Noir: My Thoughts

Christopher Moore is one of my all time favorite authors.  I started with A Dirty Job, then read all three of the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy, and pretty much set out to read as many of his books as I could possibly get my hands on.

Admittedly, Moore is…  Not for everybody.  Especially in recent years, with stories like Sacre Blue, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.  These are pretty avant gard, considering the guy had made a living telling humorous stories about either a fictional town out in the middle of nowhere, or in a fictional San Fransisco that reminds me of Kevin Smith’s Jerseyverse.  Or Askewniverse.  Or whatever we’re calling the Jay and Silent Bob movies nowadays.  The Jay-And-Silent-Bobiverse?

Also, if nothing came from the 2010s, my fascination with film noir happened in this very decade.  All you bitches feeling nostalgic for the neon-colored nightmare of shoulder pads, toy commercial cartoons, and Reaganomics don’t know nothing about nostalgia.  I was going back to the days when movies weren’t even in color!  I was going back to the days communism actually seemed like a legit threat to anybody!  I was going back to the day when a high budget movie was around six figures at absolute most!  You want to talk nostalgic?  You don’t know.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh right, Christopher Moore wrote a noir book!  My favorite author?  Writing one of my recent favorite genres?  I literally commented on his blog: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.  No really.  Look for the sample chapter for Noir on his blog (if it’s still there).  You’ll find my comment right there!

ANYWAY…

I really had high hopes for this book.  And…  Not going to lie…  It’s not one of his better books.  Yeah, I’m starting to think I might have jumped the gun on that one.  It’s fucking No Man’s Sky all over again.

It’s not a bad story by any means.  Comedy wise, “the kid” was probably the funniest thing about the entire story.  I mean yeah, the fact the main female character is named after a variety of British cheese is KINDA funny I guess, but a lot of the humor…  I don’t really want to say it fell flat, but considering I read Christopher Moore books frequently, I’m kind of familiar with his pacing, and his style of joke telling.  It’s like watching a new episode of a long-running sitcom that hasn’t managed to hit seasonal rot yet: the jokes are there, and you know they’re funny, but they aren’t really gut-busting hilarious.

The very beginning of the book is basically a fucking trigger warning to all the delicate little snowflakes out there that this book takes place in the 1940s, and therefore may use some slurs that were acceptable then, but aren’t now.  Although I got to say, I was expecting a lot worse than what I got.  Sure, he used the word “colored” a few times, and a few slurs for Chinese people.  I don’t know, maybe having friends who masterbate to Trump and praise “the glory of Kekistan” have desensitised me to the point I feel nothing anymore when I hear racist remarks.  Or maybe I don’t offend nearly as easily as this current generation of weak-willed pussies.  I’ll honestly believe either one.

Get past the trigger warning, and you get a story that is…  Okay.

Really, my only real gripe with the book is that there’s two narrators, and the second narrator waits till way into the book to introduce himself.  The epic reveal…  Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny, or dumb.  Possibly both, but maybe leaning more towards dumb.  It’s one of those choices that, on paper, probably sounded funnier.  And at the moment of the reveal, it DID kinda give me a chuckle.  But prior to the reveal, I found myself constantly wondering why it went from first person to third person every other chapter.

The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller.  Heller is a man of about two or three voices at absolute best, and they all have a bit of a Marlon Brando quality to them.  However, it’s a reader that fits the theme of the book just fine, so I give it a pass.

Overall, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read.  It’s not even the worst Christopher Moore book I’ve ever read.  Really, though, I’d recommend some of his other titles before recommending this one.

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The Philosopher’s Flight: My Thoughts

The Philosopher’s Flight is a book I really wasn’t expecting to like.  Or even read, honestly.  It got recommended at the book club I’m a member of, in rather hilarious fashion.

Basically, we discussed the book of the month (The City and the City by the HIGHLY over-rated China Mieville).  Then, talk of what to read next came up.  A woman who comes to the group off and on picked two books out of her purse, slapped them down on the table, and said: “Here’s your choices.  Pick one.  I’m not running out and buying a third book.  Pick one.”  I laughed, and went with the side that picked Philosopher’s Flight on the grounds option B was a clichéd young adult dystopia novel that lost me at the blurb describing the overused, overdone premise every young adult novel throughout the 2010s has used.

