February 28th, 2021


The Puzzle Universe, City of Stairs, games

 The Puzzle Universe purports to be a History of Mathematics in 315 puzzles. While that's not wholly inaccurate, it's more of an exercise in frustration. It is a beautiful book with bold, colorful illustrations. Alas, one or two of them are inaccurate and ruin the puzzles. A number of the puzzles suffer from setups that are not clear and unambiguous, and many of the answers are gnomic without any explanation or solution. While these are hideous flaws, there are many things to like about the book. Lots of clever visual proofs and little historical asides. I think my favorite was the Malfatti Marble Problem. In 1803, Malfatti declared that three tangent circles always provided the maximal area in a certain geometric problem. In 1930, it was shown that that's not always true. And in 1967, it was finally proven that Malfatti's solution is never optimal.


I can see why City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett, made several finalists lists for Best Fantasy Novel of the year. It's an engaging read, and the strange 'geopolitics' of its world are a big plus. The two main power-continents are an Indian-esque society and a Russian-oid society, at least so far as naming conventions and cultural touches are concerned. Oh, and there's a sort of barbaric Europe somewhere as well that doesn't come into the story much. There's something of a mystery of how some literal walking-the-earth gods have been slain, but echoes of the divine are still hidden here and there. The only drawback of the story is that our heroine and her burly companion are just too perfect. Too smart, too knowledgeable, too skilled, too fatally dangerous to be taken completely seriously. Or to fear for their safety at any point.


On the Playstation, been enjoying the fact that Katamari Damacy (Reroll) has been released for PS4. Still as delightful as ever.

Spirit of the North was a pleasant game, letting your little foxy dude run around and leaping about. While some instructions and guidance might have been useful at times, I like that they stuck to their guns and just let you experience it and figure it all out for the most part.

PSPlus freebies Concrete Genie and Control have also been fun. Control's delightfully loopy mind-bending story is a blast.