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Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.

25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe. I'm not precisely sure how long it's been since I read an RPG tie-in novel, but I know that the last one was Homeland, which is one of the worst books I have ever read. It's one of the Drizzt Do'Urden books, and this was when everyone was going crazy for Drizzt, and I was curious, and, well. That was the last but not the first D&D-related novel I read; when I was 10 I heard about and tracked down a library copy of Quag Keep (that's right, I was HARDCORE), and I read and enjoyed the Dragonlance books back in the day. The first trilogy came out when I was in junior high, and I was heavily into D&D then--in fact it's probably safe to say that insofar as I had a social life at all, D&D (and, on occasion, Gamma World or Champions or Top Secret) was it. Otherwise I read, and while I never went quite as crazy for the Dragonlance books as I did for Tolkien or McCaffrey, they had the virtue of being about a world in which I already knew the rules, and into which I could insert myself (or at least a character created by me) without much effort. And whatever its weaknesses, Dragonlance had great characters--I still get a bit misty thinking about good ol' Flint Fireforge--and one lesson that I took from RPGs is that characters are paramount.

I played D&D into college (my LJ handle, which I use all over the internets, comes from Snurri Icebreaker, my dual-classed fighter/ice mage, who was named for Snorri Sturluson), but aside from that one time at Sycamore Hill--seriously, who would turn down the chance to play when HOLLY BLACK is going to be the DM--I haven't played in 12 or 15 years. I haven't much wanted to. The trouble with RPGs, for me, is that they use the same brainspace that I use for thinking about and writing fiction, so when I play I tend to write less. Which is fine 99.99% of the time, but not right now, because after reading Sandstorm I want to be playing in a D&D campaign SO FUCKING BAD.

If you have never heard of Christopher Rowe, then I sort of envy you, because he's one of those writers that I wish I could go back and read again for the first time. Until now I'd probably have said that about "The Voluntary State," his cyber-absurdist mindfuck novella that was nominated for (and should have won) every award in the genre the year that it was published. Now I'm not sure. I know that if I was to go back and discover him at fourteen or fifteen, I'd want someone to send a copy of Sandstorm back in time to me, because it blows any Dragonlance novel out of the fucking water. Characters are paramount, like I said, and Rowe's characters have a life beyond what's on the page; I think that even for me to try to encapsulate them here would diminish them. What you need to know is: great characters, thrilling action, mystery and intrigue, romance and sacrifice, a fertile landscape seeded with story. If you're anything like me, you need this book.
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