After reading "Portrait of the Author as a Young Psychopath," I went out looking for more of Ed Lee or Elizabeth Steffen's work. I found this book. Af...moreAfter reading "Portrait of the Author as a Young Psychopath," I went out looking for more of Ed Lee or Elizabeth Steffen's work. I found this book. After reading it, it became clear to me that everything I liked about the earlier book I'd read must have been contributed by Elizabeth Steffens. Very disappointing.
The best words I could use to describe this book, and indeed much of Lee's writing, have already been said by Tim Krider in his review of this book for the City Paper:
Reading Lee puts you in instant and uncomfortable touch with the conservative, book-banning guardian of decency deep within yourself. What I want, reading Lee’s description of a hillbilly sodomizing an old woman’s colostomy stoma, or two nuns urinating through catheters into a priest’s mouth and urethra, is not just not to be reading it anymore--a wish I could easily grant myself by closing the book--or even just for nobody else to want to read it, either. What I want is for it not to exist.
This is a troubling thing for me to want. I’m a First Amendment hard-liner. I don’t like feeling squeamish or priggish or square. It places me in the uncomfortable position of those humorless cranks who call my own work "sick"--a label that’s always seemed, to me, like a more reliable indicator of the critic’s own repression than of the artist’s pathology. This is not an easy reaction to provoke, and it’s some sort of testament to the raw power of Lee’s writing.
I did find myself, to my concern, getting gradually desensitized to the violence as I forced my way through The Bighead, so that by the time a character was heaved off a cliff with a rope tied around his genitals so that they popped off as he plummeted to the rocks below, I was like, Ehh. In the end, my main objection to these scenes is that although they’re upsetting, they’re not frightening.(less)
Many people miss the point of this book's ending. Heinlein didn't run out of steam - he wanted to explore the idea of what happens after the happy end...moreMany people miss the point of this book's ending. Heinlein didn't run out of steam - he wanted to explore the idea of what happens after the happy ending.(less)
As an actual, factual book, this may as well be a work of pure fiction. It is an excellent study in the paranoia found in the extreme religious right...moreAs an actual, factual book, this may as well be a work of pure fiction. It is an excellent study in the paranoia found in the extreme religious right - Marrs spins paranoid conspiracy theories about everything from He-Man to the YMCA. What's scary is that he actually has some followers out there, and that he is misleading those poor people into a perpetual state of Jack Chick-esque fear.
However, simply reading his list of allegedly satanic organizations out loud can provide hours of entertainment at parties.(less)
I loved this book. Spinrad rants long and wordily at points, but the underlying energy and plot carries you past the problems. Unlike some of his othe...moreI loved this book. Spinrad rants long and wordily at points, but the underlying energy and plot carries you past the problems. Unlike some of his other works (Bug Jack Baron, I'm looking at you), Little Heroes has aged well. This was a really fun read, and with the whole issue of DRM and rights management, its sentiments remain remarkably applicable today. The spirit of rock and roll is alive and well, despite the machinations of the pinheads upstairs.(less)
Supernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and marke...moreSupernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and marketed at people who like the show, which follows a pair of hunters, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they travel around the country fighting with vampires, demons, zombies, ghosts and more.
Things I liked:
Supernatural more than adequately captures the show's sense of adventure and danger. It is well-written, clear, and easy to understand, and is organized in an intelligent, structured fashion. Hooray for the glossary, index, and little paragraphs at the end of each chapter telling you what the next step is. This would be a great starter RPG for folks new to the concept.
I'm not deeply versed in the Cortex System, but the rules seem relatively well thought-out and balanced. They are also clearly aimed at cinematic role playing -- that is, rules that try to evoke the feeling that you're in a movie or television show. I applaud this; I'm a little tired of games that requires graphs, charts and calculators to resolve combat.
The system for encouraging player creativity with Plot Points is also well done, with built-in controls to prevent hoarding and encourage participation. I also like the use of different dice to allow greater and greater chance for success while still keeping your luck with the dice important. (Frankly, seeing a system that uses more than just d20s pleases my little dice-hoarding gamer heart.)
In many ways, Supernatural feels like Hunter: The Vigil if the World of Darkness had a little more hope in it, more of a scary adventure game with monsters than a game of true supernatural horror. And you know what? That's okay. Sometimes I don't always want my RPGs to be full of doom, existential ennui and soulcrushing despair. This setting seems fun>, and that appeals to me. It also seems easy enough to ramp up the action and drama to actual horror if that's more your cup of tea.
