Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Diversions

A lot of people look for summer reading reviews around this time of year.  Don't get me wrong, I think summer reading is great.  The thing is, I read year-round.  I read all the time.  I always take a book to the doctor's office, for example; here in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our doctors are so overworked that you can almost always count on a hefty wait before they can see you.  And with my various health problems, I pretty much always have an appointment with one doctor or another waiting in the wings.  So it's a good idea to have a book handy.  With me, it's more like a stack of them.

Right now I'm working on two books.  One is The Final Evolution, by Jeff Somers.  This is the fifth volume in Somers' Electric Church series.  It's an old-fashioned cyberpunk thriller with one of my favorite anti-heroes in recent fiction, Avery Cates, a career criminal who regularly manages to mess with The System in a very dystopian future.  The other book is Drift by Rachel Maddow, which details how our economy and our defense policies have been going further and further off the rails since the Reagan administration.  Very informative stuff about how the paranoid anti-Soviet 1980's resulted in a gigantic jump in defense spending and how that spending has taken us further and further from the founding fathers' reluctance to have a large standing military.  Both worth reading, but in the case of the Somers novel, you will be completely lost if you haven't read the previous volumes; it is not friendly to new readers and is most certainly not a stand-alone novel.

Summer for me is usually a heightened time of health problems.  It may be that my autoimmune diseases are worsened by allergens; there is certainly a lot more pollen now than there is in, oh, say, November.  So I suffer a lot more from March through October.  I try to limit my pain medication to helping me sleep at night, so daytime can be miserable.  I've found, like many others have, that video gaming quite successfully can occupy my mind sufficiently to reduce significantly the pain I experience on a daily basis.  This summer I'm hooked on two new games, both available on a number of gaming platforms.  One is the new Lego game, Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes.  The Lego games are great.  They are all-ages friendly, and they are LOADED with content.  In order to get 100% of the game, you can play for literally hundreds of hours as you look for gold Lego bricks, red Lego bricks, pieces to build models, Lego "coins" ("studs" in the game lingo) which function as both points and currency, and so forth.  You can play the story if you're not interested in any of the side stuff, or you can try to unlock every character and collect every special item.  It's a game that little kids can play that adults will find interesting and challenging, especially if you're a fan of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, and the other DC Comics characters.

The other game is on the far opposite side of the gaming spectrum, Lollipop Chainsaw.  It's a zombie killing game, rated "M" for mature.  The protagonist character is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer type, a cheerleader named Juliet who just happens to be from a long line of zombie hunters.  It's a pretty standard game in that you must learn various combinations of buttons in order to initiate a number of attack moves, but pull them off and the zombies disappear in clouds of glitter and rainbows.  The game has a lot of salty language -- those zombies have filthy, filthy mouths -- but I'm finding it hilarious.  And it's very, very good at taking my mind off what's going on otherwise.

So that's how I'll be spending the bulk of my summer.  I have lots to do around the house and in the yard, but on the days when it's all too overwhelming, or when my work is done for the day, you can find me with either a book or a game controller in my hand.  I may not be able to be more than ten feet away from a bathroom on most days -- which can certainly put a damper on most normal summer activities -- but I can at least escape into a printed page, or a silly game world.  And believe me, I'm very grateful for that.

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