Some games I played in
(books & television)

Deal Breaker

by Harlan Coben

The first in the Myron Bolitar series. An aspiring young sports player's girlfriend is kidnapped, and sports agent slash private detective Myron Bolitar is on the case.

After the more layered Back Spin from last year, this one felt a bit flat. It's still got the breezy attitude to it, and it makes a serviceable introduction to the series. However, I feel new readers get more bang for their buck from jumping in during Back Spin. They're both light-hearted reads, but the latter book contains a lot more pizzazz, a lot more punch.

The Tomb of Hercules

by Andy McDermott

The second in a series of adventures starring Eddie Chase, a rough 'n' tough British ex-Special Forces lad, and Nina Wilde, an American archaeologist. It's basically the sorts of conspiracy-cum-adventures you'd find in Indiana Jones or National Treasure, only in book format. They come upon some historical quest - in this case, the Tomb of Hercules and its alleged fat stacks of gold - and some dick wants that historical artifact to fuck something up - in this case, the economys. It's a pretty fun and silly ride.

It's packed with action sequences and a fun cast of characters; the writer had previously worked on 2000AD, so it's got a certain comic book sensibility to it, if not and out-and-out reference to Judge Dredd at one point. It's closer to a comic or an action movie than proper literature, but it's an easy read and a lot of fun.

Inferno Cop


I guess this comes under television? This was a cheapo internet production from Trigger, the folks behind Little Witch Academia. After dying a chump's death, a cop escapes from hell and gets into superhoer adventures; it's a stupid parody series with no animation whatsoever, featuring random, off-the-wall storylines. Very much a Japanese take on Axe Cop, for all intents and purposes.

I can't even remember all the bananas crap that happens - Inferno Cop gets transformed twice throughout the series, including into a race car where his driver sacrifices himself to be converted into fuel so they can win a race. I... can't remember why the race was so important, but the series never stops for logistics. You just watch the stupid crap and be entertained.

I will say the ending stank a bit, though. It just seems to be no matter how silly or lighthearted an anime is, it always needs to come to a dramatic conclusion. It is a stupid and outlandish conclusion featuring a surprise villain you'd hardly expect, but it still plays out exactly as seriously as any other show would do it - I guess that's Japan's idea of parody? The ending kinda dampened my enthusiasm, but the ride there is very dumb and a lot of fun while it lasts.

Daddy Was A Number Runner

by Louise Meriwether

A story about the everyday life of a family living in the ghettos of Harlem during the Great Depression, supporting by their flakey father who delivers news of lottery winnings from door to door.

It feels very real; it's a part of history and part of culture I'm totally oblivious to (sheltered Irish idiot speaking here!), but it makes for an engaging read. It's a story I imagine thousands of people experienced something similar to during the time; a time of hopelessness and despair where people simply had to simply put up with the injustices, and relish whatever small victories there were.

As such, it's not an uplifting book. There's an uncomfortable sequence later in the book where the girl is molested in exchange for money and sweets, and the girl is too young to know what to think of it. The molester is later killed by gangbangers, but-- it's not a happy outcome, nor is it a pleasant scenario to have had happen. That's the kind of lighthearted material you have to look forward to in it.

It's an engaging read and one I'd recommend, even if it left me viciously bummed for days afterward.

The Secret of Excalibur

by Andy McDermott

Another Eddie Chase and Nina Wilde adventure. They're back in England, the two are engaged, and Eddie gets to introduce Ninja to his family, which is plenty entertaining. Oh, and some nasty dudes are trying to find Excalibur. That's probably important.

It's the same ol' formula, for better or for worse. It's a fun Indiana Jones style action adventure. Lots of fighting, lots of wisecracking, lots of playing off of historical myths and legends. It's a lot of fun.

It's a book I personally wouldn't read so close to the other one, though. They're good, entertaining reads, but they're all in the same vein; one is enough to satisfy you for a while. Still, a fun ol' read.

Jurassic Park

by Michael Crichton

An excellent read and a great introduction to Crichton's work - very different from the movie, of course, but both are terrific in their own terms.

