Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Dan Plays Video Games, Part 3

Previous episodes: 1, 2


This game is fucking dangerous. Absolute chronophage. One-more-run taken to the extreme. Makes brain chemicals go brrrrrrr. Cheapest casino you'll ever visit. Will devour your life.

Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga

A Fire Emblem-like that is all around decent. Not winning any awards for uniqueness and the story is eye-rollingly, but the gameplay is solid and it does what it needs to do. You can turn off ironman mode mid-campaign, which is a blessing.

Limbus Company

The idea of a bunch of certified freaks and weirdos named after characters from classic literature riding around in a demon bus in a post-apocalyptic city doing missions for an inscrutable patron that considers them disposable is a great setup, wasted on a gatcha game that somehow has a battle system that is simultaneously one of the most mind-deadeningly complex things I have ever seen while also being so simple it barely counts as a battle system.

20 minutes Till Dawn

A Vampire Survivors-like. It was okay.

Chants of Sennar

it can be a bit obtuse at times, but on the whole I enjoyed it a great deal. Great aesthetic. Loved the language puzzles, obviously. They're not super in-depth, but I think they're handled better than Heaven's Vault did (where I was often frustrated, especially later on, of knowing what a word should be and not being presented with the correct solution in my limited pool of options for any given puzzle.) A very chill game.

Path of Achra

For a game that is mostly choosing skills and pressing a single button, there is a certain meditative quality to PoA that is very difficult to adequately describe. It is a game of immaculate Vibes that are nothing like Qud but I keep thinking about Qud.


Have not played much of this, but picked it up on recommendation from Reycevick. Oozes style.

The Dungeon Beneath

Fun little roguelite autobattler. Bonus points for using an asset pack to one's advantage.

Blasphemous 2: Blaspheme harder.

It's more Blasphemous, the fuck else do you want. Game good, then they added more good to the game. not too much new stuff to make it seem like dead weight, not too little to make you think like it didn't do enough. The ideal iterative sequel. Did not beat it, got to the final boss, got tired of doing the first phase only to get bodied in the second. More games need a mercy mode for multi-stage boss fights.


It's not as OSR as Roadwarden or Fear and Hunger, but it is a great game if you want some lightweight fantasy tactics and some custom glorbos to run through some campaigns with. Honestly it is probably the best at simulating the idea of a tabletop campaign into videogame form: a campaign is three to five missions long, and takes maybe an hour to complete each mission. There's an overarching plot and side missions you can stumble into. It's not a "do anything" type of rpg campaign, but it is very good at establishing the mood and tone of one.

Also it has a solid modding community attached: I haven't tried any of those out yet, but it's always great to see.

Forgotten City

Been meaning to get back to this one, only played a small bit of it. Yet another game I wish my dad were alive to see.


I like soulslikes, I like Metroidvanias, this one never really clicked for me. Fine enough, but just slow enough that I didn't get much further past the first boss. Also based entirely around parrying.

Fermi Paradox

There's not much mechanical complexity underneath the hood, but it allows for some very fun sci-fi stories, and you get attached to your little civilizations. I had alien velociraptors who were convinced that they had angered the monkey gods (they were beset by disasters constantly), and sapient T-rexes that destroyed their homeworld, fled to another system, and then destroyed that one too.

Book of Hours

I didn't realize that Alexis Kennedy was behind this game when I bought it, and the further I looked into the matter the more mudlike it became. Regardless of his troublesome behavior, he is an extremely talented writer for a niche I desperately want a game to play in, and a terrible game designer.

Book of Hours is "hurry up and wait" writ large - all the sins of Fallen London, Sunless Sea, Cultist Simulator increased. You have a limited number of actions per day. Fine. There is no "skip to tomorrow morning" button, you have to hit fast forward and wait. And this is for a game where you learn EVERYTHING by trial and error, which means you are going to be hammering on that fast forward button and waiting a whole fucking lot, after wasting your time and accomplishing nothing.

I wish that either it was a better game, or that someone else was able to scratch the itch.


You are a robot. Go on a quest! A very well-made roguelike FPS. Plays a little like Doom 2016 with aesthetics a little like Borderlands. Decent but not incredible depth, shines primarily in the moment-to-moment moving and shooting gameplay. It just Feels Good (TM).


I cannot believe this game is free. Excellent, excellent, excellent RPG. Unfortunately, I have played very little of it, because the Steam Page is lying about the Steam Deck compatibility. This is not compatible in the slightest.

