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book review: you

YOU: A Fiction is a second-person narrator story about you, a guy named Leo Evans who does your best to be a good servant. A necessary one. The story starts with you getting a library book stolen from you and then things escalate. There are weapons and photographers that use film (ptui digital!) to stop time and destroy bodies, love is commodified and there’s a weird doppelganger made of mint. It’s full of weirdness and relationships and weird relationships. I liked it.

Greg Stolze is one of the creators of my favourite roleplaying game, Unknown Armies and You is set in that world. That gives the reader a bit of a grounding in the thoughts motivating some of the characters, but I think as a story it works better for a person who doesn’t know the universe (I found some of the explanations a bit on the nose and would have appreciated a bit more vagueness about how things work since I know the rules, but whatevs).

Good weird book. If you read it and like it let me know, ’cause it’s been years since I’ve run a game.

book review: saint germaine – shadows fall

I was primed by my love of Greg Stolze and John Tynes’ RPG Unknown Armies to really like Gary Reed’s Saint Germaine comic. I mean a story about the great immortal wandering the earth, dying a thousand deaths, but always returning to witness more of humanity is bound to be kind of awesome. Well, no.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a story here. A writer is summoned to the immortal’s home to write his tale. He’s attacked by shadows of Lilith, the immortal’s companion. There are scenes from the Spanish Inquisition and Moscow, pre-Napoleon. The writer is consumed by shadows and used as a weapon against Lilith. That’s what I’ve got.

Maybe it would reward a more careful reading, but nothing about the art or the writing really drew me in to say, here’s something great. And with my preconceptions about the First and Last Man (and let me say again that Unknown Armies does really cool stuff with this bit of myth), this book needed to be great instead of meh.

book review: kraken

I loved the fuck out of this book. Kraken is China Mieville’s second book to come out in the last year. It’s a lot fatter than The City & The City but more straightforward. Basically there’s a giant squid preserved at the Darwin Centre in London. And then it disappears. We follow a bunch of characters (primarily the curator who discovered the missing squid) who’re trying to find out where it went and why and how. There are occult cops, and apocalyptic squid-cults, and people learning about the weirdness in London through internet forums. There’s a crime boss who is known as Tattoo because he was magically imprisoned on some guy’s back as a tattoo. This crime boss has a workshop where he does experiments on people and changes them into living radios and bipeds with fists for hands (and dicks). There are Londonmancers and djinn, and the Sea has an embassy for those in the know. Super fucking cool book.

It was slightly less “spin in a completely new direction at each turn” than Iron Council (which is my favourite Mieville) and not as much of a mindfuck as The City & The City (tied for favourite), but yes, great stuff.

If you like it, and play roleplaying games, check out Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. It’s a game that does a lot of similar things with a bit more structure to make it gamable.