New York City is in the grip of a heat wave, and Detective Nicki Heat is in the grip of a stubborn case. Real estate mogul Matthew Starr was pitched from his balcony, and the only suspects either have alibis or could not have accessed his apartment at the time of the murder. The case gets more complicated when a second body enters the mix along with a multi-million dollar art theft. And, as if things weren’t complicated enough, Detective Heat has a ride-along with her on this case: Pulitzer-winning journalist Jameson Rook….
The God of War franchise has won over the hearts and minds of action/adventure gaming junkies the world over. With the looming release of God of War III in April 2010, SCEA Santa Monica – the studio responsible for the development of the franchise – felt it necessary to re-release the two original God of War PlayStation 2 games on a single Blu-Ray disc at an extremely attractive and unmissable price. If you read my preview, you know exactly what this package entails. It’s not merely a collection of both games in their original format. Quite the contrary…sort of.
Disney Channel viewers will be able to vote for the New Year’s Eve programming lineup at DisneyChannel.com beginning Friday. After all the voting is done, the programs that have won will air on December 31st from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. This will all be done in a special block of programs titled “New Year’s Star Showdown.” It will not just be your favorite shows, as Disney has a bit more in store for the viewers.
Going to a midnight movie is an experience that has to be included in the review of the film. First, who was there? Mostly female–about 1 in 10 people were male–and not as many shrieking junior high girls as I expected. The audience was mostly high school/early college kids and adult women. Didn’t see any grandmothers, but there were at least a couple bona fide cougars there. Rrroooow. And who were they picking up? Was it the two dudes running around in actual Twilight T-shirts? Was it the unintentional (or was it?) Emmett with his hat sideways? No! It was Ben, from the local college, who asked himself “how can I make this ridiculous female obsession work for me?” and came up with the idea to mousse up his hair like Edward, slap on the oversize movie-star glasses Edward wears in the first movie, and saunter around with the Cullen copyrighted “I’ve been bringing sexy back since 1917 and I’ve still got it” strut. Girls were asking him for pictures right and left…I overheard some girl say he’d told her she was number 193 to ask for a picture so far that night–and this was in line for my drink and popcorn before the movie! That guy gets the Young Entreprenuer of the Week award. I know he wasn’t selling anything, exactly, but he made himself a hot commodity, and got all the Facebook friend requests he could hope for. Also he won the hearts of at least a few underage girls, because there was a pair sitting near us who kept giggling about him.
BioWare hit a critically acclaimed home run with its latest multi-platform dark RPG title, Dragon Age: Origins (see my first impressions). The game is rife with story, characterization, bloody mayhem, sexuality, and moral dilemmas, all of which draw the player into the experience in ways no RPG has done since Neverwinter Nights. But was the switch to a console version a seamless translation, or did something get lost? The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no, so keep reading and discover the truth behind one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
Dragon Age: Origins isn’t a game light on presentation, which I believe includes the interface to the gamer as well as the in-game experiences. Cut scenes, voice-acting, epic moments: each of these items creates a presentation that impacts the gamer in what we hope will be as emotionally charged a way as possible. In short, just how much of an impact does the overall game pack?
To begin with, jumping into a game of this size may seem like a daunting task on the surface, but choosing your first character isn’t that bad if you know a bit going in. There are six races to pick from: Human Noble, Dalish Elf, City Elf, Dwarf Noble, Dwarf Commoner, and Mage, each with a unique origin story. I found it a bit humorous that the distinction between a Dwarf Noble and Commoner is race-related, but that’s how BioWare chose to distinguish “race.” “Noble” and “Commoner” actually distinguish class in a caste system, but I digress. In most RPGs, class denotes a profession, and in Dragon Age: Origins there are only three: Warrior, Rogue, and Magi. Future expansions will undoubtedly contain more race and class options, but if you think there aren’t enough choices here, you’re mistaken. Within each class are specializations to be unlocked. For instance, a Mage can specialize in shapeshifting, which I experienced first-hand, or become a Spirit Healer; the Warrior can choose the path of the Berserker or the mage-hunting Templar; and a Rogue can be master of stealth and poison as an Assassin or don the harp strings of the Bard. Each of these specializations adds bonuses to one or more attributes.
All of this is done through a slick menu interface that I never once found confusing or difficult to use. The Select button brings up your primary interface, which lists current quests, completed quests, the Codex – the massive collection of all data discovered in the game – party stats, and even a conversation history log in case you forgot how you responded to a sequence of dialogue. The console gamers were treated to a much different in-game menu system, though, due to the difference in control setup. Basically, a quick launch menu is utilized with the L2 trigger. This tactically pauses the game and allows you to browse through spells, talents, potions, poisons, and other party tactics (Hold Position). Again, I never had a problem whatsoever with this method of accessing my stash of stuff while in the heat of combat.
