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.

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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.

 

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: My Thoughts

I love David Wong.  Admittedly, I wasn’t around for PWOT, and I don’t really follow Cracked all that much (I’m also guessing WISECRACKED is a completely different entity), but his books have entertained me over the many…  Four years.  I found out he existed around the time his second book, This Book is Full of Spiders, was new.  I ended up enjoying the shit out of it, and even picked up the legendary John Dies at the End right after I finished that one.

Apparently, I was significantly late to the party when it comes to his third book, but hey, the important thing is I got to it.  Eventually.  A year later.  STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Unlike his previous novels, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits doesn’t follow the demon hunting shinanigans of David and John.  Instead, it follows the story of Zoey: trailer trash turned millionaire.  And for the record, my spellchecker is thoroughly bitching me out over the spelling of the name ZOEY, but according to the page on Audible.com, I’m spelling it right.  So fuck you, spellchecker.  ALWAYS NAY-SAYING!  Dick.

The audio book is read by Christy Romano, and she is absolutely perfect.  She’s got a wide range of voices, her reading style never gets tedious, and her timing is on the mark.  I enjoyed this performance very much.  Which is good, because this book is a wee bit tedious in spots.So…  Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before, but a fat girl from the trailer park suddenly becomes an ultra-billionaire upon her father’s passing, and inherits a mansion the size of a small town.  She also finds herself in a town where there are no laws, no regulations, and no cops.  A libertarian dream come true…  Right up until you get to the part where everybody’s AWARE of the fact there’s no rules and regulations, and ultimately turn the city into a personal playground for killers, a safe haven for every illegal substance on the planet, and the battleground between the team of Zoey and “The Fancy Suits”, and one of the most psychotic people I’ve seen in fiction in quite a while.  I’ve literally seen Dragon Ball Z villains with more subtlety to them than the villain of this book…  But I guess when you don’t have to hide in the shadows, and your entire self worth is based on how many Twitter followers…  Excuse me, BLINKER followers you have, there’s probably no point in being subtle, is there?

I’ll give Wong this much: the world he’s built is fascinating.  There’s plenty of detail that has me thinking someone’s on the verge of writing a wiki.  Hell, if there’s more than one book in the series, that just might happen.  They made a wiki for Punch Out of all things, so why not?

While I know it’s played up for laughs, I actually don’t have a difficult time believing people would sooner switch on their blinker cameras on their glasses and stream a murder happening right in front of them in the name of subscribers than…  You know, actually helping the victim?  Or even running away in terror, for that matter.  The idea of a futuristic anarchy zone like Tabula Ra$a (I’m guessing on that spelling based on the few hints the audio book has given me) reminds me of similar settings I’ve encountered over the years.  It’s like a more futuristic Nightside, or a less demonic Midian.  But while the core concept sounds has a bit of a “SIMPSONS DID IT!” vibe to it, The city as a whole is original enough to where you don’t even think about it when you’re reading it.

If I have one problem with the book, it’s how Wong milks the suspense for everything it’s worth.  I go into this book knowing full well Zoey’s not a fighter.  She has no cybernetic parts like the villains, she has no martial arts training…  Hell, her only real skill is that she gives really good “massages”.  I went in knowing she was going to get taken hostage at least once.  I’m also aware the villain of the book is a bit of a drama queen, as is everyone in this universe.  I just wish the attempt at building suspense and tention didn’t go on FOR FUCKING EVER!

Look, I can appreciate good banter between hero and villain.  A villainous monologue can be pretty epic, and the hero’s moment of pure helplessness can be pretty intense when done right.  But man, I wish the punchline would hurry up and get here.  It’s one thing to know in your heart of hearts that the bad guys aren’t going to succeed in burying someone alive, and it’s another thing for it to drag on, and on, and on, and on.  All the while, you already know the punchline is coming, which ultimately kills the attempt at suspense dead.  Admittedly, I didn’t see the EXACT punchline coming, but I knew something was going to come along and save the day.

And it wouldn’t be an especially big problem if it didn’t happen over and over and over again.  By the time it got to the final battle, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency.  Hell, despite Romano’s performance, I actually wanted to hit fast forward just to get to the god damn punchline already!

The book is a whopping seventy chapters long, but much like Nax Barry’s Jennifer Government, it becomes significantly less intimidating when you realize the chapters are ridiculously short.  Half the time, chapters end in the middle of conversations, and the next chapter picks up right where the conversation left off!  I wouldn’t say it’s annoying, but it does make me wonder out loud why the author went that route.

These complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this story.  Admittedly, not as much as the David and John stories, but if Wong writes a sequel to this novel, I might consider giving it a read.

