shame

I know, I know, I know.

Things have been weird over here, to be honest.  There’s been some medical issues, family-wise, that have taken up a lot of my available brain-space.  There’s been some general all-consuming fatigue; even though I tend to fall asleep the second I hit the lights, I haven’t felt particularly well-rested in months.  The day job hasn’t been that busy, but it’s almost always busy when I decide to start writing here.  (I’ve already been interrupted twice in this paragraph alone.)

And then, of course, there’s the crippling fear that everything I say is profoundly stupid.  Or that my “deep thoughts” that take place during late inebriated evenings are so obvious that nobody else bothers to say them out loud.

Still, I’m paying for this blog, so I might as well get my money’s worth.


I  have a Kindle problem.  My list of unread books on that thing is fucking absurd.  Let me put it this way – if I don’t buy anything until I finish what’s unread, and I maintain my current reading pace, it would probably take me at least three years before I got caught up.  (No joke – I decided to make a spreadsheet of all the unread books on my Kindle and it came to over 140.)  It is stupidly easy to have this problem when it comes to Kindle books.  If I owned physical copies of my books I’d need a new house, and the shame would be all-consuming.  But Kindle books are cheaper, and often go on sale, and the *zing* of endorphins from buying something and then having it appear in your hands literally seconds later has never diminished.

I have more than a few librarian friends who probably want to kick me right now, and they’re absolutely right to!  I am filled with shame, is what I’m saying.  But I’m also determined to actually get through that insane backlog.

Fuck it, here’s that backlog.  I’m currently reading Wrecked, volume 3 in the IQ series.  If you see anything here that you think I should read sooner rather than later, please let me know.

Killing Commendatore Haruki Murakami
Wrecked Joe Ide
French Exit Patrick deWitt
In the Distance Hernan Diaz
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Stuart Turton
Foundryside Robert Jackson Bennett
Magpie Murders Anthony Horowitz
The Merry Spinster Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Six Four Hideo Yokoyama
The Shape of the Ruins Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Transcription Kate Atkinson
Six Scary Stories compilation
Our Kind of Cruelty Araminta Hall
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice Laurie R. King
The End of the Day Claire North
The Reason I Jump
Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin
Notes from the Fog Ben Marcus
theMystery.doc Matthew McIntosh
Florida Lauren Groff
The Last Samurai Helen DeWitt
The Sudden Appearance of Hope Claire North
The Incorruptibles John Hornor Jacobs
Calypso David Sedaris
Less Andrew Sean Greer
Last Call Tim Powers
The Infatuations Javier Marias
Fade Away Harlan Coben
History of Wolves Emily Fridlund
The Book of Disquiet Fernando Pessoa
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Haruki Murakami
Origin Dan Brown
Reservoir 13 Jon McGregor
The Historian Elizabeth Kostova
The Space Between BDete Meserve
Zeroes Chuck Wendig
Star of the North D.B. John
Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
Slow Horses Mick Herron
The Only Harmless Great Thing Brooke Bolander
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark Michelle McNamara
Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth
A Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James
American Pastoral Philip Roth
Arcadia Lauren Groff
Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain
Only Human Sylvain Neuvel
Tell The Machine Goodnight Katie Williams
Uprooted Naomi Novik
Invasive Chuck Wendig
Blackfish City Sam Miller
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs Lisa Randall
Church of Marvels Leslie Parry
Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daugher Theodora Goss
Twilight of the Gods Steven Hyden
The Woman Who Smashed Codes Jason Fagone
Fates and Furies Lauren Groff
The Tragedy of Arthur Arthur Phillips
The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro
Thief of Time Terry Pratchett
2666 Roberto Bolano
Neverwhere Neil Gaiman
How to Stop Time Matt Haig
The Seventh Function of Language Laurent Binet
Awayland Ramona Ausubel
This Is What Happened Mick Herron
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky John Langan
New York 2140 Kim Stanley Robinson
The Lost City of the Monkey God Dougles Preston
Seed to Harvest Octavia Butler
Golden Son (red rising 2) Pierce Brown
Shadow & Claw Gene Wolfe
Grist Mill Road Christopher Yates
The Afterlives Thomas Pierce
I’m Thinking of Ending Things Iain Reid
Peace Gene Wolfe
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula K. Le Guin
Sword & Citadel Gene Wolfe
All the Birds in the Sky Charlie Jane Anders
Dead Mountain Donnie Eicher
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley Hannah tinti
The Anubis Gates Tim Powers
A Once Crowded Sky Tom King
Norwegian By Night Derek Miller
A Legacy of Spies John le Carre
The Force Don Winslow
The Power Naomi Alderman
The Inheritance Trilogy N.K. Jemisin
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry
The Tsar of Love and Techno Anthony Marra
The Solitudes John Crowley
A Perfect Spy John le Carre
The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler
The Karla Trilogy John le Carre
Dhalgren Samuel Delany
Love and Sleep John Crowley
Daemonomania John Crowley
Endless Things John Crowley
Mindhunter John Douglas
The Dark Net Benjamin Percy
Medusa’s Web Tim Powers
Hex-Rated Jason Ridler
The Punch Escrow Tal Klein
A Man of Shadows Jeff Noon
The Paladin Caper Patrick Weekes
Mongoliad 1-5 compilation
Mongoliad 1-5 compilation
Mongoliad 1-5 compilation
Mongoliad 1-5 compilation
Mongoliad 1-5 compilation
So Much Blue Percival Everett
The Answers Catherine Lacey
Homegoing Yaa Gyasi
The Prophecy Con Patrick Weekes
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
Foundation Isaac Asimov
Sandman Slim Richard Kadrey
Liminal States Zach Parsons
I Sing the Body Electric Ray Bradbury
A Moment on the Edge Elizabeth George
Moonglow Michael Chabon
The Princess Diarist Carrie Fisher
A Great Reckoning Louise Penny
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall Will Chancellor
The Singing Bone Beth Hahn
The King in Yellow Robert Chambers
(R)evolution PJ Manney
Ulysses James Joyce
J Howard Jacobson
Life after Life Kate Atkinson
Book of Numbers Joshua Cohen
Amnesia Moon Jonathan Lethem
The Harder They Come TC Boyle
The Humans Matt Haig
You Austin Grossman
Ubik PKD
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch PKD
The Malice of Fortune Michael Ennis
The House of Rumour Jake Arnott
The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner

I will talk about AC:Odyssey eventually, but not yet.  I’m enjoying it – quite a lot, actually – but there’s so much of it and I’m kinda racing through the story so that I can get to Red Dead Redemption 2 as soon as possible.  One thing I’ll say about Odyssey, though – and, indeed, with other huge open-world games like this and, say, Witcher 3 – is that if you were to map my traversals, they’d mostly be straight lines between objectives, with some meanderings to nearby question marks.  I wonder if the designers anticipate that sort of pathmaking.

 

 

juggling in times of crisis

Folks:  I’m exhausted.  I say this not as a 42-year-old parent of a kindergartner, but as an American citizen who can’t help but pay too much attention to the news when the day job is slow.  I am depressed, hollowed out, an empty husk of a person who is just barely managing to get through the day, one day at a time, until such time as this presidential administration ends or the Earth crashes into the Sun.

As such, it is hard to come here and talk about entertainment.

I have not stopped consuming it; honestly, they’re some of the only things that are keeping me going.  I’ve been neck-deep in books and TV and games and music, and I can even start to feel some of my long-dormant creative muscles itching to wake up and do something.  But it feels silly to talk about them right now.

And yet, this blog is here, and I’m feeling guilty about neglecting it, and maybe it’ll do me some good to empty my head a bit with some nonsense.  And considering that the AAA season is upon us, I might as well talk about some of the stuff I’ve been doing.


Bookwise:  Ever since I reached my Goodreads challenge my reading habits have basically fallen apart; I’ve become undisciplined and sloppy, and I kinda just flit from book to book, putting one down if it loses my attention and starting another one, which I may or may not be able to get into.  That being said, I’m currently about halfway through John Crowley’s Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, and it is astonishing.  Rather than me attempting to gush over it, let me link you to the original LA Times review, which is what caused me to buy it as soon as I finished reading it; if that review moves your soul in any particular way, you’ll understand why this book is so necessary.  Indeed, that review introduced me to Crowley himself, who I’d never read; I did read Little, Big earlier this year and liked it, even if it didn’t quite hit me as hard as I’d hoped it would.  Still, Ka is gorgeous and extraordinary, and I can’t say I’ve ever read anything quite like it before.


