at the Gralhund Villa, he must have gone to the safehouse twenty-three B”.

Blue looked back at the group, and several heads nodded, edging him to continue.

Did you know what was in the pouch and what was it for?” Loren raised her four fingers at Blue indicating that this would be the fourth question.

It was a stone of some sort. It was supposed to make us rich beyond our wildest imagination. That’s all I know”, the corpse was slowing down and his voice was fading. Tig’rod was already looking away from the corpse.

What did the stone look like?” Blue asked his last question.

It was dark stone … greyish … the size of my palm. And there were …” the voice started to fade, “blue lines were going across it.”

As the torso of the last corpse fell on the table, Blue ended his illusion. Before anyone could say anything, Roh’gar jumped in “Time to go, everyone”. Tig’rod walked in front of everyone, taking another swig from his flask.

The group walked out of the mortuary, through the corridors of the old constabulary station. As they walked past the reception desk, they thanked the older constable whom Renéer had contacted for access to the corpses.

As the group stepped in the daylight, everyone felt like they have come back to the land of the living. Tig’rod handed Loren the twenty-five gold Dragons for her services and donation to her temple. Loren thanked him, “Thank you for your donation. If you ever need any more help, you know where to find me”. With that, she left. Everyone in the group exchanged looks, and with the new knowledge about the Xanathar, Zantarum, and the stone of Golorr, the group starts walking towards the ThunderAle Tavern.


JPS Nagi
April 20, 2020

Prologue

I was never exposed to Dungeons & Dragons while growing up in India. During my later years, as I came to know about it, I have always been fascinated by the game that plays in your mind. After a few discussions during lunch and expressing my curiosity, one of my friends at work decided to set up an introductory D&D session for me. He even created my playable character for me after talking to me and we met after work.
That was last September and I loved it. At present, I am playing in two campaigns. I tend to take very detailed notes and so I decided to write one of the incidents that happened a month back in one of my campaigns. Although it is not the beginning, I am calling it “Prologue” (that may change later).

I do not claim that the story is mine, but it is how it played in my mind. The dialogs are how I heard them and the scenery is how I saw it. It is my retelling of how it went down. I hope my interest stays and I bring more stories like this.

I give you … Prologue …


Prologue

Grommish looks at everyone and speaks in his guttural voice, “I am going to approach the house. You guys should hang back. I do not want to scare the parents”.

Everyone nods except Yolanda, who seems to be annoyed. She grimaces at the suggestion and looks at Grommish, “I will come with you. Last time we talked to them, I was there”.

Fine. But no threats this time. And I will do the talking”. Grommish stares at Yolanda with his piercing orc eyes. “Are we in agreement, Yolanda?

She shrugs and gives a slight nod. Grommish starts walking towards the house and Yolanda follows him.

The rest of their company hangs back from the farmer’s home. The golden glow of the dusk sky gives a strange shade to the already harvested fields. It is a small and humble home made of raw clay bricks that give the house its shade. There are small colored decorations on the house in a darker hue along with some handprints around the outer wall. An old door made from oak wood adorns the house. The roof seems to need a new thatch and a small lantern is hanging on the side of the front of the door. A small paddy field extends around the house on the right and transforms into a vegetable garden behind it.

Carna feels a strange eeriness in the air, now that they were closer to the town.

The town is aptly named Hopeless Fancy. The air is evil. I feel the hope is being drained out of me”, Carna says looking at the rest of them. Everyone seems to agree. Kalyn nods but keeps looking around, scouting the area.

Would you give it a rest, my dear man. This is a poor farmer’s home”, Carna says.

Hey, I can’t help it. This is what I do best” replies Kalyn with a smirk on his face.

Everyone turns their head towards the house, as they hear Grommish knock on the door in a friendly manner. A middle-aged woman opens the door. She is wearing simple lighter colored clothes which have seen some seasons. They can’t hear what they are talking from this distance, but it seems that the orc and the halfling are known to the woman. She seems friendly to them.

