I came to this collection expecting strange and mindbending stuff, something similar to what Smith did in his first three novels. There’s only one story that was like that, “Hell Hath Enlarged Herself”, a brilliant story that mixes nanotech and ghosts. The rest of the stories have much fewer fantasy elements. Many of them could be classified as horror, but less in a supernatural way than in a psychological. It’s not that they are completely without it, but the supernatural things are very downplayed.
Smith seems more interested to get into the head of his characters, probing questions of reality, showing characters who are slowly losing it. Whether this is because of something that’s just in their head or external isn’t really important. The writing is accessible and absorbing throughout the whole collection, despite that most of the stories are rather uncomfortable, none of them are happy reading material. My overall problem with the collection is that I prefer fiction that has more weirdness at the surface and packs more oomph.
made by Buster . (Download, Speed Run)
fan-translated by Do-jin Nyuu . (Download Patch)
Another game where you have to play an evil guy. Akuji the Demon wants his powers back, and to get them he has to traverse a variety of dungeons where they have been hidden. A very polished platformer that could have easily appeared on the SNES or other 16bit-era-consoles. With every power you discover you can perform a new action: jump higher, breath fire, even fly. The graphics are really eye-catching, and the only misgiving I have is that it’s far too soon that you face the guy who took all your powers away (who has a really big sword, which looks to me like jibe at a certain Square hero).
In one of the earliest computer RPGs, Wizardry 4, you were allowed to play an evil wizard bent on regaining his power. Bob’s Big Adventure has a similar angle. You’re Bob, a Minotaur, whose mission is to clear Monster Island from all invading humans and then to conquer the world. Sounds at least interesting, but sadly Bob’s Big Adventure isn’t a very good game.
Instead of playing the whole thing straight, the game goes for the humor vain and misses the mark completely. Sure, humor is subjective, but at least a certain level of competency in the delivery could be expected. And humor isn’t an excuse to not write convincing and compelling character. Whether it’s a comedy or a drama, characters and their motivations should make sense.
The rest of the game isn’t good either. After you cleared Monster Island and the first mini-story-arc is over, everything that follows is one mission after another of conquering small nations who the player doesn’t really care about and who all look more or less the same. A more varied plot or gameplay could have helped to make Bob’s Big Adventure more tolerable.
Toward the end the difficulty becomes slightly unhinged. Boss battles are a chore, since the bosses have far too much HP. The worst offender in that regard is the last battle, where you have to fight every boss from the game in a row. Talk about a waste of time. Still, at times the game has moments of genuine fun. Some of the puzzles, some bits here and there, but don’t expect too much.
The downloadable version has a game-stopping bug near the end in Seal Room 2. One way around this is to download RM2k, put the game under the Project directory, open it in RM2k and just erase the door in Seal Room 2 to get to the crystal.
made by Lysander86 . (with Download)
TFW begins like most fantasy games. There’s a generic villain, aptly titled Dark Wizard, who torments the public with his evil deeds. A hero tries to stop him, and fails. From there on things get different. Somehow the whole world becomes frozen in time, with only a few people able to move, like our hero. If you expect that the whole game will still play out with the hero destroying the Dark Wizard, you might be in for a surprise. TFW has a great plot, and the writing by Lysander is very well done too. Dialogue and how the story unfolds is just a joy too read. The other nifty thing about TFW is the battle system. You have to install plates in different power slots to deploy attacks, magic or anything else. Dependent on the power slot, the outcome of a specific action has a stronger or weaker effect, but stronger ones may take longer to work than weaker ones. Overall one of the best games made with RM2K.
If you’re writing a long running series, and you don’t want it to get stale for yourself or your readers, choosing a theme for each part is not a bad idea. Dead Beat is, as the title implies, about death. There’s the threat of the disciples of a necromancer named Kemmler, who once stood up to the whole White Council and killed many of them. Now his disciples search for a book, the Word of Kemmler, to complete a ritual that is surely bad news for everyone. But that’s just the surface, underneath Butcher explores how people cope with death, the fact that each of us will die one day. Not that this overwhelms the rest of the book, it’s there, but subtly done and not distracting for those who just want to enjoy the action. And there’s plenty, like in every other part of the series, Harry gets his ass kicked before he can kick back. The ending is a fabulous confrontation, I just mention Tyranno Rex.
