OUTER WORLDS early impressions

I almost didn’t buy this, because the idea of the folks behind Fallout basically trying to cross Mass Effect with a Western was a little bit too compelling; I don’t have time for a video game to eat my entire life right now, so it’s almost good that so far the game hasn’t hugely grabbed me. If you’re a gamer, “the folks behind Fallout tried to cross Mass Effect with a Western” really does tell you almost everything you need to know about this game except for the heavy dose of corporatism overlaid on absolutely everything. So maybe if they crossed Mass Effect with a Western and then crossed that with some sort of other future-tinged corporatocracy; the fact that I can’t come up with a proper analogue right now tells me that that’s the game’s main bit of originality, since otherwise the tone is really Firefly, which isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve gotten off the first planet, then went to the second place, and once I got there my ship was immediately impounded and I got hit with half a dozen new quests … and then I quit playing, because it all made me tired. If you have the time for this game, and you like the Fallout/Mass Effect/Dragon Age school of “do quests for this guy, then do quests for that guy, then collect these companions, then talk to them a lot to unlock their quests, then go do those,” you’ll enjoy the game well enough, and usually that’s right up my alley, but … maybe my alley is a bit more crowded than usual right now, and I’m more focused with cleaning my alley and getting some shit out of my alley than properly being … up … it?

That metaphor fell apart. The tl;dr version is that the game is perfectly fun and pretty to look at and there’s all sorts of shit to do and it may just be too damn much for me right now, since my head is in “give me a game where I hit shit and don’t have to think about it too hard” mode, and this is not that game. It’s why I’m still doing Dark Souls runs. I can stab the same shit in different ways. No surprises. I’m too tired for surprises right now.


In work news: I finally have a second human back in my classroom again. She walked in to witness third hour not having their best day, at all, and didn’t immediately quit, so I’m hoping everything works out. Having another adult in there will ease my workload significantly and, not for nothing, actually means the kids will get more help, which is, like, supposedly the point of having adults in the room, so that’s a good thing.

I need to get to bed early tonight.

#REVIEW: THE OUTSIDE, by Ada Hoffman

The headline for this piece is a lie– which would have been a clever reference to the events of The Outside, had I meant to do it when I started writing the sentence rather than realizing it halfway through. I actually have no intention of writing a full review of this book, which is really good and which I started reading last night and finished today. I’m tired and my thinkmeats are all askew and I’d rather just give you the basic genre of the book and then if you aren’t reaching for a credit card with one hand and navigating the interwebs to Amazon with the other we probably can’t be friends.

The genre, according to author Ada Hoffman, is “queer autistic cosmic horror space opera.” It may also be relevant to your interests to know that Hoffman is both queer and autistic.

That’s all. You may go now; I know you have more important things to do.

#REVIEW: The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling

So:

1) Read yesterday’s post.

2) Understand that I have finished the book and remain just as enthusiastic about its strong points.

3) Also understand that the issue described in that post does not get better, ever, so calibrate your expectations as needed.

The end.

On plot holes, and suspension of disbelief

This is emphatically not a review, because right now I’m less than halfway through this book, and I’m not going to actually type the title anywhere in this post or put it in the tags because I don’t particularly want this post to show up when people search for the book. A word of praise first: I started this last night in bed, at around 9:45 or so, and as of right now, just before 8 PM the next day on a day when I had to go to work, I’m 165 pages into it. I got home from work, went and got the book, and started reading. On a page-by-page and sentence-by-sentence level, this book that there’s a picture of on the right is a damn good read.

But here’s the thing: the book is set in the 2300s, roughly, far enough in The Future that there’s crazy technology: the caving suit the main character is wearing required elective surgery that rerouted her digestive system into the suit so that she could basically live in a closed ecosystem, just for example. There are two characters, the person in the Scary Cave and her handler, a disembodied voice Somewhere Out There. A whole lot of people who previously tried to explore this cave have died quite nastily. The book does paranoia and claustrophobia and Alone In The Dark very well, and as mysteries are unraveled as we go along it’s adding additional layers of palpable dread and creepy. In short, it does what it’s doing quite well.

