The Girl With All The Gifts & The Last of Us: A Dual Review With No Spoilers

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I watched The Girl With All The Gifts since I was very interested and decided it would be a good while before I could get to the book.

Well.

It’s…okay. It’s not the revelatory burst of cool originality I’d been led to believe, and it’s nowhere near as good as the other zombie flick I saw recently, the Korean Train To Busan which is a revelatory burst of cool and one of the best films in this genre ever made.

The Girl With All The Gifts is kind of tedious, the characters sketchily drawn, and the story underdeveloped. That said, I’d have probably enjoyed it more if it weren’t for one thing:

I’ve played the video game The Last Of Us.

The Girl With All The Gifts is like a clumsy echo of The Last Of Us. It has a similar theme, similar setting, suspiciously similar ideas (The Last Of Us came out a year before the novel). I’m not saying it’s a rip-off, I doubt it is. But the thought occurs.

And while The Girl With All The Gifts is a so-so zombie flick with a few new ideas, The Last Of Us is a goddamned masterpiece.

The Last Of Us is one of those works of art which elevates its medium. It isn’t just possibly the greatest narrative game ever made, it isn’t just a more satisfying cinematic experience than most films…it is literature.

lastofus

The writing, the direction, the art design are all phenomenal. The acting — and acting it is, full motion capture by the actors, with all the subtleties and complexities of real life, and eyes full of humanity — is amazing, and moving, and heartrending. And the characters are real the way the best characters in any medium become real, we live with them and die with them and feel their pain and occasional bits of joy. The settings are gorgeous, a civilization fallen and returning to nature. And the music…good lord, the music. My wife Nydia and I both tear up when we hear just a few notes of this game’s theme.

The Last Of Us, all by itself, entirely justified the money I spent on my PlayStation 4. All other pleasures I get out of it are gravy.

The Girl With All The Gifts just can’t compete. The only reason I’ll remember it is because it’s such a dull shadow of the game that got there first.

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The Joker’s Cold, Cold Heart (ABC Wednesday & Song of the Week, 3/21/14)

The JokerThis week’s ABC Wednesday comes on Friday due to indecision and scheduling conflicts, and I’m combining it with the Song of the Week for efficiency’s sake.

I just completed the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. I’d gone into it with lowered expectations because, unlike the earlier Arkham games, this wasn’t written by the great Paul Dini, and it wasn’t developed by the original outfit, Rocksteady, but by a new developer using Rocksteady’s technical assets. I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised, I was blown away. The writing is probably the best in the games, with a strong storyline and some deeper insight into the characters’ minds; this is a grittier Arkham game (if that’s possible), with a more mature outlook. It operates on a more street-level scale than even Arkham City did, and does wondrous things with a full roster of Batman villains. And it has, by far, the best (and least video-gamey) boss fights in the series.

Most notable was the Joker. Now, for years Mark Hamill has owned this part both in animated and game forms. The fact that he wasn’t doing the vocals here was another point of trepidation. But let me tell you, Troy Baker is a phenomenal new Joker, playing the role with a similar manic energy but imbuing it with a subtle raspy cruelty that, I think, actually suits the character better. This Joker is genuinely creepy, and you get to play through Batman’s very first encounter with him. It’s really astonishing stuff. And if you play, just wait until you get to the Joker’s lair…it’s epic.

So, in celebration of Jokers past and present, I offer up this dark little number for song of the week.

“Cold Cold Heart” by The Joker (Troy Baker)

J

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter K. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, feel free try to check out my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIt’s been very well reviewed (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures.”) and is great for action-adventure lovers of all ages.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Action! Horror! Kung Fu! Intrigue! Gunslingers! Fantasy! -14 Books By Noted Writers, Choose Your Price, Support Charities

Choose your price! Support charities!

Choose your price! Support charities!