Brutal Orchestra

This is a weirdass game for absolute sickos like me. Difficult to describe. Purgatorial roguelike RPG where you're all playing a bunch of freaks. Vibe feels similar to Isaac in a way, just unapologetically weird and gross but in a different way from how Isaac is weird and gross.

Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

A game where you play as an exiled immortal space witch who summons a demon from beyond time-space and get to make your own tarot cards. With me so far? Sounds great, right?

I have never played a game that hit a brick wall this hard before. A nice, easy, enjoyable 55 miles an hour to dead 0 and a cloud of shattered glass and body parts in the space of a single sentence.

It's not anything special, really - a character drops a mention that only women can become witches. But it happens to be used in a setting where being a witch means you're immortal, spiritually potent, and immeasurably powerful. And it is used here in a specific narrative context where witchdom is correlated with a state of self-actualization - the entire scene is about a transwoman coming out to herself (and the scene leading up to this is very well-written!), and the line is dropped as sort of a "you see, if you've ascended you are definitely a woman, because men can't ascend" type of deal. It's meant to be reassuring.

I thought this was a mistake, at first. A blip in the script that didn't get caught on the editing pass. Turns out it was intentional, as per the dev response to this here Steam thread, to which I say "that's a crock of bullshit."

It's one thing if you're playing up this coven of space witches as hidebound and oppressive (this is, in fact, the main brunt of the plot), but to go and make it a cosmological constant of the setting and double down on it? That's a choice. There are Witches, but there are no Wizards. You cannot ever become a Wizard. Wizardry is entirely off the table. If you're a cis man, a transman, or a masc-presenting nonbinary, you're just fucked. You are ontologically incapable, within the universe of this game, of achieving spiritual ascendance or any measure of magical power and by extension the you are barred eternally from the self-actualization represented by that magic.

Man it's so nice down here under this bus, wonderful bit of asphalt, you should come visit some time.

And I wouldn't have even thought of it if they hadn't brought it up! Remove the line, and the empty space can be filled with "oh yeah, of course there are space wizards out there, pondering their orbs, but this story isn't about them so they don't show up." Even the extremely easy and well-in-line-with-the-plot out of offering the Peppermancer "hey you can join the Wizards if you'd like" and getting the response of "no, I think I'd rather be a Witch" was not taken.

If someone wrote a game with the exact same situation and the genders were reversed, they would rightly be pilloried for it. It's one thing to say "this magical occupation is gender-restricted due to loads of social and cultural factors that have built up over time, here's a story about breaking through those restrictions" - Pratchett solved this problem how many decades ago now? Equal Rites was '87, so...37 years ago.

God what is it with these tarot-based video games I keep having shit luck with? First Book of Hours and now this.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Fear and Hunger 2: The First 45 Deaths (Plus Game Design Notes)

I picked up Fear and Hunger 2 back in December, and I've been keeping a running tally of all the horrible ways my characters have died since then. A couple months and thirty some hours later, I've got enough for a good post out of it.

So as to not just have a table of random information that only makes sense with the context of having played the game, there will be some notes about game design at the end.

