I'll put up with a lot for a good idea, and this book put that to the test with some hard pulls on credibility, some sophomoric misogyny, and a few scI'll put up with a lot for a good idea, and this book put that to the test with some hard pulls on credibility, some sophomoric misogyny, and a few screeds against liberalism that could have been cribbed from talk radio.
But it's got some really neat ideas.
So if you can put up with some impolitic nonsense, this is an interesting story about how one might just save and, in effect, conquer a world under threat. Lots of interesting sciency bits to boot....more
Certainly a lot bleaker than The Atrocity Archives, this book has me hooked and I will now be searching for the rest of the books in the series. Also,Certainly a lot bleaker than The Atrocity Archives, this book has me hooked and I will now be searching for the rest of the books in the series. Also, I totally need to figure out how I would play a Combat Epistemologist post-haste....more
Neil Gaiman's Sandman is not a comic I read at the time of its original printing - I was far too much into superheroes. In the end, I'm happy it workeNeil Gaiman's Sandman is not a comic I read at the time of its original printing - I was far too much into superheroes. In the end, I'm happy it worked out this way, because reading Sandman in collected volumes lets me drink in the whole narrative without letting threads of it get lost the way it might if I had only read it in bits.
I don't want to go into too much detail, as I don't want to spoil it (and it's hard to know what to talk about that doesn't spoil it), and because Gaiman's take on Fairies and Gods has become the core of how I'm going to approach them in an upcoming campaign for the Dresden Files RPG. Suffice it to say that, in his usual way, Neil presents us with instantly familiar but amazingly creative elements of the myths and legends that we know, and makes you want to learn more about the bits you are unfamiliar with.
I am delighted I found this volume before running my game. My players, I expect, will have mixed reactions....more
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel like this one got 3.5 stars, rounded up to four. There are parts of it I really liked, parts I only liked,In the interest of full disclosure, I feel like this one got 3.5 stars, rounded up to four. There are parts of it I really liked, parts I only liked, and parts I found tiresome.
Daniel Mackay is a Performance Arts scholar and that's how he approaches his study of Fantasy RPGs. Like every other book I've read on the subject thus far, he sticks pretty solidly to D&D, which is a shame, but leaves room for other scholarship (mine, for instance!).
Of great interest to me is the notion of the "fictive block." TRPG players produce their characters in field conditions: we cobble together numbers, possibly write up endlessly complicated histories, and dream up different elements of their character, but the manifestation of all that happens in real time around a table. A lot of the character, probably even most, is created from our storehouse of narrative possibility - every dramatic moment we've experienced, read, or seen stripped of its context and present as a "X reacts to Y" formulation. These "strips" of narrative action are then placed, line by line, into the living history of the character, like sentences glued down in a cut-and-paste paper that grows into a story. Since most of us have never actually faced a dragon or summoned Great Cthulhu, we used that storehouse of experience to try and create a relatable moment. Sometimes we produce something that, even as it is a reworking, feels new and fresh. Sometimes, we're just producing a TV Tropes page.
One idea I found engaging, but disagreed with in the end was his view of the aesthetic object produced by a TRPG campaign. Mackay states that the aesthetic object of a campaign really only exists in the aftermath, because the moment of the game itself is filled with frame-switching from In-Character to Out-of-Character to Far-Away-from-Character-discussions-of-the-pizza order. I get where he's coming from in viewing it as a performance. As a rhetorician, however, there is still meaning in the discourse itself, and that meaning can be analyzed aesthetically. Very often it is the choices we make in the moment, and how we attempt to resolve the exigencies that brought us to play and brought our characters to crisis, that are where meaning happens.
What I found tiresome was the endless critique of commercial culture. Spare me one more diatribe about the banality of modern consumerism. Consumerism is about wants and their lack of fulfillment - guess what, so is drama! It is certainly conceivable that a great TRPG session could end up producing spiritually moving art, but I suspect that's the rare bird, indeed. Most of the time, we're there to have a fun social experience, and there's nothing wrong with that. How our more pedestrian goals mingle with the (sometimes) more high-minded ideals and ambitions of our characters is the sort of alchemy that explains a lot of where the rhetorical exigencies live and how we resolve them at the table. Dismissing them in the name of art puts on, to my mind, blinders half a shade too narrow.
High marks for being a non social science study of TRPGs, and therefore less likely to indulge in soft-science psychoanalysis of gamers, and one of the better reads if you want a good argument on why In-Character utterances are empowering to the game experience. If you can wade through the gnashing of teeth over science and capitalism, it's definitely worth a read....more
A comic-horror story that presents the great elements of dread in our cosmos: Nyarlathotep, Necromancy, Total Quality Management.
Come for the mixtureA comic-horror story that presents the great elements of dread in our cosmos: Nyarlathotep, Necromancy, Total Quality Management.
Come for the mixture of IT and occult studies, stay for the mind-bending physics of the concept of the Fimbulwinter as universal heat death. An excellent read and I'll be picking up more of this series....more
This book can be uncomfortable to read for the socially awkward.
It is clear that Mark Haddon is a poet, in addition to a fiction author, as ChristophThis book can be uncomfortable to read for the socially awkward.
It is clear that Mark Haddon is a poet, in addition to a fiction author, as Christopher, his young, autistic narrator, requires very specific word choice in building his voice. Christopher sways back and forth between a painful clarity of vision and the rapid (occasionally hypocritical) judgment manifested by most children.
