Friday, November 20, 2009

Trifecta of Excellence: A Game, A TV Series, and A Book

Despite several near-disasters, it's been a good week. Wednesday could have been very bad, but it turns out I am competent enough to replace the motherboard of my own desktop.

This week has been very good to me is the excellent media I've been soaking in. It's difficult to get excited about new stuff these days, because so much stuff out there is crud. I'm pleased to mention three excellent examples of the media I spend a lot of time with: a books, a television series, and and a computer game.

The Fallout Game of the Year edition has been wonderful. I have already played through the main plot of Fallout, but I missed a large number of the side-quests, and the additional content offered by the downloadables has been amazingly fun. Killin' inbred hicks from Maryland? Yeah, I can get behind that. Murdering slavers in the industrial wasteland that was once Pittsburgh? Surprisingly fun. Me and my Power Armor getting abducted by a giant tin-toy alien mother ship? That was pretty cool. The game has a lot of interesting story and development. The plots and subplots are solid, and are sold to you in different ways. Not a lot of repetition in Fallout 3, although sometimes, the combat is a little overdone. Random encounters add length to the game, but not a lot of interest. Fortunately, it never becomes a Diablo grind of waves upon waves of monsters that exist solely to die, give you experience, and drop stuff for you to sell.

Rome is one of the best TV series I've ever watched. Although it's got some historical inaccuracy, mostly for the sake of drama and the convenience of keeping the same actors, it also is steeped in history. It's the little details that are so fascinating: watching the Town Crier read out the news and then pause to advertise a sponsor; seeing the swirl of ethnicities and peoples in the dirty streets of Rome; feeling the rise and fall of family prestige based on so many minor factors. It's delightfully complex and horrible and relentlessly human all at the same time. The sets are gorgeous, the acting top-notch. The plots got a little bit soapy toward the end of season two, but entirely enjoyable. This is excellent television.

When the Santa Fe Good Taste Factory recommends something, I listen. If he recommends something, it's usually quite good. Not that my other friends don't have good taste, but the Good Taste Factory suggests it, I'm guaranteed to like it. The Gone-Away World arrived in the mail during a period in which I was having trouble reading books, partially because I was reading some crap I felt obligated to read and report on. And I'm having trouble with my own writing, which always effects my reading. The Gone-Away World is not the sort of book I usually read. I like strong plots with muscular prose, something with a sense of where it's going. Gone-Away World is loaded with digressions, strange introspection, a semi-halpess protagonist who wanders through his own life. However, the prose is brilliant. A quote: "Garbage in, garbage out. Or rather more felicitously, the tree of nonsense if watered with error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster." I went on this ride with author Nick Harkaway because I was seduced by his prose, and the funny, strange, human way he has his protagonist think and put things together. An excellent book, probably the best one I have read this year.

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