Things I didn't like:
* I didn't like the cozy way it talked to everyone as if they were True Fans of the show. If I wasn't familiar with the Supernatural TV series, it might well have felt a little alienating. As a fan of the show, it felt a little condescending. However, it was probably written with younger readers in mind, and as such, this is a relatively minor quibble.
* I actively hated the art director's decision to include still shots from the series. It ends up looking more like Teen Beat than an RPG, and threatens to evoke the feeling that you are expected to just pretend to be the show's main characters rather than playing out your hunters in that world. Which is a shame, because it's not true; the book gives you lots of options for making unique individual concepts. Ultimately, the photos are distracting and annoying; inked illustrations of the same scenes would have been much more effective.
(I found the photos so annoying I contemplated buying a PDF version of the book so that I could use Acrobat to manually remove them. Please, publishers, if you go for a second edition, get an artist to recreate the scenes. It will make this book's appeal broaden significantly. Mind you, the photos are still 100 times better than Cyberpunk 2020's disastrous choice of doll illustrations, but that's not saying a whole lot.)
I didn't like some of the grammatical mistakes I found, some of which were intentional but others of which probably weren't. The tone of the writing clearly was meant to emulate the loose, informal tone of one of the show's two main characters, Dean. Ultimately, however, I found myself wishing they'd chosen the slightly better spoken tone of the other main character. Still, this is a relatively minor complaint.
Things I would like more of:
* Actual monster stats that aren't based on the TV show's monsters. The most likely audience for this game is people who have already watched the whole TV show. Given that, I'd like to see things to spring on them that they haven't encountered before. However, there's a supplement out now about monsters, so I expect that's where I'll find these.(less)
Two women move into an apartment inhabited by the not-yet-moved-on ghost of a writer. A pretty good read, but the strength and quality of the short st...moreTwo women move into an apartment inhabited by the not-yet-moved-on ghost of a writer. A pretty good read, but the strength and quality of the short stories scattered throughout the text, ostensibly written by the dead author, actually threatens to detract from the rest of the book, which is a little less cohesive, but still fun.(less)
100 pages into this book, Heinlein forgets he has a plot. Twenty pages from the end, he remembers he had one. Five hundred interesting but frustrating...more100 pages into this book, Heinlein forgets he has a plot. Twenty pages from the end, he remembers he had one. Five hundred interesting but frustratingly irrelevant pages in-between.(less)
More a novella than a novel, the fourth book in Poppy Z. Brite's "Liquor" series is clearly her love song to pre-Katrina New Orleans. It is a quiet, g...moreMore a novella than a novel, the fourth book in Poppy Z. Brite's "Liquor" series is clearly her love song to pre-Katrina New Orleans. It is a quiet, gentle book where small amounts of violence still happen, but overall it is a memorial of a New Orleans where people can go about their daily lives, where the biggest tragedy to befall the Dome is the sports team that plays inside it, and where even though you can take the boys out of New Orleans, you can't take the New Orleans out of the boys.
No murders. No foul play. No dirty politics. Just New Orleans.
And you know? For this book, I'm good with that.(less)
Woman goes to take over dead aunt's dog rescue legacy, woman meets dog, woman meets vet. Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is well-written and incredibly pr...moreWoman goes to take over dead aunt's dog rescue legacy, woman meets dog, woman meets vet. Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is well-written and incredibly predictable - which isn't terrible, in a book that is meant to be tear-jerkingly heartwarming. People who like dogs and love stories will inevitably enjoy this.
However, the nature of the mystery at the core of the book -- why her aunt lived as she did -- makes me see red. (view spoiler)[Ultimately, the aunt rejects marriage to the "perfect man" because he turns out to be bisexual and can't give up male liaisons on the side. "Bisexual men can't be faithful or truly commit" is a horrible stereotype that the world would be better off without. It's not true, and it's hurtful, and seeing this book mindlessly reinforce that made me want to rip it up. Shame on you, Lucy Dillon. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I probably would have really dug this when I was 18. Unfortunately, I read it at about twice that age. What once would have seemed really goth and mov...moreI probably would have really dug this when I was 18. Unfortunately, I read it at about twice that age. What once would have seemed really goth and moving now comes across as trying too hard. Kudos for sympathetic portrayals of alternate sexuality, although one expects nothing less from Ms. Brite.(less)
Ayn Rand's philosophy is, in my opinion, horribly flawed, but she still has some useful ideas. Moreover, she's a good writer, and if you remember that...moreAyn Rand's philosophy is, in my opinion, horribly flawed, but she still has some useful ideas. Moreover, she's a good writer, and if you remember that she grew up in communist Russia as you read this book, it enhances the reader's understanding of her philosophy tremendously.(less)