Resident Evil 6 (Co-op)

We had heard a lot about how Resident Evil 6 was terrible, but co-op makes everything good.  We played a pretty shitty game called “Dungeon Lords” for hours and hours because it was co-op.  So when RE6 came on sale we snapped it up.  And then we played it while drunk.

The first thing we noticed is that it’s really god damn confusing to try to get co-op started.  The game starts, asks you to fiddle with some graphical settings (which kinda seemed to be wrong.  It asked me to adjust the gamma until I could barely see a “6” that by default looked like it was lit up by a spotlight.  I have a new monitor so I wanted to make sure things were calibrated correctly.  Turns out the default gamma was spot on perfect, and adjusting it at all based on the visibility of the “6” resulted in a game that looks like some dimly lit faces floating around in a sea of black.  I changed it back to default pretty quickly.), then dumps you straight into an action sequence.  I assumed I had done something wrong and missed the co-op option and backed out of it, but no, there were no menus before that point.  You had to play through the intro bits to get to the point where you select a campaign, THEN you can choose co-op.  It was really odd, especially since the into bit stars Leon and then you could go on to pick someone else entirely for your campaign.
So we played the intro bits simultaneously, getting wildly out of sync due to fucking up quicktime sequences and having to redo bits, not to mention pausing to look over and see if the other person is ahead of you or not and then yelling “oh my god SPOILERS you’re RUINING THE STORY for me!”

I was playing with keyboard+mouse because I hate shooting and camera movement with a controller.  Mouselook forever.  I almost questioned my decision during the many quicktime sequences in the intro… I will reiterate: beer was involved.  But it felt really scrambly sometimes like shit would happen it would be all “HIT THIS KEY” and I’d be all “uhhh fuck what key is that OH SHIT R R HIT R R RRRRRRR whew okay survived” and then it would go “NOW HIT THIS KEY OMG OMG QUICK” and I’d be all “fuck what keys are those?!?!”.  Embarrassingly, it once popped up the icon to hit left and right rapidly to ‘shake’ something off and I flailed around trying to hit left and right on the arrow keys, when of course it meant “A” and “D” from WASD, which I had been using to move the whole time so you’d think that would be obvious.  But it didn’t say A and D :( (remember: beer.)  In my defence, I only did that the first time and I felt really dumb about it.

I almost picked up my controller, under the assumption that the quicktime events would be a little more natural since the game is all console-ized to expect you to hit those buttons… or at least the button flailing would be more effective having less options to flail at.  Then I glanced over at my husband trying to shoot something with his controller and went “oh yeah.”  Once we finally got together for co-op, I ended up doing most of the shooting while he stabbed things with knives simply to avoid having to aim with his controller.  Teamwork.

Now, about the shooting.  We only finished one chapter last night (of the Leon campaign) before we got too drunk to survive anything and gave up, so I only got to spend skill points once and I suspect that will help things immensely.  BUT.  I cannot quite adequately explain how angry it makes me to unload three shotgun blasts into a zombie face and have it not fucking die.  Why are the bullets so god damn useless!  I was doing flying kicks and drop-elbow moves simply to hoard my bullet stash under the assumption that they would be more effective than kicking a zombie in the nuts, but noooo… when shit goes down and I pull out my gun I feel less effective.  Bullshit.  I also really disliked how my aiming reticule would float.  I originally thought it was some console auto-aim bullshit, but once I saw the skill list I decided it was supposed to represent my character sucking at aiming.  I’m not sure if I like the way it was implemented at all.  I’m used to games using a floating reticule that you have to wrestle with, but in RE6 I’ve got my mouse rock steady on the thing’s skull but the aiming dot is floating down to the middle of its chest.  Fuck you, dot.  Get back in the sights.

