Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fabled Lands Sales Plug

I may be a little late to the party asking for help with this now, but I thought I would anyway.

Back in 1996, the first couple installments of a gamebook series called Fabled Lands was released. Unlike the more well-known Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf where you got one adventure per book, Fabled Lands was instead an open sandbox series. Each book covered a different part of the game's world, and you could explore them in whatever order, play any class, worship any god and side with any faction you chose. If you got too close to the borders of one country, it'd tell you to turn to the appropriate section in the appropriate book and you'd just keep going. Before you worry about dying and losing all your progress in such an epic series, you could even make arrangements in most temples to be brought back to life in case worse came to worst.

The bad news is only the first six of twelve planned books were ever released, but the good news is the books are being rereleased now, and if they sell well enough the authors will get the rest of the series out.

You can buy the books off amazon, and if you're into interactive fiction you'd be doing the whole community a favor by adding your sales to the overall numbers.

Thank you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Moon Chapter 4: Waking Up

1. Bella’s shaken out of her month-naming stupor by Charlie telling his daughter he’s had it with her being a catatonic shut-in and he’s about to ship her off to be her mom’s problem again. Actually, threatens is closer to what he does. Maybe Charlie lost some of his patience for Bella’s shit after she threw her little fit as part of the plan to fake out James, so there is a reasonable explanation for the way he’s acting (oh boy, is there one).

Still, since Meyer transitioned so awkwardly from the last book (it said Bella was living with more rules but I don’t remember it saying Charlie suddenly turned into an asshole), it feels like something she might’ve also done because Charlie wasn’t the oppressive authority figure all teens as whiny as Bella see their parents like no matter how tolerant that parent might be in reality. Perhaps Meyer made him like that to make Bella more “sympathetic.” I don’t know, but that’s kind of a problem. That I don't know, because the storyteller doesn't tell.

2. Anyway. Charlie. Sick of Bella’s shit. At long last. She makes lame excuses for wanting to stay in Forks, but because Meyer evidently doesn’t understand that the narrator is supposed to convey information to the reader, doesn’t explain why she’d want to stay in Forks when the only thing that made it appealing to her vanished months ago. At least not until nearly the end of the chapter, and that’s just annoying.

Bella also resists advice to get her psychoanalyzed, and she avoids the possibility because she’s sure she’d be locked up if she tried to tell anyone she was going out with a vampire. I can honestly believe Bella isn’t aware of this, but she has plenty of issues plenty of morose teenagers who haven’t gone out with vampires suffer from. Even if she doesn’t realize a psychoanalyst could get rich off her without ever bringing her fling with Edward into it, why exactly would it be necessary to mention he was a vampire? As I kept saying, no one else ever questioned their pitiful act. Couldn’t she say she was attracted to his impossible good looks and massive amounts of money, and not the fact that he represented an escape from the ravages of time? I know I can’t let this go, but was Bella actually attracted to anything beyond the superficial?

Meyer’s been drawing comparisons with Romeo and Juliet, and that wasn’t given any explanation beyond love at first sight either. Then again, Romeo and Juliet weren’t constantly pissing each other off.

Before I move on, I love Bella’s reaction to Charlie catching her in being mopey in the first place. “I’d been careful to avoid all forms of moroseness, moping included.” Since that’s her natural state, that would be kind of hard for her. Even if, once again, she’s even aware of anything taking place around her that doesn’t involve the guy currently enabling her happiness. A lot of the time it sounds like someone else is in control of Bella’s actions and she’s only reporting distantly from the shadows.

3. At school all of Bella’s mortal “friends” have started avoiding her because of how she’s grown so distant even they’re not cool with it anymore. I hate to keep doing this, but Meyer doesn’t leave me much choice: why were they interested in including her before? It’s not like she was an actual part of the group even before she started chasing Edward.

To get some breathing room with her father, Bella tries to wrangle a trip to the movies out of Jessica and I care even less about Bella’s problems as a result. Bella leaves no room for doubt why she’s doing this, and it’s not for the sake of connecting with another human being or patching things up with someone who she’s now realizing she treated like crap.

“It had been weeks, maybe months, since Jess had even greeted me when I passed her in the hall. I knew I had offended her with my antisocial behavior, and she was sulking.” Love how Bella admits she’s being antisocial but thinks Jessica’s the childish one for not talking to her anymore because of it. Rather than Bella, who’s still trying to figure out how to deal with the world four months after her sparkly Ken doll ran away. I might have more sympathy if Meyer had actually shown an attraction instead of assuring us there was one (I just love Bella's birthday party in the movie, where Alice takes a picture of them and says "Show me the love!" One of the few things I've run into in life that honestly made me LOL).

And she doesn’t even let up. Try a taste of, “I wasn’t about to face Charlie without some social interaction to report.” For that matter, “I knew from experience that once I got Jessica talking, I would be able to get away with a few mumbled responses at the appropriate moments. Only minimal interaction would be required.” Not to mention, “I sensed a long story. I clutched at the opportunity.” And just to put the cherry on the sundae, “I was happy to go along with whatever she wanted; after all, I was getting what I wanted--Charlie off my back.”

So I was right all along? Bella only sees her “friends” in regards to how they can be useful to her? And I’m supposed to see her as a good person done wrong by the hand of fate or something? For that matter, to want to see her get together with some kind of Mr. Perfect? Sorry Steph, try again.

Also gotta love the part where Bella says she doesn't dare lie about this girls' night out thing. Supposedly (I use that word a lot when I talk about this book, huh?) Jessica’s mom is the biggest gossip in town and if Bella told Charlie she’d been out with Jessica, sooner or later he’d run into Jessica’s mom and Bella would be caught. Bella looks like an idiot if you think about it for two seconds. If she doesn’t care about doing this for the sake of spending time with another person (she doesn’t), then say she went out with one of her other “friends” who doesn’t have chatty parents.

4. Demonstrating once again that she’s so much more mature and intelligent than the people knows, Bella agrees to see a zombie movie. Because seeing a movie about the undead is the best way to forget she’s feeling like this because she got dumped by the undead.

