All the advertising blurb, the cover text, even some of the opening remarks on the first couple of pages, suggest that this is an excerpt from a mythical galactic encyclopaedia which your Thousand Suns characters might find useful. Useful this book is, but not that way: it's a collection of articles aimed at players rather than characters, rules additions in the main.
Now, Thousand Suns is more of a toolkit for running an SF game (especially one in the space opera mode) than a full-blown game, and this book continues in the same vein with a collection of well-considered articles about various aspects that you might care to add to your ruleset. Beautifully presented and illustrated, it's well worth a look.
The first article, Moving Through the Ranks, looks at how to link military advancement to the character development inherent in gaining experience points during play - something useful if your game is based around the activities of a military unit. It includes ideas about how to incorporate rank into a role-playing game without getting bogged down in the kind of hierarchy that military organisations thrive on, and is well-explained and mechanically sound although some of the text sounds more as if it came from mechanical translation than a human being's pen!
Next comes The Ways of Scheming, which is an ingenious if mechanistic way to simulate in-character plots and the use of influence to accomplish them. Whilst most people are likely to be comfortable role-playing their acts of intimidation, threats and blackmail, it could prove useful for the GM to 'book-keep' more elaborate plots, or for the moderation of plots against, rather than by, the characters.
This is followed by the introduction of a new race, the mysterious Aurigan. Clearly intended to be NPCs rather that player-characters, there is plenty of scope for adventures involving them and a lot for the curious to discover. Next comes brief single-paragraph notes on The Planets of the Core, rather thin but useful enough for characters who come from or wish to visit these planets. The fifth article is an extensive one about weapons, designed to enable you to describe just about any death-dealing device you care to imagine in appropriate game terminology, and this is followed by a companion piece on Custom Protection... with all those weapons around you probably need some! Similar detail is then given to robots, with plenty of detail should you wish to incorporate them in your game - or even play one!
The final article, A Spacefarer's Introduction to Lingua Terra, is rather fun. Based on Esperanto, it's an attempt to lay out the basics of a possible intergalactic language, with sufficient material to allow for muttered asides, notices, etc., to be concocted to give an added air of the exotic to your setting... but no swear words!
It's an interesting collection, worth casting your eye over to see if any of these components would be useful in your game. A good editorial eye might improve it, not so much glaring errors but a certain clumsiness of expression makes some of the articles hard to follow and a bit clunky, but overall a useful addition to your toolkit.
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Reviewed: 25 October 2009