So we read The Philosopher’s Flight, and I got to say, I liked it a lot.

Robert is a young man, living in a world where “philosophy” actually refers to magic.  Also, magic seems to come more naturally for women than it does for men, although a few men can perform magic as well.  Like Robert, for example.  Magic, or “philosophy”, consists of being able to draw sigils with certain ingredients, and through the power of magic (I guess), stuff happens according to what sigil you drew, and what you drew it with.  IE, aluminum results in teleportation, silver results in stasis, corn powder (I think) results in flight…  They allude to a combination of sulphur and bonemeal that makes a really nasty death spell, but it never gets used.

Robert wants to join the rescue squad, and serve his country in World War I.  However, because most men can’t perform magic as effortlessly, or at all, it’s an uphill battle just getting through the academy.  The person recommending this book for the club suggested that it was an inverse to the whole “strong independent woman who’s strong and independent and a woman proving to the men how strong and independent this woman is.  Did we mention this is a woman who’s strong and independent?  Because it’s super important you note that this is a strong independent woman.” fad we’ve been stuck in for the last three or four years now by basically giving the WOMEN the power, and making the MAN prove himself.  Admittedly, I assumed the women were going to have more influence in this world than they had.  IE, I thought they’d hold the majority of political power, cultural influence, and men were treated like objects who cooked and cleaned and all that.  While women in this universe are more adept at “philosophy”, they still don’t have a whole lot of influence outside “philosophy” circles.

Also, did you know that in the old days, a woman could run for office, but couldn’t vote?  According to the resident SJW of the club, yeah, that was actually a thing.  They brought it up in this book, but I thought it was just part of their universe, but it’s actually a thing!  Weird, right?

Getting back on track…

This book is definitely a departure from the kind of things I read.  IE, not a whole lot of fight scenes, and not a whole lot of magic and mysticism outside “philosophy”.  And I’m okay with that.

A common criticism the story seems to get is that it tries to tackle several themes, and only really resolves one or two.  A lot of this gets attributed to the fact that this is Tom Miller’s first book, and perhaps he’s still trying to figure things out.  I personally attribute it to the fact that Robert is really your classic case of a country boy in the city.  A lot of these themes get brought up as environmental factors, but the primary focus of the story is definitely that Robert is just trying to get through the academy, and live out his life long dream of working in rescue and evac for the U.S. military.

The audiobook is read by Gibson Frazier.  He does a really good job with the material he’s given, although it’s kind of hilarious to hear a guy give the cliché dum jock voice to female characters on occasion.  I guess in this universe, women have to take up roles like captain of the sportsball team, so I guess they can be dumb jocks just as much as…  You know, I’m thinking too hard about this.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is book 1 of a series.  A series that, as of this writing, is still in the works.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed this book, I’m hesitant to read any further in this series .  The book ended pretty conclusively in my opinion.  I mean yeah, they could probably elaborate on the very specific details of what went on during the montage that was the last three or four paragraphs…  Also, the prologue.

I forgot entirely about the prologue until the book club got together.  And understandably so.  The prologue contributes literally NOTHING to the plot of this book.  I GUESS it provides a little context on how “philosophy” works, but it’s nothing you couldn’t pick up for yourself actually reading through the story proper.  Nothing that’s ever brought up in the prologue EVER shows up in the story.  So much so, I wonder why the hell the author even bothered.  Outside the possibility of page count, but I figured that’s why he included a glossary of terms that you’ve probably long since figured out by ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

Some writing advice I’ve gotten over the years is this: never start with a prologue.  Don’t start the story in the middle, and flash back to three weeks earlier.  Don’t use a prologue as a foreshadowing tool for something that happens in book 2 or book 3.  In fact, just don’t do the prologue.  Ever.  Start the story at chapter 1, and go from there.

The Philosopher’s Flight could’ve probably benefitted from this advice.  Lord knows I don’t do prologues anymore for this very reason.

