Realm of the War Pigs Sample Chapter!

When it comes to sample chapters, this one was a hard one to choose from.  Out of an entire manuscript, I usually have a good idea of what I want for a sample chapter.  Barring that, I have two candidates, and I usually keep the runner-up for something like a change in schedule, or if a cover artist can’t make the deadline for some reason.

This time around, though, I found FOUR POSSIBLE CANDIDATES!  I might even post the other three if I think they’re worth it.  Right now, though, I finally decided on a sample chapter, and I’m posting it here for all of your viewing pleasure.

DISCLAIMER: the following text comes from my second draft.  Upon publication, it is very likely that the version of this chapter that appears in the final product may not be exactly like, or ANYTHING like the chapter featured here.  Also note that, since this is the second draft, there are probably some typos I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up just yet.  It isn’t perfect, but for those wondering what’s in store, this should give you a good idea.

 

 

COPYRIGHT THOMAS J. BLACK, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

4

 

 

It came as no surprise to me that the lights had been cut off. Grandfather was deceased: deceased people have no use for lights. I had hoped that he’d gotten the bills paid for at least one more month, or even one more week, but it turned out that this was asking for too much.

Dan and Hamburger turned their cell phones’ flashlights on, and proceeded with caution from that point onward. They pointed them every which way as they investigated. I wasn’t entirely certain what the two were looking for, but it was clear to me right out the gate these guys knew what they were doing. They talked about that Satannic cult like it was all part of the job, whatever that might be.

We looked through the kitchen, but all we found was that the refrigerator and cubbards had been emptied. Hamburger made a remark about ordering pizza as they continued their search. The living room seemed okay. The bedrooms, both upstairs and on the ground floor, seemed fine. The study was okay, despite a few books being scattered about the place. It wasn’t until we checked the basement, though, when we found something.

My grandfather really only had two major rules in his house: no pets, and stay out of the basement. I wasn’t sure why, but assumed he had his reasons. Uncle Roy, tactless and vulgar as he could be after a couple beers, assumed Grandfather Klein kept his pornography in the basement. I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t exactly dispute this claim, either, figuring it wasn’t impossible.

Sadly, what we found was far worse than pornography. Really, putting aside my prudishness, pornography wouldn’t have been all that bad. Especially compared to what we ended up finding down there.

The basement seemed darker than normal. Even taking into account that it was pretty much evening, the basement had no windows, and the electricity had been cut, it seemed dark. Like somehow, the darkness was an entity unto itself that somehow made it even darker.

Also, there was a smell. An overpowering oder that threatened to make me wretch my guts out wofted through the basement. Suggesting that something died might not have been out of the realm of impossibility.

“Yip,” said Hamburger, shining the flashlight around. “This is definitely the source of it all. If we were using torches right now, the dark would’ve snuffed them out the moment we hit the bottom step, I reckon.”

“What have we got?” Dan asked.

Hamburger shined his light around. The walls were stone, gray, and dull compared to the more vibrant colors upstairs. Something caught my eye, though, and it caught Hamburger’s as well.

Throughout the basement, someone had apparently drawn on the walls with chalk. It didn’t take a detective’s sharp vision to figure out what had been drawn. Whoever had been down here, doodling on the walls, they’d drawn large rectangles on several spots. They started at the floor, and went way up over my head.

“Oh boy,” said Hamburger, dreadfully. “Looks like someone’s been experimenting with doorways.”

“Doorways?” I asked.

“We’ll explain later,” Dan said before Hamburger could answer. “We need to finish looking around here first. How many doors are…”

“Oh shit,” Hamburger interrupted. “We got a blood door.”

Dan and I walked over to where Hamburger was standing. He was shining his flashlight on another rectangle drawn on the wall. Unlike the others, though, it wasn’t drawn in chalk. If I had to guess, it was drawn in red paint.

“This just got serious,” said Dan.

“Oh golly jeepers gee fucking whiz, you think?” Hamburger replied, more concerned than anything else. “You don’t fuck around with the kind of things that can use blood doors, you know.”

“Oh I know,” said Dan.

“Bad enough he was making chalk doors,” Hamburger mumbled. “If it were up to me, nobody would be fucking around with that sort of magic either, but at least with chalk doors, nothing especially nasty can pass through it. Best case scenario, he probably just used these things to visit friends who live in other parts of the country.”

“And the worst case?” I found myself asking.

