Monthly Archives: January 2006


When Stephen King books appear, that’s a good day for me. When I can see everything he’s paying homage to, as I could in Cell, that just gives me a whole added level of appreciation. I mean, sure, he makes his dedication to Romero and Matheson in the first place, which does twitch the old notice-meter a little bit, but on top of that I’ve actually read I Am Legend since I started doing all this, and Night of the Living Dead has been one of my favorite movies for a long time indeed. Take a story that crosses them together and on top of that was written by my personal favorite storyteller, and you have a book that does not suck.

The premise could not be simpler. At 3 in the afternoon of October 1st, somebody injects a signal into the cellular satellite network, and whoever listens to a connected cellphone call from that moment forward is instantly and perhaps irrevocably changed into something… well, something violently rampaging and decidedly not human, whatever other conclusions may be drawn. The only thing remaining to do for people who managed to avoid the phones long enough to realize the cause of the instant societal breakdown is to stay off the network and to try to survive. And perhaps, to fight back.

Oh, right, so it’s also an end of the world novel. Shocking, really, that I liked it at all. King, cool references, zombie analogs, societal collapse. Things I really just can’t stand, obviously. My point is, this has been a good week, and the only reason it took so long to get through is that I’ve been savoring it, like a thing that connoisseurs of that type of thing would linger over for maximum enjoyment. The man has a big library, no mistake, but this is still easily one of his best works. Both the story and the horror of it grabbed me from the first few moments, and I never let go. …well, until I got to the last page, because it was time to read something else. But if there had been more pages, I can assure you I would be reading them. Probably later tonight rather than right now, but that’s really beside the point, don’t you think?


Things I Learned While Watching Hostel Last Night:

1) Americans are miserable tourists, reviled throughout Europe. Luckily, someone is doing something about this.
2) Eastern European chicks are really hot, and when eventually I’ve given up all hope, at least the mail-order bride thing is still an option. (Although some of them could stand to be a bit less evil.)
3) Guilt- and consequence-free sex is not to be lightly refused, as you are no more likely to be killed for having it than you are to be safe from doom for avoiding it. (NOTE: Does not apply to Camp Crystal Lake and environs.)
4) When possible, do not vomit while wearing a ball-gag. It will almost never end well.
5) I’d rather have holes drilled into my leg than be hamstrung.
6) In the highly unlikely event that a perfect revenge scenario appears fully formed behind a pizza delivery truck, well, cool beans. Take it, for it won’t come by again.

(Okay, let’s be honest. You weren’t going to see this movie. But on the off-chance that you’re still up in the air about it, that ought to be enough data to allow you to make up your mind. Carry on.)

Survivor’s Quest

With a new Stephen King book on the way, my goal was to pick a book that would be fast and easy, so I could be done in time to start right in. But, between suddenly picking up a lot of steam on the last of my 360 games and picking a book that wasn’t quite as breezy as I was expecting, I ran a few days late. Luckily, it was for a book that I genuinely enjoyed, so that’s okay.

Apparently, Timothy Zahn’s latest Star Wars entrant was released a couple of years ago while I was paying attention to something else. I never really saw it anywhere, or heard people talking about it until just in the past month. This is odd, because it appears to have been pretty relevant to all the other ones I’ve been reading lately, and even more so because it was at the usual high watermark in literary quality of the ongoing series. (Luckily for me, the prequel to Survivor’s Quest will be out next week, and I know to watch for it this time.)

In any case, yeah, this one has all the Star Wars-y (and otherwise) goodness you might be looking for. Onion layer-worthy twists, lightsaber excitement galore, a stormtrooper squad that I’ve lately been familiar with from the world of videogames (which makes it cooler to me, if not to Joe Average Reader, I suppose), the past and the future of the franchise coming together in an entirely sensible and interesting way. Sure, some of the books are golden, some of them you read just to know what’s going on between gold, and some of them you can ditch because the other books will pick up the slack for you in apology for this last group of books being so horrible. As usual, though, Zahn only provides the pure gold. Could you read just his stuff, ignore that the rest of the Star-Wars-as-a-novel experiment exists, and be pretty happy with the outcome? There’s a lot of other things I’ve read and enjoyed the hell out of, but yes. Yes, you could.

Underworld: Evolution

MV5BMTI3MzcwODIzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDAwMjgzMQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_For the first time in a long while, I saw a movie with an intermission. Well, okay, technically there was a failure in the automatic reel changer (or a film break? But I doubt it), but still. It’s definitely a rarity these days. As for the movie I saw, well, it’s that time of year again, is what. There were previews for Slither (casting it as a comedy this time), Final Destination 3 (who knew there’d be another sequel after things were wrapped up so tightly in #2?), and When a Stranger Calls (luckily, I think the twist isn’t the part they show in the preview, though I wonder if that was it in the original). So, hooray for me. Basically, February is my May.