Allen Varney is a really smart man who has put together a cool system in which he sells “bundles” of books and games to folks at the price they choose to pay (with a small minimum price established for a smaller set of the books offered)), the proceeds going not only to the authors involved but to specified charities. You may have seen other such bundles, and they’re a great idea.  Last summer, I participated in one of his earlier fiction-oriented bundles and it was a great experience. Allen has since honed his system by running many more bundles, and more folks have gotten interested in them, so he is temporarily resurrecting some of the earlier ones to satisfy the requests of those who missed them. The one I was part of is one of them, but will only be available for a very short time (just 48 hours, and the countdown has already begun!).

The charities to benefit from this bundle are fighting for literacy and freedom of expression all over the planet:

PEN International and The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Just think, you can get my own very well-reviewed, fully-illustrated adventure for all ages, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, along with a bunch of other high quality genre tales for just $4.95 or a bit more (Frogs of Doom is retail price $6.99 all by itself), and you’ll be contributing to the literary well-being of all of human kind.

Wilde Adventure!

Below are the details from the Bundle of Holding site; grab this adventurous deal while you can (as I type this line, the countdown is at 1 DAY, 22 HOURS, 49 MINUTES, 56 SECONDS!) Continue reading

“Batman: Arkham Origins” Looks Badass

Batman

Ladies and gentlemen, I am STOKED.

This series is not only some of the best Batman ever, it’s some of the greatest gaming ever. My love for it is already a matter of record.

And yet again a CGI game trailer shows that they really shouldn’t need to be waiting for Hollywood to get its head out of its ass to give us good flicks of Halo, God of War, or other great games, not to mention the possibilities for animated comic book fare.

A Little Less Art In The World

Quinton Hoover

Artist Quinton Hoover has died.

I didn’t know Quinton very well, but he did quite a few cards for us back when I was working on White Wolf’s Rage (best CCG evar):

Rage Card

We got to know each other a bit more on Facebook, and I was actually hoping to possibly recruit him to work on an Outlaw Moon book with me at some point. I’m sad that’ll never happen.

Here’s a posted eulogy from Quinton’s son, Justin:

Today we lost an incredible man. Most only knew him as an artist. A small few knew him as a friend; however only a select few got to know him as a father and husband. My father was an incredible person, even in time of strife. With all of the pride and stubbornness, he fought. He fought for alot of things. Mainly his families lively hood. It brings me great sadness to have lost a man I spent a life time trying to emulate. The last few years had become strenuous, but the little things kept him going. The picture with this eulogy shows that very reasoning. A simple day spent with his friend taking pictures and being outside doing what he loved. Much like the rest of his family, I feel he was taken from us far to early. There was so much he wanted to do, to name a few he wanted to come to my wedding and meet my family for the first time. Unfortunately this was taken away. Out of all this pain and anguish, I know he is finally at peace. My Dad had a lot of hard times, and was in considerable amounts of pain. No more will he have to suffer the things that hurt him the most. Whereever he may be now, I know he will still be fighting for the well being of his family. Truly one of the most selfless people I proudly got to spend 27 years knowing and speaking with. Dad, no matter where you went to, know that myself, my family, and your family have and will always love you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for everything you gave and tought to me. From shooting my first gun, to the last piece of lead I lay on paper.
He knew I wouldn’t leave him.
He’ll never leave me.
Quinton Hoover was a good man
I Love You

Rage Art

More great art by Quinton after the jump: Continue reading

The Mother Fucking Space Marines

SPACE MARINES

So corporate bully boys Games Workshop are now insisting they own a trademark on the term “space marine,” which first appeared back in 1932 in the story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” by Bob Olsen. They had a book by writer M.C.A Hogarth kicked off of Amazon for her use of this common, stock, standard, downright cliché science fiction trope.

From her blog:

Today I got an email from Amazon telling me they have stopped selling Spots the Space Marine because Games Workshop has accused me of infringement on their trademark of the word ‘space marine’.

If you go to the Trademarks Database and look up the word “space marine” you’ll find the Games Workshop owns a trademark on the term “space marine,” but it only covers the follow goods and services: IC 028. US 022. G & S: board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith.