“Worst case scenario, he punched a hole into an alternate reality. But even then, it’s one of the safer alternate realities. Well, unless the reality where Benito Mussolini’s Italy became the world’s greatest superpower after World War II counts as safe, but that’s probably a matter of perspective. In any case, that’s the worst of the chalk doorways. The blood doorway…”

A loud, inhuman shriek of a noise cut him off, and demanded our immediate attention. We all spun around, and Hamburger pointed his light at what had so clearly made that horrible sound.

It looked like a man, but no one I’d met before. He wore a suit and tie that was caked with filth and blood. The moment he came into view, the smell of death became significantly more overwhelming than before. The light from Hamburger’s flashlight was at odds with the humanoid’s red glowing eyes.

“Get back!” Dan shouted.

Before either of us could do as we were told, he took aim with his shotgun, fired off a shot, and reduced the creature’s head to a myst of putrescence. The creature didn’t have blood, per say. Rather, a sort of black ooze and a swarm of maggots seemed to spray out from the shotgun blast.

I was already having a difficult time trying not to vomit from the smell alone. The creature’s exploding head, and the contents that spraid outward was enough to see to it that I’d lose that struggle. Suffice to say, Burger King doesn’t taste as good coming up as it does going down.

“Sorry,” I said afterward, wiping my mouth off on my forearm.

“Honestly, said Dan, “I’d have been shocked if a normy like you didn’t puke after something like that.”

I found myself immediately full of emotions and thoughts that demanded the floor, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Feelings of terror, and thoughts of what other unspeakable things lurked down here.   feelings of confusion as well as betrayal, and thoughts of what sort of reason Grandfather could’ve possibly had for keeping such things down here. It left me in a cold sweat.

“We need to go upstairs right now,” Hamburger ordered.

 

 

 

We practically ran upstairs after that, slamming the door behind us for good measure. The next thing I knew, Hamburger grabbed me by the wrist, dragged me into the living room, and practically shoved me onto the couch. I landed rear first on the throw pillow, giving him a look that couldn’t begin to properly convey my perplexity at this sudden aggression.

“What the fuck is your family doing?” Hamburger demanded, loudly.

“Whoa, calm down, Burger,” said Dan.

Hamburger’s head whipped around to look at Dan. “Shut up, Dan!” he shouted. He whipped back around to look at me, and it was then I realized how dead serious he was. The jovial tone that accompanied his every sentence since the moment I’d first met the man was long gone now, and in its place was a fury I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

“What the hell has your family been doing?” he repeated, more angrily than before if such a thing were possible.

“I… I don’t know!” I replied, startled. “I just thought that was where grandfather kept his pornography or something!”

Hamburger laughed. “Whatever perverted shit your grand dad was in to goes well beyond gawking at naked ladies. You don’t fuck around with the sort of shit we saw down there. We haven’t even been here an hour, and I’ve already found out your grand dad not only necromanced a guy, but he also turned his basement into a transdimensional nexus of horrors!”

“We don’t know where those chalk doors lead,” Dan interjected.

Hamburger looked back over to his companion. “Maybe not,” he replied, “but that blood door is the kind of thing that says you mean business! This ain’t no frat boy Ouija board party: this here’s some appocolyptic bullshit!”

Dan shrugged. “Fair enough,” he conceded. “That blood door is definitely cause for concern.”

“None of this makes sense!” I protested. “My grandfather isn’t some sort of necromancer.”

Hamburger laughed again. “Your grand pappy’s well past necromancer at this point,” he said. “Pretty sure somewhere down the line, he officially graduated to doomsday cult status. And I don’t mean one of them Heaven’s Gate cults, neither. I mean real life Cthulhu worshipper level doomsday cult.”

“I… But… What do we do now?” Was all I could stammer out.

Hamburger looked at Dan. “Yeah, fearless leader,” he said, the anger in his voice finally beginning to subside. “What do we do?”

Dan pulled out his cell phone. “First thing’s first,” he said. “We get the electricity turned back on, and we get the fridge stocked back up. Looks like we have our next assignment.”

“you seriously don’t think the two of us can fix all this,” said Hamburger.

“No, dipshit,” said Dan. “I’m calling in the cavalry. We’re going to need all the help we can get on this one.”

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South Park: The Fractured But Whole: My Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to successfully play a game to completion.  By which I mean I finished the storyline, and not the obsessive compulsive “FIND FUCKING EVERYTHING!” way of gameplay Jirard The Completionist has apparently made a thing over on YouTube.