One thing Miller and I are BOTH guilty of, though, is beginning chapters with quotes that foreshadow future events in the chapter.  This is one of those things where in it works if it’s done properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was done properly in Miller’s book.  For example, he shares a passage from Danielle’s campaign speech from all the way into the 1930s: at least fifteen or twenty years after the story takes place.  Then we have an epic final battle between Robert, Danielle, and the villain of the book (a dude who totally gives me Fred Phelps vibes), and I felt virtually NO ergency.  Bitch, I already know Danielle survives!  And as a result, it kind of kills the suspense.

These are some nitpicks I had with the book, but despite those nitpicks, I actually really liked the story quite a bit.  Will I check out future books in the series?  Well…  We’ll see.  For what it’s worth, book 1 was definitely not a bad read.

 

The Sims 4 for PS4: My Thoughts

Holy fucking hell.  I seriously can’t believe I was waiting for this.

Look, I’m not a PC gamer.  A lot of the time, I end up getting computers that can’t run shit as far as PC games go.  I suppose STEAM has remedied that problem…  Or maybe Eternal doesn’t require a whole lot of processing power to run.  In any case, aside from Eternal, which I haven’t played since July, I generally don’t do PC gaming.

Meanwhile, there’s The Sims.  If I have literally ANY guilty pleasure in life, it’s probably The Sims.  This is hands down the single dumbest idea for a video game anybody has ever had.  And have you seen some of the shovelware on STEAM?  And yet, despite this, it’s been one of my all-time favorite things to play.

I tried playing it on PC back in the day, but found that it crashed regularly.  The console version for PS2, and the offshoot game known as The Sims: Busting Out, were games that saw some heavy rotation in my old PS2.  I tried playing The Sims 2 on the WII, but found it to be a serious ordeal.  Not necessarily because of the game itself, but because this was the point the WII was losing its novelty.

I came to the console version of The Sims 3 for PS3 way late in the game, but I ended up enjoying the shit out of it.  I thought lifespans would ruin the game, but honestly, it made it MORE interesting to see.  I put the game in around March, played it religiously, and when I finally came back to reality, I came to the revelation of “Holy shit, it’s July!”.

I’ve honestly heard the ultimate definition of mixed reviews for The Sims 4, and a lot of the negative reviews were about all the features from The Sims 3 that got cut out, and reintroduced as DLC.  SEMI-RELATED NOTE: fuck EA Games.  I anticipated the release of the console port, and it finally came out earlier this week.  And I legitimately can’t remember the last time something Sims related left me this disappointed.  Seriously, even Urbs: Sims in the City was novel for a while.  Before it got stupid.

The menus in this game are fucking horrible.  Microscopic text on eye bleeching backgrounds is nothing especially new for The Sims (this was a problem dating back to around The Sims 2 as memory serves), but man, it’s especially annoying here.

It’s made extremely worse the moment I discovered they expected you to use a fucking curser to navigate everything.  A curser.  On a fucking PS4!  Seriously, bro, what’s wrong with having a simple scrollable menu on the left, and my sim on the right?  It worked just fine in The Sims 3.

The interface of this game is the most atrocious part of this entire console port.  I suppose I should be a little happy they went with something other than bleech white for the create-a-sim screen, but having everything in icons, and having to use a FUCKING CURSER to click on things…  This probably works fine for PC, but on console, this is unacceptable.

The curser is made even worse by being uncooperative.  It goes from sluggish to streaking across the screen in nothing flat, and someone like me who operates on one faulty eye loses track of this thing WAY too easily.

You can technically click the touchpad on your controller, and go to using the D-pad or left analog stick to navigate menus…  Except that’s somehow MORE inefficient.  I literally NEEDED the broken fucking curser to do certain things.

The game provides tutorials if you ask for them.  Unfortunately, the text is so fucking tiny, and the tiny black text on bright white gives me headaches.  I’ve literally had more fun looking directly at the sun for an hour.  If the menu system wasn’t such a pain in the ass, this wouldn’t be a problem.  Believe me, I’ve often said “fuck the tutorial” and made it through games by figuring out where everything is.  Except here, the menus are fucking impossible to figure out.

I played this game for about forty minutes, and I’m so fucking annoyed with it that I’m debating whether or not I want to give it another go tomorrow night.  My sim is currently standing on the sidewalk, texting his buddies…  Or maybe he’s playing Flappybird?  He’s doing something on his cell phone like an idiot, because I have no fucking clue how to build his house.  And I can’t build his house because the interface is unintuitive and frustrating, I can’t read the tutorials, and thus far, all the YouTube videos I’ve consulted deal with the PC version.  Because fuck console gamers, I guess.