In any case, Underworld: Evolution, which while not technically a horror movie, still has enough monster-creatures to get me a good crop of previews. And the movie itself wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. In a lot of ways, after the wretched acting in the opening sequence flashback finally ended, it was pretty good. Reasonable backstory exploration, over-the-top bad guys (yes, dammit, that’s a good thing in this genre), true love (well, okay, whatever on the Romeo and Juliet thing they’ve carried through from the original, but Kate Beckinsale looks as good out of the leather as in it, and that’s saying something), and plenty of explosions.

However, I’m not sure I’d have liked it as well as I did if it wasn’t for the Resident Evil vibe going through it. Lighting, set pieces, monsters, mood, even the plot at times (which was as reasonable as any of the other aspects I’ve praised above). But I especially want to reiterate all the set design and scene choices, all lifted wholesale from the Resident Evil series, which made it feel more like one of those games than even the two movies based on the series did. I am now obligated to get Resident Evil 4 back out and pick up where I left off, I think. The impulse is certainly upon me.

Perilous Seas

The time came to find out what was going on with Rap and Inos in Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word series, so I broke out Perilous Seas and set myself about finding out. I am pleased to say that the third book has once again improved itself. Where the first book introduced a cool world and fun characters, and the second book pulled together the magic system and politics, this one takes all that information and starts pushing the high adventure and romance into the forefront again.

Aside from a cliffhanger that will have me reading the finale very soon indeed, my favorite bit was our heroes growing and the world getting a little smaller and less mysterious as a result (in the good way, like Robert Jordan used to be good at). Inos is busy making difficult, queen-based and woman-based decisions that it would have been impossible to guess she’d be up to in the beginning, and Rap has learned that the only person who’s going to help him save the day for Queen and country is himself, and sets about accomplishing exactly that. I know, character growth is exactly the kind of thing you expect to see in a book, but apparently it happens rarely enough to leave me overly gratified when I actually find it in this context.

Also: oy, the cliffhanger, even worse than the one at the end of The Magic Casement. So, yeah, soon. Next month at the latest.

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil

I have now finished the Doom 3 expansion. There’s not a lot to say here that I didn’t already say about Doom 3, as the technology and the game design are virtually identical. Sure, the storyline has differences (it’s 2 years from now instead of Doom 3’s now, and, um… oh, the industry wanks are less of a hindrance to your Marine mission than in the original), but the part where you wander through seemingly free, open spaces that are actually carefully laid out rat mazes is the same. The monsters are sporadically different from anything you’ve seen before, but they look more or less identical, give or take a spine ridge or differently colored energy ball of death. Despite consistently updated video drivers, the red sparkles have not ever gone away for the long haul. The only real innovation, the unimaginatively named Grabber, was apparently stolen wholesale from Half-Life 2.

So, was it good? If you liked the last one (which I did), it was definitely good enough. People always complain about games being too short. These are people who haven’t yet progressed beyond college age, I maintain, because a game that lasts only a dozen or so hours feels just right to me, these days. Also, I’m pretty sure this marks the end of Doom 3 as a franchise. At least, it would seem to be impossible to progress from where this one ended without a storyline reboot (not unlike the shift from Doom 2 to Doom 3, so there’s certainly precedent). As for me, though, I’ll keep mostly looking forward to a real HL2 expansion. Or another Farcry, or maybe Halo 3, or that F.E.A.R. game I’ve heard so much about.

State of Fear

As promised, I spent a few days reading Michael Crichton’s latest thriller, Why the Environmental Movement Is a Big Fake Lie. Seriously. This was not a good book. Now, I’m going to try to stay out of the politics of it, because probably most of the factual bits of the book were well-researched, or even accurate. Leaving that aside, it had more problems than you can shake a pointed stick at.

First of all, the opening segment reminded me of Snoopy’s novel. For about 50 pages, there was a string of seemingly unrelated incidents, scattered all around the world and involving all different characters. Was there, in fact, a dark and stormy night? Okay, maybe not, but that’s the only true divergence from the formula. After that, he went straight into a Terry Goodkind novel. That is, the plot was a thin, semi-transparent cover for a series of polemics. Which were themselves irritating above and beyond the fact of them, because they were presented in a smug, know-it-all voice (that I may be reacting to more negatively than I should, because it reminds me of a guy I used to game with) to correct the conveniently naive assumptions of first our heroes and later some Hollywood caricatures. Well, okay, now I’m being unfair, as I’m quite sure they were totally believable Hollywood types and not caricatures at all. But the point is, if you need to write this kind of thing, just write a scientific book. Oh, but wait, that wouldn’t let you trick a lot of people into hearing what you wanted to say.

The very worst part, though, is that Crichton has on occasion written a lot better than this. So if he was this invested in the message he was trying to get out, I feel like maybe it wouldn’t have killed him to be a little more subtle and apply a bit more actual talent to the topic. Because I’d probably be a lot more comfortable with his message if I weren’t so pissed at being talked to like a six year old.