Let’s get closer, I can’t hear a thing from here”, Verok suggests. Everyone starts to move a bit closer to the house. The woman looks at the motion beyond Grommish, her eyes widen as they settle on the Dragonborn.

Grommish notices her gaze. “It’s fine Ms. Clairidge, they are my friends. They are with me”, they hear Grommish telling the woman, as they get closer. “That is Verok, and yes he is a Drgonborn”.

The woman looks back at Grommish and sadness seems to creep back in her eyes.

As I was saying Ms. Clairidge, Yolanda and I are still investigating the disappearance of your son. We caught Mad-Eye the hermit but it seems it was a false lead”. Krowley notices that Yolanda looks bored of all this talk and her hand slides along with her bow. The woman dabs her eye with the edge of her shawl and nods.

Ms. Clairidge, I have a favor to ask. I know it is painful for you to recall, but I do wish if you could tell us one more time how did your son disappear”, Grommish requests in the friendliest way possible.

Well, as I told you before”, her voice quivers, “after the day’s work, my husband and my son came back in the house for supper. They both looked tired from tilling the fields and getting ready for the next harvest season. The supper was a quiet affair, and after supper, my son went to bed. And the next morning, he was gone. Gone like the others”.

Are there any other ways to get out of your house, besides this door?”. The woman shakes her head.

Any windows in your son’s room where he could use to get out?”. She again shakes her head.

And the door creaks! How did your son get out of the house without you or your husband knowing, Ms. Clairidge”. Everyone is looking at the woman waiting for her response. Even Yolanda was looking from Grommish to the woman.

Ms. Clairidge’s voice gets agitates a little bit, “What are you trying to say? Our son was kidnapped … kidnapped by that hermit, Mad-Eye … or whatever his name is. My poor son, I wonder where he is, and if he is still …”. She could not finish the sentence and started sobbing.

Grommish looks at her patiently. After a few moments, she composes herself “As I said, he was taken, just like the other children”.

Ms. Clairidge, who are you afraid of?”. The woman’s face jerks up and she looks at Grommish. “Because you and I both know what you are telling us is not true. I caught up with Mad-Eye and he has not taken your son or any other child. Yes, I know, he was around your home when your son was kidnapped. He told me that he saw two figures walking away from your home that evening. It was a little darker so he did not see who it was. But he said one figure matched the height of your son”, Grommish’s tone was serious now. “Who are you afraid of, Ms. Clairidge? I implore you to please tell me what exactly happened. We need to know, so we can save your son, and other children who have been taken”.

And this time, please tell us the truth”.

The woman’s eyes tear up and she starts sobbing. Grommish looks at Yolanda who still seemed indifferent and restless. He looks back at the woman who stops crying, takes a deep sigh and in quivering voice tells what happened.

As I said, my husband and our son came back from the day’s work. After supper, my son went to his room. My husband and I were talking about how much we will be able to save from this harvest when we heard a knock on our door. My husband, David, was the one who answered the door. I was trying to see who was at the door, but my husband was blocking my view. All I could see was someone who was wearing a dark robe. Then my husband called my son. I stood up and walked up to the door. As our son came out of his room, my husband asked him to accompany the man. I tried stepping forward and asking him who is at the door, and why was he asking our son to go with him. But my husband blocked my path with his arm and closed the door behind our son. He stopped me from opening the door behind my son and told me later that it was the Dark Druid who threatened the life of our son. He also said that the druid told him that our son’s life will be spared if he comes with us. That’s all I know”.

Clairidge then drops on her knees, buries her face in her hands and started crying, “My son. Gone. Gone like the others. My poor son”.

Grommish kneels next to her and puts his hand on the woman’s shoulders.

Don’t worry Ms. Clairidge, we will find your son. I am sorry that you had to relive this again. I do not think it was the Dark Druid who took your son. Dark Druids do not exist anymore, for a few thousand years now”. Ms. Clairidge looks up inquisitively at Grommish.

You do not think it was the Dark Druid who took my son?”, she asks Grommish.

No, I do not think so. I think someone is posing as a Dark Druid and I need to find out why. We will try our best to find your son and other children who have been taken. Thank you for telling us the truth. Now we know exactly what happened and can do the right investigation”.

