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REVIEW: Ghost Trick

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment
Sissel and Lynne

He can manipulate things from beyond the grave. She dies a lot.

I don’t read. I don’t know at what point I forgot that simple fact about my personality, but I did along the line and now for some unfathomable reason, I have reviews of a novel, an anthology and now a visual novel on this site. I don’t know what, exactly, reading did to me as a child, but I’ve been against it since before I can remember. I’m a very capable reader, but the story has to interest me for me to finish it. Ghost Trick, the new book from the author of the Ace Attorney series of video gam–I mean books, is a delightful read. Lots and lots of reading. So very much reading. It’s delightful reading and engaging reading, but reading nonetheless. They aren’t called visual novels in Japan for nothin’, folks.

A visual novel is a unique kind of video game that’s almost exclusive to Japan. Its gameplay to story ratio is perhaps the lowest I can imagine; it’s almost entirely sold on the story of the characters and what they go through and its plot and the gameplay is just an interesting quirk of the experience. Visual novels, or at least the ones I’ve read thus far, have a visual style highly reminiscent of comic books and anime, with sprites in often static poses while reams and reams of dialogue scroll through a box under their face. They’re also typically unvoiced, which means all you hear while these reams and reams of dialogue are scrolling through this box is a hollow clicking. Don’t let that description throw you–these games are often shockingly immersive and affecting. Done properly, the writing alone carries you. Read more…

REVIEW: Machine of Death

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

You should have bought this already.

I said in my review of Mogworld that I don’t read. This is very, very true. So, for a man who doesn’t read, I assume the natural question is why are there now two book reviews on my blog? The more applicable question is: given that I bought Mogworld and Machine of Death a day apart and was equally eager to read both books, how come it’s taken me so long to finish Machine of Death? Until literally minutes ago, in fact. The truth is plain, and kinda sad: I don’t read. I don’t read often enough for pleasure for it to be an immersive medium for me. I can’t get past the fact that I’m staring at words on a page. But enough about me, what about Machine of Death?

Well, frankly, if you’re between the ages of twelve and thirty-five, what not about Machine of Death. It’s the first anthology published by “people on the internet”–authors with no established fame aside from their personal fanbases online. It’s edited by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame), Matthew Bennardo (who I’m having the world’s worst time tracking down) and David Malki ! (the man behind Wondermark). Its premise is simple: what if there were a machine that could take a small sample of your blood and thus tell you how you will die. I’ve spent long enough answering questions from people who like to poke holes in one-sentence premise summaries, so if you have any (god damn) questions, just read the (god damn) book to find that several nice, intelligent people have (god damn) answered it already, in their own ways. The point is: you live in a universe where the knowledge of how you will die is available from a machine that’s near universal–go. Read more…

Categories: Literature, Reviews

REVIEW: Mogworld

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I don’t read. I’m not kidding about that, either–I spend almost the entirety of my free time avoiding reading fiction for pleasure. I so rarely find a book that interests me enough to keep me slogging through page after page of tiny text when I can so easily download another episode of an old TV show. Which is why it surprised me earlier this week when I finished Yahtzee Croshaw’s debut novel Mogworld thirty-six hours after I bought it. It’s not a short book, coming in at a proper novel-sized four hundred pages. It’s an inherently and addictively readable book, the kind whose prose is so witty and whose characters are so fascinating, you just don’t want to put it down. I started reading this book in a Tim Hortons, minutes after having bought it. I kept reading it on the bus, at work, at home during dinner, while watching the news and until I fell asleep halfway through. I repeated this all through the next day, until finally finishing the book at midnight. It’s that good.

Mogworld, as spoiler-free as the author seems to have meant it to be read, is about a guy named Jim. This is Jim. Jim, if you didn’t click the link, is a magic student in a high fantasy world who, one unceremonious day, has his school invaded by raiders and dies. He is resurrected over fifty years later by an evil overlord who happens to be an ideal boss to be part of his undead horde, and thus begin Jim’s adventures through the ever-worsening land he lives in. While he was under the ground, it turns out that a few things about where he’s living have changed. First, no one ages or dies any more–all forms of entropy have entirely ceased. When someone other than Jim dies, they come back to life at a nearby church. When Jim dies, he has to repair his body in order to keep moving. Second, the best adventurers in the land have come over with The Syndrome–a disease like a waking paralysis that stiffens their movements, stilts their speech and eventually reduces them to doing nothing but posing. Read more…

Categories: Literature, Reviews