5 Video Game Books to Watch Out For

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Metagaming by Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux (4 April 2017)
The greatest trick the videogame industry ever pulled was convincing the world that videogames were games rather than a medium for making metagames. Elegantly defined as games about games, metagames implicate a diverse range of practices that stray outside the boundaries and bend the rules: from technical glitches and forbidden strategies to Renaissance painting, algorithmic trading, professional sports, and the War on Terror. In Metagaming, Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux demonstrate how games always extend beyond the screen, and how modders, mappers, streamers, spectators, analysts, and artists are changing the way we play.

Metagaming uncovers these alternative histories of play by exploring the strange experiences and unexpected effects that emerge in, on, around, and through videogames. Players puzzle through the problems of perspectival rendering in Portal, perform clandestine acts of electronic espionage in EVE Online, compete and commentate in Korean StarCraft, and speedrun The Legend of Zelda in record times (with or without the use of vision). Companies like Valve attempt to capture the metagame through international e-sports and online marketplaces while the corporate history of Super Mario Bros. is undermined by the endless levels of Infinite Mario, the frustrating pranks of Asshole Mario, and even Super Mario Clouds, a ROM hack exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

One of the only books to include original software alongside each chapter, Metagaming transforms videogames from packaged products into instruments, equipment, tools, and toys for intervening in the sensory and political economies of everyday life. And although videogames conflate the creativity, criticality, and craft of play with the act of consumption, we don t simply play videogames we make metagames.

 

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Power-Up: Unlocking the Hidden Mathematics in Video Games by Matthew Lane (23 May 2017)
Did you know that every time you pick up the controller to your PlayStation or Xbox, you are entering a game world steeped in mathematics? Power-Up reveals the hidden mathematics in many of today’s most popular video games and explains why mathematical learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom or from books–you’re doing it without even realizing it when you play games on your cell phone. In this lively and entertaining book, Matthew Lane discusses how gamers are engaging with the traveling salesman problem when they play Assassin’s Creed, why it is mathematically impossible for Mario to jump through the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros., and how The Sims teaches us the mathematical costs of maintaining relationships. He looks at mathematical pursuit problems in classic games like Missile Command and Ms. Pac-Man, and how each time you play Tetris, you’re grappling with one of the most famous unsolved problems in all of mathematics and computer science. Along the way, Lane discusses why Family Feud and Pictionary make for ho-hum video games, how realism in video games (or the lack of it) influences learning, what video games can teach us about the mathematics of voting, the mathematics of designing video games, and much more. Power-Up shows how the world of video games is an unexpectedly rich medium for learning about the beautiful mathematical ideas that touch all aspects of our lives–including our virtual ones.

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The Game Console: A History in Photographs by Evan Amos (31 May 2017)
The Game Console is a tour through the evolution of video game hardware, with gorgeous full-color photos of 86 consoles. You’ll start your journey with legendary consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Commodore 64. The visual nostalgia trip continues with systems from the 1990s and 2000s, and ends on modern consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.

Throughout the book, you’ll also discover many consoles you never knew existed, and even find a rare peek at the hardware inside several of history’s most iconic video game systems.

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100 Greatest Video Game Characters (15 Jun 2017)
Though in existence for only a few decades, video games are now firmly established in mainstream culture all around the planet. Every year new games are produced, and every year new favorites emerge. But certain characters have become so iconic that they withstand both time and the shifting interests of players. Such creations permeate other elements of popular culture-from graphic novels to film-and are known not only to dedicated gamers but to the general public as well. In 100 Greatest Video Game Characters, readers can learn about some of the most popular and influential figures that have leapt from computer monitors and television screens and into the public consciousness. The entries in this volume provide general facts about the characters as well as explore their cultural significance. The entries include the following information: *Game developer *Year character was established *Video game franchise In addition, the book examines the commonalities of various video game characters to help readers better understand their popularity and how they operate within the video games and the industry itself. Whether casually looking up information on video game characters or researching what these icons says about society, readers will enjoy this entertaining and informative volume. Comprehensive and engaging, 100 Greatest Video Game Characters will appeal to fans and scholars alike.

gaming representation.jpgGaming Representation: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Video Games (17 Jul 2017)
Recent years have seen an increase in public attention to identity and representation in video games, including journalists and bloggers holding the digital game industry accountable for the discrimination routinely endured by female gamers, queer gamers, and gamers of color. Video game developers are responding to these critiques, but scholarly discussion of representation in games has lagged far behind. Gaming Representation examines portrayals of race, gender, and sexuality in a range of games, from casuals like Diner Dash, to indies like Journey and The Binding of Isaac, to mainstream games from the Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, Spec Ops, The Last of Us, and Max Payne franchises. Arguing that representation and identity function as systems in games that share a stronger connection to code and platforms than it may first appear, the contributors to this volume push gaming scholarship to new levels of inquiry, theorizing, and imagination.