The plot is still about some rich idiot who creates dinosaurs to make a theme park around them, though while the film is very much a spectacle joyride, the book takes the time to go into detail and look at all the aspects behind the project's creation and maintenance... and why it all breaks down. We see the more violent, unpredictable side of the raptors and why they behave like that, along with the various weak points of the park.

Chaos theory is discussed a lot throughout the book thanks to Ian Malcolm; if it's not coming out of his mouth, then excerpts from his speeches about it are interspersed throughout the chapters. It is an interesting subject, though it does get tiresome when Ian never shuts his yap - even when the fucker's on his deathbed he's still prattling out chaos theory rhetroic like he's got something to prove... and the man takes forever to fuckin' die!

The same cast is there, although filling different roles; Hammond is all-noise, a blustering, short-sighted oaf who blames everyone but himself. The two kids are present, and actually quite awful. They serve a purpose in the film as viewpoint characters for kids in the audience, but here they're the very definition of baggage - the boy does help with the computer system at the very end, but the girl's only contribution is whining non-stop. Kids can be wee shits, for sure, but it's not fun to read and it can't have been fun to write, either.

The book also follows more of the background characters, like the scientists and maintenance workers, with first-person accounts of their deaths. Dennis Nedry's is the worst, as it describes the sensation of his entrails being clawed out of his stomach. Ew. The wider scope is fascinating, though I admit it was a little frustrating trying to account for where everyone was, and then it off-handedly mentions some workers running around the facility. Every single time it happened I thought, why are they there, how are they still alive, and why wasn't I informed?

The action is very different from the film, so it's a definitely not a repeat experience checking this out. A very strong, entertaining book; one that's well worth reading.

The Lost World

by Michael Crichton

It's not a bad read, but not as good as the first one... and dare I say it, not even as coherent as the film?

This story is of a much smaller scale than both the movie and the last book - there's a "lost world" where refugee dinosaurs from the park have escaped to, so a miraculously alive Ian Malcolm, his two buddies, two kids, a rival scientist, Sarah Harding, and three executives all make their own way to the island. The main guys are there to uncover why the dinosaurs are there, while the execs are looking to take some of them back home to use as test subjects - their own "consumer animal", a creature they'd have the legal right to use and experiment on.

You can see where the movie cherrypicks elements from, but the approach between the two is very different, most notably in the scale. In the film, there's a whole squadron of trained hunters taking on this operation to capture dinosaurs, while in the book it's just three dumbfucks in business suits, and their side of the story is exceptionally stupid: they bumble around, they mess up, and they die. The idea behind their visit is intriguing, but the movie executed it far better. It's too hard not to imagine it as the Three Stooges tripping over each other while collecting dino eggs. It's just so dumb.

That weak point aside, I'd say the characters in this one are stronger. The two kids have recognisable talents, and them stowing along in an attempt to help out, unbeknownst to Ian and company, has a half-decent narrative. The cast is smaller and have more engaging relationships, making it all the worst when they get munched unexpectedly.

However, the story just seems to lack focus and doesn't have the 'intelligence' the other book had. Some bits come across as half-baked, like an encounter with two huge chameleon dinosaurs who just... stand there. Their threat isn't established because there's no cannon fodder left, and the way they get around them feels daft when the danger isn't hammered home.

It's still an entertaining book, though mighty difficult not to make comparisons between the last book or the film adaptation. The two versions have their own merits, but I'd argue the film is simply a more entertaining product.


by Jeffery Deaver

A collection of short crime stories, all with twist endings. Stuff like a stunning supermodel is stalked by an obsessed fan, and all her life she's been "plagued" by her beauty, so she calls in a back-alley specialist to... get plastic surgery to make herself look bland!

It's not a bad read, though I'll admit I've forgotten darn near every story from it. I could say that short story collections really demand some note-taking, but if I can't remember a thing from them anyway, what does that say about them? (pretty sure it was a decent read though)

Ford County Stories

by John Grisham

This was an interesting one. A bunch of unrelated stories set in Ford County, a backwater southern state, of nothing but oddball little vignettes. Some are crime dramas, some are just little humdrum events, and some are decade-spanning tales of deceit, competition and failure. One of the more unique stories is a family travel to see their sibling in jail who's destined for the electric chair. It's a long, tiring road trip and, needless to say, nothing good comes of it.