I just wonder whether the series will fall prey to the syndrome that every book deploys stronger and stronger enemies, and Harry has to deploy deadlier forces each book to win, until the power scale becomes ridiculous. Harry also worries more and more about whether he’s slowly becomes one of the monsters he’s fighting, which mirrors the development of a similar, but female character in another series. At least Butcher won’t devolve the series into a pornfest without plot.
Imagine someone took the whole surface of Earth after the Cuba crisis and stuck it onto an Alderson Disk in another galaxy. Imagine that what humans see of the milky way shows visible signs of megascale engineering. This is the starting point of Stross’s novella. Humanity is at a loss to explain what happened, trying to cope with their situation, still in the throes of the Cold War. The first move on both sides is to play the old game of superpowers. But the game has changed.
Missile Gap has the same attraction his earlier story A Colder War had, and a bit of the same style. The more you read, the more hopeless the whole situation looks. You know something bad will happen to humanity, but you still want to know: How, Why and When. Funnily, Missile Gap doesn’t have much new ideas, some of the scary content can be found in countless other horror or SF novels, but the way Stross mixes the stuff with some new ideas makes for an astonishingly fresh read. This is chilling stuff, and in the tradition of SF that reaches back to Well’s War of the Worlds, humanity isn’t at the top of the foot chain and there’s no chance it can close the gap.
Much fantasy has at it’s core a simple good versus bad conflict, evil and good are easily identified. One variation of this is the chaos versus order conflict, stripping both sides of their moral absolutes, allowing for more nuanced plots. The Time Master books deploy this conflict to, well, explore these issues, the fight of some Gods of Chaos with some Gods of Order.
The plot begins in a world where the Gods of Order have won long ago and cast out the Chaos entities. A young boy is born to restore the balance between Chaos and Order, but he has a hard time coping with the fact that the Gods of Order aren’t exactly nice (since everyone around him believes this) and the Gods of Chaos automatically evil. These are nice books, but compared to something like Moorcock’s fantasy work that deals with the same theme, a bit lightweight. One problem I had was with the world-building, it felt too thin and generic. There’s no originality or at least some effort to create a rich, if unoriginal, background.
I like, but don’t love most Pixar movies. They’re all well done, but only a few made me want to watch them again. Cars is the exception, I really loved this one. Watching it I was reminded of the movie Doc Hollywood where a big city doctor ends in a small town and learns to love the place. Cars is like that, only with cars instead of humans, and a racer instead of a doctor. It’s a simple but effective story, full of characters with quirky personalities that makes them easy to like. The thing about Cars is that it makes you forget that there aren’t humans anywhere, the CGI sorcerers from Pixar have created the perfect mix of Cars and humanlike faces without evoking the Uncanny Valley.
The saying goes, you can’t go back. Among my earliest reading experiences is SF from the GDR, but once I discovered a different flavor of SF I went away. And now going back proves to be problematic. Odd is probably the best word to describe some of the stories in this collection: an old women stops an invasion of aliens who occupy her radio, the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves turns out to be fabricated by one of the dwarves, who is an alien, a man gets a gift from aliens who like to play jokes on people, when he turns invisible he’s completely blind and others.
These stories often rely on twist endings, but the twists don’t feel very clever or mind bending, only a bit wacky. The other kind of stories (the not odd ones) in this collection are mostly about gloomy futures or about bad things happening to ordinary people: global warming destroying humanity, secret experiments on humans and the likes.
The problem here is that the writing lacks a subtle touch, these stories have always a message, and they hit you over the head with it. Worse, Prokop has the habit to stop the stories before a real conclusion is reached. Ambiguity is like a spice, too much and everything tastes the same (unfinished and incomplete applies in this case), which was a frustrating experience.
no English translation, German title: Die Phrrks
The humans, who occupied the south of the Four Lands, are spreading and slowly conquering the rest of the Four Lands. The dwarves are already enslaved, the elves seem to have vanished and only small pockets of resistance still exist. All seems lost until the shade of the dead druid Allanon gathers the current members of the Ohmsford family.
The THoS tetralogy has the same overall structure like other Shannara books, with the difference that everything is bigger. There are more characters, more subquests to solve, more places to travel to. While quality should matter more than quantity, if the first hasn’t decreased, then more quantity can make a difference. Every part of the first Shannara trilogy was a stand-alone epic, but THoS has the space to make it feel even more epiclike. I think at the time when Brooks wrote THoS he wanted to end the Shannara series with something really big and monumental, and you really feel like an age is coming to an end while reading the series. THoS was a fine swansong for the Shannara series (at least until Brooks decided to write more books, but what I’ve read of those just wasn’t as good).