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Old Oct 18th, 2020, 08:00 PM
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Nominations for November 2020

The November 2020 RPGX Book Club Selection is...
Dice Roll:
d6 5

# Title* Author Nominator
1 A Song for Lya George R.R. Martin Saint Squid
2 Haunted Castles Ray Russell Bothers
3 Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes Menzo
4 The Invincible Stanislaw Lem Baxder
5 High Fidelity Nick Hornby Baxder
6 Neuromancer William Gibson Imveros
*These link to the book's Amazon RPG affiliate page when available; your purchase via this link will support this site!

amazon link

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, nominated by Baxder!

Nomination336 Pages
Modern Novel

Synopsis: In the midst of the number one, worst-of-all-time of top five breakups, Rob, record store owner, and pop culture snob, takes stock of his life and reimagines his future.

Why this book: High Fidelity is purported to be a rare honest glimpse into a Gen-X man's perspective on love and meaning, portrayed with heavy doses of angst, nostalgia, and humor. If it's half as rich as the movie, it should provide plenty of excellent conversation.


You can support RPGX by picking up a copy of High Fidelity from the linked image above, or here for the Kindle version, or get it from your favorite vendor at Goodreads.

You can begin reading right away, but please refrain from discussing the book's contents until the first section's discussion thread opens on November 1st. You can find the complete discussion schedule in the Schedule post (pending), or in the book's Schedule and General Discussion thread (pending).

Thanks to everyone for the great submissions for our inaugural read! This thread will be archived when the next nomination period opens, but you can always quote yourself there to nominate your books again.


Last edited by Baxder; Oct 27th, 2020 at 02:18 AM.
  #2  
Old Oct 20th, 2020, 01:27 AM
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I guess I'll get this started!

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The Passage by Justin Cronin


You might recognize the title from the TV show that did a very strange job of adapting the story before being immediately cancelled. It spent some time on the New York Best Seller list, I don't know if that disqualifies it but I think it deserves some attention

Page Length : 776

Genre: Science Fiction / Post Apocalypse

Synopsis: The Passage tells the story of a catastrophic virus, the people responsible for releasing it on the earth, and how the world changes in the aftermath. It manages to tell a global story from a very personal level by switching between the point of view of several different characters in very different circumstances, and going any further into detail about the plot would be telling too much I think. It really does need to be read, and the way the TV show adapted it was an injustice to the book.

Why it's worth discussion: If I can say this book does anything well, it's characterization. Because of how many characters you see the story through the eyes of, the book has very little time with each of them relative to some other books of this length. Despite this, each of the many POV characters are well defined, have understandable motivations, and even the ones who are outright evil are at least relatable, if not sympathetic. Anyone interested in pbp could learn from the way Cronin builds a character through inner monologue and text.

Discussion Questions:



I have read this book in audio form, which I recommend, as the narrator does a great job.

Link to the physical, kindle, and audiobook versions here


This Nomination has been retracted

Last edited by Saint Squid; Oct 25th, 2020 at 09:10 PM.
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Old Oct 20th, 2020, 01:55 AM
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And since I nominated a pretty long book for my first pick, I'll go with a novella for the second

Nomination 2 amazon link
A Song for Lya by George R.R. Martin

Feel free to tell me if I'm going too mainstream with my picks, but I feel like this is a must read for anyone who only knows GRRM from ASOIAF

Page Length : 134 (very short!)

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: A Song for Lya is a story about a telepathic couple tasked with finding out why human settlers on a distant planet are choosing to join the suicidal alien religion. From there it explores ideas of intimacy, love, religion, and the afterlife that are at the same time tragic and beautiful

Why it's worth discussion: In my opinion this novella is George R.R. Martin at his best, and anyone who loves good Sci-Fi should give it a read, simple as that.

Discussion Questions:



Finding this story in physical form is a bit difficult these days, but the entire text is available free online here

In addition, the story is available as part of GRRM's "Dreamsongs" collection, which is available in audiobook form here (which might I add, is a fantastic value for an audible credit, if you were thinking of getting a free trial.)

Last edited by Saint Squid; Oct 25th, 2020 at 09:12 PM.
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Old Oct 20th, 2020, 02:24 PM
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Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Squid! Either a sprint or a marathon, eh? The Martin is particularly interesting to me; I love reading works outside of an author's popular genre.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 07:51 PM
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Nomination
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Length: 228 pages, depending on edition

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence. The story is told by a series of progress reports written by Charlie Gordon, the first human subject for the surgery, and it touches on ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.