Entries are listed as Death # - Date - Character - Cause of Death

  1. 12/16 - Levi - Infected wound from a Moonscorched
  2. 12/17 - Levi - Smashed in the head with a pesticide canister.
  3. 12/17 - Marina - Smashed in the head with a pesticide canister, again.
  4. 12/17 - Levi - Tackled into submission by armless villager after sleeping in the wrong bed, then fed to pigs.
  5. 12/18 - Levi - Shot by sniper outside of town.
  6. 12/18 - Marina - tackled to death by the Woodsman after getting freed from the well.
  7. 12/20 - Abella - Tackled to death by armless villager.
  8. 12/22 - Marina - Shot by rifleman, only had one arm left anyway.
  9. 12/22 - Levi - Gummed to death by headless wolf
  10. 12/23 - Marina - Killed by Father Oscar's //hurting// spell, which crashes the game if it kills you.
  11. 12/23 - Levi - I am not kidding, that motherfucker can crash your game with the amount of //Hurting// he can deal.
  12. 12/23 - Levi - I told the mayor that the sausage looked like a penis and he stuck a meat cleaver in me.
  13. 12/25 - Levi - Starved to death in latrine pit.
  14. 12/25 - Marina - Stabbed by manic villager.
  15. 12/25 - O'saa - Brutalized by an ogre in a flashback during character creation.
  16. 12/27 - O'saa - Choked to death on pesticide fumes.
  17. 12/27 - O'saa - Stabbed by Henryk.
  18. 12/27 - O'saa - Shot in the head by Needles.
  19. 12/28 - O'saa - Again with the pesticide.
  20. 12/28 - O'saa - Grappled into submission by Fr. Oscar, de-legged, strung up on a ritual crucifix, rescued, crawl away only to get killed by the Vile and his pesticide again.
  21. 12/31 - O'saa - Bitten by rats, which were summoned by a Rat Hag
  22. 1/1 - Marcoh - Pesticide gas, again.
  23. 1/6 - Marcoh - Needles fucked me up, again.
  24. 1/9 - Marcoh - Killed by //Hurting//, via Dysmorphia.
  25. 1/11 - Marcoh - Punched myself to death after getting mind-controlled by a Crimson Father.
  26. 1/11 - Marcoh - Shot by an Elite Trooper
  27. 1/12 - O'saa - Shot and power-sawed by a mob.
  28. 1/14 - Marcoh - Dysmorphia and //Hurting//. Should probably mention that there's a monster named Dysmorphia.
  29. 1/14 - O'saa - Machete'd by a Death Mask.
  30. 1/15 - Marina - Tackled to death by Karin.
  31. 1/15 - Marina - Clawed to death by a Moonscorched.
  32. 1/15 - Marcoh - Bludgeoned with a meat mallet.
  33. 1/15 - Marcoh - Gutted by the knife of a Crimson Father, right after I shot Marina in the head due to mind control.
  34. 1/18 - Marina - Impaled in trap pit while running away from an Owl Cultist in the woods.
  35. 1/18 - O'saa - Police brutality.
  36. 1/18 - Marina - Landmine.
  37. 1/19 - Karin - Machete'd by Death Mask, but not before he cut off both my arms.
  38. 1/21 - Karin - A great run ended by a Death Mask machete. Got too greedy.
  39. 1/22 - Karin - Decapitated by owl spirit.
  40. 1/23 - Abella - Gnawed by a Crimson Father.
  41. 1/23 - Karin - Shot by a mob.
  42. 2/2 - O'saa - Slapped to death by a sewer monster that screamed "Choke on my balls" when it attacked.
  43. 2/4 - Marina - I thought I knew how to handle the Vile. Hubris, etc. My characters, apparently, have not built up any resistance to pesticide.
  44. 2/10 - O'saa - Impaled in a spike pit while wandering the woods at night.
  45. 2/19 - O'saa - SHOT BY A FUCKING TANK

As you can see, this game will result in a lot of character death. What this list doesn't show is the stuff in between.

I was not frustrated by any of these deaths, not even that great run with Karin at #38. The key to the entire experience is that every character death means you have learned something about the game. Even if it's just "there is a horrible monster in that building, don't go inside it" - that's useful knowledge! You explore, you take notes, you die, you reload the save, you repeat until you decide to abandon the run and start with a new character.

The items you get from barrels and chests are random, but the rest of the game isn't. The map is stable. Enemies are always in the same locations. NPCs are in the same locations at the same times on the same days. Special items will always be in the same place and with the same means of getting them. Your accrued knowledge will always be useful, and it will only ever get more useful as you gain more of it. Challenges that used to be brick walls can be taken out with good luck and good planning, totally avoided, or even entirely trivialized. You're handed a puzzle box, a mystery to unravel, and as you gain mastery of its workings in one way you can apply that knowledge along another path.

If this sounds like idealized OSR game design, you are correct. It is. This game is a masterclass on it.

Let's look at an example.

Very early in the game, you come across a locked gate that leads into the city. You're told that there are two keys, and that's generally going to be your way to go in the beginning. One of the keys is easy to find, while the other is behind a particularly nasty enemy who is well beyond anything you've fought this far in the game.

It's possible to beat the encounter with minimal losses, if you get extremely lucky, fight extremely dirty, or already have figured out some ways of getting overpowered (I have managed, in later runs, to beat him in two turns without getting hit - it is possible!)

But you're not likely to learn those strategies without a lot of trial and error. More likely you're going to explore the rest of the available areas, maybe with different characters and in doing so you'll find that:

  • If you have the lockpicking skill or a small key, you can get into the sewers and use them to bypass the gate.
  • If you have the Skin Bible of a particular god, you can unlock a shortcut through the woods that takes you directly to the city.
  • If you have a shotgun and ammo, you can just shoot the lock off.
  • If you got miraculously lucky and picked up a pair of bolt cutters in Tunnel 7, you can do the same.

