Hard to Be A (Fictional) God

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A portrait of General Turyin Mulaghesh, protagonist of City of Blades, by Chanh Quach. You can see more of her Divine Cities‘ artwork here.

After a long absence, I’ve made a return to reviewing for Strange Horizons with my latest piece, a discussion of City of Blades, the second book in what has become Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy. Longtime readers of the blog may be slightly surprised that I am a lot more positive about this entry in the series than I was its predecessor. While I discuss the reasons at length in the review, one of the key reasons was that I went into City of Blades knowing what to expect. City of Stairs didn’t turn out to be the novel I thought it would be, and I was critical because of that. We all have our weaknesses, and that happens to be one of mine.

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The Parts, But Not the Whole: Thoughts on Dishonored 2

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Over the years, I’ve found that when I fall in love with some new show or movie or game, my passion burns like Icarus, a brief all-consuming flash followed by oblivion. Every once and a while, however, I find something that sticks with me, that resonates enough to keep me coming back year after year. The first Dishonored, a game I talked about at length some years back, was just one of these slower-burning loves. I suppose it was a perfect storm of themes of images. The game was set in an apocalyptic setting yet was not about the apocalypse. It posited an uncomfortably Gnostic world where God was absent and a whimsical demiurge was making a mess of things. It was set in a city that mixed three centuries’ worth of technological and architectural influence, yet never read as a neo-Victorian stereotype. It was a brave new world, and it gave you a bunch of tools to explore it and do what you would to it. It had its down points; the voice cast could have used some better direction, and the writing could have been more responsive to player input, but these weren’t enough to deeply dampen the experience for me. All in all, Dishonored has earned a place on my mantle of favorite video games of all time.

Dishonored 2, on the other hand…

To be honest, it’s hard for me to properly criticize Dishonored 2. A number of the issues of the game were also issues with its predecessor, and there are moments when everything clicks and the game is just a wonderful experience. But even though the individual parts may shine, the mechanism as a whole creaks and groans, in spite of the smoother-than-ever gameplay.

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2016: Look Back and Recoil

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Well, it’s happened again: twelve months have gone by, and we’re staring a new year in the face once more. Not many people will be lining up to remember 2016 as a banner year, myself included, and yet I don’t find myself feeling quite as down about things the way most everyone else is. To properly explain why, I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and talk about a few things I haven’t discussed with anyone outside of my family and a few friends.

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Mud, Blood, and Shovel Bludgeonings – Thoughts on Battlefield 1

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A few weeks ago, I dropped a bushel of money on a brand spanking new computer to replace my old machine, a loyal beast who had sadly been outpaced by the demands of modern video games and was starting to get loud and rattley. As it happened, I got my new machine around Black Friday, which meant I ended up looking around at the deals on Steam and Origin. As it turned out, Battlefield 1, the new multiplayer shooter by EA DICE set during the First World War, had a price drop that made buying it a thinkable notion. I don’t play multiplayer shooters anymore, but I do enjoy seeing WWI depicted in video games, and I was entranced by the launch trailer, scored to that immortal soldier’s ballad, “Seven Nation Army (Glitch Mob Remix).”

Well, it turned out the game had a single-player campaign, and I had little common sense, so I bought it, and just this afternoon I spent six hours playing through the whole thing. As you can imagine, I had thoughts.

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The Kuvira Letters: Fanfiction Adventure Time

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“Contemplating the Empire in her new borders.”

If you’re like most people, you discovered this blog by reading this extended review I wrote of The Legend of Korra over a year ago, most likely through a link Abigail Nussbaum graciously provided in the comments to her first-season review. You may also have stuck around long enough to read the short piece I wrote on Kuvira, the antagonist of the final season and by far my favorite character of the series. In that post, I discussed a lot of what made Kuvira such a fascinating figure to me, and how the showrunners didn’t really capitalize on her potential.

Why do I bring all this up now, you may ask? Well…I wrote a story about Kuvira at the beginning of the month, and now I’ve decided I want to show it off here. It’s a four-part story epistolary story called “The Kuvira Letters,” and it’s basically a series of ruminations by Kuvira on all the events that led to the beginning of Book 4 of Korra. Y’all can read or download it at the link below:

http://archiveofourown.org/works/8537188

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Spooktober Leftovers: Trash Fire (2016)

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Well, now. I’m not gonna talk about the election. In fact, we’re not gonna talk about the election at all; we’re gonna keep it out of this. What I am gonna talk about today is this movie, which I wanted to include in my truncated Spooktober celebration last month but was unable to do thanks to the convoluted nature of distribution deals.

Today’s movie is Trash Fire, the latest offering from director Richard Bates, Junior. Mr. Bates first came to my attention with his 2012 debut Excision, a film I rhapsodized years ago on Ferretbrain and which you can find rhapsodized far more effectively over on Weird Fiction Review. Trash Fire returns Bates to some of the familiar territory of Excision, and while it has its rough patches, it is a far better movie than its title would suggest.

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Some Brief Skitterings on Caìtlin Kiernan’s Silk

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I’ve been spending these past two weeks working my way through Silk, the first novel written by acclaimed dark fantasist Caìtlin R. Kiernan. It’s rather appropriate I chose this month to take the plunge; according to Kiernan herself, she started work on Silk on October 11th, in Birmingham, Alabama, all the way back in 1993. The novel is…

Actually, let’s not take that route. Let’s try something a little different today.

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