TV:  I’ve finally started watching Maniac.  I think I’m about 4 episodes in?  It is a weird show, but enjoyably so, by turns hilarious and trippy and also unexpectedly affecting.  Emma Stone is magnificent; every scene she’s in, she’s incredible.  This is a hard show to discuss without having finished it; I’m certainly motivated to finish it, and I’ll leave it at that.


I’m towards the end of both Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Spider-Man, and I really ought to finish at least one of them tonight, considering that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey comes out tomorrow.  Forza Horizon 4 technically comes out tomorrow as well, but because I pre-ordered I’ve been playing it since Friday.

What can I tell you about these things?

Tomb Raider:  It definitely feels like more of the same, as far as the last two games are concerned – which is not necessarily a bad thing, given that I like the previous 2 games quite a lot – but this one is quite a bit more dreary and gloomy and pessimistic, with a narrative that is not all that memorable.   Let me put it this way – I’m a good dozen hours or so into it, and I recently hit the “Point of No Return” checkpoint, and I literally have no idea where I am, what I’m looking for, who I’m trying to stop, or what it all means.  The beginning of the game did establish that Lara Croft is somewhat responsible for these end-of-the-world-type things that are happening because of her Tomb Raiding, but it hasn’t really followed through with what that actually means; she’s still raidin’ tombs and seems unaffected by it.

The game is also a lot more combat-heavy, or at least it feels more combat-heavy, which I don’t particularly care for.  I mean, I don’t particularly care for the combat in most third-person action-adventure games of this particular ilk (i.e.Uncharted), even if I understand why it sorta has to be there.  But here it feels gratuitous, as if the developers needed to pad out the story beats.

It’s also worth pointing out that this rebooted trilogy has been attempting to do some genuinely interesting things to turn Lara Croft into a flesh-and-blood character, rather than just an attractive player avatar.  The first game saw her learn how to adapt to her environment, while also letting her get comfortable with the idea of killing people that are in her way.  The second game gave her a bit more authority in that arena; killing people wasn’t necessarily the best thing to do, but she did it and moved on.  Here, though, she kills a lot of people and she does it rather violently and without any remorse; and given that she is more or less alone during this whole adventure, it makes her a weird character to try and empathize with.  I’ve said the same thing about Nathan Drake before, too, though in the Uncharted games they still attempt to write him as this lovable Han Solo-ish rascal; it’s weird.  But Lara Croft doesn’t even get that kind of dialogue; she is all business, all the time, and it makes her all the more inscrutable.

I’m not done with the game yet, so I’m reluctant to give this a proper review.  I don’t know where the story is going, even if I’m almost at the end.  But the game feels like a bit of a mess, which is discouraging.  Weird design choices abound.  I hit that aforementioned “Point of No Return” and realized that I’d missed, like, a ton of the hidden tombs and geegaws and such, and that I didn’t really know I’d had any opportunity to go exploring.  I went back and did a bunch of them, but I’m still missing certain important tools (like the improved knife), and I have no idea where I’d get them.

Spider-Man:  I’ve mostly been playing this with my son, who loves Spider-Man and who’s actually quite good at swinging around the city.  I’m also towards the end of the story, and I kinda don’t want it to end?  It’s easily the best superhero game this side of Batman: Arkham Asylum and, like my son, I’m perfectly content just swinging from one side of the absolutely gorgeous rendering of Manhattan to the other.   And kicking dudes off of buildings never gets old.

Forza Horizon 4:  Well, look.  This is my favorite driving series, and even after only a few hours I can confidently say that this is the best one yet.  I’m still super-early but it’s very hard to put down once I get going.  I can see myself dipping back into this one quite a lot over the next few months; it’s absolutely stunning to look at and it is very easy to create your own fun.