“If it is alright with you, we would like to speak to your husband, David, and ask him if he can give us any clue to who could be the person who was posing as the Dark Druid”, Grommish says standing up.

The woman stops crying and nods. She stands up and points towards the field in the southwest direction beyond where the rest of the party is standing. “David is still working in the fields”.

Everyone turns to look behind at a solitary figure working on the other side of the field. He seemed to be trying to stay oblivious to them all, slowly moving away. As he notices everyone looking in his direction, he stands up.

Hello there”, Carna calls. David drops the sickle and the scythe from his hands and starts running away from the house. Ms. Clairidge eyes widen in surprise and then she sees everyone running behind David.


JPS Nagi
March 15, 2020

Ishtihaar (Ikk Kudi) by Shiv Kumar Batalvi – Guitar Chords with Translation

Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry stands for it’s heightened passion, separation and lover’s agony. He is indeed Birha da Sultan – the king of separation of a beloved. He has dived into the abyss of pathos and put it in words that have inspired both the lovers and the lovers of Punjabi language.

The beauty of Shiv’s poetry is the simplicity of his words at the surface but pack a punch at a deeper level that has few rivals in the language. At an age of 30, he became the youngest recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, a literary honor by India’s National Academy of Letters, Sahitya Akademi.

For more than 4 decades, his poems have attracted the singers with his poignancy and emotions. Each one has sung his poems with welled eyes to varied music genres. From acapella version by Shiv himself (check my blog here) to modern renditions, every singer has brought their own style, music, and flavor to his poems.

A few months back, as I started to pluck the strings of the guitar, once again Shiv’s poetry beckoned and I looked up to a more modern rendition of my all-time favorite poem – “Ishtihaar“. It is also sometimes called “Ikk Kudi“. The song has been arranged in musical notes by likes of Rabbi Shergill, Hans Raj Hans, and classic, Mahender Kapoor’s version. I had to find a version that a novice guitar player like me could play easily. And I found just the one from the movie Udta Punjab. It is sung by Diljit Dosanjh, with music by Amit Trivedi.

This version attracted me for a number of reasons – the simplicity of music arrangement, modern guitar chords, and of course Shiv’s poetry. As I started dissecting the song, I found that there was not a perfect version that I can play. So I had to create chords for it first before any strings would vibrate on the guitar.

With this blog post, I am sharing the chords for the song along with the English translation of the same.
Download printable version of the chords for the song from Udta Punjab.
Enjoy playing this on a guitar.

JPS Nagi
December 2018

“It’s fictional. You’re real”

Redshirts by John Scalzi is one of those stories which are difficult to review, without spoiling, but I’m going to try.

The story takes place in post-television 25th century future on an elite DubU ship – Intrepid. It is under the command of captain Abernathy, whose crew include science officer Q’eeng, first office Keerensky, medical office Hartnell and chief engineer West among others. Intrepid is on a peaceful mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. Sounds familiar? Well it should. During its explorations the crew encounters some hostile situations on different worlds, and quiet often there are away teams formed to deal with them.

The novel opens with some new crew members assigned to intrepid. They develop a sort of friendship while waiting for the shuttle in the bay that would take them to the ship. On reaching ship, they are take on their assigned tasks in different departments. They continue to meet when they are off duty, and found out that Intrepid has highest casualties for new crew members among any Dub U’s ships during these away missions, statistically. As they dig more and more, they find that there is some sort of space time continuum mix up where realities from different times seem to have intertwined.

I should stop now, because I think I have already said too much.

John has great ability to define his characters well and then develop them throughout his stories. This novel is no different. The new crew members Dahl (who is the protagonist), Duvall, Hester, Henson have characters that one easily understand when they interact while waiting in the shuttle bay. They do not always agree with each other. They also form a part of some of the away missions, and suffer losses. They start to observe a pattern, which the officers of the ship seem to be oblivious to. Over the course of events, their friendship, beliefs and trust for each other is tested. You start to identify with the characters, and can’t help but want them to control their own fate instead of letting the mixed up timelines decide what happens.