All and all, I consider this to be a major disappointment at best, and fifty bucks I’m never going to get back at worst.  I wish my PS4 was backward compadible with PS3, because then I could just plug in my copy of The Sims 3, and play that instead.  At least then it’d be fun.

I couldn’t tell you if The Sims 4 is any good or not.  It’s got all the fun stuff you’d expect from the past games, plus the ability to make vampires apparently, but I’ll never know, because this game is a fucking headache to deal with on PS4.  I guess stick with the PC version?

Reincarnation Blues, My Thoughts

1As much as I love the PEOPLE in my book club, the selections have left something to be desired.

I’ve tried The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neil Stevenson, and I honestly wasn’t impressed.

I tried the first book in Illuminae, and the fact it was classified as young adult might as well have been the red flag to end all red flags.

I tried From a Buic 8 by Stephen King, and was honestly pretty disappointed with it.

So far, out of all the books we’ve picked as a group, the only one I can say I truly loved was Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

Reincarnation and spirituality fascinate me.  Having been a kid growing up in the reddest part of Red Kansas, my only choices for religions were Catholicism, and Presbyterianism.  And when I say choices, I meant that my family was Presbyterian, and I had no choice but to be Presbyterian along with them.  So in other words, my spiritual studies could be summarized as “Jesus is correct, worship him or fuck off”.  But I’ve gone on that topic a bunch already, so I won’t bore you with it here.

Moving to the city, and gaining access to the internet were the best things that ever happened to me in this regard, because I found myself researching a lot about religion and spirituality over the course of my life.  I eventually settled on Baha’i, but even after settling, I still like to read what other religions have to say on this matter.  And Reincarnation Blues has an interesting interpretation of how reincarnation works.

Whether Reincarnation Blues builds its model of reincarnation on the Hindu, or the Buddhist concept is something I’m not entirely sure of.  I’m guessing the Buddhist version, considering one of the main character’s lifetimes was during the times of The Buddha himself, but honestly, Buddhism’s concept of the afterlife seems to borrow pretty heavily from Hindu.

The story, regardless, is fascinating.  At worst, I’d say it’s a bit on the predictable side the moment you find out there’s a finite number of lifetimes you’re allowed to have, and the fact the main character only has five more to go, but predictable isn’t the same as bad.

It’s all about attaining enlightenment, and going through “the sun door”.  What awaits you on the other side of the sun door?  Milo doesn’t seem all that interested at first, due to the fact the love of his life exists in the realm between lives.  Love makes you do crazy things.  It makes you lose count of lives and spend a lot of your time between them just hanging around deserts learning how to juggle.  I guess.  And here I thought it just made you forget smelling your girlfriend’s hair is considered creepy.  Don’t ask.

The humor in this book has been likened to Douglas Addams: author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It really depends on which passage we’re talking about.  Sometimes, I can totally see it.  Other times, that seems like a stretch.  The book has its own, unique, dry sense of humor.  Life and death are clearly irrelevant, and it really needs to be that way, or else the concept of reincarnation really loses its power.

The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall, and…  He’s okay.  Listening to him read is like listening to a bed time story read by my grandpa, honestly.  Although I don’t think my grandpa ever read me any bed time stories with this much death involved.  In any case, his performance isn’t distracting, and the story never feels like a chore at any point.

I honestly recommend this book.  I’ve even thought of giving it a second readthrough once I’m done with the monumental pile of crap I have in my Audible.com cue right now.  It’s totally worth your time.

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.

 

Big Mouth: My Thoughts

Honestly, when it comes to the hip and popular thing everyone won’t shut the fuck up about, I usually tend to be an avoider.  Case in point, I still haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books past The Sorceror’s Stone, I haven’t watched ANY of Breaking Bad, and I actively went out of my way to AVOID House of Cards.  I still don’t know how I got talked into Orange is the New Black, but long time readers already know where I stand on that.  And if you’re new…  Yeah, the book was better.  Oh yeah, did you know there was a book?  And about four different versions of the book are on Audible.com, weirdly enough.  Not sure WHY there’s four, but there’s apparently four.  But I digress.

