Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Short Stories

Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995)

Bloodchild and Other Stories was my introduction to Butler’s writing, and it reflects a masterful (and masterfully-thoughtful) writer. This collection features every short story — and two essays — that Octavia Butler wrote between 1971 and 2003. At just over 200 pages, it’s not many, and she herself admits to not being a writer or fan of short stories in her comments.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Stephen King’s the Dark Tower (1982-2012) — a reflection

a series of seven, sometimes eight, novels

[ ranking | review ]

Tackling the Dark Tower over this last year has been both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment. It’s awakened a love for Stephen King’s writing I never felt before, but it’s also been a constant reminder of all the issues I’ve taken with his work since first picking up Carrie (1974) at 13 years old.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Stephen King’s the Dark Tower (1982-2012) — a ranking

a series of seven, sometimes eight, novels

[ ranking | review ]

The Dark Tower, as a series, was defined by its ups and downs. An addictive yarn though it was, it was easy to find myself both adoring each page to seething in rage at cheesy turns. Perhaps this prevents the series from reaching a place alongside the Lord of the Rings or the Book of the New Sun as a definitive fantasy, but it doesn’t mean the series isn’t a classic. (The Chronicles of Narnia is heavily impaired by its frequent downs — and gross religious dogma, racism, and misogyny — as well, and still remains required reading.)

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Book Reviews, Novels, Video Games

Game Write: Anthony Huso’s Bone Radio (2015)

Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we review Anthony Huso’s Bone Radio, a thrilling, if undercooked, post-apocalyptic adventure within the New Union: A country not too dissimilar from our present U.S., but built on the ashes of remnant cities and borrowed technology.

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Video Games

Breaking Star Wars stereotypes in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004)

Developer Obsidian Entertainment was born of former PC RPG giant Black Isle Studios’ closure, and with the name Chris Avellone affixed as lead designer and writer there was an expectation that we’d be seeing something transcending the low standard of video games — even if, or in spite of, their use of the Star Wars license to do so, a license that was at the time stuck on a loop of self-created cliches and stilted creativity, and would continue to be stuck in a loop until the 2016 release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

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Video Games

Best Games of 2016 That No One Played

2016 saw a plethora of great games released. The indie scene is so massive at this point, that it’s impossible to keep up with the many high-quality games produced by small teams with no way to get their games out there except by word of mouth. Releases like 20XXFirewatchStardew ValleyPony Island, ABZÛ, OxenfreeINSIDEOrwellSalt and SanctuaryDevil Daggers, and the Witness all did pretty darn well for themselves — and that’s a lot of hours to devote to the year’s indie games — but what about the smaller titles? The titles obscured under Steam’s monstrous library of junk and more junk?

Below constitute my take-away for the year’s hidden gems: The neglected masterpieces (or fascinating ideas) that flew under most players’ radars. I expect most of these to, at the very least, show up as games #480-493 on many players’ wishlists and backlogs.

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Graphic Novels, Novels, Random

dendrobiblio’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

10. Stephen King’s the Dark Tower I : IV (1982 : 1997)

A somewhat difficult one to include, Stephen King’s writing, while always entertaining, is similarly always bothersome. The King-isms build and bug me. The Dark Tower series has been no different so far, with the Drawing of the Three and the Waste Lands, in particular, being hampered by bloated writing and awkward pacing. Wizard and Glass, the fourth of an eight-part series (including #4.5), and the last I read this year, was an absolutely engrossing and addictive fantasy yarn. The horror and post-apocalyptic settings were mostly removed in favor of straight fantasy in an extended flashback story — which was worrisome — but Roland’s tale was so focused and wonderfully-told that it alone puts this series on the list. I hope 2017 lets me finish the the final four books.

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Book Reviews, Novels, Video Games

Game Write: Jane Jensen’s Kingdom Come (2016)

Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we review Jane Jensen’s Kingdom Come, a thrilling murder mystery set in and by a rural Amish community.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

The problem with Preacher (1995 – 2000)

a maxiseries of 75 issues
art by Steve Dillon

The more I read of this series, the more I found hard to enjoy. Ennis’ writing style carries a lot of frustration with it, and a lot of it is born of the series’ time. It ain’t as timeless as the classics of similar length (e.g., the Sandman), and part of why is Ennis spent too much of the ’90s channeling the voice of a million other snarky 20-somethings channeling the voice of Bill Hicks. The series repeatedly pays homage to Bill Hicks, and literally ends with a quote meant to convey the topics the series never had time to explore.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Farewell to Fables, the smoldering mess of mostly bad ideas

This final Fables volume ended much more nicely than its sister series, Fairest, did. Like most of the Fables-verse, however, it’s still a mixed bag.

Half of this volume — an extra-long 150th issue numbering over 150 pages — is devoted to resolving the looming battle between sisters Snow and Rose, and the latter half is made up of short stories (1-5 pgs. each) giving farewells to as many of the cast as they could squeeze in.

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