Redshirts does not disappoint at any place. It is a must read if you grew up with TV shows like the original Star Trek, or Dr. Who. The book is a nod to these and other cheesy space adventures of yesteryears. There are dozens of moments and in-jokes built around the worlds that are familiar and hilarious. It is darkly funny at times; even when things go wrong, John puts a smile on your face with interactions of his characters. The story moves at a fast pace, and is extremely well edited. There is nothing that does not add to the story or character development and you are drawn in. If you want to read a fun science fiction story during summer try this one.

If you like listening to books, get the audiobook. It is read by Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from Star Trek – The Next Generation). Wil is very impressive voice actor, and he brings this book alive with his narration. He has collaborated with the author before in Fuzzy Nation and few others.

Both the book and the audiobook are highly recommended. I give this book 5 stars; hey, anything that can keep me up all night deserves 5 stars.

Jatinder PS Nagi
July 4, 2012

Every Light Cast a Shadow…

A good vs. evil story with an elaborate magic system, set on the background of intriguing political & religious landscape with enough twists and turns to keep you occupied. What else could a fantasy fan want?

Brent Weeks brings the first book of his Lightbringer trilogy “into the light” – The Black PrismHe brought it a while back, I just read it.

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor at Chromeria, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. It’s been 16 years since the Prism Wars and Gavin Guile who single handedly turned the tide of the war has kept peace with his diplomacy and wits over the seven satrapies.

Things change when the Tyrean head, Garadul, decide to break free from Chromeria, and declare himself the king. In order to make an example and show his power, he burns down the whole city of Rekton within Tyrea (his own kingdom). A 15 year old kid, Kip, is the sole witness to burning of Rekton, who loses all his friends and his mother (who was the only family he knew). Circumstances bring Gavin to Rekton and he meets Kip, whom he saves from Garadul. He also uncovers Garadul’s plot to become the king. And things start rolling from there.

The story works at more ways than one. First there is the elaborate magic system. Personally it took me a while to get the feel for it, but once you understand the magic, it is easy. The magic system is based on the light. Light as energy has seven colors. Each color has a characteristic and particular behavior, and of course light of that color is needed in order to use it. The magicians, called drafters, are known as red, green, blue drafter based on what color they can use in drafting. In the nutshell, it is materializing the light (energy) into physical objects (matter). The Prism (of course) can draft all seven colors (and few others beyond the visible spectrum). If you are intrigued, Check out Brent Weeks site (link below) for candle example he gives.

Another level this story works is the political and religious landscape. Before the Prism Wars, there were many gods (called pagan gods in the book), and the war changed everything. Now there is only one – Orholam. The White and the Prism are the religious heads of the land. Further, they, along with representatives from seven satrapies form the political setup of the land. The great city of Chromeria, is where this seat of power resides. Gavin Guile is considered as the best Prism Chromeria. Garadul on the other hand wants to get out of what he feels as the Chromerian-oppression.

This story has lot of twists and turns and not just here and there. The book reads very smooth considering the complexity of the plot. It flows so well that the reader does not realize how complex the story has gotten. My stomach was twisting as Weeks kept throwing luxen after luxen right till the very end. Last hundred pages had me biting my nails and I was shouting “Come on, don’t throw that in there now, the book is ending”.

The book ends satisfactorily and also keeps few (may be many) threads untied; but satisfactory ending all the same. It is a trilogy (as we know now), so many of the threads had to be left untied.

Now, on Brent’s writing. It has matured from the Night Angel trilogy. His style has improved vastly (for my taste) and is very engaging. He uses simpler language, unlike many high fantasy stories will use (there are pros and cons for both); but it works in this novel.

If you are planning to buy the book, then I would recommend the paperback, as it has couple of introductory chapters from the next book in the series The Blinding Knife. I have both hardcover and paperback versions.
It is also the right time to read this, as you may not have to wait too long for the sequel (it is scheduled for later this year).