Why it's worth discussing: Flowers for Algernon is a touching story with a simple science-fictional premise. There are no galaxy-spanning empires, no wars against unspeakable evil. Just Algernon the mouse and Charlie Gordon the floor sweeper, and the medical experiment they're a part of that reveals so much more about human nature than was ever intended. Flowers for Algernon is evidence that science fiction and fantasy don't have to be epic—that they can tell more personal, nuanced stories. And I think that's a lesson that many DMs could take to heart. But bring tissues. You'll need them.

Discussion Questions:
1. What does this novel have to say about the moral and ethical implications of the medical experiment Algernon and Charlie are part of?
2. After the operation, is Charlie even the same person as he was before the operation? Why does he feel so disconnected from his earlier self?
3. How does the author, Daniel Keyes, use point-of-view and language to create character in this novel? Did it seem natural or unnatural? How effective was it?
4. What is your favorite scene in the novel? Why is it your favorite? What makes the scene so effective?
5. Did this novel change your perspective regarding people with learning disabilities?
6. What aspects of this novel do you think DMs and players of TTRPGs could implement in their games?

I have read this novel. But only once, and it was some time ago.

Availability: Excellent. Readily available in e-book, hardcover, paperback and audiobook format.
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Last edited by Menzo; Oct 24th, 2020 at 02:34 AM.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 07:54 PM
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I vaguely remember reading Flowers for Algernon in junior high but haven't revisited it since. It's always been in the back of my mind.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 06:53 AM
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I read Flowers for Algernon for the first time recently and would like to +1 the tissues recommendation, you're definitely going to need those!

It won't be Halloween anymore by the time this round is decided, but I shall press on regardless and nominate:

Nominationamazon linkHaunted Castles by Ray Russell

Length: 235 pages

Genre: Gothic Horror

Synopsis: A collection of seven short stories by the erstwhile fiction editor of Playboy magazine(!). The collection contains his best-known short, Sardonicus, the story of a nobleman who commits a terrible act that becomes written on his face for the world to see. Sardonicus was first published in Playboy in 1961, and later that same year it was also released as a black-and-white film that gets terrible reviews but that I quite enjoy.

Why it's worth discussion: Stephen King called Sardonicus "perhaps the finest example of the modern gothic ever written". Guillermo del Toro, who edits this book, describes another of these short stories, Saggitarius, as "not... a perfect exercise in style, but it is a luscious, devoted repast of Gothic fiction".

Availability: widely available. Goodreads shows lots of options for your locale.

I haven't read it, but I have watched and enjoyed the film Mr. Sardonicus, which was adapted into screenplay by the author himself.

Discussion Questions:
  • Did you particularly enjoy a specific short story in the collection? What did you like about it?
  • Russell wrote screenplays as well as novels and short stories. Does the influence of the silver screen come across strongly in his writing?
  • The stories in the collection were written around the 1960s. What sort of themes do you see in common between ~60s horror and the horror of today? What's different? Given Ray's background, some fruitful comparisons could be made with Contemporaneous fiction might include:
    * Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin (print 1967, film 1968)
    * Psycho by Robert Bloch (print 1959, film 1960)
    * The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (print 1971, film 1973)
    film as well as print!


Last edited by bothers; Oct 23rd, 2020 at 05:38 AM.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bothers View Post
The stories in the collection were written around the 1960s. What sort of themes do you see in common between 60s horror and the horror of today? What's different?
An excellent question, Oops, I misread the question!but for a non-horror fan like myself, could you recommend some examples of '60s horror for comparison? I know Google exists but would like to know if you had anything in mind as you thought of the question.

BTW, thanks for putting this on my radar. I did a presentation on the development and impact of the English Gothic in the last class I took, and it was fascinating. I'd love to dive into this with that in my rear-view!

Last edited by Baxder; Oct 22nd, 2020 at 02:10 PM.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 09:58 PM
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The Invincible by Stanislaw Lem
240 pages
Classic Science Fiction

Synopsis: When a spaceship is sent to investigate the disappearance of its sister ship, it discovers an autonomic society of robots that appear to have vanquished their rivals in a great "robot war." The crew is faced with the classic dilemmas that come with the prospects of surpassing the limits of human knowledge.

Why this book: Published posthumously this past February, The Invincible is the latest release from "the most widely translated and best-known science fiction author writing outside of the English language," "in a league with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Philip K. Dick" (from the Amazon page reviews). Kinda seems like it can't go wrong.