A lot of the book is foggy to me now, but it was a very intriguing read. Not high octane stuff, nor intelligent drama; it's just unique little stories of humanity you never really hear or read about much. You don't see this sort of affair in conventional stories, and I liked it for that reason. Poetic dramas are neat and all, but some events are just events to normal mundane people, and it's nice to read about that once in a while.

Black Maps

by Peter Spiegelman

God. What was this one again? I think it was a murdery mystery of some sort, like a guy in a company disappeared or was murdered or something or another...

It wasn't an interesting book, let's put it like that.

A very slow-going murder mystery without interesting characters or events. It seemed very caught-up in the legal process, finding time to share little details about company management and banking and finances; it appeared very enamoured in those subjects, but it sure as hell didn't make it interesting to read about.

The whole book feels like it's plodding along with nothing happening, and when something does happen, it sure as hell doesn't read interesting. There's a part near the end where the protagonist is cornered by a guy with murderous intent, trapping him in a house that's about to explode -- and it's almost exciting! But immediately after that, it's back on track with a tremendously stupid ending so uncharacteristic with the rest of the book that it feels like I wrote it.

I want to say it might just be a niche-market murder mystery, like there's bound to be someone out there where this strange balancing of fucking nothing with alleged murder mystery is appealing... but I feel like that's just a way of saying it's a bad, boring book. It did nothing for me.

Weep No More, My Lady

by Mary Higgins Clark

A lighthearted murder mystery. A stressed woman goes to a hotel to escape from her troubles, only to discover a number of familiar faces there - including her glamourous ex-boyfriend who's been accused of murdering her sister.

An interesting little story. It is a murder mystery, but to me it had a kind of cartoon quality to it - the cast is rather eclectic. A dashing movie star who's believed to be a madman murderer; his PR crew with eccentric talents; the overly-friendly and overly-weird (respectively) owners of the hotel; a contest winner who seeks to interview everyone in sight. It's a fun set of characters, but they never feel larger-than-life - they've unusual qualities without the whole thing escaping from reality.

It's a light, easy read that kept me engaged to the end. Can't ask for much more than that.

The Murphy

by Spike Milligan

A very Irish story by Spike Milligan: a drunk man is thrown out of the house by his wife, so he reflects on everything in his life to figure out why he's such a no-good lout. (i told you it was Irish!)

It's a short read, barely over a hundred pages, with very local country humour mixed with Spike's oddball jokes. It's an adequate time killer, though having read Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall a few years prior, I was hoping for something closer to that calibre. Now that was a fun book!

I think I'd read somewhere that Spike was putting out a book every year from the 90s to early 00s, so I suppose they couldn't all be winners. It's cute, but I'd struggle to recommend it.

Dragon Half


This is one of those little oddballs of 1990s anime OVAs; a two episode series that took off in the USA, gaining a huge cult following back in its day, but absolutely floundered in Japan. It's got a zany sense of humour almost akin to Looney Tunes, but retains a lot of offbeating anime flavouring, so it makes for something exotic but still familiar.

It's funny stuff - not laugh out loud hilarious, but the dub actors have a ball delivering the material. Brett Weaver and Paul Sidello in particular do really superb in their roles as the bumbling bad guys. Th actual story is silly teen girl fluff in a fantasy setting, like ogling over a music star and entering a fighting tournament; not something you watch for plot, but more for the performances.

It's cool to finally see it after nearly fourteen years (I'd first learned of the series on The Moogle Cavern's old shrine page, of all places), though I was probably hyped up a little too much. The stock storytelling doesn't give you much to sink your teeth into, and its art style loves to alternate between its regular and chibi look between scenes, and neither is all that appealing - the obscenely doe-y eyes on all the women is a bit off-putting.

It was entertaining enough, and it's great to hear the dub performers deliver some great material, but I guess you had to be there to get the full impact.

Detatoko Princess


A three-episode OVA. I'd watched the first two episodes years ago, but for whatever reason had never gotten around to the third one. I figured I'd watch them all from the start again.