Fiction isn’t included in that list, which means Games Workshop has no grounds on which to accuse me of trademark infringement.

I didn’t get my use of that term from Games Workshop. I got it from Robert Heinlein. Apparently the first use of the term was in 1932. E.E. Smith used it, among others. Also there are other novels on Amazon being sold that have “space marine” in the title. I don’t know why Games Workshop decided to complain about Spots in particular, but my guess is because the Kickstarter made it a little higher-profile than the average indie offering.

This is as bad as Marvel and DC Comics conspiring to share a trademark on the term “superhero,” barring all others from using it. It’s pointless and ridiculous and downright unfriendly to the creative community at large.

As for Games Workshop? Fuck those guys.

(Note: Like that cool pulpy cover I posted up there? You can make your own with the Pulp-O-Mizer at Bradley Schenck’s Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual website, which is a very cool place to visit…)

Childish Things

Hearing this week’s song of the week today brought to mind a discussion I had with another writer on Facebook a few weeks ago. The release of World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion was nigh and, as many of you know, it was introducing the pandaren as a playable race. The pandaren are basically kung-fu pandas, mystical shaolin-style monks, and their homeland is based heavily in eastern cultural tropes. (They also predate the Kung-Fu Panda movies by several years).

Now, I haven’t played WoW in many years, but my son still does occasionally, and I’d watched him play some of this content during its beta testing. It was fun stuff. the pandaren had a lot of charm and character, their abilities were clever and different than the stock WoW fare, and the world-building for their lands was gorgeous and epic in its scope.

Anyway, this writer snorted derisively at any grown-ups out there who were actually looking forward to playing panda warriors. Why? Because pandas are cute, naturally, and only children could conceivably want to play such cute creatures. I challenged him on it, because not only do I see the pandaren as neither more nor less intrinsically ridiculous than elves, dwarves, gnomes, or any of the other fantasy races you can play in WoW and similar games, but I think a fantasist attacking other people’s fantasies rather unbecoming. This writer makes his living writing face-to-face roleplaying games in which the players pretend to be monsters (as indeed I used to when I was a writer for White Wolf Games). Quite a few people would consider that sort of thing childish.

I wrote:

I just have an innate negative reaction to arguments that denigrate the tastes of others in ways like calling them “childish,” when as far as I’m concerned pretending to be a kung-fu panda is no more ridiculous or childish than pretending to be a stalwart shaman cow. Or a magical mystical mummy, for that matter.

He wrote:

I *completely* accept that the pandaren might be considered cool by players of a given age range, those of commensurately immature taste, and those who engage them as part of spending time with their kids, and I hope you’re right that those folks enjoy playing the hell out of it. But it’s not for me, play-wise, nor for the adults with whom I game on the regular…Pretending to be a bouncing anime panda-person may not be more ridiculous than pretending to be a shambling mummy, but it *is* more childish, and there’s just no way around that.

Note the pointless zealotry, the refusal to accept that any mature adult might be able to enjoy playing these fantasy creatures, while playing other fantasy creatures is presumably quite adult. Pandaren might be enjoyed by players “of a given age range” or “commensurately immature taste” or those playing alongside their children. He couldn’t just take a reasonable step back and think, “Maybe an adult might enjoy this simply because it’s fun and they get a kick out of it.” He had to insist that an adult who liked this sort of thing was not the proper sort of adult at all.

I replied:

To personalize it, I think the pandaren are cool, and were I still playing WoW I’d be looking forward to playing one. To therefore say that only people of a certain age range or “commensurately immature taste” can find them cool is insulting. I seriously doubt my tastes are any less mature than yours, and in fact the tendency to argue the “maturity” of such things seems to me an immature one.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

But, to be agreeable, I’ll cede your point that making believe you’re a scary monster is much more grown up than making believe that you’re a panda-esque warrior. Because what the hell.

Don’t try too hard to be a grown-up, folks. It’s something that happens naturally in its course, and it has nothing to do with whether you can still have fun or not.

Here’s James McMurty with our song of the week…