Burmese Days by George Orwell

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This is Orwell’s first published novel, and is to some extent based on his experiences as a Police Officer in Burma in the early 1920’s. The story is not very sympathetic towards the European characters and Orwell’s publisher was worried about possible libel suits from individuals too closely based on the author’s former associates. In the end, the book was first published in the U.S. and only after some changes were made was it released in England.

The setting is the town of Kyauktada, a settlement on the Irrawaddy in the jungles of northern Burma where English society centres on the European club membership of which, up to then is open only to the colonists. John Flory, a timber merchant is a little different from the other members of the club. He takes an interest in the local Burmese society and is friends with the Indian, Dr. Veraswami.  Flory wants to propose the doctor for membership of the club but many of the rest of the white community think him as unsuitable; one of them giving him the nickname “Dr Very slimy”.  Meanwhile the niece of another of the expats, Elizabeth Lackersteen arrives in Kyauktada and Flory is immediately smitten with her….

The story continues with various twists and turns to its conclusion but none of the characters really come out of the story with any real credit. Orwell uses local phases a lot and his descriptive writing of the jungle landscape is evocative. It’s interesting as a record of colonial life and the racist attitudes of the British to the local society.  I liked it.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #102

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You can reserve this item on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Stuart Evers, the author of the critically acclaimed, prize-winning collection Ten Stories About Smoking returns with twelve unforgettable stories of parental love and parental mistakes. Set in the past, present and future, these short stories are unified by their compassion, animated by the unsaid, and distinguished by how beautifully they extract the luminous from the ordinary.

Your Father Sends His Love by Stuart Evers is a book of powerful emotion: of vulnerability, duty, betrayal, loss, anger, fear and joy. While its characters often feel more than they can express, they are in the hands of a masterful story teller, who gives time to what might otherwise be incidental, and who dignifies the things that might otherwise pass us by.

Brilliant Book Titles #101

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with a captivating, little-known true story of women in science.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the women turned to studying images of the stars captured on glass photographic plates, making extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what the stars were made of, divided them into meaningful categories for further research, and even found a way to measure distances across space by starlight .

Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries,
and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of a group of remarkable women whose vital contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.

The Diva Rules by Michelle Visage

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Michelle Visage is most famous for being a (some would say the) judge on her best friend’s show RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you don’t know what that show is, you’re probably not going to pick up this book, but for the uninitiated, RuPaul’s Drag Race (entering into its 9th season, with two spinoffs) is a reality tv competition to find America’s Next Drag Superstar. Think America’s Next Top Model, for Drag Queens.

The full title of this book is The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength and Sparkle Your Way to the Top. It’s ostensibly a self-help book, something that I’ve never read before, and it offers a number of rules to help improve your life but what’s clever is that the book is actually a memoir. Each of the rules is illustrated with tales from her own life, which just happen to be in chronological order, much like a memoir. The second clever thing about this book, which may not seem it for fans of the show straight away, but there’s very little about Drag Race. We get the inside story (or in the lingo of the show, the T – or the Truth) about why she wasn’t on the first two seasons (her day job wouldn’t give her the leave) but by the time we get to that period in her life in the book, the book isn’t about that. It also, cleverly, leaves room for her to follow this up with a book about drag race.

So what does this book talk about? It talks about her life, starting with her youth, it then talks a lot about her first taste of fame in the girl group, Seduction, at the young age of 18/19, and her million-selling song with S.O.U.L. S. Y. S.T.E.M on the bestselling soundtrack of all time, from the movie The Bodyguard, but it also talks about her family, her husband, her friends and a lot about her true love; her radio career. She is a very grounded character who’s been through a lot, and this book was a fantastic light read, that still packed a lot of clever, grounded, useful life advice that were almost slipped in there since they sprung out of events from her life. A must for any fans of the show, and for those who don’t know the show but like self-help books, or find themselves currently needing a boost, or a pep-talk from a no-nonsense Diva.

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You can reserve a copy online from South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Science Fiction Books to Watch Out For

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The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (18 April 2017)
The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offer a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine a reimagined Joan of Arc poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history, in this provocative new novel.

In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places even at the extreme end of post-human experience Lidia Yuknavitch s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (25 April 2017)
Am I a person or a weapon? Borne asks Rachel, in extremis.
Yes, you are a person, Rachel tells him. But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.

In Borne, the epic new novel from Jeff VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed, bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined, dangerous city of the near future. The city is littered with discarded experiments from the Company a biotech firm now seemingly derelict and punished by the unpredictable attacks of a giant bear. From one of her scavenging missions, Rachel brings home Borne, who is little more than a green lump plant or animal? but exudes a strange charisma. Rachel feels a growing attachment to Borne, a protectiveness that she can ill afford. It s exactly the kind of vulnerability that will upend her precarious existence, unnerving her partner, Wick, and upsetting the delicate balance of their unforgiving city possibly forever. And yet, little as she understands what or who Borne may be, she cannot give him up, even as Borne grows and changes . . . He was born, but I had borne him.

