For the sort of player who plays enough games to hold a games-journalism job respectably, BE may not be very exciting. Neither was Civ II: Test of Time, the offshoot from Sid Meier's (ahem) railroading vision of global domination; Test of Time is the one with multiple official "modification" sets that totally transformed gameplay and gave it narrative triggers to go with the multiple maps. For the casual Civ player who never gets past the third difficulty setting (of, like, seven, IIRC) but has been noodling along steadily, BE is a great gift because its early gameplay rewards that manner of interaction. Don't try to churn out fifty military units or ten settlers at once; explore a lot, drop a colonist here and there, go for the technological advancements that protect explorers and keep the aliens less angry with you; slow the hell down.
In short, for my sense of the game (with a few successful easy campaigns beneath my belt), the Eurogamer review gets it mostly right, and the IGN review is an ignorant piece of jingoistic malarky. I have been playing Civ since the first one---haven't skipped any---and my favorites are Test of Time followed by 4: Beyond the Sword, FWIW. Alpha Centauri was a good idea not well implemented, for my tastes, and BE improves self-consciously upon it.
Though the BE production team could've done a lot more with the concept, then only gameplaying readers of thinky SF prose would like the damned thing; someone has to pay Firaxis. Also, at least the tech tree of the earlier games---easily the weakest part of them, conceptually speaking---is overhauled completely in favor of a cluster map reminiscent of Final Fantasy X/XII/XIII. I have hated that reductionist tech tree since 1991, you guys. Will Partin's review offers a good summary, I think.
That said, I notice that I haven't played any BE since last October. hmm. Knitting is easier during Dragon Age: Origins and now Inquisition than BE, but it's probably the persistence of a storyline, even though those of both DA games irritate me a bit.
Me: YES! ...oh, yeah, um.
I'm sorry. TV is making me cranky this month. I don't even know why, as it's not any worse than it usually is. I'm otherwise happy in my life, and things have been going really well elsewhere. For some reason I'm just unable to let the crappy bits of tv slide and let go enough to enjoy the good bits (Except when watching Sinbad, which is lovely), so everything is pissing me off, and thus your daily dose of cranky reviews from me. I'm sure that this too shall pass?
Femslash February in two days. I can't wait to get my bingo card.
I read a book that I liked!
Rocket Boys: A Memoir by Homer Hickam
Very similar to the film, for those who have seen it, though lacking the extra drama in the second act. Unsurprisingly, the book pulls most of its tension from Sonny's emotional state, not from external threats, which, when they pop up, are dealt with almost immediately. It worked in the book, and the prose is smooth and humorous. The author mentioned changing things around a bit for narrative flow, but it made a good enough story that it's difficult to mind.
All of the rocket building and explosions were fun, and I appreciated how clearly explained all the science was, but the core of the story is Sonny's family and life in a coal mining town just as coal is going bust. I loved the portrayal of Sonny's complicated relationship with his father, and the strength of his connection with is mother. I know there's a million coming of age stories featuring boys and difficult fathers, but the balance of being a competent and even heroic man and still kind of failing at human interaction really grabbed me here. I also liked that the labour politics were more nuanced than in the film.
It's very much a boys own adventure story, and while women aren't completely excluded or unimportant, you get a pretty strong idea that they were not going to get to build rockets any time soon. Nor were the black people down the way, given how heavily Sonny relied on his father's patronage and the town's support. Additionally, one has to wonder if the conversation regarding the ethics of hero-worshipping an ex-Nazi actually happened, or was added after the worst about Wernher von Braun came to light.
And my library list is down to manageable.
† Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Translated by Julie Rose
Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in An Age of Anxiety by Ian McKay
The Treasure of the San José: Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession by Carla Rahn Phillips
Inda by Sherwood Smith
Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
† The Landmark Herodotus by Herodotus
The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Great Bear Rainforest by Ian McAllister
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood (in transit)
‡ When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid (3 on 21 copies)
* Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (2 on 2 copies)
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (5 on 2 copies)
Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong (7 on 10 copies)
The Back of the Turtle: A Novel by Thomas King (54 on 15 copies)
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (21 on 2 copies)
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (43 on 3 copies)
† Probably mostly going to skim
‡ I don't know what's going on with this book. It came out, and they put it on order; it got nominated for a Governor General's Award (like the National Book, but Canadian) and it was on order, and I requested a copy; it WON the GG and it was on order; it got nominated for Canada Reads and they put more copies on order but hadn't yet gotten the first batch, and I still haven't gotten the book! It's baffling. I know it takes the library a while to purchase and process books so that members can borrow them, but this is a very high-profile book, and it's been out for MONTHS. Anyway, it's good for me in the long run, as I have (many) other things to read.
