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Friday, March 30, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage

Sometimes on Friday, I dump in silly little videos that have amused me in some way, shape, or form. Other times, they're videos that have gotten me thinking.

This time, it's a video about a video game.

If you read my review about Mass Effect 3, you know that I'm not entirely pleased with that game's ending. Neither are a lot of the fans. People have been trying to explain why and how to fix things for a while now. Well, I found a video this week that does just that.

A few caveats: there are spoilers aplenty. The video is over a half hour long. And there's some salty language in here. But after watching this video, I'm pretty much in agreement with just about everything this guy says. He breaks down the problems cleanly and points to how it could be so much better.

I doubt anyone from BioWare will find my little corner of the Internet. But if they do, watch this, please. And think about it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Incarceron

The Prison is alive.

Claudia is a young girl about to be forced into an arranged marriage for political reasons. She's only in that position, though, because her father is the Warden of Incarceron, a massive yet secret prison that no one has seen in centuries.

Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, and yet he's convinced that he came from Outside. No one believes him; no one has come from Outside in years. And yet he has memories, dreams, and visions of the stars.

When both Claudia and Finn find objects in their worlds that allow them to speak to one another, they realize that they are exactly what the other one needs: a way to escape their individual confinement.

The only problem is, Finn's prison is alive and it does not want to give up what it believes is its own.

Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, was a fun read. She did a fantastic job of worldbuilding. On the one hand, we have the interior of Incarceron, a living machine that is intent on keeping its prisoners in check. On the other hand, we have Outside, a world ruled by Protocol and trapped in an Era gone by, where high technology is forbidden (but everyone uses it anyway). The characters were memorable as well, especially Finn and Claudia.

The only downside is that Fisher telegraphed one of the reveals very early, so I had put together some of the pieces before the characters did. But that actually wasn't all that bad. The characters caught up with me quickly and the entire story was a fun, imaginative romp.

What really intrigued me was the almost Christian overtones to parts of this book, stuff that centered around the mysterious Sapphique, the only person to ever escape from Incarceron (at least, that's what the Prisoners believe). I don't know how that plotline will develop in the future, but I'm willing to read the next book to find out. I don't have it yet, but hopefully I will soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Okay, so I still don't have any forward momentum to report. This week has been spent getting ready for the release of Failstate. Doing edits, looking over galleys, freaking out and curling up in a corner . . .

Um, I mean . . . doing manly things. Yes, that's what I've been doing.

Oh, well. It releases soon, people! And here's the last of the book trailers to whet your appetite.

CSFF Blog Tour: Happy Trails

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I usually try to post all three days of a blog tour. And I wish I could say that I had some dynamite content for the third day of the Night of the Living Dead Christian blog tour. Unfortunately, I don't have any such content (dynamite or otherwise) for this month.

Instead, I'm posting to say good-bye, farewell, amen.

No, I'm not shutting down my blog. I'll still continue to share stuff about my writing and the books that I'm reading. But in recent months, it seems like I'm being stretched more and more thin. I've come to the sad realization that something has to give and, after a lot of consideration, I've come to the conclusion that the first thing to give is my participation in this blog tour.

I want to make this clear: I've loved my time with all of you. I've been exposed to some phenomenal fiction because I've participated. I would not change anything that's happened for the world.

But this is the end, my friends. I hope all of you continue to help share the good word about the good books that populate the Christian speculative fiction genre. God's richest blessings to all of you!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: "Night of the Living Dead Christian" Day Two

Part of the reason why I love Matt Mikilatos's books, such as Night of the Living Dead Christian, so much is because of how profoundly uncomfortable they can make me. The same thing happened while I was reading Imaginary Jesus, which examined the false idols we construct for ourselves and then try to dress up as Jesus Himself.

In this book, though, Mikilatos tackled the uncomfortable topic of what the Christian life is supposed to look like. According to the Bible, we're supposed to have new life in Christ, but do we really? Using the imagery of horror movie monsters, Mikilatos unpacks a number of ways that Christians fall short of the life we could have.

