Category: Opinion

First Impressions: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

After I finished reading Bo Bolander’s terrifying, terrific, and heartbreaking novella, The Only Harmless Great Thing (seriously, go read it, now), I collected myself, wrung a tear-soaked beach towel into my bathtub, took a lozenge to sooth a throat that was raw with grief, and took to Twitter to rave about it. That led me to finding out about the Radium Girls, which, well… holy shitThat led to the always awesome Wendy Wagner recommending that I check out Sam Kean’s science book, The Disappearing Spoon, which covers the tragedy of the Radium Girls, among many other things.

So, I did!

I don’t read a lot of science books. Or non-fiction these matters. It’s mostly a matter of not having a lot of room to slot in “fun” books between review obligations. But, I digress. I’m very happy Wendy twisted my arm. The Disappearing Spoon is a great entry-level introduction to chemistry, specifically the Table of Elements and the behaviour of atoms. My knowledge of chemistry and quantum physics caps out at “didn’t pay attention in high school science,” but even so I’m finding the book approachable and gentle in the way it introduces readers to its ideas. Kean has an engaging, easy-to-read prose, and he wraps all the science lesson-type stuff around great human-interest stories. (Seriously, it’s amazing how many scientists know for one achievement are also responsible for many other’s that have improved our daily life.) My only complaint: the book needs more diagrams? Kean talks us through the atomic structure of elements, and does a good job describing the behaviour of protons, neutrons, electrons, et al., but it would be even easier to wrap my head around the whole thing if there were a few illustrations and diagrams.

In any case, I’m creeping up to the creation of the hydrogen bomb now, so I’m sure the book is about to take a candy-coated  turn toward peace, love, and harmony. Right?

Right…?

Things I Love: Pathfinder’s world of Golarion

Listen, I don’t play Pathfinder. Haven’t played a game. Sure, I’ve read the manuals, but I don’t have a playgroup with the consistency necessary to get a game up-and-running, let alone a campaign that would allow us to really get into what makes tabletop gaming great.

Yet, I’ve scoured the Inner Sea World Guide from cover-to-cover, and I’ve read a huge stack of the tie-in fiction line, Pathfinder Tales. These days, I feel as comfortable in its world, Golarion, as I do in the Four Lands from Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, or Middle-earth.

Why do I love it so much?

  • So. Much. Variety—From the dozens of cultures, countries, social groups, religions, races, ethnicities, etc. to the *humongous* world that would swallow most other secondary worlds without even noticing, to the emphasis on diversity and endless possibility, Pathfinder’s world of Golarion excites my imagination so much that it’s directly informed my own worldbuilding for the Patchwork Priest series.
  • Adventure around every corner—Golarion is wide as an ocean, and deep as the Marianas Trench. It’s created in a way that its every corner invites creativity and adventure. Court intrigue, temple pillaging, barbarian raids, fallen spacecraft (yep, you read that right), and murderous death cults. Sure it’s tropey, but that’s never bothered me before, and there’s just so much of it. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Golarion’s got you covered.
  • Inclusivity—Paizo, the creator of Pathfinder, is at the forefront of creators developing inclusive gaming spaces and worlds. Pathfinder goes out of its way to allow players to be whoever the want or need to be to get the best experience possible. A good example of this is the change in Pathfinder 2.0 that’s removing “race” and replacing it with “ancestry.” Small changes can have huge impacts.

So, am I excited for Pathfinder 2.0 despite never having played a game? Damned straight. The greatest roleplaying universe is about to get so much better.

Now, I can go back to praying that Paizo will revitalize the Pathfinder Tales line to coincide with the launch of Pathfinder 2.0 (and let me write one of the dozen stories I’ve outlined starring Toma and Illindrial.)

Want to know more about Golarion, and dip your toes into the fiction? Check out my post on B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Welcome to Golarion—Enter the World of the Pathfinder Tales.