And once you know those other methods, you can plan around them according to your player character, your items, and the other choices you've made in the game so far.

Now just keep multiplying that by all the other decision points to be made in the game and you get an idea of what the experience is like. Despite being 30+ hours in and close to the end of the game, there's still lots of stuff I either haven't tried or haven't discovered. While there is inevitably an end state of system mastery where there is no more to learn, it is a very long road and if you're the kind of person who likes long hikes and fucked-up sights, it will be an enjoyable one. And the difficulty itself can be surmounted both by the allowances of Eas(ier) mode, or the multiple methods by which you can absolutely break the game with relatively little effort. 



As a survival horror game, F&H contains a whole lot of scrounging in barrels and rationing out your items. You're juggling depleting bars of health, mental state, and hunger for up to four characters at a time. Beyond healing items it's a game of using what you have: no cloth for bandages? Well, if the wound is already infected, you can use the dirty toilet paper and a green herb to patch yourself up.


It's technically possible for any given character to learn any given skill. But in order to get those skills you either have to raise your affinity with a god (requiring a ritual circle and the appropriate Skin Bible, both limited resources), or you have to kill one of the other contestants in the Termina festival and absorb their souls (which unlocks their branch of the skill tree); for both methods you need soul stones, which you get by trading in the heads of defeated enemies (so long as you have a bonesaw to cut off their heads) and you need to rest in a bed (which moves the world into the next time-state).

As with the rest of the game, once you come to grips with how all these interlocking parts work you can start plotting out a path to get what you want, and that path is specific to how the game is progressing. A F&H character build is a time-sensitive hit list where you have to juggle "can I reach and recruit/kill X before they die by other means" with "are they more useful to me in this run as an ally or as their skills."


In the manner of games that actually use lore well, it is optional in F&H. It's there if you want to dig into it, and when you start digging you will keep on digging, but if you just want to play a fucked-up battle royale and vibe, that's an option too.

(The lore does have some fantastic old god / new god shenanigans going on. once again I recommend Worm Girl's overview, especially if you are interested but unlikely to play the game itself - she weaves together all the variables into a coherent, though not "canonical" throughline.)


Game good. Said it before, saying it again.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Further Short Reviews of Delta Green Actual Plays

Following up from the previous installment.


Redacted Reports (Amended)

Apparently the end of Season 6 was one of the scripted bits, which is very disappointing: I think it was a really lame way to end a certain character's arc, and knowing it was entirely avoidable is a major let down.

I was correct in predicting a move to King in Yellow content, but Season 7 is not Impossible Landscapes, and after listening to the two prelude episodes and the first two episodes of the season I don't think this podcast can handle the way Delta Green uses Carcosa. There's been a background trend, from Season 5 onward, of getting increasingly precious about the quirky NPCs and increasingly slow to actually get to the action, directly correlated with moving further away from the prewritten Delta Green adventures, and I don't feel like that's going to mesh well with the raw helpless nihilism that Carcosa necessitates. The characters are entirely too casual and jokey-jokey about it, and that sucks all the tension out of the affair.

Also, I swear I have listened to everything, but one of the agents keeps mentioning speaking to some doctor or another about the King and I am positive that has never happened on mic.

Sorry Honey, I Have to Take This (Amended)

AI art for thumbnails, fine, it's gross and surreal and feels like it fits for Delta Green. AI NPC voices I draw the line at, get those devil computers outta here.

Get in the Trunk

I dropped out very early in episode 0, when the hosts were beside themselves with laughter at the fact that a character got their degree from Johns Hopkins University. Not anything about Johns Hopkins in particular, just the existence of the college itself and the fact that an FBI agent studied there. That such a mundane fact was treated as hilarious was a very strong omen that I would not vibe with this podcast.

Recommended for: Those who find the existence of Johns Hopkins University the funniest thing on earth.

Black Project Gaming

  • Very by the book
  • Perhaps too by the book, because they run Reverberations by the book 
  • Please do not run Reverberations by the book 
  • Minimal editing, very table honest; not always a good thing 
  • Episodes are long, pacing is slow, audio quality is low; semi-regular dead air. 
  • Players have set up intra-party conflict beforehand, which I don't find that interesting personally, but is not a downside on the whole. 
  • I did come back to this after a while away and might keep going.
  • Recommended for: "Bastard's Hours are here and I have run out of everything else."