For audiobook fans, the book has two options – single narrator version read by Cristofer Jean and audio drama from Graphic Audio. I have Cristofer Jean’s version which is well read from Audible.com. The Graphic Audio version is now available as a complete set (I want to get that box set). Both are great depending upon your taste.

In conclusion, this quick page turner is a must read. As always beg, borrow, or buy this book.

Click Here to visit Brent Weeks website.
Do not forget to sign up on the forums, you can interact with the author there.

Click Here to visit Graphic Audio site for The Black Prism.

Click Here to visit Audible.com page for The Black Prism.

Jatinder PS Nagi
January 6, 2012

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson…

This review is rather late, but the vast reading list I had during later half of 2011 and the release of Battlefield 3 game caused this delay. I was able to finish The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson during my vacations.

Absolutely amazing.

The Alloy of Law takes place 3 centuries after The Well of Ascension in the Mistborn universe. World has changed and Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Mistborns (Allomancers who can burn all metals) are now found in legends and stories. Mostly, the world now has Mistings (Allomancers who can burn only one metal) or Feruchemists (who can use the metal to safe keep few traits); and few rare individuals who are both (Twinborns). The line of the allomancy is getting thin in bloodlines.

The cities are on the verge of modernization, railways are coming, horse carts will soon be things of the past. There are beaurocratic governments and few nobles have bigger hand in the government. Things have started to slip; nobel houses are competitive (similar to Lord Ruler’s times, as in Mistborn) and corruption has been creeping in.

The lands beyond the cities are called Roughs. The Roughs is where crime and criminals escape the law (and the cities). Few nobles give up the competitive life of the city, and become lawmen of the Roughs to bring these criminals to justice to create a better safer world.

One such is Lord Waxilliam Ladrian (or Wax), a twinborn of reputed nobel house. The predictability of the Roughs makes him feel safe there. His righteousness and honesty has brought many criminals to justice and that makes him a legend in the cities. An unexpected accidental death of his whole family forces him to retire as a lawman, and return to the city to take the reins of his house, which is undergoing financial troubles. In order to get his house of financial trouble, he starts to consider a mutually beneficial matrimonial alliance with another house.

But the past somehow catches up to him. The curtain is lifted from some criminal activities that are dramatically mysterious and circumstances brings him closer to one of the crimes. The lawman inside him prevails, and in order to solve the mystery of these crimes, he takes alliance with an old ally from the Roughs, Wayne, an allomancer, and a new one, Lady Marasi, a cousin of Wax’s to be betrothed. As they investigate the crime, Wax comes face to face with another lawmen from the Rough, Miles, whom he has worked in the past and who has gone rogue. Needless to say, the soup gets thicker.

Couple of familiar characters from the Mistborn universe makes their tiny appearances towards the end. I won’t tell you who they are, but keep a look out for them. It is almost nostalgic (I felt like going back to Mistborn series one more time).

Once again Sanderson weaves a story which is worth reading. In the traditional Sanderson-esque style, the details are aplenty and as the story progresses, readers get pulled in. The story reads like a fantasy and mystery set in steampunk era. There is allomancy and then there are guns, cranes, steam engines.

The Alloy of Law stands among my top 5 books of 2011, and from the author who is among my all time top 5 writers. The book does fall short – in words. The length of the book is not typical of Sanderson’ books; in fact it is almost a third of his standard books. This was something he wrote to get his mind “cleared” before going back to The Wheel of Time.

The story provides a satisfactory ending, a story set in post-The Well of Ascension, and a great introduction to the upcoming steampunk trilogy set in Mistborn universe. It does leave few strands untied.

If you are a fan of audiobooks, the book is read by Michael Kramer, who has read previous Mistborn series and the Wheel of time series. Michael does a great job and it feels natural continuation from original series. Personally, I like to listen to the book at 1.5 to 2 times the speed, because I find them a bit slower (Apple devices allow you to do that).

If you have not read Sanderson before, and are scared to pick one of his thick books, this is a great book to explore this author (be sure to read the appendix in the back to understand how the magic works in this universe).

