Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

I just finished reading Warren Ellis’ FreakAngels, a post-apocalyptic coming of age story about twelve angsty 23 year olds trying to put their lives back together. Witty down to earth dialogue with a hint of British grit and compelling characters who can just be right assholes… right assholes with telepathic abilities.

Ellis’, as usual, is unabashed in his writing, creating intriguingly flawed characters guided by anger and fear and love. Paul Duffield’s art is beautifully organic, providing a rough charm that really gives the web-comic character. This is the kind of writing I think we need more of. FreakAngels is a richly character-driven and strikingly strange story of survival and friendship.  Though it’s no Transmet, Ellis’ FreakAngels is an enticing read and you can check out all 6 volumes for free on the FreakAngels site!


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As previously mentioned, I have a love for good Story, and I actively seek it out in every medium I can find it. As a child, I spend the better part of my time behind a good book or in front of our television set. Whether I’m watching a movie, reading a novel or playing a video game, I love immersing myself in worlds unknown. I always found the gaming approach to story to be particularly intriguing, as it demands a higher level of active participation from the player. Each experience is unique, not one play through will be exactly the same. I’ve thus saved a place in my blog to discuss games that I find interesting in their use of Story.

I recently finished Alan Wake, a third-person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment for the Xbox 360 (later released with enhanced graphics for PC). This game’s a psychological horror that follows Alan Wake, a big-city writer who’s struggling to continue his career after a two-year hiatus. In an attempt to rekindle his creative flame, Alan and his wife Alice travel to the small town of Bright Falls, where Alan becomes ensnared in his own nightmarish fantasy story come to life… one he has no recollection of ever writing. When Alice disappears from their lakeside cabin, Alan must follow the clues left in the pages of his own manuscript, becoming the protagonist of a novel rapidly deteriorating into a paranormal horror story.  Alan must fight the shadows of his own imagination, dark things made real as the town’s people become taken over by the Dark Presence residing at the bottom of Cauldron Lake.

The game is heavily atmospheric, seemingly straight out of a Stephen King novel, and Bright Falls recalls the eerie small town ambiance of Lynch’s Twin Peaks. As with all good horror fiction, the world of the game is its greatest strength. The Dark Presence that envelops the town infuses the setting with its own character, as Alan must traverse the town and its surrounding woods in unnatural obscurity. Using whatever he can find to dispel the darkness (flashlights, flares, flash bang grenades), Alan tries to circumvent the events of a story that has already been written, often finding manuscript pages detailing horrific occurrences moments before they happen. The pages also provide back story and insight into other characters and events that are transpiring elsewhere in the town.

The game’s hauntingly beautiful landscapes and chilling settings only serve to enhance an already captivating story.  Alan’s troubled introspective narration coupled with the mystifying manuscript pages keeps the player questioning Alan’s sanity and unsure how the story will progress. Throughout the entire game the player is restless and uneasy, mirroring Alan’s confused feelings of doubt. In keeping with the horror genre, the game features some unsettling plot twists and suspenseful scenes that chill the blood without necessarily resorting to gruesome deaths and gore. This leads to a particularity story-driven game that still maintains great game play. Combat is dynamic and impulsive, and sets up interesting ways to defeat enemies.

Aside from some minor faults, Alan Wake is a great example of how video game mechanics can be used to enhance the story experience. This game comes highly recommended to anyone who loves a good fright, and to writers who like experiencing different modes of storytelling. As a writer, it’s important to keep in mind the tools you have at your disposal to tell a story. A good story is worthless if you don’t master the means to tell it.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone was recommended to me by a friend, which made me very weary of it as I literally shut the last book I was recommended after the first page. The event was so traumatizing I haven’t read a recommendation since, and that was nearly seven years ago (You know the one ;)) So with my faith still shaken, I ventured forth into Laini Taylor’s very hyped young adult novel and found myself in an enigmatic urban fantasy. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is enthralling to say the least. Taylor’s prose is beautifully written and guides us through the tantalizingly mysterious story of a young girl in Prague whose double life has her collecting teeth for a demon.

This story straddles the line between urban fiction and fantasy, blending two worlds into one as Karou is slowly pulled away from her life as an art student to discover a world in turmoil. Angels and Chimera waging a war whose beginnings are lost in blood and hatred and most importantly pain. The plot is wonderfully exciting, the characters delightfully compelling, and the ending, I felt, was simply genius and leaves you craving for the sequel. Now, after all this, what can I possibly say that I didn’t like?

  • Well… I didn’t particularly care for Akiva, the angelic soldier who inevitably falls for the passionate and willful Karou. I found his seemingly emotional actions to be unjustified by his character, as he really didn’t have one. Sure he had lots of great back story but no defining traits, no apparent character flaws, no opinions or thoughts aside from his complete unyielding love for Karou.
  • The first half of the book relies too heavily on Taylor’s prose to take you through the plot. It focuses mainly on Karou’s romantic interests, first with her ex-boyfriend and then with Akiva. I found both instances to be tremendously tedious, and only made it through them due to Taylor’s writing. There were some lovely small moments, I’m a sucker for those, but eventually I just wanted to get on with the story and unravel the mysteries surrounding Karou and her secret life.
  • I have only one negative thing to say about the prose. Though sophisticated and elegant, which is very refreshing to find a young adult novel, it was too extravagant at times and some of her descriptions lacked substance. Nearly everyone is beautiful and breathtaking and radiantly perfect. It becomes harder and harder to relate to these supernatural characters as they grow increasingly more divine.

So all this to say that I’ve taken up reading Laini Taylors blog… She’s a very talented writer and I do look forward to the next installment of her series. She recently posted her own “How to Write a Novel” list she had composed after completing her first book. The first item on the list:

1. Daydream. A lot. (required)

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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