Further proving Bella’s neither of those things, when she sees a couple walking along a beach she immediately thinks “I had not bargained for a romance.” She turns to Jessica and after being assured this is in fact the zombie movie, asks “Then why isn’t anyone getting eaten?” The way she describes it, it’s the first scene in the movie. I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert, but even I know lots of horror movies start with some unsuspecting couple getting whacked by the monster or psycho killer. Yet, the first thing Bella sees is a couple on a beach and she thinks it’s a romance. Hell, I watch even fewer of those, but isn’t the plot generally about two people getting together? As in, they’re usually not together at the beginning of the movie? And Meyer brags about how much she knows about romance stories?

Every time Bella does anything I see less of that image Meyer wants me to see.

5. After the movie, Bella comes to the realization that, “It was depressing to realize that I wasn’t the heroine anymore, that my story was over.” If only, my dear. If only.

Now, my definition of a “heroine” is a female lead who actually takes part in major events beyond simply being around to see them (and as she was unconscious when the Cullens showed up and killed James, even that’s up for debate). Generally, it means the main female character. Still and all, wouldn’t she have to have been opposite someone you could consider a “hero” for her to be a “heroine”? Because Edward doesn’t count. Not that Bella sees it that way, but then, I can’t be sure of the accuracy of what Bella sees because almost nothing’s well-explained in these books. Except Edward being pretty.

6. But just to show people I don’t ignore the good things when I see them, Meyer shows she might have a better understanding of “irony” than most people. Real irony is when something happens that’s the opposite of what you expect. Like if you’re watching a movie and you see that the next scene happens in a lawyer’s office, but then the door opens and the office is full of jugglers, fire eaters and acrobats. That’s the opposite of what you expected, so it’s ironic.

Bella thinks it’s ironic that she’d become a zombie. Because she wanted to be undead, but she wanted to be the beautiful, romanticized, super-powered kind and not the hideous, slavering, mindless kind. So when she starts acting like a mindless spawn, that’s a genuine reversal of expectations. Hers, anyway.

7. “It was inevitable that I would have nightmares, but they wouldn’t be about zombies,” thinks Bella as they leave the theater.

I’m supposed to believe Bella’s capable of not being morose, huh?

8. Because they’re in Port Angeles, which is a little rougher than Forks, and Bella acts an idiot with a death wish whether she’s willing to admit it or not, on the way to get dinner she sees a guy hanging out on the street who reminds her of one of the guys who almost raped her that other time she was in town.

The even more idiotic plot of this sequel gets going then as she decides to walk over to this guy who might have once tried to rape her. Why? I don’t know! For once even Bella admits she’s in the same boat as me: “Why was I stepping, dazed, into the street?” Maybe because she’s an idiot with a death wish.

Ignoring the protestations of Jessica (who, after all, already served her purpose), Bella keeps going until she hears “his” voice. She doesn’t drop a name, but who else could it be than the only person she ever bothered to pay any attention (notice I didn’t say “listen to”)? His voice reminds her of her promise not to do anything stupid (which she was too numb at the time to actually be capable of promising), and Bella realizes she’s having a hallucination.

Almost if she’s making allowances for the people like me reading her book, Meyer has Bella entertain two possibilities. “Option one: I was crazy. That was the layman’s term for people who heard voices in their heads. Possible.” While it’s amusing for her to admit she could in fact be crazy, don’t act like Bella understands things better than normal people, if you please. She doesn’t. You only have to read a chapter of any of these books to see that.

“Option two: My subconscious mind was giving me what it thought I wanted. This was wish fulfillment--a momentary relief from pain by embracing the incorrect idea that he cared whether I lived or died.” Yes, that’s why he exacted a promise from her not to do anything stupid or reckless before he left. Because he doesn’t care if she lives or dies. Because he really was only thinking of Charlie when he asked. Then again, I don’t have to say the only thing Bella’s honestly good at is deluding herself, do I?

“My reaction was hardly sane, though--I was grateful.” Yes, she’s grateful to hear Edward rebuking her for being a dumbass again. It says more than I could ever put into words that the only way for Bella to reconnect with her happy memories of Edward is to do something dangerous and trick her subconscious into making her hear him telling her not to be a suicidal retard. How can anybody read these books and not see how flat-out disturbed Bella is?

But then it turns out “They were probably nice guys. Safe. I lost interest.” There you have it, Bella’s criteria for interesting guys.

9. Maybe Bella hasn’t got a death wish so much as she’s got no conception of what a threat to her life actually means: “ ‘What were you thinking?’ Jessica snapped. ‘You don’t know them--they could have been psychopaths!’ I shrugged, wishing she would let it go.”

Yeah, she took an interest in Bella’s life, but what does Bella care? She already got what she wanted out of Jessica for the night. Bella tries to initiate conversation on the way home to smooth things over in case she might need Jessica again (she doesn’t say that but do you really think there’s any other reason?), but Jessica’s not buying it and ignores her. Is Meyer admitting Bella’s a disturbed asocial creep or what?

10. Maybe she’s just dumb, on account of “As much as I struggled not to think of him, I did not struggle to forget.” You see, “the precise color of his eyes, the feel of his cool skin, or the texture of his voice. I could not think of them, but I must remember them.”

Meyer probably thought she was being all deep and metaphysical with descriptions like that for how Bella refuses to think of Edward but can’t let go of the good times they had, but since remembering something is thinking about it, she instead succeeded only in creating an oxymoron. Sorry Steph, try again.

And that’s why Bella refuses to move out of Forks. “Because there was just one thing that I had to believe to be able to live--I had to know that he existed.” If she left Forks, she’d find that harder to do. Because even after he’s gone and she’ll never see him again ever, the only thing that keeps Bella going is Edward. Congratulations, Meyer. You’ve created the most pathetic “heroine” ever published.

I don’t like to attack authors for anything besides their writing abilities or lack thereof, but with all the parallels people have drawn between author and narrator…

11. Gotta love how Bella bids Jessica farewell. “I’d forgotten her by the time I was inside.” Isn’t it sweet how Bella wasted Jessica’s time and scared her by going up to a bunch of strangers in an unfamiliar town for no reason? Suddenly I can see why every guy around wants her so bad.

12. That’s how Bella got her groove back. By giving in to her suicidal instincts and letting her mind trick her into thinking she was hearing Edward’s voice. If only I could say anything was different from before, besides Edward actually being around to save her from this kind of thing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Moon Chapter 3: The End

1. The 3rd chapter out of 25 (the epilogue’s as long as a chapter so I’m counting it) is called The End. So it’s like the first episode of Red Dwarf or something. Except I don’t think Meyer wants me to laugh. Which is harder than if she was going for comedy.