Yesterday, a book was thrust into my hands. Despite the company I tend to keep and my own reading habits, this doesn’t happen as often as you might imagine. I thought the claim that I could read it in an hour and a half was probably a joke at first, but it turned out to be pretty close to true (two hours, maybe two-five?). Cleverly, Blankets is a graphic novel, though since that terminology is taken by bound comic collections, it is named on the cover an illustrated novel.

And, y’know, wow. Probably moreso for me than for the general case, but maybe not. It’s a coming-of-age story, which essentially says nothing at all, although I can conceive of it as common knowledge that this kind of thing is my bread and butter. I’m not sure precisely what it says about me that I so frequently revisit that period in my entertainment, yet have huge gaping holes in my memory about things that happened, and only the broadest brush strokes about things I can remember; and I don’t even know that I’d have the wherewithal to consider that unusual, if I didn’t know so many people who can recount events that long ago so vividly. Kind of like Craig Thompson recounting his own story in Blankets.

It’s a story about the foundations of first faith and first love, and how solid they seem, and it’s a story about how illusory and ready to crumble they really are. And also, about how similar they are. This stuff, I identify with on a visceral level. It’s possible, by which I mean probable, that it says something more about me that a lot of the things that I do remember, and as vividly as so many people seem to remember everything, revolve around these seminal events in my own life. My story has a lot less drama than his did, but the key elements are in there, and it was very moving to hear and see his story, probably the moreso for getting it all over the course of a morning. Now, I’ll spend the rest of the day in a melancholy, pleasant haze, I expect. Until I start rotting my brain right out of my head on this Crichton novel sitting on the back of the chair.

Also, I should point out that Blankets has a strong visual and thematic motif revolving around blankets. No lie.

The Laughing Corpse

I snagged another one of those Anita Blake novels, since the first one was okay. My initial verdict on The Laughing Corpse: still not hardcore porn yet. This time, a rampaging zombie and an unscrupulous rich, old man form the backdrop against which we learn a little more about Anita’s world. The plot twists were a little transparent, mainly because I’m not sure that our author has ever heard of a red herring. Despite that, I continue to enjoy Anita as the narrator, plus the thing where there’s still someone left with something interesting and, dare I say it, somewhat new to say on the subject of the literary vampire. In this case, she fleshed out the whole animator schtick that brings in Anita’s paychecks (that is, she raises corpses long enough to get them to answer questions, then puts them back in the ground; but there’s more to it than that, hence the fleshing) and the concept of a vampire’s human servant. Not that the idea is anything new in the genre, but she’s applying rules to it, and the inner RPG geek inside me appreciates that kind of thing.

As far as the porn thing: well, this one wasn’t, but it clearly had slipped a step in that direction. I speculate that the next one will be safe as well, but after that, I dunno. Only time will tell. Also: the title meant essentially nothing to me. I guess I ought to try to apply it to themes or plot elements, but I’m failing to, and as far as the literal name it shares with an in-book comedy club, well, that also had nothing to do with the book. So. I am mystified. Also, I am done rambling.

Kameo: Elements of Power

The thing is, I got most of the way through the game and then took a vacation, and I was in danger of forgetting where I was. So I took a few moments to collect myself, and then powered through my illness in order to complete my second 360 launch title, the one by Rare, called Kameo and Her Elemental Buddies. Or something like that. It is the story of a scantily clad elf girl with a skirt that is entirely too short for flittering around using her faerie wings, as she is wont to do. Luckily for the censors, she spends most of her time transformed into her various elemental buddies, who can do things like roll up steep hills, shoot out sprays of environment-threatening oil, or climb up walls using shards of ice pulled out of their backs.

Why should Kameo do this, you ask? Her jealous older sister has enlisted the assistance of the evil (you can tell because they neither flit around hotly on faerie wings nor throw strawberries at you) trolls to win back her birthright. Did I forget to mention that in addition to all the elemental buddies, Kameo and the evil sister (okay, elf, but you can tell she’s evil because she wears a low-cut, form-fitting midnight blue evening gown) are the princeses of the Elven kingdom? Like you didn’t already assume that. Please.

Gameplay is fairly fluid despite that you have only 3 slots to transform into 10 different buddies; I never quite intuited the controls, though, wherein the main buttons are for transforming and the triggers are for enacting all of the carnage. As with any given ‘siddy game to date, it is of course completely gorgeous. Some of the puzzles are harder than others, and it becomes all too easy to ask for assistance from the wizard trapped in the book you carry around with you, so the game goes by quickly. But I really don’t mind that kind of thing anymore, with what little time I tend to have for games. The last boss fight was pretty easy, but there were really tricky ones before that to make up for it, and at least two extremely loose ends for a sequel that I would feel perfectly happy playing. Hooray for Rare, in that regard.