Stories and Lies

  • Good, but not for me
  • Episodes very long, pacing very slow. 
  • Otherwise well put together. Good editing, good players, good Handler. 
  • Not much else to say. 
  • It's just too slow for me. 
  • At least they didn't run Reverberations
  • Recommended for: People who are fine with slow burns.

Mayday Plays "Doomed to Repeat"

  • The one that leans into that special DG type of fucked; the players kill civilian witnesses by the end of the second episode.
  • Pacing is extremely good, no dawdling. We are on the move and operating. 
  • Does a good job at venting the tension with either something horrible or a bit of black humor. 
  • Handler and players are very keyed in, work well together. 
  • Frame narrative of "Program is attempting to do a major clean-up / compilation project" which I like, because the Program's canon dedication to having no actionable intelligence ever annoys me. 
  • I hope Agent Merrit has a good chiropractor because he's going to throw out his back with how hard he is carrying this team (this isn't a knock against the other players or their characters, just that Merrit has thus far been 110% correct about everything) 
  • Another one with intra-cell conflict, which I am more okay with because the players are very good at the role-playing. 
  • Goes hard with the consequences to fuckups returning to bite the players in the blubber, which I appreciate. 
  • They ran Reverberations. God damn it. Killed all my enthusiasm stone dead. At least they were clearly modifying it, though I didn't get around to seeing where it was going.
  • Recommended for: People who aren't sick of Reverberations because they aren't maniacs like me who binge these shows simultaneously.



I think Reverberations is a bad adventure, and not just for the racism. In the three times it has come up it is a plodding, wheel-spinning drag where the ideal solution is for the players to do nothing at all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Bookpost 15

 Previous installments found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 , 7, 8, 9, 10 , 11, 12, 13, 14


Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. LeGuin

A book that, as I was reading it, gave me a pronounced feeling of calm for not only the day I read it, but for a day or two afterwards. LeGuin had the magic touch. Very good book, made for a very enjoyable weekend. In lieu of a review, I will just leave with a quote that has stuck with me.

"Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it? Of course there are. Countless, the living and the dead. Those who have returned in pure compassion to the wheel, those who follow the way that cannot be followed without knowing they follow it, the sharecropper's wife in Alabama and the lama in Tibet and the entomologist in Peru and the millworker in Odessa and the greengrocer in London and the goatherd in Nigeria and the old, old man sharpening a stick by a dry streambed somewhere in Australia, and all the others. There is not one of us who has not known them. There are enough of them, enough to keep us going. Perhaps.”

Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee

DNF 146/317

This is a weird fucking book. Only way to describe it. For a while it kept me hooked - it was so bizarrely unconcerned with explanations and so unrelentingly sociopathic that I had to keep going...for a bit. Then I put it down for a couple days and hoo boy that killed that trend stone dead.

This book is a content void. The plot has no discernible stakes, no tension - it's wheel spinning. There's a huge space battle that is neither exciting nor tense. The characters are so flat and lacking in internality that they are impossible to describe as people, and more are constantly being introduced. The setting is exceedingly loosely sketched: there's a space-fascist empire with a rigid caste system and an obsession with calendars for reasons I learned via spoilers which are the one neat idea (the word "calendar" is used to mean "civilization-scale social superstructures sustained by consensus reality that powers all the exotic technology") that does not justify the rest of the book. Nothing is explained, ever, at all, and this is a problem because the prose is so sparse that there are not nearly enough context clues to figure out what any of this shit means. So the spaceships are called moths. Okay, fine. Do they actually look like moths? You keep using the word calendar for something that is not a calendar and you're sure as shit not going to tell me what the damn spaceships look like. Spaceships that, mind you, are where the bulk of the story takes place, utterly severed from anything besides some jackboots in a few pressurized rooms. The prose is like a mouthful of flour straight from the bag. You really start to notice how words get repeated.

This book being an award darling is not surprising, merely more evidence that anyone who thinks awards mean a damn is not to be trusted.

Important: This is not a sci-fi book in anything but aesthetic. It is _aggressively_ fantasy, but not in a good or enjoyable way. It's people throwing energy blasts at each other in a featureless void for reasons we don't give a shit about.

Addendum: I also now, somehow, have two nickels in the "award darling sci-fi novel about a woman in a government job and no other meaningful defining traits in her life with the mind-imprint of an old curmudgeonly political maverick stuck in her brain through whose aid she will learn that empire is bad, actually" jar, which is fucking bizarre that it has happened twice.