The rest of the game was pretty Resident Evil-like.  The writing… ahahaha the dialogue.  Let’s just say the characters are very insightful, and beer will almost certainly enhance the experience of making fun of their terrible lines.  We also spent a lot of time making fun of my character for apparently being incapable of opening a door without Leon, especially the time I stood there waiting for him and when he finally arrived and completed the co-op “open this door” chain, my character stepped back to let him gently push it open.  /facepalm. The co-op stuff was also really… “janky”, I suppose is a word.  Once, my husband went to the door and hit the “open this with your partner” button so it snapped him into standing there waiting, and then something jumped out and started nibbling on me right next to the door.  My character literally fell at Leon’s feet and wrestled it off, and Leon’s only comment was “Help me open this door, will you?”  Thanks Leon.  Thanks.  Something similar happened when I opened my menu to look at the settings (actually, looking to see if I could fix the wandering cursor problem that I thought was auto-aim) and it completely neglected to inform me that a quicktime event was happening.  I was run over by a train while looking at my cellphone, which could probably be some sort of social commentary if it wasn’t more likely to be terrible programming.

The primary complaint I’ve heard about this game is that it’s got too many quicktime events, and not enough freedom.  That’s pretty much entirely true.  Quicktimes don’t bother me, but it’s very on rails.  In the intro sequence you can’t even walk in a direction other than forward, which is kind of the point where you say “so why isn’t this just a cutscene, then”.  I don’t really have a problem with playing an interactive movie because co-op makes it awesome, but I can see how it might be annoying in single player since it’s not like the writing is amazing enough to carry it.  It can definitely feel very limiting, too.  We walked past some corpses that you KNEW.  YOU KNEW were going to attack as soon as we picked up the doodad we were going for, and my husband flailed away with some melee attacks but nothing happened.  “If these things come to life when I can’t kill them now I’m going to be pissed” he said.  Guess what!  They attacked.  At another point we had to “split up” so I could open a door for him, and I pushed a block out of the way to get to the door to unlock it.  I got turned around and went back instead of jumping down (beer) and my husband was saying “no no you must have had to push the block THIS way so I can climb on it!”  I found the door just as he said that and he followed up with “oh yeah.  It wouldn’t have given you a choice in what direction to push it, anyway.”

We’re still going to play it, and we’ll probably enjoy it because co-op… but RE6 definitely has a lot of flaws that drop it pretty far below its predecessors.  And sometimes that bar isn’t all that high to begin with…

Advertisements

The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, #2)The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Augh this book. It’s so good, and then it grabs the ball and just drops it all over itself and leaves me going “…” because why. Why did you drop that ball. You did everything else so well. Why.

It has so many flaws and yet I must rate it 5.

The Chaos Walking series continues its excellent character development, and even the villains are interesting this time. The story picks up where the first book left off, and the entirety of it is set in the capital city of the planet. A number of heavy issues are broached (racism, slavery, torture, approaches to morality, self esteem and identity…) and it never once became preachy or uninteresting to me.  It also managed to stop doing that thing I hated in the first book where Todd would discover something and react appropriately and not tell anything to the reader grrrr.  So kudos for stopping that bullshit.

It did, however, become a bit baffling at points. What the book (and series so far, really) seems to lack is motivations. Amidst all of these excellent character depictions and believable responses to things, there is a complete lack of a sense for why they are doing what they are doing. The real strengths of these characters are how believable they are, but the lack of clear motivations is starting to make even that a bit muddy in this book. Before reading these books I probably would have said it wouldn’t be possible to write characters this well and somehow miss their motivations, but, well, here it is, and it’s probably the worst thing about this book given how well the first one developed the characters.

In the first book we had comically evil mustache twirling villains who seemed to be evil for the sake of being evil, because there wasn’t really a decent motivation behind their actions. We still have that here, but the villains are fleshed out a bit more and it’s easy to forget that the bottom line is they’re being evil pretty much for the sake of being evil. Okay fine the motivation is “I will rule the world” but that’s synonymous with “comically evil”.

[Vague plot discussion follows – I try to avoid major spoilers but it’s worth a warning:]

Read more of this post

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So difficult to rate. I really really enjoyed this book, but there were some flaws that marred the experience. If partial marks were allowed I’d probably end up dipping into 1/2s and maybe 3/4s, but as it is I will just start at 5 stars for being amazing, and drop it to 4 for having unfortunate flaws.