The cut scenes and dramatic cinematography in the game are well done, but it’s not perfect. I can’t comment on the other versions, but on the PS3 there exists an overabundance of glitches that annoyed the heck out of me. During lengthy dialogue scenes, several instances of missing audio occurred. It’s not just an annoying glitch, it was sometimes an entire section of speech cut, which may or may not have affected my character’s choice afterward. Only the very last spoken chunk of dialogue by the last character to speak it is displayed at the top of the screen after your choice block comes up. Some of the characters spoke too low or were drowned out by the background music. B.T.’s TIP: Turn subtitles ON in the Audio portion of the options menu. I didn’t think it would be there, of all places, but I finally found it. Graphic presentation issues included shadow and character pop-in when the camera angle changed. And then there’s the collision detection in many spots, which sort of marred the beauty of the cinematography in more than a few spots. There are reasons why games don’t get perfect scores, so while it may seem I’m being a bit nit-picky, I’m also being fair.
I’m going to bump the Presentation score up a bit from my initial review now that I’ve been able to spend considerably more time using the interface. Neither the sparse spots of missing dialogue nor the graphical hiccups are enough to take away from the overall presentation of the package, not by a long shot. The game is riddled with awe-inspiring RPG elements, and I would be remiss not to give high praise.
STORY and CHARACTERS:
I should be saving the best for last, but as it stands, I am too excited to review these categories, and it can’t wait. Simply put, Dragon Age: Origins has amazing stories and characters.
“SPOILER ALERT!!!!!” – You’ve been warned.
I can’t possibly summarize a story that spans no less than 40 hours of gameplay on the first play-through. The side quests may seem like a deviation from the main quest, but in reality I didn’t find myself completely segmented from the world of Ferelden and the feeling of overwhelming despair upon the land caused by the Blight. But there is a main path to the conclusion, so here goes. Once the origin story lands you in the city of Ostagar with the Grey Warden named Duncan, who recruits you regardless of origin story, it’s off to battle with King Cailan and Teyrn Loghain, Cailan’s father-in-law. But during the critical moment of the battle, when you’ve lit the tower beacon to alert Loghain to strike, Loghain turns tail and flees the battlefield, which inevitably leads to the dramatic deaths of Duncan and King Cailan. Grey Wardens are blamed for the deaths, and bounties are put on their heads by Loghain across the land. From then on, it’s a story of survival and hope as you struggle to bring justice about, gather allies, and ultimately face the Archdemon. But the path you choose to get there will vary greatly depending on how you play the game’s monumental choice system.
I am of the opinion, if you’ll permit a quick derivation, that morality systems in games are mostly illusions of choice rather than real choice. It’s most visible in Dragon Age: Origins. I’m here to tell you that no matter how you decide to play the game – evil, good, or neutral – you are inevitably brought to the same exact point of closure that everyone else will be: the end of the Blight and a confrontation with the Archdemon. Now, that’s all well and good. We all love happy endings, right? Or do we? I’m not you, you’re not me, I’m not him, she’s not me, etc. My point is this: is there really choice in games if all choices lead to a singular conclusion? When you look at it that way, of course not. You may not care, and that’s fine. I’m simply stating that even though Dragon Age: Origins is chock-full of some startling decision-making, in the end it doesn’t matter, which was a HUGE letdown for me, huge. I can’t overstate this. If I want to play an evil character in an RPG, why can’t I help the Blight rather than fight against it? Why can’t I have that “choice”? Or, what if I wanted to ride the fence to see how both sides played their cards, and then made my decision? Of course, if I did ride the fence and sat in the Mages’ Tower doing nothing, that could lead to some upset neighbors, leading to more and diverse conflicts. The developers could do this; they simply don’t. Why? I have no idea. Expansion packs? Perhaps, but the illusion and predictability of morality systems is starting to wear thin on my patience.