Some Desperate Glory, Emily Tesh

Banger. Absolute banger. Aces. A+. Let's fucking GO. White-knuckle grip on the covers. Tesh is able to take what would normally be an extremely hum-drum premise (A young woman in a dystopian authoritarian society discovers that Things Are Bad) and makes it sing through some truly excellent character building and a commitment to never letting up on the gas. it never lingers longer than it ought, and it knows when to breathe. The tension at points got so high I had to take a proper break to come down from it all. At every point where other works might soften the blow or take the easy, this book goes for the gut punch. There's moral complexity! We get to see the horrible sausage of space fascism get made, and we get to see it through the eyes of Valkyr the true believer as the system she served takes off the mask and reveals she had been an object to be exploited in the eyes of command all along.

I can't overstate the quality of the character work: Valkyr gets most of it, but even minor characters get fleshed out so that I can remember and identify them easily. Valkyr's arc is immensely satisfying to experience as she goes from propaganda-spouting stooge through the long road of deradicalization and into becoming a more complete and better person.

My one minor complaint is that the ending is weak, and the book would have been better with the last 2 pages or so chopped off. But the mild letdown of "this isn't as good as the 300+ pages of solid gold that preceded it" is barely worth mentioning. Go read it.

Knights of Sidonia, vol 1-6, Tsutomu Nihei

It's got some great sci-fi concepts that it plays around with (ex: sudden acceleration changes on a giant colony ship kill thousands of unlucky people) but the characters are extremely flat, the plot just kinda there, and the action often difficult to follow. I liked BLAME! more, even when it had less in terms of characterization and plot.


The Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke

A book that has been rendered more or less obsolete by the novels that followed in its footsteps (I will limit myself to one mention of Children of Time, and use it here.) Clarke's inability to write about human beings, their culture, their relationships, or anything else involving people, is on full display here, and is somehow the focus. There are some interesting concepts here (colony ship from a destroyed solar system finds surprise colony, needs to refresh its ice shield before moving on), but there's hardly a plot to speak of. Some potential conflicts are introduced and then just...resolved neatly, or dropped entirely. There's a mutiny, but it doesn't really ever get off the ground. There are sapient sea scorpions, but nothing really happens with them.

But my god did Clarke not understand people. "This colony had no religious works in the original computers and so they have a utopia but very few swear words" is truly baffling. Not the "atheist has very inadequate idea of how religion develops, changes, or works in the lives of people" sense, that's par for the course; it's the fact that somehow this colony has one swear word, which is the name of the local volcano. Somehow people no longer piss and shit and fuck, I guess. They do fuck, in weird robotic, performative ways, but it's a step up from the absolutely bottom of barrel low expectations in that regard.


Moon of Crusted Snow, Waubesheg Rice

A story about an isolated reservation community of the Ojibwe nation in northern Canada trying to survive the winter as the rest of the world falls to an unspecified apocalypse (all the power went out, and that's all the info you're getting. Works in its favor.) The prose is straightforward, and gets the job done. There may be a few too many characters for a book without a character list, and the plot is more a meander, but in terms of realizing its core concept I think it delivers. The gut-dropping realization of just how bad things have gotten hits as hard as you would hope. 


Carrie, Stephen King

I have not struggled with a book this much in a very long time. "It's only 180 pages, you can push through, give it the old college try" I said to myself. If I hadn't, I would have quit on page 10. I don't know if the struggle was worth it.

King's raw and unfiltered stream of consciousness style is a pain - it works fine enough when you're used to it, but I found myself re-reading entire pages before I hit page 10 because I had no idea where characters were standing in relation to one another. The diegetic interludes - newspaper clippings, interviews and the like - had no formatting whatsoever to separate them from the rest of the text. If it was posted to the SCP wiki I'd leave a comment saying "Downvoted until you stick those excerpt sections in a quoteblock", which is certainly an indictment of my own hubris if it is nothing else. But nope, no quote blocks and no three center-aligned asterisks, except in two specific instances where the split between the narrative and the diegetic element took place at a page break. Bizarre.

When it falls into the groove (right around the beginning of Part 2) things are okay, but in order to get there I ended up with long stretches of reading a page or a paragraph or two and then staring out the window for reasons I can't adequately explain. I can recognize why people like it and what King is doing well, but I'm not feeling it. When King is on point, he is very on point. He's got a real good grasp of characters and their internality, but that grasp is extremely unreliable. He loves introducing new characters out of nowhere as if you had any idea who they were supposed to be. On and on.

TLDR back half was good, front half was a drag, King ain't for me.