Saturday, February 11, 2012

Skyrim Book Reviews: 2920

It's time to dust off this moldering, old blog and start posting again. Why? Skyrim, of course. In my spare time, late in the evening after I finish my grad school homework, I like to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on my unpatched, offline PS3. People talk about how horrible and unplayable the unpatched Skyrim is, but honestly, I haven't had any game-breaking problems yet. Sure, I've had crashes, poor refresh rates, and distracting lags, but it hasn't been nearly as bad as it was with Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, and I made it through both of those games.

But I'm not going to talk about the game, not really. No, I'm going to talk about the books. The world of Skyrim is enormous, diverse, and gorgeous. You have ten races to choose from for your character, five houses you can own, more than forty followers you can recruit, and about three different types of enemies. Okay, there are more enemy types than that, but sometimes it feels like all I ever get to fight are bandits and draugrs and bears, oh my! And the occasional random dragon. But my favorite part of the game world is the books. There are hundreds of them, all with unique content. Translated into real-world pages, most of these books are actually short stories. However, they provide quite a lot of backstory to enrich the game-world.

My character, Sekhmet the Khajiit warrior-librarian, is filling her Breezehome house with books. Breezehome doesn't have a lot of bookshelves, but it's the only house she has, so she's also using end tables and other storage containers for books. She's established a distinct reference collection, along with separate serials, history, and fiction sections. (Yes, I'm a little OCD.) Sekhmet accumulates books in-game faster than I, in real life, can read them. (Sometimes, when you're running through a dungeon and you have to shut the game off soon, you just don't have time to read the six new tomes you found.) So imagine my delight when I discovered the Dovahkiin Gutenberg, where a kind bibliophile-gamer has compiled all of the books into a single, downloadable, 1064-page EPUB document, which I was able to load on my Nook. Now I can read the books of Skyrim on my breaks at work and while sitting in waiting rooms.

As I'm reading these books, I'm finding some of them to be delightful, and other to be flat-out terrible. And so I have decided to launch a series of blog posts reviewing the books of Skyrim. I'm going to follow along with the order in which they are presented in the Dovahkiin Gutenberg, because it'll be easier for me to keep track of. You can also see the full text of these books at both The Elder Scrolls Wiki and The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages. And, of course, you can find the books laying around all over Skyrim, to collect, read, sell, or decorate your character's home with. But if your reading time is limited, my goal with these reviews is to tell you, without spoilers, which books are worth spending your time on.

Note: I am not connected to Bethesda in any way, and no one asked me to do these reviews. I am doing this purely for my own fun, as time allows. I don't have an agenda, other than the joy of reading and writing. If I pan your favorite Skyrim book, sorry. If I give five stars to one you thought was awful, also sorry. These are my opinions and mine alone. You're entitled to your own.

And so, finally, we come to my first review:

2920: The Last Year of the First Era

This is a massive twelve-volume set, and reading it represents no small time commitment. Don't try to read them out of order; the story is far too convoluted. If you're collecting them in the game, wait until you have all of the volumes to read them. (By all means, though, open them to collect your skill points, and then set them on a shelf for later.) The volumes, in order, are:

2920, Morning Star, v1 (Boosts your One-Handed skill)

2920, Sun's Dawn, v2 (Boosts your Illusion skill)

2920, First Seed, v3 (No skill bonus)

2920, Rain's Hand, v4 (Boosts your Restoration skill)

2920, Second Seed, v5 (Boosts your Speech skill)

2920, MidYear, v6 (Boosts your Heavy Armor skill)

2920, Sun's Height, v7 (No skill bonus)

2920, Last Seed, v8 (Boosts your Sneak skill)

2920, Hearth Fire, v9 (Boosts your Conjuration skill)

2920, Frostfall, v10 (Boosts your Conjuration skill)

2920, Sun's Dusk, v11 (No skill bonus)

2920, Evening Star, v12 (No skill bonus)

Conveniently, the book titles in order also serve as a handy reference guide for the naming system for the twelve months of the year. (Unfortunately, they won't show up in order in your inventory or on your bookshelf--they sort alphabetically.)

Within the Skyrim-verse, 2920 would be considered a historical novel. It took me a couple of volumes to really get into it, because there are so many characters that it was hard to keep track of them all. But the series is long enough to eventually make good use of all of those characters. If anything, I wish it were longer. Not that I wish for more story, but that I wish that the story that is present were told in much greater detail. Given the detailed plot, 64 pages really isn't enough to flesh it out properly, and so it felt cursory and abrupt. It also could have used some editing, as there were a few distracting typos and wrong words used in place of a homonym. But overall, this series is worth reading, just for the twisting intrigue and political backstabbing.

Three and a half stars.

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