The last time I ever managed to start a game, and see it all the way to the end, Catherine was the hot new thing everybody was obsessed with.  Before realizing it was just a really pretty tower climber with anime graphics, getting bored, and moving on.  I liked Catherine, but trust me, if I reviewed that game here, we’d be here all night.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole (heheheheh) officially holds the distinction of being the first game in six years I’ve played from start to finish.  Even Killer is Dead couldn’t accomplish that, and Suda51 is pretty much my video game god in adulthood.

The funny thing, though, is I never finished The Stick of Truth: the game that came before this one.  I played it, I made some pretty decent progress…  But then I got beamed up onto The Visitors’ ship, and I distinctly remember that being the point where I decided I’d had enough.  I don’t know if it was a heavy reliance on point-and-shoot puzzles, or if the visitors puzzle was so frustrating that I got annoyed and moved on to…  Whatever I ended up moving on to (2014 is kind of a blur anymore).  I distinctly remember the fart controls in that game being way more complicated than they needed to be.  Oi, the things you think you’ll never say out loud.  And this is coming from a guy who once proudly owned a Sega Genesis game by the name of Boogerman.

Fortunately, I found that you don’t need to finish The Stick of Truth to understand what’s going on in The Fractured But Whole.  The parents appear to hate each other a lot more compared to the first game, but the storyline with the titular Stick of Truth is abandoned completely in favor of playing superheroes.

In all honesty, I never really liked the superhero characters in South Park.  Granted, the Coon and Friends trilogy wasn’t nearly as tedious and painful to sit through as the Imagination Land trilogy, but I just didn’t get into it.  The fact Mentberry Crunch ended up being the savior of mankind was great, and ended up saving the entire thing from being a chore, but honestly, I have little desire to sit through it again.

All that being said, somehow, the superhero characters work better as video game characters.  Maybe it’s because we’re seeing all this from their perspective, and from their perspective, the battles and the overall adventure is loads more epic.  Or maybe I just didn’t give the superhero characters their due the first time around.  Maybe I SHOULD watch that trilogy again.

The combat in Fractured But Whole is an improvement.  Rather than rip off Paper Mario, they decided to…  I want to say rip off Mega Man Battle Network, but I’ve heard others compare the combat to XCOM, and to a similar extent, Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle.  The latter basically being both an XCOM ripoff, and being the ultimate crossover game that literally nobody asked for.  Seriously, when was the last time the rabbids were relevant?

In any case, combat is based around selecting an attack, and positioning yourself on a battle grid.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is reposition your party, and other times, you can unload some serious whupass on some sixth graders.  There’s definitely some thought that goes into each battle, and I found it to be a major improvement.  If it ever got tedious, it had less to do with the combat itself, and more to do with the people I was fighting.

Another feature that becomes available in combat is the “microagression” mechanic.  Characters in this game have a lot to say, and if they drop a slur like “queer”, “sissy”, and “pussy”, you can declare microagression, gain a free hit, and negate their turn completely.  It’s amusing enough, although I have to question how I didn’t get a microagression opportunity when one character called me a “homo”, and yet it declared microagression when Butters declares “I’m a healer, not a fighter, although I can do both.”

The story…  Is South Park.  Much like the first game, it’s got some pretty generous amounts of fan service that only long-time fans of the show will really appreciate.  Not to mention they added in tidbits from the last couple of seasons that came after Stick of Truth.  IE, the song “Where My Country Gone” playing over the musack machine in some of the stores.

Once again, you play as a created character, but this time, you can decide what gender they are, what race they are, what religion they are, whether they’re cisgender or transgender…  I get the feeling this was Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s answer to the people griping about how you could only create boys in Stick of Truth.  That, or the addition of PC Principal to South Park canon warrented some PC humor, and this seemed like a good way of shoving it in.  I’ll believe either one, honestly.

Apparently, the game becomes more difficult if you decide to make your character black.  I don’t know HOW exactly, on the count I wussed out and played a white kid.  However, if playing as a cisgendered girl proved anything to me, it’s that it really doesn’t have any payoff what you pick.

My only real gripe with Fractured But Whole is that The cut scenes, near as I can tell, are unskippable.  Not great for when you’re stuck on a boss, and find yourself losing multiple times in a row.

You can turn down the difficulty, or turn it UP if you’re psychotic enough, at any point in the game.  I generally kept it on the standard difficulty…  Right up until I got to the second-to-last boss fight in the game where the superhero versions of you and your friends travel back in time, and fight the Stick of Truth versions of yourselves.  I’ll own up to pussing out after about ten tries with five different arrangements of party members.  Sue me.

