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GrogHeads Reviews Appendix N

Review of “Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons and Dragons” from Jeffro Johnson ~

Avery Abernethy, 12 April 2017

Appendix N is the list of books in the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide that Gary Gygax referenced as primary influences on the development of Dungeons and Dragons. Jeffro Johnson secured these books and read them. Mr. Johnson had two goals for Appendix N. First, identifying how each novel inspired specific aspects of D&D and other early role playing games. Second, Jeffro’s observations on how each specific novel inspired an aspect of D&D and the enjoyment that a modern reader would have with these books which were published from the 1910s to the 1970s.

GrogHeads Reviews Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge

What if the monsters were real?  And who said they weren’t?! ~

Avery Abernethy, 25 August 2016

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge is in the Monster Hunter International universe. In the Monster Hunter universe monsters are real. Teddy Roosevelt ran into monsters in the Cuba invasion with the Rough Riders. When he became MHMG-coverPresident he put Federal bounties on dangerous monsters. Bring in evidence of killing a deadly monster, get paid a bounty. More dangerous monsters yield bigger bounties. But monster hunting has a high casualty rate. And high bounty monsters are especially deadly.

Monsters want to eat us. Monsters are not boyfriend material for lonely high school girls or strong independent women. Vampires suck your blood and eat your soul. Vampires and other monsters are enemies of humanity and deserve killing. Monster Hunter International is the premier private monster killing outfit in the world.

This is a collaboration between Larry Correia and John Ringo. Correia is a former gun store owner and competitive shooter. Ringo is a vet of the 82nd Airborne. Both are among the best active writers of military science fiction. Both know guns, explosives and how to write a great combat scene. Many wargame players are interested in weapons and the idea of killing evil monsters and collecting large bounties is something which appeals to gamers from D&D, to Call of Cthulhu, to Warhammer.

GrogHeads Reviews Tidal Effects from Andrew Heller

Airboy reviews Heller’s follow-up to Gray Tide in the East ~

Avery Abernethy, 03 August 2016

Tidal Effects is the sequel to Gray Tide in the East. In the previous book the Kaiser orders the German Army in 1914 to respect Belgium’s neutrality after Imperial Russia and France declare war on Germany. The British Empire never enters World War 1. Germany and Austria-Hungary crush Russia and annex large portions of European Russia including all of Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltics. France is bled white trying to attack in unfavorable terrain. Germany gives France favorable peace terms taking several relatively useless colonies including Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. At the end of Gray Tide in the East Germany is the dominant land power in Europe.

Tidal Effects contains two novelettes: High Tide and Rip Tide. In High Tide several members of the Imperial German Foreign Service and a high ranking Naval officer manage to start building a substantial naval base in Martinique. tide-mapSubstantial progress on this naval base is accomplished without the knowledge of the Kaiser and the rest of the Imperial Cabinet. The USA learns of the base and must decide if they want to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Tidal Effects includes basics of naval espionage, isolationist politics of the USA early in the 20th century and foreign policy. The central conflict centers on the ability of the US President to get enough political support to keep the hugely powerful Germany from getting a foothold in North America without starting a major naval war. The Kaiser is maddened that his subordinates put him in this position but also wants to maximize the political and military gains possible from this situation.   The entire story is plausible given the military, economic, political and foreign policy situation in this alternate history.

GrogHeads Reviews
The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut’s Windlass

Airboy reviews Jim Butcher’s Steampunk series opener ~

Avery Abernethy, 22 February 2016

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher is an action packed, steampunk influenced start to a new series. The population inhabits “spires” which are huge cities on large towers above the surface of the planet. The surface world is too dangerous for ordinary people but contains valuable resources and vicious animal life.

AeroThe major power technology are crystals. Tiny crystals provide light and minor power. Major crystals which are almost impossible to create can power large airships. Envision wooden Man-O-War flying through the air with cannons and inefficient power lasers. Hand weapons are hand sized power crystals and sabers. There are strange creatures, rare and unbalanced magic users who understand how crystals work, and daring traders, naval fleets and privateers flying the skies.

Book Review: Crosswind

An adventure yarn of another time and place, but grounded in familiar themes that take the reader on an an enjoyable ride through intrigue and aerial derring-do.