2. “I felt absolutely hideous in the morning.” That could mean a couple different things. She goes on to describe how she didn’t sleep well and her arm hurts again, so that’s what she meant. With how she’s always berating herself for being plain and unworthy of associating with the Cullens, it could’ve just as easily meant that.

“I was afraid of the time I’d spent unconscious, afraid that he might have been thinking about right and wrong again while he watched me sleep.” With the way he and his family forced to her to attend a party, forced her to accept gifts, and how he conversationally mentioned how he came up with ways to kill himself, that does sound like something that doesn’t bother Edward a lot.

3. Geez I’m not even off the first page of this chapter and I’m up to my third criticism. “Edward was waiting for me at usual, but his face was still wrong.” Like the end of the last chapter, this would carry more weight if we had more of an idea of what his face looked like when it was “right.” When he laughs at and belittles her? That seems like the only time he’s ever enjoying himself. She goes on to add, “There was something buried in his eyes that I couldn’t be sure of--and it scared me.” Again, this works better if we have a basis for comparison. We don’t, because when we see them they’re just talking about how much they love each other at best, annoying each other at medium, or one or the other (mostly Bella) is facing death at worst.

It just gets me that Edward spent the entire previous book, right up until he was talking to her in the hospital in the last chapter, saying he was constantly fighting his vampire instinct to drink her blood. Months of story time have passed, and apparently not one minute of that time was spent thinking of ways to lessen that danger or how to react to it if it ever came to pass. Sounds like that summer was the happiest ever because they spent the whole time denying any downsides to their relationship as hard as they could.

4. Let one shimmer of doubt into her existence, and Bella lets it take over her mind. She gets so worried she can’t even remember how Alice’s powers are supposed to be so great she can use them to predict the stock market, instead wondering what she saw in “her strange, imperfect visions of the future”. If that’s what those visions are, why should it matter, because the Cullens would probably be in the habit of not paying attention to them.

“Was there a foundation for the tenuous, instinctive fears that I couldn’t seem to shake?” Love that “instinctive.” She’s so down on herself she doesn’t trust the perfect boyfriend who she loves more than anyone has ever loved anyone to help her find a way to straighten things out. What was I talking about all those times? Obviously this is a strong relationship based on true love.

“Edward remained aloof.” See? They’re working through this as people who understand and trust each other.

Sarcasm aside, I don’t see the slightest bit of trust, intelligence, or least of all love in this relationship. I can easily blame all the pitfalls on their relationship on them and not the cruel hand of fate. As a result (of this and because Stephenie Meyer's so brain-numbingly predictable), I’m not really biting my nails hoping they make it through this.

5. While Edward looks at “the granola bar he was slowly pulverizing between his fingertips” (great cover act there, Steph), Bella asks where Alice is. She’s with Jasper, who’s with that clan out in Denali that was mentioned briefly in the previous book. Another group of vampires (“good ones like the Cullens,” ha ha!) lives out there. Not much else is mentioned about them here except one of the members of that group is named Tanya.

But back to the original point. “ ‘And Alice, too,’ I said with quiet desperation.” Is she desperate because the only other Cullen who genuinely seems to like her is gone? Or is it because without Alice around, her only other door into the world of vampirism is closed? I honestly can't tell. Bella tries to convince herself Alice will have to come back at some point, but it doesn’t really shed any light on the source of her concern. Some might say being unsure about that for a main character we’re supposed to like is a problem. But since in this book even more than the last Bella mainly seems to see her “friends” in terms of what use she can get out of them, I’m leaning toward the second possibility.

Bella’s so clueless about people she calms herself down by figuring that Edward will probably remove the danger of his family members attacking her by taking her away and living together. Just because she’s willing to give up everything to be with him doesn’t mean he’s willing to do the same. As sort of implied by Edward talking about what a big sacrifice it actually is on several occasions.

6. When Bella gets home Edward’s there, but “Something was very wrong, maybe more wrong than I’d realized.” Apparently because instead of making her the center of his attention, Edward’s watching the game with her dad. Which game? Edward supposedly likes baseball, right? She doesn’t say.

I care even less about this relationship because this is immediately a source of anxiety for Bella. Maybe Edward’s just trying to make things go more smoothly by making nice with her dad. So Charlie might, you know, see that Edward’s an okay guy and not have problems with them going out. Jeebus Cripes, the next thing out of Bella’s mouth after she told her dad she and Edward were an item was “I hope you’re getting all this ‘protective parent’ crap out of your system now.” Maybe it’s weird because Edward and Charlie bonded so much already over summer vacation, BUT I DON’T KNOW THAT BECAUSE MEYER DOESN’T SAY A DAMN THING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.

7. Bella asks herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” realizes that was the wrong thing to ask herself because she makes someone like me look like a dazzling optimist, and shifts to “what’s the worst I can live through?” Not seeing Edward’s family anymore, she thinks, but “Of course, he wouldn’t expect Alice to be part of that,” presumably to indicate she does think of Alice as an actual friend. I stand by Bella seeing Alice as a ticket to vampirism, though.

Bella then looks over her birthday presents from her parents and thinks about actually leaving her family to be with Edward. “Somehow, living without her for as long as I had did not make the idea of a more permanent separation easier. And Charlie would be left all alone here, abandoned.” Remembering just why you walked right into James’s trap last book, huh? And forgetting how Charlie somehow survived never seeing his family for years until Bella moved in with him again for her mom’s sake. “But we’d come back, right? We’d visit, of course, wouldn’t we?”

What part of the Cullens’ “abandon your old life” rule are you not getting, sweetheart? Also gotta love the lines “Change was coming. I could feel it. It wasn’t a pleasant prospect, not when life was perfect the way it was.” How could it be perfect when she’s not young and hot forever like Edward? Wasn’t that the point of the previous chapters? Even the end of the previous book?

8. Bella starts taking pictures with the camera her mom got her, which I’m really only mentioning because it’ll be a minor plot point later, and then Edward leaves, saying he won’t even sneak into Bella’s room that night. So why did he come at all?