The language was not one of those flaws, although it could have been. The book uses “cleetus speak” to show that the characters are uneducated. The dialects aren’t slathered all over everything and, unlike the Dust Lands books, characters had unique “accents” as the characters moved from place to place. I could actually tell characters apart as they spoke. I enjoyed it, even. (And they use quotation marks! How novel!) It did still annoy me when words were misspelled when it made no sense to do so. e.g. words ending in -tion would be spelled “-shun”. Why. It is pronounced the same, so it doesn’t even contribute to an accent. It’s a minor annoyance and I got over it, though.

It’s such an interesting premise. Todd was born on this planet, but he’s actually part of a colony who landed here and soon discovered that something on the planet is causing them to hear each other’s thoughts. The plot is a bit sparse to begin with – Todd is going about his life, and then shit goes down and he needs to flee his hometown. He’s just as confused about it as we are, and the readers learn about the story while he figures it out. It’s like a blend of old time farmland settings and sci-fi genres, and it works. The worldbuilding is good and keeps you wanting to know more.

I have some issues with the second part of that, though. It relies heavily on a “hook” that I dislike – not telling the reader anything, even if the protagonist learns something. It’s mostly handled well, but then there are parts of the book where it cuts to Todd’s reaction as someone explains something really really important to him. No one explains any of it to us, the readers, and it’s such a transparent hook to make you keep reading. It works, mind you, but I resent every moment of it. You can handle it more gracefully than that guys, come on. It’s jarring and transparent. ESPECIALLY when you’re trying to pull off first person present tense. It was shockingly sloppy compared to a lot of the rest of the writing.

There’s a bit of really obvious telling instead of showing, too, which was also really odd given how well most of the book was constructed. In pretty much the first chapter Todd is thinking about how the year has 13 months in it, and I was all “aha, these are not typical Earth years.” Many many many chapters later Viola painstakingly lays out how the years are a different length here. Seriously? Did you forget that shit was in chapter one or did you think “omg the years are a different length why” would be a mystery for the whole book and it better be cleared up?

The characters were fantastic. They were real. They had human thoughts and made human mistakes. They reacted to each other in human ways. Each character was distinct. Even the dog had an appropriately dog-styled personality. Most of the writing was sort of stream-of-consciousness choppy style, which made a lot of sense in the context of all thoughts being audible, and it was used effectively to bring the character’s reactions to life. I enjoyed it, although it was a bit overdone in areas.

I loved almost every interaction between characters in this book, except for the villains. All this effort was poured into the main characters to make them believable and human, and then it came time to write the villains and they slapped some comically evil paint onto some cardboard and propped it up. Their motivations are weak and cliche (“I will ruulllleee the wooorrrlllddd” yeah yeah we’ve heard it before). The protagonists “kill” the main antagonist like 4 or 5 times and oops he just keeps popping back up! No explanation as to how he didn’t die, just vivid descriptions of the visible damage from the wounds they inflicted last time (and a conspicuous lack of descriptions of a terminator-style endoskeleton, because I was getting pretty certain that’s the only way to survive all this shit by the end).  And then the reveal of how Todd is supposed to transition to manhood.

I just don’t buy it. It’s too flimsy. Enjoyable I suppose, but flimsy.

A bit of an aside, I suppose… one thing I noticed in this book is that it used the word “effing” copiously. It was amusing in a number of ways, mirroring a teenager trying to toe the line and test their boundaries. But then it would say something like “(but I don’t say “effing” I say the real word this time)”. Just fucking say fucking. I thought it was so the book could be properly marketed to a younger audience without having to worry about any scary words being included that would make parents angry or saddle it with a profanity warning, but then Viola lets a proper “fucking” slip and Todd reacts to it. … we have no need to self-censor then, do we? So why so much self-censorship? Baffling.