Now, having said all that, I’m telling you that illusion or not, Dragon Age: Origins’ morality system is the best one I’ve ever experienced. I laughed, cried (literally, I did, no lie), gasped, and nervously paced when certain decisions came about, and their subsequent consequences. There are moments in this game that will find you dropping your controller out of sheer amazement at how things unfold because of your decisions. Side quests aren’t immune to choice, so this is something you’ll be experiencing throughout the entire game. Do you side with the Templars and kill all the Mages in the demon-ridden Tower, or rescue them? Would playing a Mage change your decision? Do you kill a possessed child or let his mother make the ultimate sacrifice? Every decision of this magnitude will have you second-guessing yourself over and over again. Did you make the right or wrong decision? Did Morrigan approve, but Leliana disapprove? If you’re building a relationship with one of them (or both, as I tried to do, with no such luck), did that make you sweat when the meter came up? I know, right? It’s stressful, but that’s the goal of the storyteller! I’m a novel writer, and building emotional impact upon emotional impact is a tactic known as “Doubling” (Tripling…and so on). You build upon an emotion, not simply repeat it, and BioWare was uncanny in their delivery of choices in this game. Again, it would’ve been nice if my choices really affected the outcome in more than subtle ways, but in light of how they pulled it off here, I’ll drop that complaint for now.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND:
I received a bit of criticism when I posted the “first impressions” review of this game, but I really am going to stick to my guns on this one. I’m a PlayStation 3 guy, I’m not ashamed to admit nor will I engage in any type of console flame war, only to say that both HD consoles (360 and PS3) have their strengths and weaknesses. The important thing to remember is that console gaming has never been better than it is right now because of both companies. That’s the angle I’m approaching this from, and trust me when I say that I know the PS3 has had some catching up to do in the graphical department due to a more complex architecture. But we’re starting to see the fruits of labor with many devs, and nothing short of brilliance can describe what we’re seeing right now with the graphical explosion on the PS3.
However, Dragon Age: Origins is not one of those games. Graphically, I find the game to be a mediocre offering. I can’t comment on the PC version, but the PS3 version suffers from myriad graphical issues, the most troublesome being the framerate. Calm down, relax, don’t flame me because I’m pointing out an obvious issue. The BioWare Dragon Age forum has several threads going right now with hundreds of posts citing this issue. While playing, the framerate always seems to be low because my eye fatigues from the ever-present blur on the screen. That’s framerate; it’s a fact. Motion blur is a sluggish framerate. Panning the camera around is even worse. Outdoor locations are really bad, and there’s a “skip” present at regular intervals as the game loads and tries to keep up. Draw-in and pop-in plague outdoor and large indoor areas. Caverns and close quarter periods are absolutely fine, no issues.
But the issue comes to a head in combat. I’m not kidding, during most of the battles – and when I say “most” I mean 75-85% of them – the framerate drops so low that characters jump from one location on-screen to another without traversing the intermediate space. That’s single-digit framerate guys, I don’t know what else to say. And it’s not just me, far from it. MANY users are complaining and screaming for BioWare to do something about this on the PS3. If you’re going to do multi-platform development, then dammit do your job and do it right for all of them! I’m not a programmer, I must confess. I have no idea how to do what they do, and I give them all kudos for their skills. But when I’m a paying customer, and I pay the same price for a game as someone else, and my experience is less enjoyable than theirs, that’s when I squawk. There’s no reason in this day of PS3 development for poor framerates. I can forgive draw-in and pop-in, as it’s a limitation of the consoles’ memory and such, but I can’t forgive weak framerates when the 360 and PC versions aren’t suffering from it.
But the graphic yuck doesn’t stop there. Bowstrings are missing, a silly omission. Character models are pretty bad up close, but damn I love Morrigan. Ahem. Textures are muddy and low-resolution. It’s just surprising when you’ve got Blu-Ray for storage, hard drives for storage, and an 8-core Cell engine. If the game’s story and characters would’ve been weak, this would’ve been a deal-breaker for me, but as it stands, the game will be a permanent addition to my collection.
Where the graphics fell, the sound rises up. Other than some wonky acting and silly dialogue spots, the sound elements in the game are captivating. The world resonates with sounds of life, and the special effects of spells and battle were fantastically done and pumped through my surround sound system with authority. The bright spots in the sound department were the brilliant performances of the primary characters’ actors. Well done, but it’s not surprising considering it’s BioWare. Their voice-acting performances are almost always epic.
GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLS:
The control gap between PC and console is closing, albeit slowly. One thing I can’t quite grasp, especially with the PS3 platform, is why in the world developers aren’t at least allowing the option for keyboard and mouse controls. The PS3 is Plug-N-Play, developers, didn’t you know? Hook up any keyboard and mouse to it, and it works. No sweat. Umm, why aren’t you giving me the option for the KB/M control scheme again? Is it laziness or is it because you can’t do it on the 360? Or can you, you just don’t feel like it? Would it be that hard to port KB/M controls to the consoles? Again, I’m not a programmer, I just don’t understand the absence when the PS3 supports the KB/M.
But, good news: all is not lost!!! The controller poses NO threat to the console gamer in Dragon Age: Origins, none at all. I outlined some of this in the Presentation section, so I won’t repeat it. The button layout is such that three of the four face buttons are reserved for assigned spells/talents. The “X” button is used for making selections, opening doors, etc. Pressing the R2 trigger brings up an alternate face button layer for three more assigned spells/talents, giving you quick access to six without having to tactically pause with L2. The controller is utilized appropriately, and it’s obvious that lots of thought was put into the system.