9. The next day Bella thinks about how she’ll miss Forks, evidently having convinced herself at some point that Edward’s really decided to run away with her (where, I honestly don't think it says). Even though he didn’t stay the night before and left without even giving her a goodbye kiss. “Edward apparently hadn’t gotten over things during the night.” Welcome to the world of real relationships, Bells. You and your partner will have many disagreements, and they’ll only go away like magic if one of you decides it isn’t worth fighting over anymore and concedes the point just to get some peace. That’s Bella’s racket, not Edward’s. Besides, “My boyfriend’s brother almost ate me” isn’t an issue anyone with the brainpower Bella’s supposed to have would be pretending didn’t happen so they can get back to their chaste little cuddle. Not that Bella thinks so: “It was hard to even remember the reason for all this mess.” Page 66.

And just to remind us of the Romeo and Juliet comparison, Bella’s so caught up in her fantasies of running away with Edward she doesn’t realize her English teacher’s trying to ask her about Lady Capulet.

10. Edward parts company quickly after school and Bella accepts that maybe some time apart will help things settle down. Once again, welcome to real life.

On the way to work Bella drops off the film she took the night before (Bella’s mom got her a camera that uses actual film? Is she a hopeless romantic or something?), and admires the pictures after work. As usual she’s awestruck by Edward’s prettiness, but “his face was colder, more like a sculpture, less alive.” As I keep saying, the only time he seems really emotive is when he’s either mocking Bella or annoyed by her trying to be an independent thinker. He doesn’t sound like a really lively person.

11. Anyway, “He did beat me home.” Yeah, you’d kind of think so when Edward can jump in and out of school at whim and thinks any speed with less than three digits is too slow. Edward takes Bella for a walk in the woods and immediately all that effort she put into convincing herself Edward was going to elope with her for some reason goes to shit and she’s immediately sure something’s wrong. Also “he didn’t wait for an answer.” That Edward’s evidently still in the habit of forcing his will on girlfriend, I don’t know why that would stand out to Bella.

You know what happens next. He tells Bella they’re leaving, and she’s not coming. She brings up the theological stuff and claims she doesn’t care if she loses her soul by becoming a vampire or going out with him or whatever. I don't like talking about religious stuff, but you can't lose something you didn't have. The only higher being who'd be impressed by Bella is the one making money off her annoying love life.

“You’re not good for me, Bella,” Edward says as if driving his icy fist right through her heart.  “How well I knew that I wasn’t good enough for him.” Yes you are, Bella. You’re both equally big wastes of skin.

12. Edward exacts a last promise not to “do anything stupid or reckless. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Since I’ve been saying the fact that he’d come running probably had something to do with her acting that way…

By the way, for the rest of the book until they meet again and talk this out (you honestly think that's a spoiler?), Bella, queen of the gullible morons that she is, totally buys that Edward's leaving because he doesn't love her anymore. She never entertains the possibility that he's leaving BECAUSE he loves her and doesn't want to take the risk of spending eternity knowing the girl he loved was killed by someone else he also loved who just couldn't resist their nature. Even with him asking her to stay out of danger. Then again, she probably also buys that...

“I’m thinking of Charlie, of course,” Edward clarifies. “He needs you.” The books keep saying this, but the one thing they never bother to contradict is how he managed to oh yeah SURVIVE ON HIS OWN FOR YEARS WITHOUT HIS MORONIC DAUGHTER AROUND TO COOK HIS MEALS.

I notice I haven’t mentioned it yet, but Charlie’s been acting a bit more gruff towards Bella than he did in the last book. Not that she doesn’t deserve worse, and maybe it’s because of that stupid little tirade she threw not getting explained.

As he vanishes into the green, Edward himself promises “It will be as if I never existed.” That would only be humanly possible with someone who can shut off parts of their brain at will. Then again since he’s never really gotten to know anyone outside the family in his century of life and most of them don’t seem worthy of interaction, maybe he doesn’t know brains don’t work like that for most people.

He gets in one last insult at Bella as he goes. “You’re human--your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind.” And not his kind? “Memories fade”? Anything? Oh wait, he gives us this too: “I won’t forget. But my kind…we’re very easily distracted.” Dammit Steph, can you stick to anything?

Bella realizes that Alice isn't coming back either, and I still don't know which possibility is the one Bella's more upset over.

13. Realizing that all “Love, life, meaning…over,” Bella goes wandering around the woods numbly until she realizes it’s strange that no moonlight seems to be filtering through the trees. “Tonight the sky was utterly black. Perhaps there was no moon tonight--a lunar eclipse, a new moon.”

That doesn’t sound shoehorned in at all! I can’t even imagine how Meyer planned to work “Midnight Sun” into the narrative. I could get into what exactly a new moon is, but I’m 21 pages into this mess and I’m not even done yet. Dana can handle it.

14. Bella returns to reality when someone finds her and carries her home. “Some part of me knew this should upset me--being carried away by a stranger. But there was nothing left in me to upset.” When was there anything in her in the first place? Besides the hormones that drove her into Edward’s embrace against any actual thinking?

Turns out pretty much the whole blamed town--even some of Billy's friends from La Push--turned out to comb the woods when Bella didn’t come home. Because this mopey little puke matters so much to the town.

Bella overhears her dad talking to some of the search party about how the Cullens left town suddenly because Carlisle got a sudden offer in another city. “ ‘A little warning might have been nice,’ Charlie grumbled.” I don’t see why Carlisle would feel obligated to clear his plans with Charlie. It’s not as if Meyer bothered to portray them as friends or even knowing each other that well. Remember how Charlie got Edward’s name wrong when he found out his daughter was going out with the Cullen boy?

“I didn’t want to listen anymore,” Bella groans and pulls a quilt over her head. Feel free to tell me about one time she wanted to listen to anything that wasn’t Edward explaining vampires.

15. Charlie gets on the phone with Billy and thanks him for sending the guys from La Push. “You were right--they do know the forest better than we do.” Because that’s not stereotypical at all. Then again what do I expect from a woman who wrote a book set in the 21st century who seriously had a Native American teen call white settlers “pale faces”?