Bitching completed. I really liked this book. Flaws aside, the writing was powerful and well crafted, the characters were fantastic and believable, and the world is interesting and unique. The villains kinda suck but maybe it will come into its own later on and flesh out the plot a bit. I can kinda relate even if it doesn’t… I often come up with characters I really like and then have no ideas for good situations to get them into.

View all my reviews

Racing (but mostly ranting) (Subtitles and Tutorials rant)

This ostensibly began as a review of Dirt 3, but really I’ve played ~5 minutes or so and can’t really comment on the gameplay all that much.  This review will probably end up being something else altogether…

I recently went on a quest to find a decent PC racing game.  I love Gran Turismo and Forza and the like, but in order to play those I have to move to the couch, adjust the input on the TV to the appropriate console, find the controller, make sure the god damn disc is in the drive… I wanted to have something on my PC so I could be like “Hmm I want to race cars today” and click an exe and *poof*.

I picked up Test Drive Unlimited 2 in the winter sale on Steam and spent several mindboggling hours with it, marvelling at bad design decisions in controls and terrible voice acting during story cutscenes.  The story was added in to make it sorta-kinda like a Grand Theft Auto world, I presume, and the open world was kind of interesting to me, but the story was largely unnecessary and kind of dumb.  It didn’t add anything – the story is “you are a racer trying to make a name for yourself and become a champion”.  Well no shit, what else are you going to be doing in a racing game?  I suppose there could have been curveballs later that make it pay off, but I gave up early for a couple of reasons.  1) The controls and UI were awful.  I could have gotten used to them but simply navigating menus was painful and that’s kind of a bad sign in a game that also expects you to have dedicated buttons for fucking turn signals and stuff.  2) There were no god damn subtitles.  I am not deaf, but I quite often have the sound low or off while other things happen in the room.  I also read a hell of a lot faster than you talk.  A racing game (particularly one with a terrible story) is a perfect place to buzz through the subtitles and advance the cutscenes to get back to actually racing cars like I wanted to do when I installed this damn thing.
If you’ve played Dirt 3 you probably know where I’m going next with this review…
Last but not least, 3) The game requires you to create a separate account to log into their servers (something that deserves its own rant entry in the age of Steam), even if you only intend to play single player.  Once you’ve done this, it sits there and connects to the server making absolutely sure there have been no updates.  Connecting to the server takes an abominable amount of time.  The last time I decided to give the game a whirl, it sat on connecting for about a minute, and then I shut it down and uninstalled the game instead of waiting for it to connect.  Sorry guys, this is the age of instant gratification, and you failed.  I could have gone to the couch and played Gran Turismo in that amount of time!

Then I picked up Dirt 3 in the Humble Weekly Sale.  It was a timely sale, coming immediately after I dumped TDU2 into the trash bin.  It was very promising – it’s not quite Gran Turismo but I like rally racing too, and the graphics are very shiny (which was another thing TDU2 didn’t really have going for it…).  It also starts up immediately instead of fucking around with servers for two minutes.  All thumbs up so far!
(Actually it required me to install GFWL despite GFWL being dead, so that was kind of a thumbs down… but they’re still in the process of excising that particular tumor so I let it go.)

I started out in Dirt 3 like I typically do – my headphones were plugged in but sitting on the desk beside me while I listened to something my husband was doing.  The game kept hanging on me and I couldn’t figure it out.  It was clearly still running but all the button mashing in the world wouldn’t work.  Finally the icons would highlight again and I could advance.  What the hell is going on here?  It cannot possibly be loading anything for that long.

Then I saw it.  A speaker icon in the bottom left corner.  Oh no.

I picked up my headphones and confirmed.  Yup, some douche is talking to me the whole time the game is “frozen”.  There are absolutely no subtitle options anywhere in the settings.  There are absolutely no ways to skip the dialogue.  What’s WORSE: the dialogue is basically “In this event you want to race your car around the track.  The goal is to come in first.  You come in first by racing your car around the track.  In order to race your car around the track, push the button that corresponds to the gas pedal!  Coming in first means you win the race.  You want to win the race – winning is the whole goal of the race.”