The Dinosaur Lords: My Thoughts

A year or two ago, I heard of a book in progress by the name of The Dinosaur Lords.  I legitimately can’t remember the last time I got excited for a book based on literally nothing but the title before that day, but I was definitely interested.  An epic swords and sorcery adventure with knights riding on dinosaurs?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!  This is literally the kind of nonsense you’re REQUIRED to read as a member of the male gender.  Remember that, F2Ms, there will be a test.

In the end…  I suppose it was my own damn fault for getting as excited as I did.  I think I may’ve set the bar a little too high on this one.  If I didn’t do it, the author certainly did.

I’ve grown to love the fantasy genre in my adulthood.  As a child, I really preferred scifi.  As a teenager, I preferred horror, and even considered the fantasy genre to be “nothing but a bunch of gay-ass hobbit crap full of elves and trolls.”  Try not to judge me too harshly: the words GAY and RETARDED had a nasty habit of meaning the same thing in the early 2000s.  But in adulthood, fantasy is actually pretty appealing.  Probably because the future ended up sucking ass.  Still waiting for my robot butler and awesome flying car, you know.  Fucking big oil.

Still, even as a guy who’s a lot more willing to shut his brain off and enjoy an idiotic sequence of battles between wizards and ogres or whatever, The Dinosaur Lords was a monumental disappointment to me.  And it’s not entirely hard to see why, either.

There are definitely dinosaur knight battles, but seems like they’re a little too far and few between.  Obviously, you have to have a story, or else it comes off as a montage of battles rather than a fantasy novel.  Still, I found all the attempts at political intrigue more boring than anything else.  It was a miracle I could keep half of these characters straight!

I honestly found Rob and the voivod more interesting than Melodia and the royal family.  I also found myself wishing the book would just pick one and stick with it.  Even if it went the boring route and picked the royal family, at least it committed.  The book will often shift perspective from the royals to Rob and the Voivod and back in one chapter.  Maybe it’s just how I write anymore, or maybe it’s just the kind of authors I read anymore, but it seems like a much better idea to build the chapter around one set of characters.  I suppose you COULD build the story around both sets, but it’d probably work a lot better if you just let Rob and the voivod have their own chapter, then have the royal family sort out shit in another chapter.

Each chapter begins with a passage from “The Book of True Names”, which is just a fancy name for an encyclopedia of dinosaurs.  And I guess that’s kind of cool…  Except sometimes, the dinosaur they talk about has nothing to do with the chapter about to unfold.  Or maybe I need to pay more attention.  Seriously, I was so fucking bored listening to this audiobook, it wasn’t even funny.  When they run out of dinosaurs, though, they give you a primer on the religion of the universe.  It’s honestly not as fascinating as it ought to be.

The audiobook is read by Noah Michael Levine.  Frankly, the way he goes about it, the Talkback app on my fucking Galaxy S5 would’ve made for a less mechanical reader.  My god, this guy is boring!  The dude reads the book with absolutely zero enthusiasm.  I imagine as a reader of audiobooks, you tend to get some that you normally aren’t a fan of, but god damn, bro!  The character dialogue is probably the only time NML shows any hint of personality.  I can forgive a reader for being a man of two or three voices, but I just felt like this guy could’ve been doing literally anything else but reading this book right now.

There’s at least one other book in the series as of this writing, but after this experience, I’m thinking of calling it good here.  I have no interest in pursuing this story past chapter 32.  Frankly, I thought about picking up where I left off in the fucking Demon Accord after this.  Yeah, The Demon Accord is basically gender-swopped Twilight at the point I left off, but at least the reader of THOSE books has some god damn personality.

Suicide Squad: My Thoughts

Okay, I know I just got through talking about how DC movies tend to suck, and how I was going into Suicide Squad with pretty low expectations.  It really looked less like a superhero movie, and more like a bad comedy movie the way the previews were making it look.  But hey, previews have led me astray before.

Honestly, the only real hangup I had going in was who the roster  ended up consisting of.  Sure, they had Harleyquin (the one everybody wouldn’t shut up about), Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot (the one I wouldn’t shut up about), but Killer Crock?  My knowledge of Suicide Squad comes primarily from this movie, Arrow (a show I have a real love-hate relationship with as of season 3), and their appearance in the new52 version of Resurrectionman (probably the only good thing to come out of the new52 if you ask me).  Maybe not the best sources for Suicide Squad information, but I was seriously hoping for Bronze Tiger and that chick who used the heart-shaped arrows.  Never did figure out who she was supposed to be, and I’m kind of hoping against hope her name wasn’t really Cupid, Stupid.