Turns out that people up at La Push have been lighting bonfires in celebration of the Cullens moving away. Bella reiterates briefly how the Quileutes, the tribe that lives at La Push in case you forgot and who can blame you, have legends about “the cold ones,” the enemies of the tribe. I can’t help but notice how she talks about the legends without saying anything to acknowledge that they aren’t “stupid superstitions” at all. Almost as if they sound as dumb to her as they sound to Jacob.

16. After escaping from her father and the people who came out to look for her, Bella goes up to her room to find the CD of Edward playing the piano gone, plus the pictures she took the other day with him in them. But not the caption she wrote underneath one of them: “Edward Cullen, Charlie’s Kitchen, Sept. 13th.”

I’d like to remind everyone she actually took that picture the day after her birthday and move on.

Move on to her remembering Edward’s parting words: “It will be as if I’d never existed.” Nice job disposing of the evidence, genius. I don’t like to get ahead of myself, but soon we find out Bella pulled the new stereo out of her truck so he left that too.

After some more pseudo-arty narration, Bella sinks into the sea of despair. “I did not resurface.”

Then that part starts. You know, the one where there’s four pages with just one word on them. October, November, December, January. What exactly is this story supposed to be again? It’s told in the past tense so it doesn’t feel like a stream-of-consciousness narrative. If she’s telling it to someone, wouldn’t you think sooner or later, probably sooner, someone would stop her and say “Yeah, yeah, we get it, Edward Cullen is good looking! Yeah, you felt really miserable when he dumped you! Do you have to take all night explaining one thing, only to spend the next night explaining the same thing again?”

Or, here’s what I think, Bella Swan really is the Stephenie Meyer of her dimension, like Jake Stonebender’s the Spider Robinson of his (does that mean I'm the Madeleine Moore of my dimension?). And despite professing to know so much about the classical romances, she records her story like this because she doesn’t know a damn thing about engendering sympathy or keeping a narrative from bogging down either. Maybe because it was never meant to be read. Yumpin’ yiminey…

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ace Lightning (PC)

Before we begin I want to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. This game refuses to cooperate with my crummy screencap program, so the pictures I used are stolen from the Ace Lightning Wiki. But I really do own this game, honest!

This review isn’t about the cult superhero/coming of age show where Mark Hollander is unwillingly made a participant in the war between good and evil when the characters of his favorite videogame come to life and continue their struggle in the wilds of suburban Canada. It won’t question decisions like ending the second season on a cliffhanger despite being only half the length of the first (which didn’t end on a cliffhanger). It won’t even mention how this show is probably what got Tamara Evans the gig of voicing Mystique in Wolverine and the X-Men. This review is about the PC game supposedly representing the one in the show, and it will question decisions like seemingly handing the development to people who might’ve been familiar with videogames at one point, circa 1987 or so.

In the 6th Dimension live the heroic Lightning Knights: Sparx (who’s not in the game), Random Virus (who is in the game. As a boss), and Ace Lightning. The skeletal villain Lord Fear steals the almighty Amulet of Zoar in hopes of using it to conquer the universe He’s stopped by Ace, but in the process the amulet is shattered. So of course Ace needs to fight his way through Fear’s Carnival of Doom to reassemble the amulet and be allowed to enter Death Mountain, uh, the Haunted House for a final showdown.

Looking a little unsure there, Ace.

That is if you’re willing to put up with occasionally twitchy controls, an occasionally adversarial camera and constantly generic gameplay. Yeah, this game’s fault isn’t that it’s bad, but that it seems like the people who made it had little to no idea what makes 21st century games engaging. The power-ups lying around the levels have an old-timey feel to them as well. Like “lightning juice” to refill Ace’s life bar, a magic shield that makes him invincible for a few seconds (and which did something totally different when it appeared in the show), and boots that let Ace double jump. Why does he need to jump anywhere when he can fly? And in fact is flying when he arrives at the carnival? You even collect coins, for crying out loud!

As further evidence that this game was made by people whose sensibilities about videogames were out of touch with the mainstream, a version was released for the PS2 with a pair of bonus levels. That is, two regular levels thrown in as a bonus, not optional levels where you get bonuses. Yes, I’ve talked to people who for the life of them couldn’t understand why they didn’t find any bonus levels in the console port.

The camera, like in more games than I’d care to mention, can sometimes be your biggest enemy. While you’re just playing the game it’s generally not too bad, but in the boss fights it can be a pain. See, in most boss fights you can’t directly attack the enemy, either because they spend most of the fight out of your reach or because they have a force field. Random Virus, being the most powerful character in the show, has both going for him.

He even has the power to sound like Wolverine. In the show, anyway.

This means you usually have to find some indirect way to hurt the boss. For instance, you freeze Googler with a shot, but it won’t do you any good unless he’s also standing right next to a barrel of dynamite you can shoot next. In the fight with Dirty Rat, the little guy floats around in a bubble while a giant cowboy statue runs around the room, and the only way to hurt the boss is to lure the giant cowboy statue into crashing into him. Thing is this requires you to focus on two sides of a gigantic room at once, where the giant cowboy statue is and where Dirty Rat is. And Dirty Rat moves around unpredictably, forcing you to basically spin the camera during the entire fight to be able to position yourself correctly to arrange a crash with the right guy.

Aside from the rather catchy theme song that plays over the title screen, the music is about as forgettable as you’ll ever hear and be unable to discuss fifteen minutes later. Graphically, the game look like a Sims title with a Halloween costume expansion. The visuals are some of the most lifeless in any game of this century. And there’s no multiplayer, so despite what the theme says you do, in fact, “have to play this game all aloooooone!”

Since when does Anvil walk on his hind legs?

Really, it’s no surprise the game is so boring. The show was about taking some very typical comic book-style heroes and villains and having them continue their feud, while also showing what happens when such characters are taken out of an environment built to accommodate them. I’m not ashamed to admit I liked the show overall, but that had nothing to do with the depth of the non-human characters. Show them while they’re still in their natural environment, and the story sequences and dialogue clips will amount to the some of the most bland characters and settings you’ll ever see. Standards for entertainment must be a lot lower in the universe where this game’s popular enough to have regional fan clubs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Filmation’s Ghostbusters #1

As painful an admission as it may be for some of us, Pete, Ray and Egon weren’t the original Ghostbusters. In 1975, Filmation, the company best known for being behind the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, released a comedy show about a pair of detectives and their gorilla who were sent after a different ghost in every episode. The result was a glacially-paced show that relied on lame puns and tired slapstick for its laughs, and the detectives were played by those two guys from F-Troop. Unsurprisingly only a single season of 15 episodes was made.