I want to strangle the entire design team responsible for this nightmare.  This unskippable, non-subtitled, redundant nightmare.

I have two rants here:
For one, they’re completely leaving deaf people in the cold.  You’d think you’d be safe playing a fucking racing game and not having to worry about missing dialogue even if the dickheads responsible for design neglect to include subtitles for you, but now you’re stuck staring at a completely fucking useless speaker icon for several minutes, while some douche explains that the point of this racing game is to race cars.  It’s infuriating to me and I have the option of actually listening to the fucker.  I can’t imagine how annoying it is if you’re literally just staring at the screen waiting for a chance to continue.

For two, I know how to play a god damn racing game, you ass.  I don’t begrudge the inclusion of some instructions, it just makes me angry that they are mandatory.  A friend of mine linked a blog entry that talked about design decisions in modern video games.  I remember the old days of wading into a new game, getting over my head, then referring to the manual to figure out how to play.  Manuals were exciting!  I still have my old NES manuals and they’re considered collectors items, and people know how to play those games!  Nowadays manuals are extinct (if you’re lucky you’ll get a slip of paper pointing out some of the controls).  Instead, gamers are treated like children who must have their hands held through mandatory tutorials, because god forbid they miss the tutorial and become confused.
And in Dirt 3, not only are there mandatory tutorials, but you can’t skip through the instructions.  Because god forbid you accidentally hit a button and miss the instructions that the goal of the race is to come in first.

It really is happening more and more.  Think of a game you’ve played recently that didn’t have a shoe-horned tutorial in it.

Some games pull it off smoothly – Anno 2070’s campaign is literally all tutorial, progressing slowly from scenario to scenario until you’ve unlocked and used every feature in the game.  It makes sense from an in-game point of view, and introduces all the features to new players without any risk of overwhelming them.  It was mildly annoying to me because I played an unhealthy amount of Anno 1404, but you have the option of going straight to an open game if you want.  Of course, the achievements are to complete the tutorial err campaign to unlock more scenarios so you probably have to go do it at some point, and the longer you delay the more familiar you will be with any new game features and the more annoying it is to have them “taught” to you.

Some games literally will not let you play until you complete it.  Hearthstone annoyed the shit out of me by having an extremely limiting tutorial that was mandatory before you even got to look at the menu screens for regular game play. What’s worse, there were multiple scenarios that took about an hour to get through.  An hour before I could even enter the main game.  It was so linear that I literally could not play a card that it did not tell me to play.  The game only gave you the cards it wanted you to play, so you could just watch a video and have the same damn experience… but in one sequence they must have messed up because I actually had two cards I could have played.  I tried playing the other one, just to see if I could.  It lightly slapped my hand and said “nuh uh, you need to play THIS one.”  I tried just ending my turn rather than following directions (The Stanley Parable was made for people like me), and it incredulously exclaimed “But you still have a card you can play!  This one!  This one right here (not that one NO you can’t play THAT one didn’t you listen??)”  NOT playing the card was a completely valid strategy in that situation I will have you know.  But it wasn’t in the script, so I couldn’t proceed until I followed directions.  It was much like being in some sort of fascist regime and it made for a bitter and resentful start to my Hearthstone experience.
(Incidentally, Hearthstone ALSO had no subtitles, and I was all geared up to write a rant about that… but they patched them in the very day after I got into Beta.  Bullet dodged, Blizzard.  Bullet dodged.)

Look, I know there are stupid people out there who will smash the screen and then cry because nothing worked the way they expected to, but I’m getting very tired of having my intelligence insulted.  Bring back optional tutorials.  Bring back manuals with pretty artwork.  Bring back the ability to skip shit I don’t want to sit through.  If the gamers cannot understand how your game works, then one of two things has happened:  They did not read the instructions, or you created a game that’s hard to understand.  Neither of those things should be solved by enforced hand-holding that alienates the people who actually do understand how your game works.

The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers Are the Angels (Reapers, #1)The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been reading a lot of what can probably quite accurately be referred to as “crap”. As a result, some of the automated recommendations that pop up have been… interesting.