Killer Crock was a C-list villain at absolute best.  His ultimate claim to fame was the “I threw a rock at him!” line that eventually became a Nostalgia Critic meme for, like, five minutes.  But hey, it could’ve been worse.  They could’ve made him the main villain in a pretentious interpretation of Suicide Squad.  Yeah, four years later, I’m still bitching about Dark Knight Rises.

And who the hell is El Diablo?  Yeah, dude can manipulate fire…  And that’s about all I know about the guy.  Forget C-list, something that obscure belongs on the D-list.  Right there with Bullseye the Clown and any Aquaman villain who wasn’t Black Manta.

But suppose you don’t care.  You don’t know who any of these guys are, and all you want is to see DC try to make The Anti-Avengers.  Does it succeed at long last?  Well, the critics say no, but I and a lot of the actual movie going audience say yes.

Really, my hangups with the roster were minor at worst.  Once the movie actually got started, I actually found I was enjoying myself quite a bit.  Granted, one of my friends had to explain who Enchantress was, and who the male demon Enchantress was talking to was most likely, but even then, it wasn’t a bad movie.

I refer it as “The Anti-Avengers”, because really, The Suicide Squad is like the bizarro version of The Avengers.  Instead of a team of the world’s greatest heroes tag teaming up and heroing around because they’re the good guys, and evil space aliens are going to blow our shit up, we have a bunch of fairly obscure villains being forced to tag team with each other and hero it up under the threat of death by head melting cell phone app.  Harleyquin was probably the only well known villain on the entire roster.  And maybe Deadshot and Captain Boomerang if you’ve been following the CW shows.

The only real downside to the movie was the fact DC is apparently copying the Marvel trope and leaving us with teasers after the credits.  Seriously, I fucking hate this practice.  If it’s relevant to the plot, put it at the end of the fucking movie.  If it has nothing to do with anything (IE, the Howard the Duck cameo at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy), then shut the fuck up and save it for the previews.  I’m sick of having to cross my legs that much longer and having to tell my bladder “hold on a second, buddy” in order to get ten seconds of footage.  And that includes doing it in the middle of the credits as well, though to be fair, it’s not as much of an ordeal that way.

Semi-related note: what the fuck is the big deal with ectocooler?  People older than me told me all about how Ectocooler is the shit, and how ectocooler coming back is literally the ONLY good thing about Ghostbusters 2016.  I had some with my movie, deciding”fuck it, I’ve spoken my peace, The Church of Latter Day GhostBusters is pleased, might as well see what the big deal is”.  Frankly, it tasted adequate, and left me REALLY needing to piss like a racehorse by the time Enchantress was beaten.

Also, I have to admit, the Wonder Woman trailer did not inspire a whole lot of confidence.  Granted< I don’t have a whole lot of interest in Wonder Woman in general, but even then, this movie doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.  Frankly, that has nothing to do with anything.

Overall, I recommend you see Suicide Squad.  Maybe it won’t win an Oscar, but it’s the first time in a long time a DC property actually works on screen.  Surely, that’s worth SOMETHING.

Armada: My Thoughts

When I read Ready Player One, I was hooked.  I absolutely had to see what else Ernest Cline had written.  Audible.com did list another book by the name of Armada, and I figured “Hey, why not?  Ready Player One was pretty good.”

It’s kind of funny, really.  I went into Ready Player One almost WANTING to hate it.  It had everything that didn’t appeal to me: virtual world setting, 80s pop culture everywhere, a protagonist still in high school…  All it needed was a mopy emo vampire chick, and it would’ve been perfect.  And Art3mis came pretty close.  I wanted to hate this book…  But I ended up loving it.  I couldn’t put it down!  I wanted to know what happened next!  I was even kind of bummed out when it was over with.

Then I picked up Armada, really wanting to like it.  And…  Really, it ended up being more of the same.

It ended up being one of those scenarios where you somehow had a completely different book that told the exact same story.  Or at least one that was dangerously similar to it.  Cline only has two books (that I know of), and they read exactly the same.  Nothing wrong with familiarity, but when you’re having to depend on your own tropes this early (In Cline’s case, an obsessive dependence on old pop culture), it doesn’t inspire confidence on my part.

The ending also felt like an absolute cop out.  Of course the aliens are just acting in self defense, and human beings are dicks who want to destroy everything.  Again, this guy might not be writing for my demographic, but at the same time, been there, done that.

Also, I can’t help but smell me some sequel bate.  If you really want to read the book, be my guest.  Otherwise, just consider the ending of Rick and Morty season 2, minus the part where Rick goes to prison.  Earth becomes part of the galactic federation, and life is made both easier and harder at the exact same time sort of situation.

I don’t know, maybe I made the mistake of setting the bar too high this time.  Maybe I shouldn’t have read these two back to back like that. All I know is Armada was actually kind of a disappointment.  especially towards the end.

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.