Gameplay modes in Dragon Age: Origins include the usual offerings in epic RPGs: main quest and loads of side quests. Side quests fit within the world seamlessly and never are as simple as “go fetch,” as I may have originally thought. On the contrary, they’re quite fun and can earn you lots of goodies, like money (copper, silver, and sovereign from lowest to highest value), items, and XP, which you will need to get up in levels before the final fight. Sadly, I was only able to achieve level 21 before the end, and once you beat the Archdemon, you can only go back to DLC. Why that was done, I have no idea. Why can’t I roam the land post-Blight? It’s not like my ending warranted that type of crap. I won’t spoil the end for you, but there are multiple endings. My first one found me quite alive, so why was I relegated to only roam Soldier’s Peak and Honnleath (if you purchased the DLC, of course) even though I already completed both locations? Duh. So yeah, level 21, but I thought that was good considering I completed a boatload of side quests.
The side quests were particularly cool because some of them had objectives in areas you may not have access to at first. This provided lots of micro-managing of the quests and related notes to keep it all straight. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the quests you can come across in a single city, like Denerim, and some of them force you to traverse the overworld map quite a bit. But it’s not perfect. Some quests yield no noticeable reward other than “quest completed.” No approval, no money, no items, nothing. Now, the strange thing about XP and quests is that no XP flag comes up like it does in battle. Every time you drop a foe, the XP value flag pops over the character’s head who dropped it, so you know what the dealio is. But it’s not like that for quests. Unless you track the XP meter in your character’s profile, I don’t see how you know. I have to assume that there is a reward for side quests beyond the money or item, but I have no idea. Sort of strange, but again, nit-picking here for the most part.
The biggest complaint about the gameplay is the repetitive nature of the combat. It breaks down to this: beat down a group of foes, heal, move to next room – if you have the Survival Skill, you can see the enemies on your radar ahead of time – enter room, beat down foes, heal, move to next room. Rinse and repeat. Really, that’s it, there’s not much more to the combat than that. It’s fun beating the mobs down, but NOT as the Mage. The melee characters get cool “finishing move”-like animations, where they’ll cut the foe’s head off or do some elaborate stab and slash. But the Mage attacks from a distance, so sadly there’s a lack of satisfaction until you score the Fireball spell…then it’s on ’til the break of dawn. 🙂 Fireball is fun as long as your party can’t take damage (casual and normal difficulty settings), but it wouldn’t be as cool on higher difficulty.
SCORE (GAMEPLAY): 8.9/10
SCORE (CONTROLS): 9.3/10
SUMMARY and FINAL SCORE:
Overall, this review is lengthy because Dragon Age: Origins is one colossal beast of a game, and that’s putting it lightly. I easily threw 75 hours of gameplay into it and didn’t come close to completing my 2nd play-through as a Female Dalish Elf Rogue yet. As a Male Elf Magi, I completed the game in just under 45 hours, and had a groovy romance with Morrigan and an even better ending with her involvement…I’ll leave it at that. I laughed, cried, cursed, and even swooned during moments of the game, which means it did its job perfectly despite its obvious flaws. Hopefully, BioWare will move to correct the graphical issues on the PS3 version, but I’m not holding my breath. The consoles have to do without the BioWare Toolkit and community-developed mods, unfortunately, but for a game of this magnitude, it’s a miracle at all that it’s on the consoles, and BioWare deserves commendation for doing so. I won’t bite the hand that feeds me, which means I’ll deal with the glitches in light of the beauty and epic nature of this gem.
You owe it to yourself to play this game and play it with conviction. Spend some time with it, make compelling choices, be honest, and it will return the favor tenfold.
FINAL SCORE: 9.4/10 (not an average)
Modern Warfare 2 requires the player to check off a box accepting the violent content of the level before playing, and the game make good on its promises. The plot is over the top, but the scenarios are extremely daring for a major commercial release like this. The game’s bravado earned it some amusing liberal handwringing (check out this laughable review from Slate) and off-the-mark commentary, and it is noteworthy. Major spoilers within!
Jesse Bullington – Good morning, and thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Hegel: [Mutters something incomprehensible to Manfried]
Manfried: [Mutters back. This goes on for some time, until:] Uh huh. Mornin.
Hegel: Sure. Good mornin. What’s this?
Boomtron, upon whose behalf I’m conducting this interview, was hoping to gain some insight into the novel I wrote—
Hegel: So he’s the one.
Manfried: Thought he looked shifty.
Hegel: Where’s our royalties, boy?
Manfried: Look at’em squirm. Didn’t think we knew bout them nobles’ words, did you? Own up, and quick.