And I turned to my wife on page six last night and said “This book had better give me a good reason at some point why there is a human being in a suit exploring this cave and not a drone,” and … well, nope. Now, there’s lots of book left, but in 2019 we can explore caves with drones. Especially the really dangerous and people-killy ones. I’m pretty certain that no matter what has happened to human civilization in the time between now and the events of this book– and it’s a very tight-focused book, so other than some hints about extrasolar colonization (the book does not take place on Earth) we really don’t have much of an idea of what regular human day-to-day life is like, but I am pretty sure we still have drones and robots. Probably even better ones than we have now! Why the hell would you risk even one human life, and way more than one person has died in this cave, to explore caves when you have robots you can send?

Ignore that detail, and this is a really compelling book. I’m gonna be insanely busy the next couple of days but this is gonna get read fast. There’s still lots of book left where my opinion might change, but the first 40% is good shit. Except for that one thing, and if you’re the type of person that That One Thing is gonna annoy, you probably shouldn’t even pick this up. Because, again: ignore that detail, and this is a really compelling book. With that detail, there’s no book at all, because the only reasonable way to explore this cave literally eliminates every single aspect of the plot and backstory as it’s been explained to us so far.

So, yeah, maybe don’t read this if that’s gonna be a problem.


The school year is officially one week old, and tomorrow is going to be a ten-hour day, and I haven’t worked a five-day week of any kind in a while and the first week of school is always hell and the first seven days are also hell and ten-hour days are hell and 140-degree days are hell and I’m so tired that I have crossed through tired and emerged on the other side, which is still tired but with more superlatives. It is deeply unlikely that there will be a post tomorrow, and Friday is my son’s birthday, and again I am very very sleepy, so do not panic if a few days elapse where you do not hear from me.

Which, in accordance with prophecy, means I will post every day, of course.

#Review: WANDERERS, by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers is one of those books that could have been very disappointing. To start, I have been waiting for this book for what seems like a very long time. I actually pre-ordered it, which I don’t do with books all that often– I am generally backlogged enough in my reading that even books that I’ve been looking forward to and whose authors I’m big fans of have to wait for a while for me to get to them. Not this one. I not only preordered it, I specifically timed the books I was reading before it so that I would be free and clear and able to start something new immediately when it showed up in my mailbox. So if it had been bad, there is a strong possibility that I might have cried. Actual book-nerd tears. It woulda been a problem.

Let’s not bury the lede any further: Wanderers is Wendig’s best book, and by a pretty large margin– and, again, remember that this is a guy who I am fond of and whose work has shown up in my end-of-year top 10 before. So this is way better than a bunch of books that I really liked. What’s fascinating about it is how different it is from all of Wendig’s other work. His previous work– which includes multiple Star Wars novels, books that have always sort of had a house style– has always been instantly recognizable: short sentences, present tense, visceral detail, and a certain disregard for strict grammar conventions in favor of impactful language. You can show me a single paragraph from any of Wendig’s previous books and I’d be able to tell you it was his. That recognizable.

Wanderers throws all that out the window. This book must have been a beast to write– not only is it markedly longer than any of his previous books (it’s probably close to twice as long as its closest competitor) but the style of the writing is completely different. I would never have guessed Wendig wrote this from a paragraph or even a chapter, although you certainly see his humor and his themes come through– it is, if this makes any sense, a Wendig book made up of nearly 800 not-very-Wendig pages.

That probably doesn’t make any sense.

So, the plot, and this will be spoiler-free, for the most part: the elevator pitch for this book is “What if Chuck Wendig wrote The Stand,” and those seven words were more than enough to earn my money. To be clear, The Stand is one of Stephen King’s two or three best books, and while I’ll need to read Wanderers a couple more times over the next decade or so to see if it lives up to that book’s very high standard, the comparison is not remotely unfair to either book. This book is about a plague, and the end of the world, and a presidential election, and white supremacists, and it’s about all of those things before we mention the titular Wanderers, people who are locked into their own bodies and sleepwalking … somewhere. The world doesn’t even start ending until like halfway through the book, and the omnipresent sense of dread and horror is thick enough to drag your fingers through, even before the book gets around to one of the scarier human villains I’ve read recently. The book is not stingy with its mysteries, and the way they unfold over the course of its somehow-still-fast-paced 780 pages is immensely satisfying.

I have read 74 books so far this year, and of those 74, 17 are on my shortlist for the end of the year. It’s been a good year for reading! But this is the first book that I’ve read and known beyond a shadow of a doubt that yeah, this one’s gonna be top three. You should read Wanderers, and you should start now.