I usually tend to avoid the trendy things…  Except in the case of Big Mouth, the trendy thing is probably the most polarizing thing out there right now.  I think the only thing anybody can agree on is that the character designs suck.  I’ll own up to having certain designs I don’t like (IE, football headed characters), but really once you see your way past the character designs, the show is actually…  Meh.

I’ve heard the popular joke/statement where someone says it’s all about those awkward years of going through puberty, and “The last thing I ever want to do is relive those awkward years.”  Yeah, at least you had NORMAL middle school experiences.  Got to go to normal middle school, make awkward mistakes around a bunch of other normal kids who knew just as little as you did, and nobody threw you into a special little asylum school where you were a confused thirteen-year-old forced to coexist with a bunch of sixteen and seventeen year old assholes who fucking resented every minute you were in the same room as them, made fun of you for having arachnophobia, and calling you several variations of “gay ass faggot” for liking professional wrestling.  Yeah, you definitely had it rough.  My life was smooth sailing.

Oi, the sarcasm kills me inside.

In all seriousness, though, the show is…  Okay.  It’s not horrible, it’s not amazing, it’s just okay.

Admittedly, I heard one of the guys who wrote Sausage Party was involved with this show, which was a red flag right out the gate.  As mentioned in Red Flannel Radio, I watched about three minutes of Sausage Party, and Immediately called it quits.

But suppose Sausage Party was a fluke.  Hell, it’s happened before.  I mean hell, Rob Zombie makes some of my favorite horror movies of all time…  But he ALSO made a shitty remake of the first two Halloween movies.  Everybody’s entitled to one fuck up, right?

Well fortunately, Big Mouth isn’t as terrible.  Hell, I’m up to episode 8 as of this writing, and…  Well…  I’m not exactly laughing at every single joke the show throws at me.  Far from it, really.  Yet at the same timeI don’t really feel compelled to turn away in revoltion, either.

There are some aspects of the show that are more annoying than anything else.  Coach Steve is that character I know they’re TRYING to make funny, but boy is it not working at all.  I see what MarsReviews was talking about when they mentioned they have a habit of running jokes into the ground.  Yes, I’m familiar with the comedy rule of three, but things like the “shit covered basketballs” wasn’t funny the first time, and it never gets funnier with repetition.

On the other hand, it’s actually an interesting take on the concept of puberty.  The “hormone monster” is unsurprisingly the character they want you to consider your favorite, and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s very Family Guy esque in how it’s supposed to be an entity only kids going through puberty can see and interact with, but sometimes adults can see him because SHUT UP AND LAUGH YOU FUCKING CRETINS!.  That being said, I’ve laughed more at things the hormone monsters and monstresses have said than pretty much any other joke.

Notgoing to lie, this show is pretty fucking gross.  I personally have made peace with the idea that the human body is disgusting, and anyone who says otherwise is either a fucking liar, or they’re more focused on the outside.  They’re more about your image than about the inner workings and the horrible, disgusting smells and objects the body can produce such as feces, urine, tumors, and children.  Fucking grody, man.

That being said, yeah, there’s a lot of masturbation jokes in this.  And yeah, there’s a whole episode about a girl getting her first period.  The worst of it is probably the episode of Jay getting his pillow pregnant in his weird schizophrenic fantasy world.  Part of me definitely could’ve lived a lot longer without seeing a lot of that.  And another part of me can’t help but wonder why I never thought of that till now?  Oh well.

If you can see your way past the grossout factor, it’s actually not the worst thing ever.  Believe me, I’ve seen worse.  Shit, I listen to GWAR for crying out loud.  You want to talk gross…

At the same time, though, I’m not in a huge hurry to recommend the show.  It’s not terrible, but it’s probably nothing I’m going to watch more than once.  As far as recommendations go…  I don’t know, check it out for yourself.  Formulate your own fucking opinion instead of getting it from a half-blind insomniac who probably ought to be writing his next novel instead of spending his Saturday off watching Netflix and listening to Hunter S. Thompson novels on Audible.com.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: My Thoughts