This…this isn’t really the time, and besides, plenty of books are written where the subject is not compensated and—
Manfried: Unauthorized is what you’s talkin bout. Lies, in other words.
Hegel: Thought a smooth-chin like you’d be keen to get validation from your betters.
So you’ve read it?
Hegel: Is he takin the piss?
Manfried: Are you takin the piss?
Hegel: We’s waitin on hearin it audio-like. Recounted. Maybe get John Hurt to read it, he’s an honest enough sort. Or John Goodman, him too.
Manfried: Bide, brother. At a glance I can tell by his fidgetin this book ain’t nuthin but lies, so he can count on gettin somethin other than an official endorsement.
Hegel: A beatin.
Manfried: A lawsuit and a beatin.
Right. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so if we could just run through some quick questions and return to all this later I would very much—
Manfried: [yawns] Ask away, ponce. Only one door outta here, so reckon on entertainin some questions a ours afore this is through.
Hegel: Could I get some more a this, ah, khave? Coffee? Black stuff.
[Refills Hegel’s mug] First off, what are your thoughts on the tried and true formula of interviewing fictional characters?
Manfried: Well, I always been a mind that the trope, when used with genuine—[Hegel splashes hot coffee in the interviewer’s face]
Manfried: What in Hell, brother?!
Hegel: He was disparagin us!
Manfried: Was he?
[Clutching face] No! Christ, no!
Hegel: Oh. No hard feelins, then. Could I get another cup?
[Retires to the bathroom to clean up. The burns are superficial but the shirt is soaked. Upon returning, the Brothers Grossbart are conversing in their incomprehensible dialect. They are smiling far too widely for anyone’s liking] Next question?
Hegel: Next question.
What are your thoughts on the current global financial crisis?
Hegel: Seein’s how we come up in the 14th century your question strikes me as bein a bit dunderheaded, but what the Hell, ain’t like we can’t adapt. Got us a deal with the Fox News in the works.
Manfried: Foxes is what it is, brother. To answer your dumbass question, it seems to me the problem is you been lettin Reynard mind Chanticleer and his hens, and so it’s only natural the born-thieves set to theivin. Real problem is instead a hangin them whats ruined the lives a countless innocents you give’em a swat on the bottom, maybe take back a little a that loot they been stealin—don’t discourage no one, Hell, makes’em see that even if they’s caught it won’t be so bad. If you’d taken that N. Ron gang and set up a gibbet I guarantee things woulda gone different down these years since.
Enron? I suppose it is interesting that we continue to demonize the small-scale criminal, the citizen who murders their neighbor, while those who destroy the lives of thousands are spared the same revilement because their crime is not physically violent, though the result will still be pain and suffering, and, in some instances, death.
[Getting excited] But you also mentioned Reynard, who is of course the folk hero fox of the middle ages, and Chanticleer, the rooster he tormented and ate in many of those tales. That you would bring him up is especially interesting, considering that for people of your era having a folk hero who abused children, raped, murdered, tortured, lied, cheated, and blasphemed was perfectly acceptable, but in our modern age having a fairly objective tale about two criminal brothers who are nowhere near as bad as Reynard is still seen as championing “irredeemable” and “despicable” characters.
Hegel: [Rolls eyes] Cause everyone from Pope to pissboy thought Reynard was an alright sort. Why you think this crumb’s so thick, brother?
Manfried: Maybe he et somethin ill, or maybe he’s just a born moonfruit. Reynard’s a piece a shit, son, and don’t you forget it—that bitchswine’s no more honest than you, and I hear another string a words tyin us to him you get your pate pâtéd, hear?
OK, what about the situation in the Middle East?
Hegel: I heard bout this. Iraq, right?
Well, not just Iraq, but—
Manfried: Sounds simple to hear tell. They come over here with swords flashin, and you puttem down proper. Someone comes out they door swingin you got an obligation to burn that house, make sure no one else a similar mind comes lookin for vengeance.
Actually, it’s been pretty well-agreed upon at this point that Iraq didn’t actually have anything to do with the attack on the United States.
Hegel: Hmmmmmmmmmm…[They begin talking in their dialect. It is difficult to tell if they are arguing or not. Eventually:] These Arabs—
Iraqis. The citizens of Iraq are called—
Hegel: Regardless. Them what dwell there, they pay tribute to the Virgin?
In addition to the large Chaldean Catholic population in Iraq, the Muslim faith actually puts a great deal of importance on Mary, or Maryam alayhis salam as she—
Hegel: Hold, hold…I hear you say Moslem? There a lot a them on this rock you talkin bout?
Iraq. The majority of the population of Iraq is Muslim, yes.
Manfried: Arabs, is what he’s sayin [The pair visibly relax]. Changes everythin. How’s we supposed to offer an informed opinion if you’s withholdin information?