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Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (25 Apr 2017)
Hubert, Seth and Natalie are way too old to be at a Communist party. But in a world wrecked by climate change, in a society owned by the ultra-rich, in a city hollowed out by industrial flight, they have nowhere else to be and nothing better to do.

But there is another way. After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter – from a computer, there is little reason to toil within the system. So, like thousands of others in the mid-21st century, the three of them turn their back on the world of rules, jobs, the morning commute and … walkaway.

It’s a dangerous world out there, the empty lands are lawless, hiding predators – animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, the thousands become hundreds of thousands, building what threatens to beome a post-scarcity utopia. But then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death.

And now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

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Void Star by Zachary Mason (27 April 2017)
Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall, and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from ageing.

Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built favelas on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely – the mathematically-inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead.

A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. None are safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight.

Vivid, tumultuous and propulsive, Void Star is Zachary Mason’s mind-bending follow-up to his bestselling debut The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

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The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey (4 May 2017)
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.
The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.
To where the monsters lived.

In The Boy on the Bridge, M. R. Carey returns to the world of The Girl With All the Gifts, the phenomenal word-of-mouth bestseller which is now a critically acclaimed film starring Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine.

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

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Blurb:

“We were perfect together. Until we met.”

Misha

I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.

In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…

And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.

We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?

Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?

F*ck it. I need to meet her.

I just don’t expect to hate what I find.

Ryen

He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.

Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.

He could be gone forever.

Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

Review:

Wow just wow! I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It had been sitting on my Kindle since its release date and I had been just too busy with blog reads for me to get to. But I’d heard great things about Punk 57 from one of my book groups on Facebook and everyone was saying I needed to read it! They were right I needed to read it. It was just brilliant. I was hooked from the very get go and could not put it down.

Punk 57 is one of those over the top high school coming of age stories. Misha Lare and Ryen Trevarrow have been pen pals for years, ever since their teachers mistakenly thought they were the same gender in elementary school and assigned them as pen pals for a class project. They’ve been writing to one another ever since. 7 years of letters to one another becoming best friends in every sense of the word. There’s twists and turns in this book that you may not see coming, with a strong message.

Punk 57 was crazy, twisted and very hot! One of my top favourites for this year so far. This was my first read from Penelope Douglas and I one clicked her fall away series after reading it.

Brilliant Book Titles #99

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
‘He’s 100% political herpes. Back in six months whatever you do. Or three days, like last time.’ Camilla Long on Nigel Farage
‘You’re as ugly as a salad.’ Bulgarian insult
‘I’m going to beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.’ Muhammed Ali

There’s no pleasure like a perfectly-turned put-down (when it’s directed at somebody else, of course) but Matthew Parris’s Scorn is sharply different from the standard collections. Here are the funniest, sharpest, rudest and most devastating insults in history, from ancient Roman graffiti to the battlefields of Twitter.

Drawing on bile from such masters as Dorothy Parker, Elizabeth I, Donald Trump, Groucho Marx, Princess Anne, Winston Churchill, Nigel Farage, Mae West and Alastair Campbell – which form an exchange between voices down the ages – Scorn shows that abuse can be an art form. This collection includes extended literary invective as well as short verbal shin-kicks.

Encompassing literature, art, politics, showbiz, marriage, gender, nationality and religion, Matthew Parris’s sublime collection is the perfect companion for the festive season, whether you’re searching for the perfect elegant riposte, the rudest polite letter ever written, or a brutal verbal sledgehammer.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

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First things first – this book is beautiful. Do not, I repeat, do not get the e-book. This book is gorgeously designed to within an inch of its life and is a stunning art object in its own right, and something you need to hold in your hands.

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Like most people over this side of the pond, I haven’t seen Hamilton on stage (although I may have seen a bootleg, but I wouldn’t publicly admit that, of course) but I have listened to the Cast Recording to the point that I could, if pushed, rap a lot of it. I’m in a cabaret troupe, and a couple of cast members are obsessed with the show so that piqued my interest, and I fell in love with the show and its music hard.

Hamilton, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a musical about Alexander Hamilton, former treasury secretary and contemporary of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. I won’t spoil the story (although, it’s a few hundred years old, so could I even really spoil it) but the musical went from just another musical to a bona fide cultural phenomenon.

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This book contains the entire libretto of the musical (which is sung-through) annotated with footnotes by its author Lin-Manuel Miranda which offer some very interesting insights about the creation of, and inspiration for, some of the songs. Couple with these are essays on the musical from inception to opening night, featuring plenty of behind the scenes info about the cast and crew. Also, I must praise the book for its stunning photography, which coupled with the aforementioned design, make this an essential for any Hamilton fan, and considering the money its raked in on and off Broadway, as well as being one of the bestselling cast recordings ever, there are plenty out there.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.