* Still on order.
Finished The Countess Conspiracy yestreen.
I can live with the sciency stuff being not what actually happened, because makes good story, raises awareness that there were women Doing Science at the period (and it was probably easier if you were Mary Anning, rather than in High Society), etc.
My big, this question has not been addressed, WHUT -
Or is all this Just Me?
There’s a sweet spot in retellings: enough references to the source material to justify basing it there, enough originality to justify retelling it. It's difficult to get right, and often separate from the work’s other meritstake as example Pamela Dean's Tam Lin: an engrossing, cozy narrative about coming of age and academia, with a Tam Lin ballad crammed into the closing act; the inspiration is great, the book itself is lovely, but the actual retelling feels clumsy.
NBC Hannibal occurs pre-Red Dragon but is more than happy to pervert canon; the characters are harvested from the book, but gleefully recast (gender and racial diversity, in my TV?) and fleshed out; later interactions between Will and Hannibal mimic interactions between Clarice and Hannibal in the third book; some lines appear verbatim, out of another character’s mouth; showstopping scenes (dat burning wheelchair) reoccur, enacted by different people with different results; and this is my favorite bit: Will’s house seems to be inspired by the house in which Harris wrote Red Dragon and, himself, discovered Hannibal.
So it has roots dug deep into the source material, but it’s also growing a metaphorical tree, a big old one. Some of what it has to say is questionable (the Hannibal/Clarice relationship becomes explicitly sexual; the same interactions recast as Hannibal/Will are not; meanwhile, when Bloom is recast as a woman, the Hannibal/Alana Bloom relationship is), but it is constantly, undeniably talkative. It’s more explicit than the source material, such that
"The reason you caught me is that we’re just alike," was the last thing Graham heard as the steel door closed behind him.
becomes an entire season. It shares Harris’s psychological overlay, but takes a more sensual approach to Harris’s predilection for discomforting physicality. It does what Red Dragon fails to do, what Harris began to do in later books: it casts Hannibal central, because he and his effects are what is most fascinating, but it explores those effects with more intention and result than the books.
My entire time spent watching Hannibal is spent going, oh, this is good; this is pushing itself forward, challenging itself, and it’s constantly good. Good doesn't happen often. And I continue to be surprised to find it’s not just good in its own right, but also as a retelling. It’s all around, intentionally, well done. Now that’s super rare.
Author: Thomas Harris
Published: New York: Berkley, 2008 (1980)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 434
Total Page Count: 153,000
Text Number: 447
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After a second family is killed, Will Graham reluctantly joins the FBI on the hunt for a serial murderer. Red Dragon fails to be as good as the books that follow it simply because there's not enough Hannibal in this Hannibal: it may where be where Harris discovered the character, but there's not much of him present. The murderer-o'-the-novel, the Tooth Fairy, may be less problematic than Buffalo Bill but he's not as interesting as Harris wants him to be and he's certainly not as interesting as Hannibal.
In many ways, Red Dragon is just a competent thriller: rushed at the end, but intelligently constructed and thoroughly readable. But the parts of which that shineWill's perceptive abilities, Hannibal's introduction, the psychology that shadows the entire book, a few lovely lines and inspired moments (of violence, in particular)are what sell it. It's by no means great, and since Silence stands alone that's arguably the better starting place, but I'm glad to've read it.
Once I asked on the main Japanese language study newsgroup, which had a fair number of linguists and language professors, about how to study kanbun. Kanbun is a way of writing Japanese as if it were Chinese that gets used in a lot of historical documents. I said in my post that my Japanese level was fairly high but not so fluent that I was totally comfortable reading the test prep books for high school students.