Detatoko Princess is allegedly a fantasy adventure parody series. You've got the dopey, child-like Princess Lapis who's got an insatiable desire for pudding and the unique power to dispel magic. She's sent on a journey with her assistant and mentor to help her gain some life experience, wherein she gets into mischief and solves whatever problem comes her way. Meanwhile, the sorceress Topaz looks to add her to her collection of pretty girls. It's pretty fuckin' anime!

The opening theme is terrific (LOVE IS A MAGIC, IT'S A BEAUTIFUL MAGIC~) and the animation is decent, but the production just feels uninspired. There's elements that are faintly amusing and seeking to be played for greater laughs - Kohaku, the princess's guard cursed with invulnerability; Lapis's parents appear as masked superheroes to get her out of binds... concepts appear, but never evolve beyond the initial joke, if any.

In theory it's a comedy - it's got a silly cast of characters and daft plots, but were it not for the captions that appear to riff on what's on-screen, it'd just be an ordinary lighthearted fantasy romp. With stupid stories like a religious cult of fitness freaks and a man seeking to replace all crops with konnyaku, you'd expect them to be treated as stupid as they are - but they're treated like any anime adventure would be.

Large, cartoonish monsters are fought at the end of each episode, but are treated as seriously as any 'real' threat. One encounter has Lapis fighting a giant-sized pudding that's terrorising the town. She can't bring herself to harm any pudding, no matter how violent it is, and has a nervous breakdown. It's played exactly like a challenging scenario would in any other traditional anime. It's hard to tell if the series lacks self-awareness, or if playing this daft scenario straight IS the joke, but it feels tremendously trite. If a "parody" anime still hits all the same beats as a serious anime, then what is it accomplishing?

I'm surprised I stuck through it, to be honest. It's not awful (I've yet to top Ninja Cadets), but there's just very little entertainment or inspiration to be gleaned from it. Even the dub fails to mine any good humour out of it.

Raptor Red

by Robert T. Bakker

I'd stumbled across this book while reading a page from a developer on the Jurassic Park SEGA CD game who lauded the works of paleontologist Robert Bakker, and I thought wow, I need to read this. This was the first book I read after moving into my new apartment, and it was a great sensation. I'd been waiting so long to move in and get sorted, and it felt like a breath of fresh air to park myself down and open this up.

It tells of the life of a female utahraptor whose mate was killed, so it rejoins its sister to try and survive together, as the two meet new mates and start new lives. It's a very unique tale and a leisurely read, though there's no shortage of action and trauma and other horrible things. The final chapters got me real choked up - how are these guys gonna survive this predicament?!

The story is told from the third-person and describing the raptors's way of thinking, though at the same time it's describing its thought-process in the context of evolution and Darwinism and so on, which did admittedly take me out of my suspension of disbelief at times. It aims to walk a fine line between story and 'documentary' which might be a bit jarring for folks.

Raptor Red was just such a pleasure to read, one I'm very glad I bought. If anything, I'm disappointed it's not as freely available as I'd like it to be - where's the eBook, Rob?

Classic Comic Strips from TV21

Oct ~ unfinished

A book I'd picked up for cheap years ago, I dug this out and read it while waiting for files to convert or videos to record. This is a compilation of newspaper comic strips, both for Thunderbirds and the tie-in Lady Penelope stories, and boy howdy is it a newspaper comic - you get a few panels of minor story progression and then a very forced cliffhanger, usually resolved inconsequentially in the next strip. It's total fluff, but it's an amusing little novelty. The artwork is really superb, boasting great painted illustrations for each and every panel - far more effort than you'd expect for a little tie-in comic.

It's particularly neat seeing the Thunderbirds characters in such dynamic compositions, though it is a little unsettling to see them with realistic proportions - I don't know if I wanted to see Parker's silly bobble head placed upon a body with an actual physique! Not to mention having them express beyond what the ionettes were capable of - yikes! I never wanted to see a puppet pull an "o" face.