Hegel: So you lot went in and swooped up them ancient treasures what the Infidel was keepin warm for you. Sounds fair.
Actually, as soon as the invasion got underway a looter culture flourished, and the vast majority of the antiquities and artifacts that were being held in museums were stolen and are now in the hands of private—
Hegel: Another fuckin fiasco [shakes head].
Manfried: You bungled the whole operation! What the Hell’s the point in goin in if you lettem scoot to the loot fore you do?
Hegel: Shoulda hired us on in a, whatsit, advisory capacitor.
Manfried: So what’s the score, then? A bunch a dead folk what never heard the word don’t please nobody but the Old Boy, the Scratch, you know, and he’s got his kilns fill to burstin without you addin to it.
I didn’t do anything.
Hegel: Course you didn’t; nobody ever does, do they? Always the other loaf’s fault. You wouldn’t be wearin that wine sack round your waist if you’d done somethin.
Manfried: Mighta grown a beard if you’d gotten out a your chair.
[would like to point out that he is in decent shape and has no problem growing facial hair, when he is inclined to do so. He hikes regularly, as well as bicycling] Fine. So something I’d like to come back to is Manfried’s answer to my question about the financial crisis. You had some hard words for what you called “born-thieves,” but how is digging up a grave and taking what you find any different?
Hegel: [Tries to fling more coffee but the cup is empty] Could I get another cup?
It’s, ah, percolating.
Manfried: That’s the kinda question what grinds an honest man’s teeth. Dead folk ain’t folk, they’s meat, and meat don’t get no say in what happens to its fat.
Hegel: Buryin treasure is an official relinquishment a rights a property. Plain as fuckin day to them what’s born with eyes. If you want it, do not bury it. Simple.
You go into foreign lands and rob from the dead, that’s what you do. Things that belong in museums—
Hegel: Shut it, Doctor Jones, fore you find yourself in a bad way.
Manfried: Even if it was the same as robbin, which it ain’t, what’s the difference who takes it bein domesticated or alien? You get cracked in the head and your purse is cut, you really give a damn if the thief was rich or poor, foreign or local? Your purse is gone just the same, ain’t it? Only one who puts much stock on the place a origin a the perpetrator is them what’s lookin to work an angle. As in, you hate Jocks—
I don’t! I’ve never even been to Scotland! I’m of Scottish descent and—
Manfried: [Draws a knife, is allowed to continue] So on account a you hatin Jocks you take a Jocko nippin your purse to be a rallyin point for gettin those what’s thick enough to listen to a biased bastard like you sayin “Jocks is thieves, so let’s hang the lot.” And if the thief weren’t no Jock in the first place, who’s the wiser? Only people who care if a thief is local or not is thems with interior motives, is what I’m sayin, so you implyin me diggin up thems what was born beyond my borders is somehow worse than stickin spade in my backyard and no further is just as ignorant as thinkin so many pounds a rotten dead man got some kinda claim to the mineral bands what might adorn they bones.
Hegel: Told you this weren’t nuthin but a wind-blowin exercise. Let’s get on with what we came for; seein’s we got the confession I ain’t a mind to nibble any more a this roadapple pie.
Confession? What are—
Manfried: Libel, plagiarism, call it what you will, you was keen on exploitin our circumstances for financial gain. Ain’t proper.
Hegel: Ain’t honest.
Now hold on—
Hegel: And why you keep fiddlin with this witch-box? Ain’t honest a’tall—[recorder is turned off. End of interview]
Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor’s degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. He currently resides in Colorado and can be found online at www.jessebullington.com.
His novel, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, was published by Orbit on November 16t, 2009
Hegel and Manfried Grossbart may not consider themselves bad men – but death still stalks them through the dark woods of medieval Europe.
The year is 1364, and the brothers Grossbart have embarked on a naïve quest for fortune. Descended from a long line of graverobbers, they are determined to follow their family’s footsteps to the fabled crypts of Gyptland. To get there, they will have to brave dangerous and unknown lands and keep company with all manner of desperate travelers-merchants, priests, and scoundrels alike. For theirs is a world both familiar and distant; a world of living saints and livelier demons, of monsters and madmen.
The Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy
So I got a chance to join a conference call where we asked Tiffani Theissen some questions, mostly focusing on her role as Elizabeth Burke on the USA Network Show White Collar.
In case you haven’t noticed, over the past few weeks Boomtron has been republishing Victor Gischler’s World’s Worst Interview series, which he conducted on his old blog at the end of 2004 through the middle of 2005. Needless to say, I’ve been getting more than a few belly laughs out of the series, and after reading Gischler’s interview with George Pelecanos, I thought to myself,
“Ya know, self, you’re a pretty awful interviewer. You should try writing one of these things.”