And yeah, spoilers.  Whatever: everybody and their mom is putting up Let’s Plays of it on YouTube.

All and all, I enjoyed this game from start to finish.  It had its moments of frustrations, but it only ever felt unfair around the second-to-last boss fight.  And even then, they give you the option to puss out and lower the difficulty.  If anything was ever difficult before and after that, it was either my fault for not checking the objective right away, or because Mitch Conner is a cheating sack of crap.

I highly recommend you play this game.

 

Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian Dungeon Crawler, or Character Meat Grinder?

It’s not often I get addicted to a video game that doesn’t have the words Mortal Kombat anywhere in the title these days, but this Christmas weekend, I think I found it.  It’s a little roguelike dungeon crawler known simply as Darkest Dungeon.

I first heard of it from Noah Antwiler himself, The Spoony One, when he decided to livestream it on his Livewire series.  Honestly, I’m at a bit of an impasse when it comes to Livewire.  I love Spoony, and while others complain the man is nearly dead silent during the stream most of the time, I almost appreciate it.  I do like guys like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, but the constant chatter that goes nowhere and might be a sign of A.D.D. and high-pitched screams of [EMOTION] get a little old in a hurry.  It’s just too bad that there hasn’t been an actual review since May of last year.

I understand nothing lasts forever, and you can only do the same thing over and over before even YOU get tired of it and want to try something new.  I appreciate the effort, and I understand nobody starts out good at new things.  That being said, I miss the reviews.  Even when I don’t agree with everything being said, Spoony always made it entertaining.  Hell, even Livewire is fascinating in it’s own way.  My only real complaint about the series is that I rarely have the time and/or patience for a two or three hour long stream.

Also, in the case of the Darkest Dungeon stream, the audio went out of sink with the video around the 1/3 mark or so, and kind of ruined the overall experience, but that aside, I enjoyed the playthrough, and it inspired me to pick up the game and try it for myself.

All I got to say is this: it’s a well designed game, but it will piss you off beyond belief.  If absolutely nothing else, this game has reconnected me with my long dorment gamer rage.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun while getting pissed off at something.  The main gimmick of Darkest Dungeon is the fact that, on top of exploring dungeons and fighting monsters, you also have to keep your “heroes” as mentally balanced as possible.  Once you’ve completed an adventure, you send your heroes to town to drink, gamble, pray, buy a prostitute, get whipped (which oddly enough has nothing to do with the prostitute)…  Or you can just stuff them in the sanitarium for a while, and remove certain afflictions.

If you’re good at the game, you’ll come back with broken heroes, but a lot of treasure, and the ability to afford all their stress relief as well as upgrade all your shit.  If you suck, or if you hit a roadblock  like I have, though, you’ll send four heroes in, and maybe one or two will survive long enough for you to abandone the quest halfway in, and need to relieve their stress.  Unfortunately, you don’t have enough money for ANYTHING, because you need to save what little you got from the dungeon on provisions for the next dungeon.  And before long, you find yourself in an endless loop, and realize five or six attempts in that your graveyard has about forty different dudes in it.

It’s at this point I stopped naming the characters.  I’m even going out of my way to avoid using one or two until I’m one-hundred percent certain I can beat the mission with them.  I got too attached to Dismal Dan the highway man and Hamburgers the jester.  In fact, there might be a story in that.

Relax, I’m going to finish the Gael trilogy LONG before I start on that one.

Anyway, the point I was getting at is that once you hit a roadblock like I have, the game becomes less of a fun little romp into Lovecraft esque story telling and surprisingly fun turn-based combat (two concepts I rarely associate with each other), and it becomes more of what I’ve heard D&D players call a “meat grinder campaign.”

Clearly this term came out before MMORPGs became popular, and the term GRINDING was associated with repetitive tasks designed specifically to boost your stats.  Meat grinder, in the context it was shared with me, tends to describe a campaign, tabletop or otherwise, that just shreds through your characters.  By the time it’s all said and done, everybody playing has gone through a bare minimum of five character sheets, and the characters who managed to survive the adventure and claim glory are barely alive enough to enjoy it.  D&D was never my game (my friends were more of a Shadow Run group), but believe me, I know what those are like.  In the case of D&D, I’ve heard stories.  I might even go as far as to say that, in a weird way, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a bit of a meat grinder.