Maybe we're zombies, mindlessly shuffling along while we follow a supposedly wise leader. Or we could be werewolves, people who succumb to based instincts that should be under control. Or vampires, folks who live only to gratify their own selfish thirsts. Whatever the case, Mikilatos takes the time to show us what each of these monsters look like in real life. He holds a mirror to our faces and asks us what monster we are.

This is especially true in the epilogue, where Mikilatos lists off a number of different monsters (some in the book and some not), along with defining characteristics. When I read through them, I recognized myself as being a number of different monsters. For example, I'm pretty sure I'm a Gargantuan (and not just because of my height). I can be something of a glory hog, even if I pretend not to be.

So what about you, folks? What kind of monster are you? Admitting to your monsterhood is the first step in being fixed.

Go check out what the other tourists have to say.

Gillian Adams Julie Bihn Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse Theresa Dunlap Amber French Tori Greene Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Janeen Ippolito Becky Jesse Jason Joyner Carol Keen Leighton Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa Joan Nienhuis Crista Richey Sarah Sawyer Chawna Schroeder Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Shane Werlinger Nicole White Dave Wilson

Monday, March 26, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: Night of the Living Dead Christian Day One


I've been looking forward to this one for a while now, ever since Matt Mikalatos hinted at it back during the Imaginary Jesus blog tour. He had me at "Lutheran werewolf." I couldn't wait to find out what this new story would be about.

It turns out that Night of the Living Dead Christian is an excellent theological romp through a horror movie parody. My goodness, that's an odd way to describe a book, isn't it? And yet it fits.

Just as in his first book, Mikilatos is the star of his story. It starts with Mikilatos on patrol as part of his neighborhood watch. He discovers a mad scientist and his android companion rigging up some sort of experiment to a streetlight. When activated, this brings a swarm of zombies into the neighborhood. They're being chased by a werewolf. Soon Matt finds himself caught up in a quest to help the werewolf (who turns out to be his neighbor, Luther Martin) become fully human and fully alive. Along the way, they encounter more zombies, a recovering vampire, and enough silly scenes to keep me laughing the whole way through. But at the same time, it left me thinking. In short, it's a great book because it not only entertains, but it makes you wonder: how alive am I in the faith?

Truth be told, I was both worried and delighted that one of the main characters would be a Lutheran. We're an underrepresented bunch in Christian fiction and I always love it when we show up in some way, shape, or form. But at the same time, I wondered what would happen with this Lutheran werewolf. Would Mikilatos get the theology right?

For the most part, I think he did. I did wince at the description of Luther's interactions with his father. I know it was hyperbole, but let me assure you, most Lutherans aren't quite as fanatical as Luther's descriptions of his dear old dad. Some, maybe, but that's another subject for another day. And, for the most part, Mikilatos nailed the theology pretty much spot on (although I did have a little quibble with something that happened in the epilogue, but it's so minor that it's really not worth mentioning).

On the back cover, Relevant Magazine described Matt Mikilatos's writings as "Monty Python meets C. S. Lewis." I think that's an apt description. It's a fun read, but just as deep as anything Lewis might have concocted. After reading two of Mikilatos's books, I'm a devoted fan. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Go check out what the other tourists have to say:

Gillian Adams Julie Bihn Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse Theresa Dunlap Amber French Tori Greene Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Janeen Ippolito Becky Jesse Jason Joyner Carol Keen Leighton Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa Joan Nienhuis  Crista Richey Sarah Sawyer Chawna Schroeder Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Shane Werlinger Nicole White Dave Wilson

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Whereas last week was productive, this week hasn't been. Well, not as far as my WIP is concerned. As of right now, the WIP is weighing in at 20,769 words, which means that I was able to write 4,016 new words.

But I'm not too worried. I've been working on edits for Failstate. Speaking of which, did you see this starred review from Publisher's Weekly for Failstate?

Oh, and did you also see the latest book trailer?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mass Effect 3

So this is it. The final chapter. The time for all of your choices to come home to roost. Mass Effect 3 launched last week and I've been stealing an hour here, an hour there, to play through what is easily one of my most favorite game franchises ever. But last night, when I finished my first playthrough, I was left feeling a bit upset. But more on that in a bit. Since this is a BioWare game, we have to talk story first.

