I was also going to go pick up some more groceries at Harris Teeter, but my get up and go kinda got up and went.
So I spent the evening sitting around reading Stephen Coonts' Saucer. Fun little book, reminded me a lot of Heinlein's Starman Jones, oddly enough, and would probably pass muster in most young adult sections these days. Well, assuming the librarians didn't freak at all the violence, that is. Basic plot: Rip Cantrell and his fellow mining surveyors find what appears to be a real flying saucer buried in sandstone in the middle of the Sahara. They hammer it out, poke around, and not too much later the Air Force shows up. Among their number is hot (test) pilot Charley Pine, co-star and romantic interest; she winds up being the saucer's main pilot, and taking off with Rip after goons from Australian mega-millionaire Roger Hedrick and Libyan Army troops show up, in that order. Hi-jinks and adventures follow, mainly revolving around Hedrick's intention to sell off the saucer to the highest bidder and what that means for Rip and Charley. Lots of suspense, politicians being portrayed as morons, Air Force types being secretive, and a lot of fun. Nice brain candy, in short.
The Player of Games....well, it's another Iain Banks Culture novel, which doesn't help too much since it really doesn't have that much in common with either Consider Phlebas or Look to Windward, except insofar as it relates how the Culture deals with other civilizations. In this case, Jemau Murat Gurgeh is a games master who has become utterly bored with the lack of novelty. He is the master of pretty much every strategic game, whether played on boards, computers or anything else, but even so has to be blackmailed into voyaging to the brutal Empire of Azad to play the game of Azad. Azad can't really be described briefly, since it involves 12,000 Azadians all striving on the Board of Origin, the Board of Form, and the Board of Becoming to determine their status within the Empire. Gurgeh, being a human of the Culture, isn't familiar with some of the concepts of the game and only when he is actually involved in the game does he realize that the game of Azad is in fact a simulation (after a fashion) of the Empire itself, and that losing may have more severe consequences than just failing to advance. I found it very absorbing and distracting, but reading it in the wake of my mother's death was a very bad idea. I give The Player of Games a 5.5 on the Oldboy scale; it is not for the squeamish.