Although this might be a step up from The Crawling Eye.

Of course in 1984 a certain spooky comedy came out and busting ghosts was hip all of a sudden. Since they had a property called “The Ghost Busters” out first, Filmation was able to make a cartoon revival of their original show, starring Jake and Eddie, the grown sons of the original detectives. Most of their adventures had them battling the unimaginatively named villainous ghost, Prime Evil. This more than anything else is probably why the cartoon based on the movie was called The Real Ghostbusters.

But as you’ll remember if you were around back then, the movie property was huge, and to get a piece of the action Filmation had to pull out all the stops. Like getting a tie-in comic book. Not just a comic book either, an interactive comic book. And to release the first issue as a Halloween special, just when kids are thinking about ghosts and goblins.

So why am I not saving this for an October post, you ask? Because they didn’t save it for an October release, that’s why.

We open on the Ghostbusters’ office where pudgy, scaredy cat (boy is he in the wrong line of work) comic relief Eddie is trying on costumes before they go to a Halloween party (why’s everybody else wearing a normal outfit?). You wouldn’t think this would be something that would excite them, since ghosts are kind of their job. Heck, I don’t even know why they’d be planning anything social on Halloween. Not only would you assume that’s when the most ghosts are out, it was a plot point not only in this comic but an episode of the show too. And yes, I’m pathetic for knowing that.

Cleverly-named time-traveling sorceress Futura pops in then because…the story about to be unveiled involves time travel and she’d be handy to have around. Also along for the ride for some reason is intrepid female journalist Jessica Wray.

Because in the future they've solved racial differences by painting everyone purple.
Since Eddie can’t make up his mind what costume to wear, the comic asks you to help sort things out. That is, by presenting a picture of Eddie in his underwear and asking you to draw a costume on top of it.

Let’s just skip to the “plot,” which has Prime Evil traveling back in time to some nebulous medieval kingdom to enlist all the ghosts running amok there on Halloween. He sends Mysteria, one of the ghosts already working for him, to put out fires around the local castle to ward off the ghosts. Because that’s easier than having her make a circuit around the castle and pick up the ghosts that can’t get through because of those fires? If ghosts can put out the fires, how are the fires supposed to keep them away in the first place?

By the way, this comic spells her name with a Y, but considering the show calls her “mistress of mists,” I’m spelling it with an I. If Filmation doesn’t like it they can send me a letter.

A magician sees what they’re up to and runs back to the castle to warn the king, zapping ghosts in half with his wand on the way. Gee, that looks kind of lethal.

When said magician, who’s named Morton, tries to think of what he can do about Prime Evil he remembers how the original Ghostbusters saved the kingdom from a dragon once. This is picking nits, I admit, but that’s kind of a stretch considering Filmation was infamous for doing everything it possibly could to keep costs down. Every episode of the original show took place in the same haunted castle to save on things like time travel effects and new sets.


But whatever. After several unsuccessful (and unfunny) attempts to remember what it is future people use to talk to each other over long distances, Morton calls the current Ghostbusters just as Jake’s given up on the costume thing and is just mocking Eddie.

After agreeing to help, Jake has the others get a file from a living, smartass filing cabinet (which believe it or not was a running gag on the original show, which believe it or not they apparently thought was so funny it was worth bringing back). This explains the whole building fires to repel ghosts on Halloween thing, but since this show just made things up as it went along (I once read an interview with Jake’s voice actor who said the show didn’t even have a writer’s bible) I don’t feel compelled to find out if this used to be an actual Halloween ritual. Let’s move on to that tried-and-true time-consuming device, the transformation sequence.

Like on He-Man, almost every episode involved the heroes changing from their regular look to one more suited to fighting bad guys. Unlike in He-Man where the transformation gave him a tan and super-powers, in this cartoon it just involved them changing their clothes in this insanely elaborate machine in some kind of parallel dimension in the upper floors of their house.

If you think it sounds ridiculous, you should try watching it. When nothing was edited out, it could run for an entire minute and a half. On a show that, counting opening, end credits, and post-episode sermonette, ran for about 22 and a half minutes.

The comic actually skips over this part and gets straight to the Ghostbusters riding their talking car into the past, which leads into the next activity. It’s a maze through time, and warns you not to screw up or the Ghostbusters will show up too late to help. Even though they’re time traveling.

Presumably helping the busters to arrive in time, they find Misteria menacing a couple of knights as they build a fire. They distract her by having Jessica disguise herself as Misteria, distracting her long enough to be zapped by their Dematerializer gun. Which does exactly what it says, and makes the ghost disappear…for a while. So the writers can have them be back whenever a script might call for them. Suppose it's just as well they don't actually appear to be running a business. The grateful knights direct them to the castle on top of a giant hill and the busters ride off, right onto the next activity page. Which is the easiest hidden object puzzle in the world.

Good thing you were here, Gomez. We woulda never found it without you.

Prime Evil sees that the busters have come back in time to spoil his fun, and sends another of his ghosts, Sir Trance-a-Lot, to deal with them, and issues a strangely graphic threat for a comic meant for little kids.

Once they’ve gotten past the easiest hidden object puzzle in the world, the busters explain they’re not the ones Morton called for, since their dads have retired (because time’s continuous even when you’re doing something across time, apparently) then head up to his workshop to find something to use to get rid of Prime Evil. Witness Jessica’s hypocrisy, or perhaps just acknowledgement that even they don’t know why they let Eddie save the world with them.

Jessica finds a spell book with a spell to get rid of ghosts, but for some reason the words are in code and the spell has to be cast right after it’s decoded or it won’t be powerful enough to get rid of Prime Evil. Not sure how that works, since the show was actually fairly consistent about how magic works (in that magicians just learn how to channel the energy without words), but then we needed yet another activity page for some reason.

Sir Trance-a-Lot rides up the castle, so Jake has the princesses (and Eddie in a dress) distract him so their gorilla buddy can zap him with the Dematerializer. As opposed to hiding behind a corner and zapping him as soon as he comes into sight.

Not sure why this rigamarole was needed except to kill a page and a half, considering that when Morton casts the spell it makes all the ghosts, even the building Prime Evil lives in, disappear.

