The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I burnt myself out trying to learn to many JavaScript frameworks, build tools, unit testing, Debian eccentricities and BeagleBone Black programming so I decided to take a break and play a video game. Steam was having their summer sale and Skyrim happened to be a great deal. I bought "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition" and have been playing it for a couple weeks now.

Back in 2011 when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released I remember reading and hearing from a lot of friends, acquaintances, and internet personalities who played it and talked about it for weeks on end. So my interest was peeked, but I didn’t have time or the desire to play it then.

The world of Skyrim is amazingly large. I was shocked by the sheer size of it. The developers have a done a great job making traveling from place to place very fast and easy. You can walk, run, take a carriage, ride a horse, or if you have been to your destination before you can "fast travel" to it. When fast traveling even though you get there very quickly the time in the game passes as though you had walked or ridden a horse that same distance, so the sun may be down or the shops may be closed.

Time plays a really large roll in the game, night and day is a big deal and change a lot of what is going on. Vendors are only available between 8am and 8pm, vampires are roaming around in the dark, werewolves are prowling the night, thieves and assassins abound.

Indulging in the role-playing aspects of the game I have tried to do my usual straight-and-narrow play through. When playing old-school pen-and-paper games I enjoy being the paladin, in this game I played a Wood Elf with a strong right hand wielding a sharp sword and bow for fighting at a distance.

Anything is allowed in this game, there are opportunities to be a goodie two-shoes (how I play) or to be a total scoundrel, there are even rewards for both. You can even choose to be a cannibal by completing a quest, personally I ended that quest short with an arrow to her head as soon as possible.

I really enjoyed the dungeon crawling, bandit fighting, dragon slaying, vampire hunting, and exploring Skyrim. I did not enjoy all of the bugs, dead ends, and lack of help in the game.

No matter how hard I tried not to, I ended up going to The Elder Scrolls Wiki and The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages to figure out what was going on and how to work around bugs in the game. And man there are a lot of bugs, I pity the people who are playing on Playstation and Xbox machines where they do not have the luxury of entering console commands to fix things.

Now I am 135 hours into with my Wood Elf Bowman and having a great time with it. I have played through most of the main quests that do not require me to do anything that would tarnish my good guy reputation. I have not been a werewolf , an imperial or stormcloak soldier, or a vampire. I have adopted 2 orphans, have nice houses in Whiterun and Solstheim and have built a wonderful lakehouse outside of Falkreath that I call home.

I am level 99 out of 100 with a single-handed weapon and around 85 with the bow. Enchanting and Smithing are both at 100 with lots of perks that have allowed me to construct some awesome dragon armor and weapons with tons of helpful enchantments that have made all but the toughest opponents easy to set right. I started out the game kind of wobbly and found it very hard, I had to rely on a lot of potions and scrolls to stay alive, but with my crafted armor and weapons I now only carry a handful of healing potions and no scrolls at all. Dragonbone arrows with a paralyze/health absorbing bow is an awesome combination.

Before I stop plying Skyrim I plan on getting married, buying all of the available hold houses, building the other 2 available country houses, and clearing more of the dungeons and mines in Solstheim.

I am playing Skyrim on a 27" iMac running Windows 8 in Bootcamp. This computer is so amazing, the mSATA drive is so fast that I rarely got to see the loading screens, which was kind of annoying because the loading screens contain a lot of information that adds to the game… hahaha, first-world problems abound.

From the publisher:

EPIC FANTASY REBORN
The next chapter in the highly anticipated Elder Scrolls saga arrives from the makers of the 2006 and 2008 Games of the Year, Bethesda Game Studios. Skyrim reimagines and revolutionizes the open-world fantasy epic, bringing to life a complete virtual world open for you to explore any way you choose.

LIVE ANOTHER LIFE, IN ANOTHER WORLD
Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of The Elder Scrolls is realized like never before.

ALL NEW GRAPHICS AND GAMEPLAY ENGINE
Skyrim’s new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world with rolling clouds, rugged mountains, bustling cities, lush fields, and ancient dungeons.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU PLAY
Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities. The new character system allows you to play any way you want and define yourself through your actions.

DRAGON RETURN
Battle ancient dragons like you’ve never seen. As Dragonborn, learn their secrets and harness their power for yourself.

I rate The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a 9 out of 10 even with the bugs and dead ends, the overall experience is just that good. I recommend it to any who enjoys fantasy role-playing but also first-person-shooter fans.

Patient Zero: The Joe Ledger Novels, Book 1 by Jonathan Maberry

I do not like Zombie books or movies, I have read some of the more mainstream books and have seen all of the mainstream zombie movies, but in general, I do not like them. Although I make an exception for The Walking Dead comic book series which unlike the TV show continues to be amazingly fantastic (the TV show is merely good).

I chose to listen to the Patient Zero audiobook because the publisher’s summary did not make it sound like the run of the mill zombie book. More like a Jason Bourne meets Dawn of the Dead, plus I saw that it was the beginning of a series of books instead of a single book, sign me up.

Joe Ledger is a great character, and author Jonathan Maberry does a great job of making him the hero while leaving room for the other characters in the story to have their moments. He strikes a really nice balance that many other authors miss.

Ray Porter does a great job narrating; he brings the story to life while the strength and forcefulness of his voice are perfect for the Joe Ledger character.

From the publisher:

From multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry comes a major new thriller that combines the best of the New York Times best-selling books World War Z by Max Brooks and James Rollins’ Sigma Force Series to kick off the start of a new series featuring Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences.

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills – and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective who has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid-response group is called the Department of Military Sciences, or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bioweapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Jonathan Maberry is the New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Ghost Road Blues, the first of a trilogy of thrillers with a supernatural bite. A professional writer and writing teacher, he has sold more than 1.000 articles, 17 nonfiction books, six novels, and two plays.

©2009 Jonathan Maberry (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

I rate Patient Zero a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to people who love military/police thrillers.

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

Wow, this is a long audiobook. Just looking at the length of it at 36 hours 27 minutes, I know that sounds long but it is nothing compared to just how long this book feels. I repeatedly thought the story was winding down and coming to an end only to have it pick back up again and go on for hours longer. But don’t let that fool you.

This is a really good book and an amazing story. The Great North Road is an epic story spanning multiple worlds, aliens that are truly alien, and a human race that is in fear of extinction.

The Angela character and her story really got me, she was easily my favorite character in the story with Sid being a close second. People doing the hard thing because they think it is the only choice they have that will result in a better life for their family. Really good stuff.

Toby Longworth does an admirable job trying to give each character a unique voice, but there are so many characters that it is an impossible task and from time-to-time I was quite confused about who was speaking and even where the speakers were, what world they were on.

Don’t let any of that stop you from reading or listening to this book though. If you have the patience for really long space operas, this is Peter F. Hamilton after all, you will really like this one.

From the publisher:

A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family – composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.

Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career. Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: Because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood.

The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime. Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.

Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite…all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

©2012 Peter F. Hamilton (P)2013 Tantor

I rate Great North Road an 8 out of 10 and recommend to anyone who loves a good space opera.