Well-researched but with limited appeal.

EMPIRE OF IMAGINATION

GARY GYGAX AND THE BIRTH OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

A gaming enthusiast pays homage to Gary Gygax (1938-2008), the creator of the swords-and-sorcery role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

Chicago native Gygax acquired his taste for fantasy from a father who regaled him with bedtime stories of “giants and dragons [and] wise old wizards with magic rings.” As he grew up, he indulged his escapist daydreams by reading pulp science fiction and fantasy magazines like Weird Tales while cultivating a passion for war games and chess. By the time he married and began his adult life, Gygax was spending so many of his evenings gaming with other locals that his wife suspected he was having an affair. In 1968, he helped organize the first war-games convention in Lake Geneva (called Gen Con for short) and started to develop games based on fantasy themes that used elaborate table settings, multisided dice, and miniatures. In 1973, Gygax formed a partnership with his closest gaming friends called Tactical Studies Rules and published the first 1,000 copies of the game he would call Dungeons & Dragons a year later. D&D grew rapidly in popularity during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Yet its successes, which included cartoons and a (aborted) movie deal, were tainted by internal problems within TSR—e.g., lawsuits brought against Gygax by former partners and Gygax’s own financial mismanagement. The D&D creator would eventually go on to found other small gaming companies, develop other games, and even write pulp sci-fi–style novels. By the early 2000s, he had become a beloved popular-culture icon, and Sync magazine “named Gary as number one on its list of the ‘50 Biggest Nerds of All Time.’ ” Witwer’s respect for Gygax is evident throughout, but while his overview of D&D's influence on popular culture is informative, this book will likely find its strongest readership only among fellow gaming aficionados.

Well-researched but with limited appeal.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63286-279-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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