With the ghosts vanquished the kingdom gets to have its Halloween party after all. And Eddie’s still in a dress for some reason even though Jake changed into a Robin Hood outfit for the occasion. And the girls want to leave right as things are getting started. Women, huh?

Another activity page, but with no effort to connect it with the story. Just a word find and how to draw half of Prime Evil’s face.

Then there’s the answer pages to the other games, and then six pages about how you can draw the characters from the show. As if anybody in the show’s demographic has that kind of attention span.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Moon Chapter 2: Stitches

1. Yeah, Bella gets stitches in this chapter, but man does Stephenie Meyer pick lame names.

2. The others manage to grab Jasper and get him out of the room before he drinks Bella dry (damn). As Rosalie helps escort Jasper out, Bella notices “her divine face [was] strangely smug.” Strange, you say? Look, Bella may not be able to explain why, but she’s certainly noticed Rosalie doesn’t like her. Maybe it's because now Rosalie's got evidence they shouldn’t let Bella be around them. Or more darkly, maybe she thinks it’s funny that Edward tossed her across the table and she was cut up even more by the broken crystal. What happened to Bella’s inexplicable ability to know what people are thinking from the last book? I complained about it often enough.

3. Carlisle checks out Bella’s slashed arm and makes a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding. He offers to take her to the hospital or take care of the cut she got flying across the table right there, and she elects to stay there because if she went to the hospital there’d be no way to keep news of the visit from getting back to her dad. I’ll buy that in a small town, so while the offer makes Carlisle look gracious it doesn’t make him look very wise. And he’s supposed to be the one who’s got everything under control.

Neither does Edward when he decides to hang around and watch as his girlfriend’s treated. Excuse me, wasn’t he the one saying he hungered for Bella’s blood just because her smell’s so much nummier than a regular person’s? When it’s still on the inside of her skin, that is. Edward seems like a very emotional, very obstinate guy. He also doesn’t seem very smart, as isn’t being there as his girlfriend gets sewn up supposedly a constant exercise in restraint so he doesn’t try to chomp her too? What makes him think he needs to be there? To know Bella’s okay? Is that worth the risk of making her worse, which we just saw to be real? How is this guy the ultimate boyfriend again?

Also, does it seem like I try to have the whole “temptation to eat Bella” thing both ways? I feel like I do.

4. As Carlisle picks the glass out of Bella’s arm and sews her up, they (what else??) sit around and talk. I must once again question why Bella wants anything to do with the Cullens when Carlisle tells her what happened could’ve happened to anyone, she says, “But it usually just happens to me,” and he laughs. Again, that is, because he’d just laughed at her crack at how she can clear a room if nothing else. Does she actually get off on being miserable? That would explain a lot.

The conversation turns to Carlisle’s view on what happens to someone’s soul when they become a vampire, which is part of why the Cullens gave up munching on people. Now, one of the rules I always try to uphold is I don’t attack religious beliefs. I may voice disagreement with the way the beliefs are presented, but I try to stay away from the beliefs themselves and yes it’s possible to do that. Since they’re talking about how religion applies to something that doesn’t exist no matter how much Stephenie Meyer wishes otherwise, I’m prepared to waive that rule here.

Sayeth Carlisle, “By all accounts, we’re damned regardless. But I hope, maybe foolishly, that we’ll get some measure of credit for trying.”

Okay, what accounts? Where does it say you automatically forfeit your soul by becoming a vampire? Someplace more official than Joss Whedon or Anne Rice’s body of work, I mean. Is that so even if it’s through someone else’s will? And if Carlisle believes that, it sounds like he was saying “screw your soul, I could use someone I can relate to” when he converted the other members of his family. Gee, that’s not consistent with the image that’s been presented of him at all. Bella reinforces that image when she thinks, “I couldn’t imagine anyone, deity included, who wouldn’t be impressed by Carlisle.” But let’s remember she thinks Edward’s her perfect guy so what the hell does she know about psychology?

Not a lot, judging by how “the only kind of heaven I could appreciate would have to include Edward.” Neither does Carlisle: “I look at my…son. His strength, his goodness, the brightness that shines out of him--” This is part of why it’s a fact Meyer’s a bad writer. She can’t actually write Edward as a character with redeeming qualities without ruining his mystique or something, so she has to have everyone else say how awesome he is. Sorry Steph, try again.

5. She can’t even keep the theological implications of turning people into vampires consistent. Carlisle asks Bella if she’s willing to risk Edward’s soul by having him convert her into a sparklepire. Wait, does he or doesn’t he think they already lost their souls just by becoming vampires? That’s what Edward believes. So what does he figure he’s got to lose by converting Bella? With how comfortable he is with his superiority, especially over Bella, I find it hard to believe it’s because he honestly cares about screwing up her life. That just sounds like a cheap excuse to keep the climax of their relationship from coming too early. As for Edward not wanting to convert Bella because he thinks it would cost her her chance to get into heaven, well, he's deluding himself if he doesn't see what a shallow, selfish, manipulative little witch she is. Since he appears to depend on his mind-reading power to learn anything about someone and that doesn't work on Bella, maybe that's to be expected.

Bella thinks she might, in fact, have qualms about asking Edward to risk his soul for her even though she wouldn’t miss a beat doing the same for him. Let me point something out. If she can’t get Edward to make her a vampire, college isn’t really Bella’s backup plan. It’s getting Alice to make her a vampire. Is she willing to risk Alice’s soul? Based on how distraught she is when she hears Alice left and isn’t coming back, cutting off that option, one has to wonder.

Carlisle goes on to ask, “But was it right to doom the others to this life? I can’t decide.” If you’re describing the act as “dooming” them, maybe not, huh? He thinks back on what made up his mind to convert Edward, when Edward’s real mom told Carlisle to save him from influenza as if she knew what he really was and what he could do. He doesn’t seem to consider that maybe she was just delusional from being almost dead from sickness and thinking he could do something for Edward that he couldn’t do for her. I admit I’m not a doctor but I’m probably a little closer to one than Stephenie Meyer.

I could go on about what a religious man thought he was doing by yanking someone back from the threshold of death who was beyond saving by medical means, but instead I’ll just tell you what Carlisle was thinking right before he vamped Edward: “Sick as he was, he was still beautiful. There was something pure and good about his face. The kind of face I would have wanted my son to have.”