I ask you audience: what the fuck do you people see in Neil Stevenson? Because between this, and Seven Eves (heh, I see what you did there), I just don’t get it.
Recently, I joined a scifi book club. Yeah, I know, me being social. The end of days may be upon us pretty soon. Although I think The Kansas City Chiefs have to win the superbowl before it’s TRULY official. Whatever.
The scifi bookclub I joined chose The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. as their book of the month to read. Considering I’ve been spending the last couple of months alternating between Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland (a book series about dragons that I can’t decide on whether or not I might be a little too old for), The Demon Accord by John Conroe (a series of books I honestly liked a lot better when it was called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter), and the occasional Yahtzee Croshaw book, I probably needed a change of pace. It’s just too bad that it had to be this near-800 page brick of a dud.I was willing to give Stevenson the benefit of a doubt. I couldn’t see my way past the first part of Seven Eves when I picked it up, but I still can’t decide if it was because of the story itself, or if it was because Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice really annoyed me. She has a weird accent that according to my memory, is very George Tekai.

But hey, sometimes, an author puts out a dud. I myself, in my infinite wisdom, felt like Homecoming: a Novella of Highfill, Kansas needed a sequel for reasons I can’t remember anymore, so yeah, even I’m capable of doing it. So maybe Seven Eves was just one dud in an otherwise steller catalogue.
If The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is anything to go on… Yeah, no. I’m officially in the minority. Hashtag-TJBHatesEverything and what not.
D.O.D.O. is a government organization built around the concept of time travel. For a lot of scifi guys, that right there is already a red flag. Time travel is one of those concepts that even GOOD authors struggle with. Add on the fact that Stevenson manages to include multiverse theory into time travel, and it becomes an even more tangled mess.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is read by at least ten different readers. And while I perked up when I heard Luke Motherfucking Daniels was one of them, the rest were a real mixed bag. Each reader reads from the perspective of one character, which is actually a really cool idea, and I really wish more audio books would do that. I’m not especially familiar with the other nine readers, though. I could tell you their names after looking up the book on Audible.com, but I couldn’t tell you who played who. Other than Luke Daniels, of course.
I will say, though, that whoever they got to voice Stokes was a SERIOUS miscast. Someone who is stranded in 1851 England with little to no hope of returning should NOT be this fucking perky. Everybody else in the recording, though, is passable at worst, and pretty damn good at best.
Then we get into the story. Oh god, the story.
Stevenson apparently decided to tell the story through a compilation of Stokes’ diary, government emails, memos, letters to the queen, transcripts of video conversations, and so on. It’s not especially obnoxious… Until you get to part 3, anyway. Then it becomes a serious fucking chore to get through.
The entirety of the book club can at least agree with me on the fact this was not a great idea. I personally believe they could’ve stuck with Stokes’ diary from 1851, and call it good.  It’d probably be three hundred pages shorter, but oh well. Length does not dictate quality of story. You’re talking to a guy who’s written books that barely hit the one-hundred page count.

I personally didn’t care for how the Stokes diary chapters basically announced what the chapter was going to be about.  I’ve literally seen titles for Dragon Ball Z episodes that left more to the imagination than this.

Some of the group think that Stokes was way too detailed in her descriptions, despite complaining constantly about hand cramps from writing with a quill pen, or shortage of ink or paper, and just that nobody could hope to remember the insane amount of detail put into each conversation. I see what they’re talking about, but honestly, that’s the one thing I personally could look past. Largely because by the time I’d gotten to parp 4, a fucking unicorn could’ve come through space and time, farted a rainbow, and blown up the Earth, and I still could’ve shrugged, said “whatever”, and used the book to squash cockroaches. If I had a copy of the print version, that is.
The story overall doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not really a story so much as it is a series of events. Someone in the group said it reminded them of someone writing a pilot to a TV show, and it’s not hard to see where he got that.

The concept of time travel in this series is heavily built around Schrodinger’s Cat.  IE, you can only travel through time and space when you somehow achieve a state of dead-alive.  if you can somehow convince the world you’re both dead and alive, you can convince the world you are both in the present, and…  Well, say, 1851.  That’s actually kind of a neat idea.

It’s just too bad we had to achieve the concept of time travel through WITCHCRAFT.