Darkest Dungeon is definitely a meat grinder, but honestly, it’s a FUN meat grinder.  That sounds weird when I read it back, but I’m keeping in mind that I’m a guy who enjoys feeding documents to his paper shredder.  So yeah, consider the source.

Seriously, though, this is one of those games where you will bitch, you will swear, and you will make the neighbors think a domestic disturbance might be taking place next door.  However, you might actually find it to be an entertaining experience despite all that.  A wise man once said: “There is no glory in a quest without peril.”

Darkest Dungeon is the kind of game that drives you insane with its gimmick, it’s randomly generated maps, its steap difficulty, and its unforgiving approach to dungeon crawlers.  It’s the kind of game that pisses you off, makes it personal in the process…  But somehow has me coming back for more.  Am I a masochist?  Nah.  If my experience in the dating game is anything to go by, I’m at that point where logically, I should give up and get used to marking that particular aspect of my life as a failure, but somehow, I’m stubborn enough to say “fuck that” and go back into the melee anyway, knowing full well it’s never going to work out, and will only drive me fucking crazy with every failure in the process.

Do I recommend Darkest Dungeon?  Sure, why not?  Give it a look over for yourself.

 

Ready Player One: My Thoughts

Virtual world fiction is probably among my least favorite subgenres of scifi-fantasy.  Dot Hack Sign was my first real exposure to the idea (back in the early 2000s when anime was all over the damn place), and I really didn’t care for it.  I just didn’t feel the same sense of urgency to anything going on.  It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but there was no real sense that anything going on in Dot Hack was relevant to anything going on in the real world.  I suppose when you’re in the game, and in the moment, slaying that evil ogre beast is the most god damn important thing ever, but video games tend to be more fun to play than to watch.  Although Game Grumps totally holds my attention.

Other works of virtual world fiction have come along, and…  Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been any better.

Sword Art On-line is probably the best modern example, and its first season was actually kind of interesting.  And it got you invested in the game itself, because if you died in the game, you died in real life.  There was urgency to complete the quest, there was commentary on how MMOs can, and sometimes DO consume your life, it had everything.  It’s just too bad they felt compelled to make a season 2 that completely underminded all the good things about season 1.  Then there was a season 3, and at that point, I was so annoyed with the show, I just flat out gave up.

There are other examples, and really, they all suck.  The idea of a virtual world just didn’t appeal to me for the longest time…  Until I heard about a man by the name of Ernest Cline.

I went in to Ready Player One expecting the worst.

“Virtual world, huh?  I’m skeptical, but I guess I got to listen to SOMETHING while waiting for Second Hand Souls to come out.”

“Oh god, it’s young adult.  I can’t wait to see what sort of heavy handed dystopian pseudo noir written in the present tense awaits me this time.”

“Oh great, 1980s pop culture.  Trying a little hard to cater to Generation Nostalgia, Mr. Cline?”

Really, by all accounts, I should’ve hated this book.  And yet, I enjoyed it.  From start to finish, this book was probably one of the better things I’d read in 2015.

There’s a reason to spend your entire life in a virtual world here, and surprisingly, it’s only PARTLY because by 2045, the entire planet is a fucking dump.  There’s urgency, dying in the virtual world has consequences, the characters…  Are probably the kind of people I’d have related to back when I was eighteen for sure, though replace all the 80s movies with professional wrestling trivia and nu metal.

I’ll try not to give too much away, but I will say this much: I kind of saw the reveal of H’s off-line self coming.  At At the same time, I was joking when I made that guess.  It’s amazing how often my jokes end up coming true.

The bad guys are a bit heavy handed in the sense “we wear suits and ties and work for a fortune500 company; therefore, we are evil!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”.  Still, this clearly wasn’t aimed at my demographic.  Maybe.  At the same time, though, Cline really knew how to make an IOI victory feel personal when it happened.  Dude finds the third key, and I actually remembered thinking “Oh shit!  Is the bad guy actually going to win?”  I’ve been reading fiction for ever now, and the only time I’ve ever thought that was when it was a horror novel, or a real depressing southern gothic sort of affair like William Faulkner.

They’re working on a film adaptation of this book at the time this was written.  While I can’t say I’m shocked, I can definitely say I was surprised.  It seemed like there were a lot of movies, music, and old TV shows to buy the rights to in order to use it.  Whatever film studio is making this is probably going to go bankrupt no matter what happens between that, and the excessive CGI that’ll most likely be included.