6. Bella feels so responsible for what happened she tries to get Esme to let her take over cleaning up after Edward saving her life in the most violent way possible. Selfless acts don’t really seem that selfless when the subject considers themselves a complete waste of skin the way Bella does. That is, if they have no self to begin with. Especially if the only thing to bring meaning to their existence is something as questionable as Edward Cullen.

7. Bella delivers the remark “Charlie was never surprised to see me bandaged.” Yet she doesn’t want him to know she was at the hospital? Getting slightly mixed messages.

As she leaves to have Edward drive her home, Bella’s reminded by Alice to “Take your things!” Because her only personality trait is to use Bella as a mechanism to experience the things she never got a chance to, like playing dress-up and getting birthday presents. And Meyer says Alice is proof she’s not anti-feminist.

8. Bella and Edward have another of their riveting conversations on the drive home. She blames herself for what happened, he tells her she shouldn’t. Edward hints Bella should be going out with some normal guy instead of him, whose entire family doesn’t have the urge to eat her.

Bella, of course, doesn’t take well to the idea that she could ever be with anyone except sparkly stalker boy. “I’d rather die than be with Mike Newton. I’d rather die than be with anyone but you.” As always, the question is WHY??? As always, the answer is there isn’t one, other than because Meyer says so. Besides, Bella has absolutely no regard for herself and probably says that very lightly.

Bella “racked my brain for some way to salvage the evening. When we pulled up in front of my house, I still hadn’t come up with anything.” Since she’s never had a social life, still doesn’t, you wouldn’t really think her people skills would be worth spit, no.

9. Bella asks Edward to spend the night in her room without her caregiver’s knowledge as a birthday gift. He replies she can’t want something for her birthday if she didn’t want a birthday. Even though he made that decision for her by forcing her to attend a birthday party. Dingus.

10. Charlie asks how the party was when she goes inside (Edward of course going in through her bedroom window). He does, in fact, notice the bandage on her arm. She doesn’t even know her own father well enough to predict what he’ll do. She brushes it off by rushing upstairs as fast as she can. Then she spends most of a paragraph talking about how she’s replaced her pajamas since the last book. Because that matters.

11. Edward gives Bella a couple other presents, including plane tickets for the two of them to visit her mom in Florida, which will work just fine because he’ll never be able to go outside during the day when Bella’s mom will be up for, you know, doing things. Which even Bella points out. Like it’s cute instead of retarded, that is.

He also gives her a CD of his piano compositions, no doubt recorded on equipment so cutting edge it would make most of the music industry weep with envy, which moves Bella to tears. All it manages with the reader is to reaffirm how Meyer’s not only a bad writer but blind to her shortcomings. Which is the worst kind of bad writer, and sadly the most common.

12. Bella complains to herself about how her arm’s starting to bother her, and wants ice for it. She’d even “have settled for his hand, but that would have given me away.” Why, I ask. Is she so damn hung up on the time she gets to be with Edward it’s not worth taking a minute to go downstairs and get some ice? I generally find contact with my loved ones more enjoyable when I’m not, you know, distracted by pain. If she doesn’t want to have to deal with Charlie, couldn’t she ask her ninja stalker boyfriend to get her some? Or to put his hand there, which would achieve the same thing without him having to go anywhere? It’s not like he’d be doing anything more intimate with his hand anyway. Is she unwilling to admit weakness because she’s afraid it’ll hurt her chances of convincing Edward she can hack it as a vampire after all?

If I have to ask all these questions of the narrator of all people, something’s wrong with your book.

13. Bella talks some about how she doesn’t feel bad about not telling her dad that Edward spends the night with her a lot. “It wasn’t as if we were up to anything he wouldn’t want me to be up to.” But you would be if Edward didn’t insist on upholding his old-fashioned sensibilities and you weren't in the habit of regularly losing arguments with him, so shut up.

Edward gets up to get Bella some pain relievers, which she takes. “I knew I would lose that argument. Because I suck at everything.” Okay, okay, that second sentence isn’t really in the book. But the sentiment sure is.

14. After Edward annoys Bella again by remarking she’s greedy for wanting another kiss, a paragraph’s spent describing it. Mainly how contact this close almost makes him give in to his instincts. “…and though I was clearly beginning to cross his cautious lines, for once he didn’t stop me.” He doesn’t stop her by letting her hang around him and his bloodsucker family in the first place. Look what almost happened at the party. Bella certainly isn’t. She asks for another smooch and he says “You’re overestimating my self-control,” and she downplays it like another vampire hadn’t almost killed her a few hours ago or something. Which he did.

“It had been a long day in so many ways, yet I felt no sense of relief at its end.” Which is it, Bells? Up til now she was acting like the fact that Jasper almost ate her was like missing that night’s episode of Criminal Minds. Not to imply Bella actually has interests.

“Almost as if something worse was coming tomorrow. It was a silly premonition--what could be worse than today?” A lot with how mellow you were about it. And I don’t know, but if I thought something was a “premonition” when I knew someone who had a supposedly wickedly awesome ability to have actual premonitions, I doubt I’d sweep it under the rug the way Bella does. Maybe that’s because I know pretending a problem doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. It just means you’re spending extra energy pretending it’s not there.

Maybe if Meyer read this blog she'd say that's proof of how Bella's not a weakling. Look at how fast she recovers from a near-death experience! She can't be weak! The thing is she's being so stupid about it. She hasn't recovered quickly, she's brushing it off as quickly as she can because it's distracting Edward from the far more vital business of having an extremely dubious relationship. This is something Edward's been trying to warn her could happen with anyone in his family since the beginning of their relationship, including him. Even if it isn't an actual danger.

As she drifts off to sleep Bella thinks back to when Edward kissed her in the last book just before the others took her to hide her from James. The kiss he just gave her was like that, a kiss goodbye, "not knowing when--or if--we would see each other again." And if Meyer had actually thought to show us some of the good parts of their relationship along with the bad, like maybe a little of summer vacation, showing us the bad would get more of a reaction. Instead Meyer chooses to start with a bad night that develops into something worse, making her seem kind of like a woman who’s creeping up on 40 who’s still going through her goth phase.