And I said to myself, “Ya know what, self, fuck you. But you’re right. I bet doing one of these things would be a blast.”
So, I decided to go right to the source of the World’s Worst Interview—critically renowned pulp novelist, Victor Gischler.
I hope you enjoy.
When was the last time you took a nose dive into the Rabbit Hole? Or maybe allowed yourself the slight indulgence of a 150+ hour jaunt through a haunted landscape? If the answer to that question begins with the word “Neverwinter,” you need to finish reading this enlightening first impression, then get to your local video game watering hole and pick this gem up.
The Inner Inhumanity
I’ve got a theory, one that’s been brewing for a while really, ever since I first read Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire and Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls. It’s one that’s been partly informed by my… exposure to the Twilight phenomenon, to the general prevalence of the vampire trope these days. And after coming across one of those internet kerfuffles over a recent article in Esquire by Stephen Marche that made a rough stab at advancing a similar idea (and largely got shot down in flames) I thought it might be a good time to get my teeth into it, so to speak.
Synergy is back! This is the fourth installment of the feature, and the first under my dictatorship as BSC’s editrix. If you haven’t seen this column before, the basic idea is that we put the same question to a variety of professionals (and sometimes amateurs) who interest us to create a plateful of amuse bouche interviews. This time around we took the question straight to some of the hottest names in horror, comics, urban fantasy, and more.
The question? What was your favorite scary story as a kid? The answer could be anything from an urban legend to “vampires” to a specific book or movie or comic. Anything at all…as long as it was something especially striking to you….
Although music doesn’t necessarily fall under the purview of this site, one should never miss a chance to heap scorn on Creed. After seven long years, Creed rejoins for Full Circle, and the results are predictably awful, often in unique ways.
When one thinks of modern crime comics, specifically the art, there is probably one word that never comes to mind. Lush. Yet I can think of no other word to describe the art of Britten and Brulightly. In fact, it might be the rare crime comic in which one talks about the art first and the story second instead of the other way around. But there is no better place to start.
The master that this art serves isn’t style, at least not in the way that other Frank Miller-inspired art does, but rather atmosphere. The world of Britten and Brulightly exudes atmosphere. On the many rain-filled panels, you will at least once be certain that your fingers are going to come away wet.
The use of secondary materials as a device in Britten and Brulightly, such as case files, notes, and a personal, handwritten diary, shape the story and add a depth to the story in a way that other crime comics can’t come close to. There is almost a secondary world quality to it.
The past of the main character is alluded to but kept from the reader, as its reveal wouldn’t serve the story, though the reader is left to wonder. One of his quirks is revealed in the identity of his partner, Brulightly. If this odd coping strategy is indicative of his mental state, then perhaps he’s not as well off as he appears to be on the surface.
The book ends with the line “But at least I have saved one person from the truth.” It almost flies in the face of the idea of order over chaos and the prevailing of justice that many proclaim to be the backbone of the mystery genre, and it does so in a way that only a good noir can.
Britten and Brulightly is a deeply moving and richly rewarding experience that all mystery, crime, and comic readers should make time for.
There are many pro writers out there worried by piracy, who see the internet as the greatest illegal intellectual land-grab of all time. Here’s the deal: if you’re worried enough to want to stop it, you’re not only going to have to stop people’s internet connections, you’re also going to have to ban photocopiers, computer scanners, OCR software, and computers. At the least.
The vast majority of those books floating around on bittorrent sites were derived from print copies of books. You scan the pages with a scanner and run OCR software that creates an unedited, error-filled file that is then saved as a PDF – surely the most unwieldy ebook format ever created – and uploaded. No professionally edited ebook files were involved.
Jean-Patrick Manchette was a French crime novelist who wrote 10 novels. He is held in the highest possible regard by his English-speaking audience. To date only two of his novels have been translated. Let me say that again in the off chance that, among my limited readership, a publisher is reading this. Only. Two. Books. To say that crime readers who love the full dark style want more Manchette would be a gross understatement.
West Coast Blues is an adaptation of one of those two novels, the 1976 novel 3 to Kill.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked you guys who you thought the Greatest American Rock Band of All Time was. I got some interesting responses (Guns N Roses, Melvins, Van Halen) and some completely off-base ones (no offense, people, but FOO FIGHTERS ARE NOT THE GREATEST AMERICAN ROCK BAND OF ALL TIME and are actually getting worse over time because Dave Grohl has a creeping case of the taking-himself-seriously).
