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Subnautica

This falls into what I'm starting to recognise as a category, computer games that are incredibly beautiful in multiple ways, but I play for five minutes and decide I don't have time to play properly. You crashland on an ocean planet, and oh my gosh, the water is so WET it practically comes out of your monitor. And warm and clear and inviting, with tropical reefs stretching endlessly.

The actual game is a bit like minecraft, find the right materials to feed into an emergency fabber to make more complicated tools to get more useful materials and components, until you eventually repair a distress beacon. (I don't know if that's all or if there's also underwater aliens or whatever).

Avatar on Wii

Rachel bought some old-ish games and it's been lovely to have something fun but simple-ish we can play together occasionally. One person controlling and one person kibitzing works surprisingly well, a lot is "what now" where having the trigger finger isn't the important thing.

It looks great, very avatar-y. It's not set at any particular point in the chronology but has a feel of an avatar well-respected but also young and unpracticed well. And your abilities work like that too: you have quite powerful abilities but you have to unlock them by levelling up, and they have cooldowns, so you feel powerful, but also like you can only succeed by being skillful, which fits the tone very well.

I have a few quibbles. The wolves appear intelligent to manufacture, or at least habitually carry, headbands of +2 armor, and yet not intelligent enough to avoid spontaneously attacking the most powerful humanoid bender on the planet. The avatar indiscriminately slaughtering wolves and taking their stuff seems tonally inconsistent on multiple levels. But that's computer games.

Also, Zuko can jump down behind Kitara and grab her and she's suddenly unable to fight back? Why didn't he try that on all the OTHER waterbenders there?

Flintstones comic

So... there's a gritty flintstones reboot. Except it's not *very* gritty. Not like gratuitous gore. But it deals with consumerism. And colonialism. And PTSD. And so on. I've no idea how this came about, but it works really quite surprisingly well. A few panels are incredibly biting. I loved the animals-used-as-appliances talking to each other, and calling the pet dinosaur a traitor.

On other occasions, it does veer a bit puerile, making simplistic jokes and criticisms of modern life that aren't especially telling. But worth reading some of.

Irredeemable

About a superteam where the most powerful superman-like member goes rogue and starts killing people, and everyone else has to figure out what they can do from there.

The worldbuilding and characters are pretty good -- it feels really LIKE famous superteams, while all the individual members are not knock-offs of specific characters from a single team, but embodying the *sort* of iconic characters that usually exist.

It's mostly about the characters, and what they do and their relationships with each other. There are quite a lot of *further* story developments of one sort or another, it doesn't just dwell on the premise forever with nothing evolving.

I've some quibbles. Things would drag on a lot less if people stopped going back and forth on when to try to contain someone and when it was necessary to kill them. And it's not a *lot* of sexism, but there's some.
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Patchwork

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/163412/patchwork

Present from ghoti (thank you!) It's a really really pretty game. You have a 9x9 quilt board and collect patches in various shapes (like various sized tetris pieces) and try to fit them into your board. Each patch has a cost, and you can only buy one of the next three available, so you have to trade off which ones are worth it right now.

But all of the things have a really nice hand-stitched feel.

And it's explicitly for two-player, when we don't have enough two-player games.

Catan Junior

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/125921/catan-junior

This really captured the feel of Catan while being really quick to pick up. I liked the pirate flavour. I'm not sure how much replayability it would have if all the players were fairly experienced, but I really liked playing it with K and Ms 7.
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Good Dinosaur, Pixar Film

An alternate history where dinosaurs became farmers and ranchers and mammals mostly didn't. Arlo, a young apatosaurus is separated from his family farm, and journeys to find it again.

It was really beautiful. The water animation was amazing, it looked really wet. And the characters were very evocative, especially the little boy Spot.

I didn't really fall in love with it the way I have with most Pixar films. I'm not sure if that's because it's aimed at slightly younger people (though some bits are pretty scary), or because there's less to the overall story, or because I've got more jaded. Liv and the Osos enjoyed it.

It was very strange to see the humans apparently lacking language. The visual communication was really good, especially with Spot, but also with the other humans, and other dinosaur characters. But it's very strange to see a child portrayed like a dog, even a very beloved dog.

Tropic of Serpents, book by Marie Brenan

Sequel to Natural History of Dragons.

The future lady Trent this time journeys to alternate-world Africa (I think?) to study swamp dragons. In several ways, I enjoyed it more than the first one. With Isabella already established with a patron and a vocation to study dragons, we move straight to the difficulties of arranging the voyage and what happens there, with less agonising over whether she will do that at all.

Writing about colonial powers, even in an alternate world, is a very risky choice. The book does a good job of characterising the people she meets as people: the Moulish, sparsely populated in their deadly swamp, nestled between the newly expansionist Ikwunde, and Bayembe, forced to flirt between accepting alt-British help and joining the rapidly congealing Talu union. And not just presenting them as interchangeable non-English background. But none of the characters of any nationality have very memorable personality, her patron is almost the only character I can imagine vividly. And I can't pretend to know how the book would be received by someone who'd actually lived in a country visited by colonialism.

This is a mild spoiler, but I really expect everyone to know or not be going to read it by not, and I think in many ways it's as or more interesting if you haven't read the books. Read more... )
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The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells

This is a tie-in story telling the back-story of a delusional brutal commander in a tabletop war-game. The story wasn't bad. I liked the intertwining of several time periods of him as a child, as a logger, as a mobster, as a hermit, as a commander, as a prisoner. Some people found it gratuitous, but I find it very natural to build up a picture of his life as a whole. But it wasn't good enough to make up for all the gratuitous killing :( But I don't know how much of that was due to the author and how much was due to the constraints of the tie-in; I've read very good tie-ins and would be interested to see if something else by Wells was better.

Wells was also listed on Correia's slate of proposed nominees, but I couldn't find him saying anything about it one way or the other, or any other link between him and Correia, and some people unrelated to Correia saying they liked some other books by his, so I don't have much of a bias either way.

Equoid by Charles Stross

I would say this was fairly typical of the other laundry stories and novels. I enjoyed it more than the other short stories (which I found were trying a bit too hard), but not as much as the first concrete cows one. It still had some humour which seemed to be trying a bit too hard (the "ruralshire" joke was tiresome the first time but made me smile a bit, but made me want to strangle Bob the tenth time he thought it!)

I completely skimmed over all the Stross-writing-as-lovecraft excerpts; I hear it's a lot more tedious if you don't.

I'm never sure how to rate stories that are good stand-alone, but don't really add anything new to previous books in the series.

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Pretty good. Exactly what you'd expect from the title, a fairly straight re-telling of Snow White, but in the wild west.

Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

I liked this a lot. I thought it unambiguously did have supernatural creatures in, but only brief encounters which didn't really affect the story, so I don't get why they were there?

Footnote on voting

When I'm asked to vote for my opinion on something, I always hesitate. I remember the same effect looking at political leaflets asking things like "what do you think should be the priority in your area [list of choices]". Am I supposed to vote for the one *I* enjoy the most? Or the one I think *most* people would enjoy the most? Or some compromise thereof?