In a weird way, I’m more surprised somebody hasn’t tried making an actual MMO of the virtual world yet.  Call me crazy, but that just seems like good marketing gone to waste.  Hell, just clone Second Life and slap a bunch of 1980s movie posters everywhere.  You basically have the same thing then.

All and all, the virtual world subgenre is 1-4 for me.  Ready Player One is the 1, and until further notice, it’s pretty much the only good one.

Dorothy Must Die: My Thoughts

As someone who finds it harder and harder to admit to others I’m a Kansan (fucking Brownback), let me be the first to say that I fucking hate The Wizard of Oz with the passion of a million burning suns.  You go to a Kansas themed store, you’re going to find three things: Royals gear, barbecue sauce, and fucking Wizard of Oz murch.

I never really saw what the big deal was with Wizard of Oz in the first place.  Yeah, it was an innovation in film, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s good.  If nothing else, it doesn’t mean I have to forfeit my right to an opinion and automatically say it’s great.  Maybe it’s because I’ve watched it to death as a kid, or maybe it’s just because I’m not much of a film buff.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I belong to a very large crowd of Kansans who are sick and tired of hearing all the tornado jokes, Toto jokes, and the popular “you ain’t in Kansas no more!” from every god damn smart-ass guido New York has to offer.  It’s all just speculation, but at the same time, I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Oh sure, I guess you can bring up the Technicolor argument, and the fact it had one of the biggest actresses at the time in the lead.  You might even point out that the books were better.  I haven’t read the books, but honestly, I just don’t have any motivation to.  Bottom line: I’m just not a fan.

In fact, when I saw the first Dorothy Must Die book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, I had to see what that was about.  Of course, I had to get it off Audible.com if I wanted to read it, but the important thing is that I read it.  a year and a half later, I just finished book 3 in the series, and now I’m impatiently waiting to see what happens next.

Honestly, I neither love nor hate the “young adult” genre.  I’m tempted to punch people who refer to it as “YA”(either sounding out the letters, or pronouncing it phoenetically), but the…  Genre?  Demographic?  Whatever you want to call it, there are good stories here.  There’s also really, really, REALLY bad ones (I’m looking at you, United States of Asgard), but that’s really just the way of the world.  I guess at absolute worst, I’m still stuck in the olden days when we used to call them teenagers, and didn’t give a rat’s ass what they had to say about anything because it was mostly unimportant bullshit that centered around the aquarium that is high school.  You don’t believe me?  Go to Livejournal, and click random over and over again.  Wait, livejournal’s still a thing, right?

Yeah, the Dorothy Must Die books are young adult.  And yeah, there’s romance between the main character and a male.  Painfully awkward, unappealing romance that borders on a possible FRIangle (FRIangle = forced romantic interest angle).  However, compared to a lot of books in the genre demographic thing Audible.com recommended to me and I ended up hating, it’s somewhere between barely unnoticeable and understandable.

If nothing else, the setting, the story, and really, the concept of Dorothy becoming a tyrannical dictator is what holds my attention the most.  Danielle Paige has taken The Wizard of Oz, and turned it into a delightful Game of Thrones esque bloodbath.  Except thankfully, nobody’s fucking their sister in this one.  She is kind of a pain with all these cliffhanger endings, though, which is definitely something she and GRRM have in common.

Out of the three books, Rise of the Wicked (book 2) is my favorite so far.  Book 1 had its tedious bits here and there, but it managed to hold my attention from start to finish.  Book 3 was almost better than book 2, but then you got to the last three or four chapters, and I couldn’t help but feel like this could’ve been a chapter or two shorter.  Book 2, however, is pretty much perfect.

It’s very clear the author is either a fan of the old Wizard of Oz books, or she’s at least familiar enough with the source material.  Hell, she probably looked it all up on Wikipedia for all I know and care.  Just when you think she’s only focusing on the old movie, and maybe OZ the Great and Powerful (don’t even get me started), references so obscure that I’m surprised I even know them pop up.  I’m talking things like The Gnoamb King, and the silver shoes being completely different from the ruby ones.

I can’t say I appreciate all the little jabs at Kansas thrown in to all the books, but like I said, Kansas is making it real hard for me to be proud of being from here anymore.  This must be what it’s like for Canadians whenever they watch South Park.  I don’t know.

All I know for sure is I really enjoy this book series, and I’m eagerly waiting to see what sort of mayhem comes next in book 4.