If were asked, I would probably say I am not a fan of zombie fiction, so I kind of scoffed when this book cropped up. But I love post apocalyptic wastescapes and isolation/survival fiction… so it actually seems like something I should really enjoy. The first half of 28 Days Later is one of my favourite movie experiences, where we wander around in an abandoned London trying to piece together where all the people went. And I rather enjoy The Walking Dead video game series from Telltale (not the TV show. I loathe the TV show and all its misogynistic melodrama), where you follow the heart-rending exploits of a little girl trying to survive post-zombies.

The Reapers are the Angels started out as a mix of the best parts of both of them – following a little girl (okay fine she’s 15) trying to survive in an abandoned wasteland.

I was riveted and finished it in one sitting.

It’s actually really well written. Miracle upon miracles – it uses present tense, and I think it is effective and not annoying as shit. It had to happen one day, I suppose. It helps that it is third person present tense, not first. First person present tense is just too awkward. It’s like standing beside someone who is narrating their every thought, and that’s just bizarre. Third person is like standing beside someone as they experience things, which ramps up the tension, and also allows the protagonist to die with a seamless handing of the storytelling to a secondary character, meaning anything could happen. There are also a lot of very vivid descriptions of wastelands and zombie decay which really put you there and bring it to life around you.

What it doesn’t have is quotation marks. And for the life of me I cannot understand this decision. It adds nothing but annoyance. I also noted some other writing weirdness and mistakes, like poor comma usage. It’s nitpicky, but it’s something that really jumped out at me when the rest of it seemed so well done.

Also unfortunately, the vivid descriptions are a bit lost behind tired zombie cliches. There wasn’t much of a plot to begin with: “Temple” is just living her life, surviving, catching fish and smashing zombie skulls. She happens onto a colony of people living in a city and immediately there are shifty looks from the men and warnings from the women to avoid the area where all the single men hang out, because it can be “rough”. “Oh good, we’re going to get to the obligatory zombie-fiction rape scene really early in this one”, I thought to myself. Sure enough, one of them wakes her up and shoves his cock in her face. She obliges by punching it, which made me happy, but the ensuing knife-fight results in her losing a finger and he losing his life. She goes on the run as his brother attempts to hunt her down, presumably to exact revenge. Ta-dah: plot.

The next place she runs to is a little oasis of normal life surrounded by electric fences. Within the barricades, everyone lives life as if nothing untoward has ever occurred in the world. They wear nice clothing, they have a butler, they play the piano, they have proper meals and sit at the table. Oh but father will not be joining us – he’s been sick. I wrote a note saying “There is no way he is not a zombie who they sealed up in the basement out of denial.” Spoiler alert: You’ll never guess what happens next! Can’t we do anything new in this genre?

We can, actually. Those were the only two major blights on the unravelling story of the book. We follow Temple as she travels across the country, and along the way we meet novel dangers and reveal snippets of past events that really enrich the characters and world. You could get out a microscope and pick some holes in the timing and factuality of things, but I felt it was not distracting and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. I was a little worried that the religious undertones might ramp into high gear and get preachy (it says angels right in the title and there are plenty of allusions to whether mankind brought the zombie plague down via sin). They stayed sufficiently out of my way, however.  The actual zombie plague is never really explained, which was both annoying and refreshing.  It’s annoying because I like those sorts of worldbuilding aspects… but it was also refreshing because the zombies are in no way the actual threat or focus of this book, so it was good not to waste a lot of time on them.  They’re proper slow, uncoordinated, largely harmless, indefatigable zombies that must be dealt with but are only an issue if you’re careless.  It’s a nice venture back to the roots of zombie-ism.

That was a really excellent little book, and I’m sure whatever drek I will pull out of my recommended pile next will probably be a little bit worse for being compared to it.

[edit] Hrm it’s a series. I don’t know if I dare look for a sequel… it might suck and ruin everything.