Discussion questions:
1 - The book's description carries Faustian overtones; the innate human desire for forbidden knowledge and the perils that come with its acquisition. How does this play out in the book? Are the perils overcome? Or do the characters make "deals with the Devil?" Are these themes applicable to our technological pursuits today?

2 - What other moral or philosophical quandaries does Lem explore? Do any of them surprise you? Do any of them feel antiquated?

3 - Lem and his family survived in Nazi-occupied Poland on false identification papers. Of that time, he said, "I learned in a very personal, practical way that I was no "Aryan". I knew that my ancestors were Jews, but I knew nothing of the Mosaic faith and, regrettably, nothing at all of Jewish culture. So it was, strictly speaking, only the Nazi legislation that brought home to me the realization that I had Jewish blood in my veins." Is this sense of lost or missing identity conveyed in The Invincible? How?

4 - Lem also smuggled arms and ammunition to the Polish resistance forces. Do any passages from the book seem to draw from these clandestine experiences? In a practical or nationalistic way?

I have not read this and don't recall how I heard about it, but I'd be excited to get into some classic sci-fi. I read Pohl's Gateway last year and have wanted more ever since!

Here's the RPGX Amazon affiliate link
Get it from anywhere else here

Last edited by Baxder; Oct 23rd, 2020 at 12:44 AM.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 12:27 AM
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High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
336 Pages
Modern Novel

Synopsis: In the midst of the number one, worst-of-all-time of top five breakups, Rob, record store owner, and pop culture snob, takes stock of his life and reimagines his future.

Why this book: High Fidelity is purported to be a rare honest glimpse into a Gen-X man's perspective on love and meaning, portrayed with heavy doses of angst, nostalgia, and humor. If it's half as rich as the movie, it should provide plenty of excellent conversation.

Discussion questions:
1 - Do you think Rob's misery is a stylistic choice? Why or why not?

2 - In what ways does Hornby's use of setting reflect Rob's negative attitude?

3 - How does Rob's constant references to music and film reflect his character?

4 - Is Rob the only character undergoing or requiring change? If not, who else is?

5 - Why does Rob rarely see his old friends and surround himself with people he claims not to like so much?

6 - Does Rob change his attitude, his lifestyle, or both? If just one, then why doesn't he also change the other?

I have not read High Fidelity but absolutely love the movie. Being a John Cusac fan, I see Rob as his most quintessential character. He simply seethes with passive-aggressive angst over his existential quandary in a way only Cusac could compellingly portray while managing to be wholesome and hilarious all at once. I strongly recommend it, especially for people who remember 1995, whether or not this book gets picked. It should be a required watch before the read if it does.

RPGX Amazon affiliate link
Anywhere else (Goodreads)

Last edited by Baxder; Oct 27th, 2020 at 01:14 AM.
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Old Oct 24th, 2020, 12:24 AM
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Neuromancer by William Gibson
336 pages
Cyberpunk/Hard Science Fiction

Synopsis:
You fly too close to the sun, and you get burned. What would you be willing to do to get your wings back? What lines would you be willing to cross, and who's there to stop you? Case doesn't know the answers to those questions, but he's tasted the digital sky, and he wants more in this seminal work of Cyberpunk fiction.

Why this book:
The book exists on many different levels, and everyone I know who's read it has had different opinions on what it was. Deep allegory, cyberpunk adventure, social commentary, a noir detective story with a fresh coat of paint, etc. I'm curious what you all think. It's also widely considered one of the best science fiction books ever written, so, I figured I's get the classy stuff out of the way before flooding you with Shadowrun books

Discussion questions:
  1. How does the author make the drug-using criminal Case seem sympathetic to the reader?
  2. Why does some of the technology presented in Neuromancer seem quaintly dated, while other technology retains its futuristic impact?
  3. Neuromancer is set in a high tech, stylized future, but its tone comes from the lower, gritty, criminal rungs of society. What effect does this contrast have on your understanding of the novel?
  4. Does Neuromancer have an antagonist? Is so, who or what and why? If not, why not?
  5. Casting Call. Neuromancer is being developed as a movie. What actors do you want to see in what roles?


I read the book shortly after falling in love with Shadowrun. Gibson claims to be the father of Cyberpunk, so what better place to get the feel for the genre?

E-Book, dead tree, and audio book!
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