I have no problem with sorcery in my fiction.  Especially nowadays, where I’m a lot more open to the fantasy genre than I used to be.  It seems like they spend all this time talking about witches, and how they can do all this magic, but aside from turning an apple into an orange, or turning a can of white paint into a can of black paint in the beginning, the only thing the witchcraft is used for is time travel.  And maybe mind control towards the end.

The thing about time travel in this book that gets me, though, is that just because you accomplished this deed in the 1600s doesn’t mean it carries over to our specific present day.  Remember, I said this version of time travel includes multiverse theory ON TOP of past and present.  Meaning that the version of the past where you meddled probably isn’t the version of the past that’s on our timeline!  Meaning you have to go back in time at least FOUR OTHER TIMES if you want to accomplish what you want!  That, or create a disaster so catastrophic that the entirety of time and space has to go out of its way to rewrite more than one timeline in order to stay afloat.

Keeping that in mind, the only REAL way to change time is to basically burn down taverns, or murder super-important figures in time.  Otherwise, what’s even the point!?  It’s all an exercise in repetition.

But there in lies the theme.  The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is pretty much a 700+ page allegory on the mind-numbing repetitive nature, general incompatence, and bureaucratic nightmare of government.  Wow, a book that’s extremely critical of The United States government?  WOW!  Haven’t read that one before.  And in 2017 no less!  All we need now is a thinly disguised representation of Donald Trump, and we’ve hit the zenith of creativity that no one has ever thought of reaching!  *sigh*

Okay, let’s cool off.  I know I’m going to get hatemail up the wazoo from Stevenson fans no matter what I have to say (I hear he has a cult following), but let’s cool down.

As much shit as I give this book, I DID manage to see it to the end.  More than I can say for Seven Eves, that’s for sure.  The book was tedious enough to annoy me frequently, and make me consider putting it down to read something I actually WANT to read.  On the other hand, the premise was actually intriguing enough to where I actually wanted to see where it was going.  There was a good story in this near 800 page brick somewhere.  I just wish someone up in editing had taken out the chainsaw and made the effort to hack away the driftwood to get there.

The End of Oz: My Thoughts

If you want my opinions on the first three books in the Dorothy Must Die series, click here:

https://tjbauthor.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/dorothy-must-die-my-thoughts/

All caught up?  Okay then.  Let’s proceed on to book 4.

I have to say, book 4…  Was kind of a Letdown.

Part of me thinks it’s because this is where the series ends.  While young adult isn’t a demographic I regularly indulge in on purpose, I’ve actually been enjoying the books for the most part.  The fact this thrillride is over, and now I have nothing to look forward to every April is just kind of a downer.

It could also be that the eventual death of Dorothy that we’ve been waiting for since book 1 was kind of a lame-ass cop out.  I spent four books waiting for this bitch to get hers, and the series ends with the main character “taking the high road” on the death penalty like some sanctimonious, bleeding heart pro-lifer on their soapbox denouncing “the satanic institution of death row”.  Ugh, don’t even get me started: we’ll be here all night, and it’s already 3:00 in the morning as I write this.

All I know is rather than a satisfying final battle that leaves the antagonist dead, we get this bullshit morality ending, and Dorothy basically erases herself from existence using…  I don’t know, bailfire?  Does anybody outside the Wheel of Time fandom even know what I’m even referencing?  I waited three fucking years for this, you know.  I’m KIND OF satisfied The Noamb King got his…  Although The Noamb King was pretty one-dimensional by comparison .

It could also be that the FRIangle that has been a minor inconvenience since book 1 reaches its climax.  They finally boink in this book, and it gets pretty insufferable afterward.  Sue me, I wasn’t much of a hopeless romantic when I was their age.  Hell, I used to MST the shit out of this sort of lovey-dovey stuff.

It could also be that, in my humble opinion, chapter 23 was literally unnecessary.  You really could’ve ended the story on chapter 22, and it would’ve been less tedious.  Instead, we get this long, drawn-out, “where are they now” sort of ending that I was really wishing would just hurry up and be done with.

The End of Oz, like the books before it, is read by Devon Sorvari.  I forgot to mention it in the review of the first three books, but I honestly find listening to Sorvari to be the biggest ordeal of the series.  Even when the books are GOOD, I find her style to be slow and monotonous.  It hasn’t gotten better as the years have gone by, sad to say.  I’d like to think she’s giving it her all, and I can forgive a reader who’s a reader of about two or three voices tops, but I get the feeling Sorvari was getting paid by the hour the rate she was reading.