In conclusion, I would say this is a great story, and a great book that now finds it sitting next to the other Sanderson books on my bookshelf. A must read, listen, or both for fans of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steampunk, and Mystery genres.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law portal.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s site.

Please comment, share, and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

Jatinder PS Nagi
December 26, 2011.

Leviathan Wakes…

A leviathan indeed wakes in Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, and stays awake.
James S. A. Corey is a pseudonym for the team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank, George R.R. Martin’s assistant. The team weave their first tale of The Expanse Trilogy. And what a tale they weave.

This book bridges the gap many sci-fi books leave between leaving the Earth and colonizing distant stars and galaxies – humans have colonized the solar system; Mars, Moon, and the Saturn’s asteroid belt.
Jim Holden, first officer of The Scopuli, an ice miner that is hauling ice across to the Belt, is forced to become a captain of small crew in an escape vessel when their ship is taken down. Upon investigation, the clues point to Martian Navy as having engineered the attack. This enflames the Belters (residents of the Asteroid Belt). Martian Navy denies the attack and feels that a third force (Earth?) is trying to cause a divide between the Mars and the Belt.
Detective Joe Miller, a belter has seen glory days as a detective, but that is past now. He is tasked to find a rebel Earther (resident of Earth) girl. Her rich parents wants her to be shipped back to them, so that she does not get caught up in the events in the solar system.
Needless to say, that there is some link to the destruction of The Scopuli and the girl gone missing. As both Holden and Miller investigate, they start to see that there is more to it than what seems at the surface. Can’t say more without telling the story.

Book has some strong characters. Jim Holden is a righteous guy, emotionally driven. He tends to do the right thing, and many times at a great cost to himself and people around him.
Miller, a detective seasoned by the criminals of the Belt, works logically. His is stubborn and once has his brain wired with his logic, he imparts quick justice.
Together they form the heart and brain of the story. The chemistry between them is depicted extremely well, and their relationship is that of love, hate and respect.
Fred, another strong character, has his own agenda. He sometimes help and at other times use, both Holden and Miller. He seems to be a nice guy, but keeps readers guessing what his intentions are.
Rest of the characters provide the perfect support to taking the story ahead, although you wish to know more about them.
All characters cross paths and before long you get to see everyone making an attempt to survive in dangerous world.

The narrative moves at a brisk pace, the language and the terminology makes it a believable space opera. There are intelligent and unexpected twists & turns which keeps readers attention in the story. And towards the end, things get hairy as story progresses. As you turn the last few pages of the book, the things go from believable to interesting. Ending gives you a satisfaction of good read, but leaves a lot more open questions like – what happened to few characters, and what happens next. In other words, a perfect ending to story that is going to span a trilogy.
The author(s) have taken a page from George R.R. Martin’s page. Tie few loose ends, leave other open for the next book.

The story has big space battles, hand to hand combat, near death experiences, some love stories, and the big bad evil lurking around. All in all, everything a good story should have.
Personally, I loved it, however there were few things that were farfetched for me. One may ask “like the whole colonizing the Solar System is not?”; still few things didn’t work out for me (can’t say without spoilers).

The novel has a great narrative (this is how books should be written) – fast pace, keeps readers attention, a good sprinkle of action, and many wonderful twists and turns.
And it is a good story with a potential to become great as the series progress.

Do I recommend this book? Hell, yes.
I got the eBook and 10 chapters into the book, I knew I should get analog. I have shared the real book with 4 of my friends and they could not put the book down till it was over. In fact all of them finished it before I did. It is a must read for a sci-fi fan.

As George R.R. Martin puts it, it is a “kick ass space opera”. We just have to wait to see where the story goes from here.

Click here for the James S.A. Corey’s website.

Jatinder PS Nagi
September 18, 2011

The Other Tolkien…

We all know the JRR Tolkien as an author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many, including me, never knew that Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien, JRR’s younger brother, as an author. At least, he was when he was young.

In 2008, a small 88 page book was released titled Black and White Ogre country: Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien. This book is edited by Angela Gardner and Illustrated by Jef Murray. Hilary’s grandchild discovered an old tattered notebook with some stories and it was quickly determined that it is a good idea to get them published.