All is Lost

I don’t know if it’s because we watched Captain Philips recently, or if I just really like sea survival stories.  I didn’t know anything about All is Lost and yet I immediately wanted to see it when I saw “shipwreck” as a theme.  It is the story of a solo yacht owner who gets into distress out in the Indian ocean, and must rely on wits and resourcefulness to survive.

There is almost no dialogue in this film.  There are probably 20 words spoken throughout the whole thing – less if you only count “help” once.  I felt like it was really effective at enhancing the sense of isolation, and it really served to emphasize the despair when he uttered the inevitable “fffffuuuuuuUUUUCCCKKKK”.

My husband’s only critique was “In the beginning he was moving around like an old man and it was really starting to annoy me.”  You know what… I probably agree with that.  The movie starts off with him waking up to realize the yacht drifted into the corner of a lost shipping container (apparently filled with very unhelpful shoes.  Which is better than losing a crate full of illegal immigrants, I guess…). It punches a big hole in the hull.  He tries a few things and finally manages to unstick himself, but then he dodders around doing this and that, and every fifth scene it cuts back and gives us a shot of the gaping hole in the boat.  Over and over again.  Then he finally pulls out his patch kit and does a bit of patching, and then dodders around doing some other stuff like fiddling with completely soaked electronics and setting up the manual pumping mechanism to get the water out of the hull.  Cut to the hole in the boat again!  Yup, still there!  Oh now he’s patching it again!  …and now he’s doddering around again.
I don’t know, maybe he needed the fiberglass to set before we could continue patching?  It really wasn’t clear why fixing the giant hole in the hull seemed to be a lower priority than cracking open the busted radio.  Yes the radio is important because we need to call for help, I agree, but not having a giant hole in the hull seems like it should come first.  He spends a lot of time pumping out water, presumably to keep the boat from sinking too low and putting the hole under the water line… but shouldn’t you patch the hole and solve it that way?  Maybe this is why I do not own a yacht.

All of this patching, and then I’m not really sure what the purpose of that whole sequence was.  Ultimately, it seemed to me that the shipping container wasn’t even what led to his downfall.  He got himself out of that situation quite handily and then it was the storm that did the damage.  Was it that the container let in water which killed his electronics? (and for that matter, why isn’t all this very important shit in waterproof containers?  It is a boat.)  Well, the storm let in water too so they’d be fried anyway wouldn’t they?  Was it that the container used up all his patching supplies so there was nothing left to repair after the storm?  Okay, I’ll buy that.  But I also doubt you can fibreglass together a god damn mast, so it really doesn’t seem like that was the dealbreaker.  I dunno, it just seems like the movie is all focused on SHIPPING CONTAINER KILLS MAN, but then it wasn’t even the villain!  Poor misunderstood shipping container…

Aside from that, it was a pretty good movie.  Quite enjoyable, lots of tension to keep you awake and wondering what will happen next.  If you’re thinking of buying a yacht, this movie might be a good way to talk yourself out of it.

Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart (Dust Lands, #2)Rebel Heart by Moira Young

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I merely wanted this book to be adequate. I didn’t want something deep or meaningful, all it had to do was entertain me for the couple of hours it would take to burn through it.

It failed.

I enjoyed Blood Red Road enough that I sought out the next of the series instead of moving on to the next book in the pile. The first book had its issues, but I thought there was enough potential in the characterization and potential for interesting worldbuilding that I wanted to see where it would go next.

Full disclosure time: I am only halfway through Rebel Heart at the time of writing this. Not a god damn thing has happened yet and I’m seriously fed up. I want to finish it and see where it goes, but I’ve also avoided reading anything all weekend because I just can’t be bothered. That’s about where I usually give up on a book and move on to something that actually entertains me. I’m not sure what will happen… I may edit this review if I do slog on. We will see.

The first book impressed me by not making the romance the focal point. It didn’t get distracted with it like so many books do – the romance was just a thing that happened during the course of the adventure. In Rebel Heart, we start out with a little intro chapter starring Jack, who is carrying out his business as quickly as possible so he can get back to Saba as quickly as possible.
So now we know Jack’s inner thoughts and intentions, and we know 100% that he loves Saba and that’s his only real goal right now. Alrighty then.

