Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Books of the Week: 5/29/12

Ahhhh...Finals are over. Now I get to spend the summer reading, writing, and gaming. YES! But what's that you say? Get a summer job? Nah. It's not like I need the money THAT much... Besides, who'd hire me? I wouldn't. But I digress. This is a book review. What am I reviewing? Let's see... OH SWEET BABY CTHULHU ON A FLAMING STICK! Two, TWO, videogame novels? Ohhhhboy. This week's mockery--er, review--focuses on Halo: The Flood, Starcraft: Uprising, and The Ten Thousand.

Halo: The Flood
William Dietz

I get that this is a novelization of Halo: Combat Evolved. What I don't get is why anyone who's played the game would want to read it. There is nothing in Halo: The Flood that you couldn't get from just playing the ruddy game. In fact, the game is better. A Lament for Private Jenkins? You know, the scene where you watch the Flood attack through a Marine's helmet-cam? It's better in the game. I could name twenty, no, thirty, no, forty examples of how the game is better, but I'll not waste your time.

The writing in Halo: The Flood is ok. Just ok. There's way too much jargon. And Dietz seems driven to explain the reasons behind every action every character takes in the game. Do I really need to know who always flew in on the rescue Pelican and how she escaped the Pillar of Autumn? No. No I don't. Do I care? Nope. Do I care about the guy who died at the very beginning of the game when the Covenant broke into the observation room and killed him? Not one iota. 

Honestly, I got bored reading this. That's harder to do to me than it seems. Having played the game, I knew exactly how the plot would go, so it wasn't like there were any surprises. And having so many character viewpoints, for such a limited amount of time, was just stupid.

Did not finish. Ok writing. Boring, redundant, and pointless. Instead of spending money on this, go out and buy a used copy of Halo: CE for about the same price and play that. There! I just saved you from hours of pointless boredom.

Krunk's Korner: This book am stupid and redundant. That am all. Krunk am not even have amazing anecdote of his courage and strength to accompany this...this DRECK! It am dreck! And pointless! If this book am aimed at gamers, it am fail miserably. And if this book am aimed at sci-fi fans who might become gamers, it am STILL fail miserably!

Starcraft: Uprising
Micky Neilson

Look. I'll be honest. I didn't even bother to TRY figuring out the plot of this one. From what I can tell, it's backstory for Mengsk and Kerrigan, but I didn't read far enough to find out if Raynor ever shows up.

What is it about videogame novels that attracts shoddy writing? Is it some sort of curse? Or are these companies just too cheap to actually hire a decent writer? I don't claim to be a Tolkien or a Gaiman or a Martin, but if I can write better than these game novel authors, there's a problem. Anyway, Starcraft: Uprising started out badly and just got worse from there. The writing is mediocre at best, the characters are unlovable, there's horribly-done narrative exposition, and Mengsk's speeches are... Well, if rebel leaders gave speeches like the ones Mengsk gives in this book, there'd never be any rebellions. As it is, I wouldn't fight with Mengsk, even though I know he wins (for a while). 

This had a lot of promise. I love Starcraft, and I would have loved more backstory for the games. But unelegant writing, extreme narrative choppiness (a character switch every page) and terrible, terrible metaphors put me off before I could buy in. 

I did, however, find it interesting that Kerrigan was "recruited" and "trained" to work with Zerg. That could help to explain her transformation into the Queen of Blades. But I couldn't stand reading any further to find out what happened.

As is usual for game novels, did not finish. Choppy narrative, unelegant writing, terrible Mengsk speeches, and ham-handed metaphors drove me away.

Krunk's Korner: Krunk am wish to direct you to his comments on the previous book. Apply them to this book as well. Krunk am sick of talking about stupid, stupid books. By Crom, they am make him sick!

The Ten Thousand
Paul Kearney

This is a fantasy retelling of the March of the Ten Thousand from Greek history. Ten thousand (or more) mercenaries retreat through enemy lands to reach the coast. 

The world of The Ten Thousand is definitely based on Greece. From the names of weapons to the mythologies of the various lands to the tactics employed, I could sense Greek influences at every turn. Somehow, though, this works, and I was left feeling like this was a very "real" world. In addition, The Ten Thousand has no magic. Sure, there are "elves" (analogues for the Persians), and some of the soldiers in the ten thousand have magic armor, but there isn't any finger-waggling and spell-chanting. 

While there is some scheming and betrayal in The Ten Thousand, it's all shown, so there aren't any real surprises. Don't expect A Song of Ice and Fire here. This has a very blunt plot. But that doesn't mean the writing is blunt. No, unlike the other two authors this week, Kearney actually knows what he's doing. His writing is good. GOOD!

Despite The Ten Thousand being a very military novel, there was none of the confusing terminology present in Halo: The Flood. I remember only a few terms that weren't immediately obvious, and those were explained WITHOUT breaking the narrative flow. Additionally, despite a large number of military tactics being used, there were no clumsy explanations. Things just happened, and like a well-trained soldier, you just went with it.

This is easily the best book this week (not like there was any competition). The Ten Thousand is realistic, well-written, has a detailed, vivid world, and...oh, forget it. It's awesome. Just buy the dang thing. It's not quite Tolkien or G.R.R. Martin material, but it's quite good all the same.

Krunk's Korner: This am good book. It am remind Krunk of time he served with mercenary army. There am good descriptions of soldiers' lives, and no fancy sorcerers poncing around. Krunk am hate sorcerers. They smell funny. Give Krunk sharp cold steel any day. That, Krunk understand. Krunk also understand principles of hydraulic power, but that am another story. Buy this book. It am good. That all.