The tales are flights of fancy put together by the Hilary, inspired by adventures brothers had as young boys. There are stories about black ogres, white ogres, black witches, white witches and many other curious folks, likely based on many of the people the brothers encountered. It is also an introductory journey into the minds of the young boys, one of whom was going to develop a world that we now know as Middle Earth.

Like Ronald, Hilary shows in interest in the all things natural. With time, the stories depict the changes in the countryside around them. There are reminiscences of something that may have influenced the tales of Middle Earth many years later. This is a small book that includes introduction to the notebook, the stories (edited and illustrated), and a brief biography of Hilary Tolkien.

This book also had a mention in Humphrey Carpenter’s Biography on JRR Tolkien.

After their mother died, John (10) and Hilary (8) were under the legal guardianship of the church priest who arranged for their Aunt to take the kids in. The arrangement fell out, and as the time passed, kids grew up moving from home to home. Hilary joined his uncle’s business and later British Army during World War I. After the war, Hilary got a home in Blackminster, near Evesham, maintained a Plum Orchard, married and had family. His house also became one of the venues for family get reunions. He kept in touch with his relatives, as well as his brother during their lifetime.

Hilary kept his creativity alive, with paintings and drawings. Some of them he used on the cards he used to send his relatives. He died in 1976.

I recently acquired a copy of this not so easily available book. The copy I got is the first edition and is signed by the editor – Angela Gardner and the illustrator – Jef Murray. Jef  has also made a small windmill doodle as a part of his signature.

Here are few more photos of the book.


Signature on the inside cover


Jef Murray’s Windmill Doodle in Pencil


Notebook of Hilary Tolkien


Returning Home by Jef Murray on the back cover of the book.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

Enjoy Fuzziness …

Audible Frontiers did a shared universe stories called METAtropolis with John as one of the authors and the editor of the anthology. That was my first encounter with John’s writing and I enjoyed it. So when Powells Books announced John’s visit to their bookstore, I was there.

He was amazing, as I have already mentioned in this piece here.

John was on the tour of promoting his new book Fuzzy Nation, which is rebooting of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I finally got to the book last night (I have a long reading list).

The story is retelling of the 1962 tale, so overall the story has classic Sci-Fi written all over it. Jack Holloway, a debarred lawyer, is a loner. He works as a contractor for an “evil” mining corporation that generally mine on planets across the galaxy, till the planet has nothing to offer. The mining company, by law, can only mine on the planets which do not have sentient life forms. Jack is on the verge of becoming very rich since he helped discover the largest mine of the rare gemstones on any planet. He has also discovered a new sort of “animals” on the planet (which Jack names Fuzzy). This poses a threat to the company who will not be allowed to mine, if proven that these beings are “people” (natives). Jack undergoes an ethical crisis.

The story take a legal turn and the battle between three parties – Jack who wants to get rich, the Biologist community who are excited about this new discovery (who are employed by the company) and want to study these new species, and the future CEO of the company, who wants to stall the legal battle and get the minerals out before anyone can sneeze & to prove to everyone that he is ready to take over the company.

And in this tussle, is suspended the fate of the Fuzzies, that no one has yet decided if they are “animals” or “people”.

A gripping story of legal drama, action, emotions, in an all updated Sci-Fi classic.
Fuzzy Nation is one of those books which I finished in a single sitting in a long time. I generally take my time, and finish the book in couple of days.
Fuzzy Nation was something that gripped me right from chapter 1 and 3.5 hours later, I was done. I could not put it down. The flow of the story maintains the pace, and subtle twists and turns keep the reader guessing.

Audible.com released the audio for the book read by Wil Wheaton, who does an amazing job. After finishing the book, I realized, there is no one else who could have read it better.
Audible book also includes the original H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

I never read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. And after reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, which is a sort of rebooting the series, I think I should have (maybe I will listen to it on the audiobook).

A great book, I highly recommend this to anyone – Sci-Fi lover or not.

Check out John Scalzi’s Blog – Whatever.

JPS Nagi
July 2011