Hell, maybe I didn’t enjoy this one as much because I’m just not feeling the concept anymore.  It seriously took FOUR books to kill Dorothy, and they didn’t really KILL Dorothy so much as they clicked the delete button on her and undid everything she did as a result.  Did I mention that was very unsatisfying?  Because it is.

I probably shouldn’t be complaining too much in the longrun.  Shit, I’m a thirty-one-year-old man who has to self-publish all of HIS crap complaining about someone’s young adult series that managed to get for-real published.  Still, this book was actually kind of a letdown.  It’s the end of an era.  I just wish it didn’t have to go out with an apathetic shrug, mumbling “Whatever, it’s done.  I’m out of here.”

Will Save the Galaxy for Food: My Thoughts

Yahtzee Croshaw.  Now there’s a mouthful of a name if I ever heard one.  Croshaw is well known for several things: a couple other books I haven’t gotten to yet, a series of adventure games made with one of those Game Maker esque programs I’ve really been meaning to pick up, and perhaps the thing that sealed the deal and made me a fan for good, his game review series.

Zero Punctuation has become one of my favorite things to watch on YouTube lately.  Considering Youtube is on the verge of censoring itself into oblivion (apparently), it probably won’t be there much longer, but for now, I’m enjoying the trip.  Admittedly, if you don’t like the color yellow, you’re probably not going to like this show.  There’s a lot of yellow in the background.  But even if that’s a turn off, I’ve found looking away from the screen and focusing primarily on the audio works just as well.  I’m not a very vision-oriented person, though, so maybe that’s just me.  And maybe you like yellow, which in that case, go ahead and look at the screen.  Look to your heart’s content!

Semi-related note: did you know there’s an honest to god phobia of the color yellow?  I forget what it’s called, and I’m not exactly in any hurry to Google it, but yeah, that’s a thing.  Go figure.

While marathoning some Zero Punctuation one night, I saw at the end of one of his videos that he’d apparently written a book.  At the time, I didn’t know he was an author with two other books in the can prior to this one, so you’ll forgive me if I’m going in reverse order.  It’s like the Star Wars trilogy all over again.  The good one.  Not the prequel one, or the J.J. one we’re working on right now.

Fortunately, the books are unrelated.  Say for maybe a reference to his book, Jam, I read through Will Save the Galaxy for Food, and didn’t feel like I had to backtrack.  True, I’m GOING TO backtrack, but it’s because I want to, not because I have to.

I love these kind of space epics.  The Expanse is fun if you want hardcore science fiction in the real world…  Or about as close to the real world as you can possibly get.  However, I’ve always found my favorite scifi was the kind of scifi that threw up its hands and said “fuck it”.  Is there such a planet as the one he takes people on a tour of in chapter 1?  Fuck if I know.  We did discover a whole other solar system a couple months ago with three planets that could hypothetically support life and all, but man, I don’t fucking care.  We’re never going to see those planets.  Between the fact that, last I checked, a science-denying hypocrite by the name of Ted Cruz has a pretty high-ranking position in NASA, and the fact it takes literally for fucking ever to get there with the technology we have, it’s not happening in MY lifetime for sure.  So just give me a fucking fantasy to hold on to.

The book gives me flashbacks to the various Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, what with its mostly well-flushed-out environments, great characters (even the obnoxious one-percenter teenager and his pink-haired girlfriend have their charm), and dry British humor.  Although instead of a nifty device that was a laptop in the 1970s, a cell phone in 2001, and god only knows what it’ll be if they ever give us another Hitchhiker’s Guide thing in the present day, we have the captain of the S.S. God of Whalesharks.

The audio book is read by the author himself, Yahtzee Croshaw.  I have to admit, it’s weird hearing him read in a slow, reserved sort of way.  I guess I’m too used to his million miles a second ramblefest style from Zero Punctuation.  All the same, I love his performance.  No two characters sound exactly the same, and I imagine the captain himself with Croshaw’s normal voice.

It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two other books to get caught up on.

 

Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian Dungeon Crawler, or Charater 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.