Brant Guillory, 18 December 2015

Crosswind is Steve Rzasa’s first book about the Sark brothers, Winchell and Copernicus.  Winchell is a journalist at a small newspaper, and his brother is a pilot, in the frontier town of Perch.

crosswindThe brothers stumble into an intrigue filled plot involving a larger town to their South known as Trestleway.
While Cope is the adventurous brother, alternating between stunt pilot antics in the air and ladies man smoothness on the ground, Winch is the conservative family man with a wife and children.  The brothers stumble upon the mystery when Cope flies his brother out to the wreck of another aircraft to take pictures and write a story for the newspaper. I rather unfriendly gentleman masquerading as a local rancher tries to steal a coded message that the brothers discover in the aircraft wreckage. It turns out this man is from Trestleway, and the coded message is a warning of an impending “invasion” that was being flown in by the nephew of Perch’s mayor-general.

The brothers are sent to investigate, and report back to home. Along the way, they discover a variety of intrigue, and a few interesting technical – and mystical – tricks up Trestleway’s sleeves.

GrogHeads Reviews Marco Kloos’s “Frontlines” Series

We take a look at Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure, by Marco Kloos

Avery Abernethy, 28 October 2015


Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure are military science fiction leaning towards hard science.  Mr. Kloos has served in the military and it shows in his writing.  Both books are in the Frontlines series with the 3rd book Angles of Attack released in April, 2015.

In the Frontlines books Earth has fractured into two factions: the North American Union (dominated by the former USA) and a Russian/Chinese block.  Independent countries either no longer exist or are never mentioned.  The conflict between the two power blocks has an uneasy truce on Earth itself, but all-out war rages for the 100 or so colony worlds accessible through jump gates.


The Earth’s resources are being depleted, the majority of humanity lives in high rise slums with a minimal ration of food, and the proles are restless and becoming lawless.  Part of the military is deployed to maintain minimal order in the high-rise clustered slums while the rest focuses on space colonization and interplanetary war for colonies.  Slum dwellers have a tiny chance of winning a lottery to become colonists on worlds which can minimally support human life through terra-forming.

Andrew Grayson a young, high-rise slum dweller, wins a 100-1 shot to join the military.  Terms of Enlistment focuses on setting up the dystopian world and the harsh basic training that washes out 80% of the inductees.  Andrew’s first posting is in the military division tasked with keeping order in the slum cities.  After a few initial conflicts, Andrew’s unit is thrust into a disastrous mission which decimates his unit and generates bad publicity through use of heavy weapons in an urban environment.

Book Review: Strands of Sorrow

A Review of Strands of Sorrow by John Ringo

By Avery Abernethy, 28 January 2015

Strands of Sorrow is the 4th and (claimed by the author) final book in Ringo’s Zombie Apocalypse series.  Wolf Squadron has manufactured the vaccination to the zombie apocalypse virus and has inoculated all of the US Navy crewmen on submarines. But everyone who became a zombie will stay a zombie. So almost all of the world’s population is either a zombie or was eaten by zombies.

With several thousand US servicemen, the US military, with civilian support, starts the initial operations to take back North America.  They start with some isolated military bases and eventually fight to retake Camp Lejeune in North Carolina – one of the primary training bases for the US Marine Corps. This starts an entertaining side story about the living hell of staying in US Marine Basic Training for almost a full year, unable to leave due to the zombie hordes. This leads to Ringo’s take on the difference between training officers, combat officers, and logistics officers.

Book Review: Islands of Rage and Hope

A Review of Islands of Rage and Hope by John Ringo

Avery Abernethy, 12 November 2014


Islands of Rage and Hope is the third novel in John Ringo’s intelligent zombie apocalypse series.  Steven Smith (Wolf), his wife, and daughters Sophia and Faith (Seawolf and Shewolf) have continued to build their flotilla in the Atlantic.  The novel starts with Wolf Squadron’s attack on the bare remnants of the US military forces at Guantanamo Bay Cuba.  The hope of Wolf Squadron, which now leads the largest surviving contingent of US military forces in operation, is capturing enough of the right medical equipment to start large scale manufacture of a vaccine against the zombie drug.  If vaccine production can be restarted, then the crews of US nuclear submarines can be turned into an effective land fighting force.


Just after I finished reading this book, a scary new twist in the real-world Ebola virus gripped much of the world.  Two medical missionaries infected with Ebola were flow back from Africa to nearby Atlanta and hopefully cured.  This real world episode framed Ringo’s coverage of the manufacture of a vaccine for a deadly disease in an uncomfortably real perspective.  Much of the discussion of how to isolate a vaccine, the risks of various vaccines, and the production speed of vaccine covered in the book is now in the pages of newspapers world-wide.