The story of this game is a culmination of the previous two installments. The Reapers, gigantic living machines, have invaded Earth. They're slaughtering everyone. As Commander Shepard, the player must rally the forces of the galaxy to his or her side to fight off the Reapers and save Earth. But things are not going to be easy. For example, there is the on-going tension between the krogan, the turians, and the salarians due to the "sterility plague" that the latter two inflicted on the former. The quarians have chosen this time to go to war with the geth. Shepard has a political and diplomatic minefield to negotiate if s/he wants to bring the full force of the galaxy against the Reaper threat.

But more problematic is the involvement of Cerberus, the rabidly pro-human organization that Shepard worked for/with in Mass Effect 2. They keep interfering in the situation because their leader, the Illusive Man, has his own plans for the Reapers.

Can Commander Shepard drive off the Reapers? And if s/he can, what's the price that will have to be paid and by whom?

 In terms of gameplay, this was a lot of fun. BioWare found a happy medium between the sheer depth and breadth of weapon and armor choices that they loaded into the first game and the minimalist design they used in the second. It seemed as though I was constantly finding new guns, most of which I wished I could try but never got the opportunity. I also liked the way they allowed players to design their own weapons loadout. It allowed me to tailor Shepard to my playstyle and gave me a lot of options. I'm already looking forward to going back just so I can try out those weapons.

As usual, the vocal talent was simply amazing. I have no idea how BioWare lands such big names for their casts, but once again, they did a great job. The graphics, too, were stellar.

An odd inclusion (at least, I thought it was odd at first) was the multiplayer co-op mode. I didn't think I'd like that, but I'm a believer now. I've been playing many matches with my engineer (who I've nicknamed "Scotty"). I kind of like the way that this feeds into the single player experience, but I'm not the biggest fan of being forced to do something like that if I don't want to.

So that leaves us the story. In many ways, I really liked the story up until the ending. A lot of threads that had been woven into the previous two games were resolved and I really appreciated the way that they handled those stories. In particular, I loved the return to Tuchanka to deal with the genophage and I really liked the way that they included a resolution to the quarian/geth conflict. Both of those had a lot of emotional heft in the previous installments. Again, while I chose the "paragon" route for those plots this time around, I am curious to go back in and take the "renegade" route and see how things can go off the rails.

But then there's the ending. There are a lot of fans who are extremely upset with BioWare because of the ending and, quite frankly, I can understand why. I'm upset by it too. I don't want to get into spoilers here, so I'll try to speak in overall generalities.

For starters, I didn't like the lack of resolution for some of the larger storylines. Shepard resolves the Reaper conflict, but we're not told what the aftermath is for the larger galaxy. Do the alliances that you forged last? What happened in the aftermath to your teammates?  I would have been satisfied with a "Where Are They Now?" montage at the end of the game. BioWare has done something like that in previous games, most notably Dragon Age: Origins. Given that we've invested so much time in these characters and races, it'd be nice to know, for example, what happened to the krogan or the rachni or the quarians. What happened to Liara T'Soni or Garrus?

Second, and this is what really rankles, is the fact that instead of providing us with multiple endings, BioWare essentially gave players one. I did a little digging last night and found out that your choices, which were so central to the gameplay, ultimately don't matter. You basically get the same ending; they just change minor details within the ending (such as the color of the final explosion; really!?!). I seem to recall reading in prerelease interviews that the design team were promising players radically different endings. They didn't deliver. If I choose option A, the ending should be very different from the ending that arises from option B, and so on. BioWare touted this game series as one where your choices matter. With this ending, their message is basically, "LOL! Not really."

So does this mean that I won't be coming back to this game? Not at all. While the ending is farcical and a mess, the overall game is good. And I have a lot of saved characters to import into the final installment. I want to see how their stories wind up too. I just wish their endings could be different.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Last night, I "finished" reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I find it ironic that on the first page of the book, Taylor says this: "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." It's ironic because, as far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty apt summary for this book. It did not end well at all.

Karou is a young lady living in Prague who is a bit unusual. She has bright blue hair. She has eyes tattooed on the palms of her hands. She is fluent in close to two dozen languages. She is a master martial artist.