Then we get punted back to Saba and company (and god awful first person again… The writing was so much better in Jack’s chapter where it used third person. It’s a shame, but I guess you have to experiment sometimes). Saba thinks about Jack. Saba wishes to see Jack again. Saba loves Jack. Saba briefly worries that Jack won’t return to her. Saba thinks about Jack. Saba wishes to see Jack. Tommo falls in love with Saba (WHAT. Oh of course he does because she is so amazing how silly of me. Ugh. Isn’t he like 9? I can’t tell if this is a failure to adequately describe a character in the first book, so we just assume he’s around Emmi’s age when he’s actually supposed to be ~15, or if it just means the series continues to completely fail at consistency in time passage and scale…). Saba continues to wish to see Jack. Saba loves Jack. Word gets back to them that Jack is running around with a group of bad guys. Saba’s world ends.

The whole thing was an infuriating waste of my time. Nothing happens for the whole first part of the book except thinking about Jack. There is no other plot. Then the “shocking news” comes along and we spend entirely too much time watching Saba wrestle with the news. Is Jack a traitor?? Does he not love her?? How could he?!? Saba refuses to believe it despite all the characters saying “I told you he couldn’t be trusted”, despite those characters agreeing that the “threat” Jack sent along to Saba just doesn’t sound like something he would say hmmmmm gosh I guess we really misjudged him we could never believe he’d say things like that! Saba makes the startling leap of logic that it is actually a coded message.
This is all a total waste of time because we, the readers, knew from the fucking prologue that Jack’s only real goal is to survive to see Saba again. You just wasted half a book to have Saba figure out something we already knew while everyone around her argues about it. It’s the worst kind of telling instead of showing… But I said that about Blood Red Road too didn’t I… Hmm.

I’m not even done bitching. We now have a plot (sort of… I mean its still the same plot of “must see Jack again”) so now Saba sets off to find him. We’ve spent half the book with no plot, and now the plot is pretty much exactly the same as Blood Red Road: an arbitrary time limit to travel an immense distance to find someone, except this time it’s less interesting. Saba even veers off deeper into Mary Sue territory by acquiring more animal companions and super abilities. I was almost really interested when she set off down the wraithway because the landscape was interesting, but it rehashes Blood Red Road again by pulling the trope of “I will sneak off when my friends are not looking because I do not want them to be put at risk because of me” and then oops all the animals she so carefully tied up just show up shortly thereafter and help protect her, and then there’s a whole sequence where she is running for her life and has a near escape only to realize what she escaped from was actually all of her friends who followed her. It would be fine, if it hadn’t happened in almost exactly the same way about four times over a book and a half. I’m not certain I can think of a near escape in this series that actually turned out to be something threatening.

And every time Lugh says anything I want to strangle him. Every line of dialogue he has makes me regret spending all that time reading the first book to save his negative ass. I think Nero is the only character I don’t hate right now. Oh I know it’s all going to turn into some sort of moral lesson about friendship and supportive relationships near the end of the book, and I’m actually interested to see how it unfolds (in terms of will it be done well or will it be a schadenfreude-laden trainwreck of writing mistakes?) but I might need to wait until I’m in a better mood to attempt to get there.

And there’s still no real plot.

I feel like I’m just about to get to a point where SOMETHING fucking happens, so I want to keep going, but… I don’t think I care anymore. Disappointing.

[edit] So yeah.  I woke up this morning and read some spoilers for the second half of the book.  She sleeps with the bad guy and has a pregnancy scare?  Holy what the fuck are you fucking kidding me?  I am retroactively regretting reading the first one, now.  I want post-apocalyptic dystopia, not “After School Special” soap opera.  A whirlwind of angst and melodrama and this is AFTER she was magically “cured” of her conveniently Hunger-Games-Like PTSD thanks to some shamanism.  I think I’m done with this :/