Saturday, April 27, 2013

LA Confidential

         So the rundown is as follows: I love this book. I think it's one of the best crime novels I've ever read, and that James Ellroy, along with Raymond Chandler, is one of the few people who actually gets noir. The characters and dialogue are definitely the high points of the work, as well as a plot that twists and turns in just the right way, so each new revelation drives home the point that everyone involved is in over their heads. It's a very dark, beautiful book about flawed characters trying to find a way to take out the worse people before they themselves are consumed. Ellroy has a good handle on the "shades of grey" areas, and while his heroes are not particularly sympathetic, they are compelling enough to care what happens to them and part of the fun of the book is how they grapple with their personal demons. Not that a book like LA Confidential should ever be considered "fun".

            The downside is, the book is very dark and more than a little brutal. There's a lot of racist slurs bandied about, and some homophobic insults. All of this is presented without flinching or restraint, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The book is about a case involving a brutal sextuple homicide, pornographic books, and stolen drugs. It handles it in the most direct and unflinching way possible, with all the language and graphic content that entails. That they had to rework a few sections of the plot to keep the film at an R rating says more than enough. While the language and content works for the time period and the atmosphere Ellroy wanted to evoke, it's still gonna be too much for some people.

More, as always, below.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Down Town


        The rundown is as follows: Down Town is one of the strangest and messiest books I have ever read. That judgement takes into account that I read, reviewed, and own copies of both House of Leaves and Naked Lunch. I could throw around a lot of words like "singular" and "unique", and they'd be taken mostly as a cliche. Mainly because a lot of book critics beat them into the ground. But here's the thing: Down Town is actually pretty unique. It's a hodgepodge of New York City historical in-jokes, children's fantasy, fairy tale, clean-earth allegory, and mythology all rolled into one rather bizarre but entirely endearing kludge of a book. Having read it, I'm still not completely sure I read everything I just read, and yet it's perfectly coherent. It's a beautiful, flawed mess.

          And it's those flaws that keep me from writing this off as a complete success. For all the endearing passages and beautiful descriptions, for all the moments it's a wonderful exciting story, there are parts that come out of left field. Characters act in occasionally random patterns. The book swings back and forth between being breathless and describing everything in lavish and lurid detail. Its rhythm is hard to follow, its characters are cyphers save for the main character and his parents, and the ending, when taken as a whole, is as much of a glorious mess as the book that precedes it. 

          BUT! In all of this, once I pushed aside the cynical detachment and actually sort of got behind what Down Town actually was, I learned to love it. It's a beautiful, insane mess with occasional illustrations that get somewhat more unhinged as the book goes along. It's charming, and has such a sense of wonder about itself that it's hard to ignore. It's worth the time to get lost in their world for a while, and I heartily recommend finding it any way you can. More, as always, below.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

No One's Been Poisoned and Nothing's On Fire: Strange Tales from the Road (ZenKaiKon 2013) Conclusion!

          Sunday began and after a brief scene, I was locked in combat with a Sudoku puzzle for the fate of Johan's story. Quite literally. Upon entering the room, I explained to the GMs what had happened the previous night and that Johan's plan simply refused to work. After a brief scene with the main villain where Johan snarked at him for losing control of the story ("Well then you should have thought of that before giving your villain a soul", I believe was the line), the following exchange occurred:

"So, Caius, how much do you like puzzles?"
" 'em enough..."

              Some background: The previous night, a team had led an assault on the clock tower and the bath house where the villains of the setting had their bases of operations. I can't speak for the bath house, though from what I saw it was a combination of Betrayal at House on the Hill and a dungeon crawl. The clock tower dungeon was a bit different, being a series of puzzles one had to get through to get to the top and confront the eccentric man who built the thing in the first place. Having been closer to where the puzzle dungeon was run the previous night, I had heard horror stories of the kind of things they faced. But the one I'd heard the most ranting about was a Sudoku puzzle in the final room. 

             "Long as it isn't Sudoku." I added hastily.

No One's Been Poisoned and Nothing's On Fire: Strange Tales on the Road (ZenKaiKon 2013) Pt. 2

When we last left our hero, he was trapped in the mind of a soul-eating sociopath and tweaking like there was no tomorrow...

                    Saturday began with another scramble for me to set up plans. I scrambled a lot during this, partially because Johan is an active character, not a reactive one. When you're the one setting up the plans, it's a lot harder to keep them all spinning, especially with about thirty or forty other people running their plans both concurrently and counter to your own. Despite the conversation of the previous night, I had found out that Abby had once again been flung headlong into a plot with me, one more sign that someone, be it GMs or the universe or whatever it is has a sense of humor. So now Abby's character, Kallen, who had been thrown into the same fairy tale as I/Johan was and cast as the Princess, now had a creepy sociopath looming over her and offering his "help" to finish the story she hadn't wanted to be part of in the first place. I'd say I didn't have fun stalking Abby and the players in her plot around. I would really like to. 

I would be lying straight through my teeth. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No One's Been Poisoned and Nothing's On Fire: Strange Tales On The Road (ZenKaiKon 2013) Part 1

               Start of play begins and I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Normally this is a good thing. Time to pull a few threads, tease a few things out, see what happens. But that's not coming this time, for one big reason: I am scared of the Drop. I am fighting it every chance I get. Silently, I curse my ambition, but I'm not about to back down. I will either do the best damn job I can, or I will lose both sanity and identity in the attempt. No going back now, just forward towards whatever the hell is at the end of this. And for the first time, I'm actually frightened of what I do during roleplay. Walking around in this guy's head would be like hanging out in the hospital from Jacob's Ladder. But at this point, there's nothing else to be done. So I take a deep breath, and go find someone I can traumatize.

Post over at Study of Anime

                 So occasionally I do write for other places than here. A friend on the con circuit, Charles Dunbar, has a site he writes for over at Study of Anime and asked me to do a post on fandom and identity for his project. Being that most of what I do kind of falls under some kind of fandom, both he and his site are awesome, and it's cool that my work would get other places, I jumped at the chance and wrote up an essay about my very strange relationship with fandoms and their dark sides. The post is here, and please do check out the rest of his site and work. He's well worth the time.