And in a remarkable case of "I don't understand the question you asked so I'm going to assume it's your fault," people started berating me for not knowing kanji. Kanji, the part of the modern Japanese writing system that I could understand reasonably well actually.
The thing is, there really aren't shortcuts when it comes to kanbun. If you're serious about studying premodern Japanese history at that level, you learn Chinese. So even when I got the right answer, it didn't feel great. But that's the kind of thing, I think, that's influenced how I see reference service - when you think it might be the wrong question, you keep asking and keep asking until you're sure you understand it and don't end up making people feel foolish.
I shall instead leave you with my favorite thing I said tonight on IM, (surely you require no explanation of the context):
Luckily JARVIS is really good at this, so Bucky never ends up sobbing in a puddle of his own pee, trapped between a potted plant and a clown painting.
( What I told the student is important for all of us to tell ourselves, I think. )
My PC, while chatting up Hot Marine Wot I'm Trying to Date:
Uh, not to make you feel insecure or anything, Joe! =D
(Embarrassingly, I've mostly forgot what I knew about the Pelopponesian War--I had one class on ancient Greek warfare in college and I still have the notes somewhere, but my memory's terrible.)
I left a rant comments, but they both made me think about why this show isn't really working for me (or not as well as it might), so I'll repost here.
( I'll just throw the whole thing behind a spoiler tag )
And in my latest 'Wot abaht bestiality?' news
Man accused of having sex with a Shetland pony was found 'smelling strongly of horses'
Somehow this is just not as amusing as this report, exactly a year ago, about the man who was trying to get cows and sheep to cooperate with his desires adjacent to Tottenham Hotspur football ground.
Is it the context? the apparent achievement of his aims? the fact that he seems a fairly hardcore zoophile (bestiality porn on his phone).
I thought Shetland ponies were inclined to be vicious (possibly not the most compliant choice), but what do I know.
Also I finally made a twitter account as Forestofglory. I was spending enough time looking at what people were posting there that I thought I ought to try having an account. I've experimentally followed some people, but I'm still not sure how the whole thing works.
Also, more highlights from last night:
- L5R pageant including Lady Doji and Hida Osano-wo intercut into a Bones video showing Seeley Booth (I see my fannish roots are...colliding). I was disappointed at the absence of Unicorn characters.
- visit to an absurdist hell where Joe wisely warned us that anything we bought in a store in hell was unlikely to help us escape hell (this proved to be true)
- Peanuts puppetry on the walls of buildings on a rocket ride up to Valhalla. Also, I got lectured by Odin on the ethical correctness of smoking meat that gave you immortality (?) if you ate it. (It had been raw, so would have gone bad quickly. I think the idea was that the meat wasn't supposed to last long?)
- cleaning the floor with a small bottle of white vinegar only to realize I'd accidentally grabbed a bottle of some BPAL limited edition scent instead, whoops. And yet I kept cleaning!
- a run in with Faith (Buffyverse) in a bilingual (Korean/English) prison. It's cool; she didn't hurt me.
(I wake up multiple times in the night right now, which really sucks and I don't recommend it. Getting sleep in 1-2 hour snatches is unfun.)
(If you aren’t member of world con you can still nominate if you join by the 31st, also known as next Saturday. As reminder here is why I think you might want to participate)
The official Hugo Awards site Contains news and history. Useful in for nominating because it contains a list of categories which can be helpful.
Hugo Eligible Art(ists) Tumblr Now showing art form 2014. Posts showcases of artists work form the last year. Good for finding out about new artist and what they published in 2014.
Semiprozine Directory A list of things that are eligible for smeiprozine. Very helpful as this category is hard to figure out.
Campbell Award Eligibility Page Lists writers eligible for the Campbell award. This award is technically not a Hugo but is nominated and voted on like a Hugo. Writers are eligible in the two years after their first pro sale.
Lady Business Spread Sheet An open source list of works people liked, by category maintained by the Lady Business editors. Lots and lots of recs. Handy for when you are wondering what novellas (for example) were published in 2014 and if you should read any of them.
Choas Horizon. This blog tries to use data to predict the hugo and nebula nominees. Not very helpful for making your own nominations, especially since it only really covers the novel category, but interesting if you enjoy data driven speculation about awards and the state of the genre.