Christopher decides to be a detective, identifying with the analytical abilities (and pining for the clinical detachment) of Sherlock Holmes. He investigates the murder of a neighbor's dog, and the investigation reveals the mess and chaos lurking beneath the surface of his own home and family. These choices completely subvert the traditional "return to order" found in most mystery novels, which I suspect is one of the major problems that mystery fans have had with the story. The initiating mystery is resolved early in the story and actually proves to be the event that sunders Christopher's world into pieces. Additionally, it's left to the reader to decide if Christopher's ambitions to leave home and attend University are even plausible in light of his social difficulties. I came down on the negative, all things considered, which made the story that much grimmer.
All in all, it's certainly a well-written story, but painful to read. There are some funny moments, because life is like that, but the parade of damaged and selfish adults make Christopher's journey one that can be hard to take with him. I put this on the mystery shelf with the caveat that if you're a fan of traditional mysteries, this may not be for you....more
Country Hardball hits pretty close to where I live. My grandparents lived in Ozark, Arkansas for several years, and most of my family is from the areaCountry Hardball hits pretty close to where I live. My grandparents lived in Ozark, Arkansas for several years, and most of my family is from the area around Oklahoma City. Here, then, is an unflinching, but noir, look at the poor rural center of the country. Those of you who might dismiss such a space as "flyover country" have no idea what you're missing.
The longest narrative thread in the novel, really a collection of short stories, is the story of Roy Allison and his on-again/off-again attempts to either turn his life around or at least get ahead. That struggle, along with the fights between our pasts and our aspirations, between the people we are and the people who've known us all our lives see, and between the (usually church-born) desire to be good people and the (usually poverty-born) desire to be rich people, are mixed, matched, and put on display for the reader to take in. The minimal judgment of the characters in Weddle's writing is going to put some people off, especially in scenes of the worst of human tendencies, but even in all its noirishness, part of the story's power is how understandable almost every decision is.
I'm delighted to give the book 5 stars and my highest recommendation....more
Victor LaValle shows what can be done with Lovecraft's demented creativity and a gift for prose that leaves Howard Phillip behind. LaValle gives a retVictor LaValle shows what can be done with Lovecraft's demented creativity and a gift for prose that leaves Howard Phillip behind. LaValle gives a retelling of "The Horror at Red Hook," that is, at once, more believable and still consistent with the generally bleak horribleness of the Cthulhu Mythos. A quick and highly enjoyable read....more
I read a review that managed to sum up my feeling about this book: It is well written, but not the kind of book I generally like to read.
13-year-old LI read a review that managed to sum up my feeling about this book: It is well written, but not the kind of book I generally like to read.
13-year-old Lizzie becomes a detective when her best friend Evie is kidnapped by a man three times her age. In the process, we discover a lot of simmering taboo feelings from a lot of different people. The process is distressing in parts, possibly moreso because the book avoids talking about the taboo things, but for one grisly retelling. What we are left with is the horror of one terrible incident and hints that other terrible things may still be happening.
Some folks want to call this noir, but I'm leaning more towards domestic suspense myself. This is the next-door neighbors with the terrible secrets. There is a fierceness to the teenage girls that is strangely absent in the grown women of the story, who don't get far out of the range of cipher in the eyes of the narrator. It is the use of Lizzie as the Narrator that papers over a ton of sins: unresolved innuendo, emotional projection, and a tremendous amount of thinking of women in terms of their relationships with men. The use of Lizzie also allows the innuendo to go unresolved: no one's going to talk to the 13-year-old about the terrible things that may go on behind closed doors.
This story bothered me on a lot of levels, though it made me wonder if there might be such a thing as toxic femininity (mashed up in the fierce competitiveness some girls exhibit, crossed with Elektra complexes). Just that formulation bothered me, but it just seemed to keep coming up through the story. Call it thought-provoking, but not necessarily in a positive fashion....more
Cormac McCarthy isn't sure what to believe, and, if you go with him on this trip, is going to try and persuade you to be less sure yourself.
It's simplCormac McCarthy isn't sure what to believe, and, if you go with him on this trip, is going to try and persuade you to be less sure yourself.
It's simple enough to say that this is a story about a fella who finds illicit money and the pursuit of him, but I don't think that's right. That plot, about welder-turned-outlaw Llewellyn Moss, and the man who pursues him, Anton Chigurh, is interwoven with the third primary character Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is the only person in the story who gets some time in first person. There are a few critics who have said, because of this allowance, that Bell is McCarthy's mouthpiece in the story, but I don't know that I buy that either.
Mostly I think McCarthy is trying to make us realize how much we don't know. The amazing human capacity to recognize and impose patterns on things might be deceptive, but maybe not always. Maybe we have ultimate free will and maybe some things end up determined by our choices in such a way that makes them inevitable. It's a book that pretends to be a crime novel in order to try and get the reader to think philosophically about a few things.
I criticized In the Woods for its seemingly bleak treatment of the protagonist, and No Country for Old Men doesn't do much better in this regard, but I think I saw this one coming a bit further off. As a result, I was more satisfied with the ending of No Country, as it seemed of a piece with the rest of the book. On the other hand, I'm more likely to pick up other Tana French novels in the future. Make of that what you will....more