And oh yeah, she was raised by a hulking monster named Brimstone who sends her out on errands to collect teeth.

It turns out that Brimstone actually raised Karou from his magical shop, a place where human beings can come and barter teeth (animal and human) for wishes. Brimstone is a secretive sort of individual. He doesn't tell Karou why he needs the teeth or what he does with them. He won't tell her much about her background.

Then one day, while Karou is out on an errand for Brimstone in Marakesh, she's attacked by an angel. Soon Karou is drawn into a very real war being fought in another world, one that will upend everything she knows about herself and her rather unusual family.

I really wanted to like this book. Taylor did a great job creating Karou and her world. I was fascinated by Brimstone and the mysteries that surrounded him. But yet, as I finished this book, I became less and less satisfied with it.

You might think it's because of how Taylor rewrote a war between angels and demons. It's not that. While I had a little difficulty wrapping my head around that at first (blame it on my Christian mindset), I was able to adjust my thinking and appreciate the story as a good fantasy tale.

No, what undid this book for me was the ridiculously huge flashback at the end of the book. The last fifth of the book or so is one gigantic and, in my not-so-humble opinion, unnecessary flashback. The story of Karou ground to a halt so that Taylor could tell a story that, by that point, I had figured out for the most part. Yes, that story did fill in some of the details (like why Brimstone needs teeth), but I got bored reading it. I started skimming the chapters, not really caring what was happening and just wanting to find out what happened to Karou.

The book ends with the words, "To be continued." But this is where I get off. The story was interesting and engaging, but it went off the rails with the flashback. Pity. Could have been fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

Well, I guess there is one upside to being sick. The past two days, I've been down and out thanks to a cold that's been bugging me for the past week and a half. Because of that, I've had a little more time to work on my current WIP (no more details to share about it right now, but soon, I promise!).

Thanks to my extended writing sessions, the WIP weighs in at 16,753 words. That means that over the last week, I've added 10,672 words. Not bad, but I'll have to do better in the weeks ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Failstate" Book Trailer: Lux & Veritas Audition Tape

Here it is, folks, the next trailer for Failstate! This one introduces you to some of the characters you're going to meet when the book releases in a few short week.



I want to thank Professor Mark Rosenwinkel of the Concordia University Theatre Department for allowing us the use of the E. M. Pearson Theater for this video.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wordcount Wednesday

That's right, it's back! I've started a new WIP this week. So with any luck, I'll keep updating all y'all on how I'm doing.

So after a few days of writing, my new project (unnamed for now; maybe I'll be able to reveal more in coming weeks) is a healthy 6,081 words. Hopefully we'll see this balloon over the coming weeks.

Monday, March 05, 2012

"Failstate" Book Trailer: Crimson Skull Audition Tape

So what do you think? Does this guy stand a chance?



 Don't forget the book is releasing in less than a month!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Cinder

Take the classic story of Cinderella, add in some interplanetary political intrigue, a global pandemic, a little bit of magic. And oh yeah. Cyborgs. Gotta have the cyborgs. That odd combination will result in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

It's the story of Cinder, a cyborg mechanic (as in a mechanic who is a cyborg, not a mechanic who works on cyborgs). Her family forces her to work in the market so they can live off of her earnings. Her stepmother is lazy and wicked, as is one of her stepsisters. The other, not so much.

Then one day, the crown prince, Kai, stops by her booth with a tutor android, one that he needs fixed. The android has vital information that needs to be retrieved. But even stranger, it seems as though Kai might actually be attracted to Cinder.

But a lot can get in the way of a fairytale romance. There's the aforementioned pandemic that rips through the populace. There's the political tension between the Eastern Commonwealth (Kai's kingdom) and the inhabitants of the moon. And yet, in spite of it all, Kai seems determined to get Cinder to the ball.

This was a really engrossing book. I absolutely devoured it in the past two days. Meyer did a fantastic job of taking an old fairytale and giving it a futuristic zing. Cinder especially shines. The plot was a little predictable (I figured out a big chunk of it in the first two or three chapters), but that didn't lessen my enjoyment at all.

This is obviously the first book in a series and I can't wait to see what Cinder will be up to in the next book.

Friday, March 02, 2012