But I must respectfully disagree with everyone who sent in comments, because the real answer is…
I probably don’t need to tell the readers here that science-fiction is probably one of the most badass genres of fiction to ever explode out of someone’s brain. I mean, any genre in which genetically modified cyborgs, hyperdrive-capable spaceships, chest-bursting aliens, disintegration death rays, handheld nuclear bombs, mutant apocalypses, and skimpy gold bikinis are the norm is OK in my book, and anybody who doesn’t think that stuff kicks more ass than an alcoholic donkey-herder really needs to get their priorities straight.
Never After is billed as a collection of “feminist fairy tales,” basically stories that take the idea of the fairy tale wedding and explore the possibility that it might, well, not be such a fairy tale. I will confess that my eyebrows arched pretty high when I read the list of established professionals contributing stories: Laurell K. Hamilton, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn, and Sharon Shinn. I have read at least one novel from each of them, and my experience was that all but Shinn write novels that are too deeply entrenched in sex to be anything like what I would label feminist writing. However. I was very willing to be pleasantly surprised by this collection, and you know what? I was.
Vivid Girl Savanna Samson gave us the scoop on her appearance on 30 Rock. The episode was “Into the Crevasse,” which aired last night on NBC.
Too often crime fiction feels like a period piece. Like the author is a child playing dress-up and the era is her parents’ clothes. The shoes clomp, the sleeves are too long, and the fit is just off. It’s my belief that the mystery/crime genre is largely a conservative one, or at the very least is going through a conservative phase. One where past settings or evocations of past times are increasingly more common. Rather than inundate the reader with loads of researched facts that scream look-at-all-the-research-I-did, or throw a tantrum with oh-my-God-I-wish-I-wrote-for-Gold-Medal half-baked pulp theatrics, You Have Killed Me feels much more naturalistic and less forced.
If I learned one thing about tonight’s CSI: Miami episode, “Bad Seed,” it’s this: always wash produce before eating.
In what may be Eric Delko’s swan song, the show focused on him to a great extent tonight. He and former ME Alexx are chatting about leaving MDPD when paramedics barge into the ER. A young woman is on the cart, her boyfriend, Ethan, trailing behind. In the short scene that follows, the camera lingers on Eric watching Alexx do her thing as a doctor. To me, I think Eric was wondering if he was making the right decision to leave MDPD. Unfortunately, the woman dies on the table. Ethan’s pretty distraught–he was going to propose and shows Eric the ring–but Alexx is having none of it. With the steely glare that make her corpses feel just a little deader, Alexx tells Eric to call Horatio because the girl was murdered and, in her experience, the number one suspect is right over there.
Put simply, this is the kind of book I’d like to read more of. A lot more of.
It’s got swordfights and spaceships and sea-dwelling clan cultures. It’s got murder and bureaucracy and philosophical arguments and ruined castles and robots and masked aristocrats and dancers and secrets and feuds and more.
Template is one of Matthew Hughes’s Archonate novels, set in a far, far future highly-reminiscent of and clearly inspired by Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, but not quite that “dying” yet. Call it the Fading Earth, perhaps. A world where humanity is scattered to the stars, but where things are decaying and have been for so long that no one remembers a time when they weren’t. Across The Spray, the sweep of human civilization, mankind is splintered into thousands of arcane and obsessive cultures, locked into rigid social, political and philosophical codes, often in stark disagreement with one another. The rich are sumptuously wealthy, the poor are desperately abject and the many worlds of humanity are places where idle play and the grueling fight for survival go hand in hand, all observed with an arch sense of wit and satire, an eye for detail and a deft and confident way with narrative.
Not too long ago I decided to make a list of my top 10 favorite books of the decade, from 2000-2009. I easily knocked out a list with a couple of dozen titles then decided that a decade was a long enough period of time to warrant a list of 50. I pretty quickly got to 49 then realized that two of the books on the list had hardback releases in 1999 so they got cut. I added to the list and had almost 60 books. 50 is a nice round number so I cut, cut, cut and brought it down to 50.
This is by no means a list of the best books of the decade. This isn’t a record of the most influential, those that had the most impact or even the most popular. Just my favorites. I would gladly grab any one of these books today and read it again. And in some cases I have.
When I was having an interesting time of it in college, I was seized with the notion that I was reading an incredibly long and detailed story about a woman named Sharon Shinn, and at some point I would reach the end of the book, look up, and find myself to be a wholly different person. (A friend of mine says this is an idea that would only occur to a writer.)
Recently, as I was devouring Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, I found myself so engrossed in the story that I actually came fairly close to experiencing this phenomenon. Except, of course, I had started to think I was a woman named Alice Lindgren, but when I looked up I discovered I was really still Sharon Shinn. I read the middle hundred pages while sitting in an airport in Austin. So strong was the storytelling voice that I actually believed I was sitting in an airport in Wisconsin, probably Madison. It was something of a shock to set aside the book and find myself still in Texas instead.