The comics are lightweight nonsense, but their production and this reprinting feels very professional. It also includes other odds and ends from the original printing, including silly columns where Lady Penelope finds answers for reader's questions, such as "is Clint Eastwood a real cowboy?" She proceeds to use her super spy skills to spy on these celebrities, interrupting them during meetings and other invasions of privacy. The prude in me says it's a little skeezy, but it's also dumb and cute and an amusing way of padding out the one celebrity factoid the editors could share.

It's a high-quality book, though it's most certainly not amazing reading. I only read the Lady Penelope stories and the first Thunderbirds tale, and when I'm done I'll probably pass it on to somebody else.

Arthur: The Seeing Stone

by Kevin Crossley-Holland

A medieval tale told through a boy's diary entries: a farmland named Arthur wishes to be a knight but his father has other ambitions for him, though a magic jewel from Merli grants him visions that suggest there's more to him than meets the eye: namely, that he's the son of King Arthur!

It's a cute read, and the diary format helps the reader explore the world more than traditional prose would. Vignettes of simple day-to-day events, along with not-so-common ones, and it makes for a leisurely little read. If you're after swashbuckling action, though, there's none of that to be found. The book does end on Arthur moving on to grander things, but the book is essentially the setup to a bigger adventure. As it is, it's a neat little curiosity.

Conan The Buccaneer

by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter

What was this one? Conan has a group of pirates at his command, and a princess is brought to them to be protected as her kingdom is being taken over by some evil mofo who wants to marry her, so swashbuckling ensues.

It's a fair enough old-timey adventure, though not exactly ripe with imaginative or exciting sequences. There is a giant stone frog beast that chases them over a cliff, and a savage tribe of warrior women who rule over an island, but it all felt very pulp-stock with little imagination to it.

The book actually begins with a foreword from the author saying something along the lines of "other authors believe literature should be about unique experiences, like the story of a gay man living in the deep south, or a black man joining white society or bold subjects... but I just wanna write about old-fashioned fantasy." And they proceed to explain that their type of fantasy is big babes and big muscles and rife with political incorrectness.

And that's fine, I guess. That's obviously what some folks want out of their books - it's a free country! Personally, it seemed like a quick (if tasteless) way of telling me this book was not going to be my cup of tea; it's already described stuff I could be reading instead! It just seems a bit boring to craft a fictional world thinking "it's just like our ancient history except there's magic, there's monsters, the gender divide is even worse and my muscles are massive."

It's a Conan book. It wasn't up my alley.

Amnesiak: Blood Divinity

by T.J. O'Hare

I was pointed towards SmashWords, an outlet for up-and-coming eBook publishing, and took a peek at this. Not sure how much of an audience the works there will find, but it's a curiosity, innit?

An amnesiac figure awakens in an unfamiliar land, but soon discovers that he is the deity of the Shangra-Li, resurrected and granted a new form to help their plight against the Tiger Empire, who are trying to resurrect some big bad evil dude. The book probably felt beefier than it was because it took me all year to read it to the end (I spent half the year fumbling with portable eBook readers before just reading it on the computer anyway), but the story is very much an introduction to its universe. A lot of elements are established, but not much is done with them just yet.

As it stands it's an intriguing world it creates, full of shamanic rituals and power animals and spiritualistic guff; there are some fun battles with real out-there conclusions thanks to all the rituals and whatnot taking place. It's very old-school fantasy in how seriously it takes itself, though there are lighthearted moments, intentionally or not. There's a blacksmith who forges a sword so powerful that whoever says its name will die... it's the sort of thing while reading I thought, wow, that's some profound power, but out of context it sounds hilarious.

It's not a bad little read; it just boils down to how much old-school fantasy floats your boat. I admit I prefer stuff that's a little more breezy, but as it stands I enjoyed it. It's under 200 pages so it's not too long, though I think I'm terrified knowing there's going to be a long saga ahead...!

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

by Ken Kesey

I ended the year reading this book. I'd been reading stuff about Stanley Kubrick around this time, and that got me into finally checking this out. A native American is in a corrupt mental asylum (so to speak), and observes all the awful shit that goes on - the corrupt management, the brutish orderlies - when a newcomer arrives and essentially takes over the ward, pulling fast ones on the superiors and making life grand for the clients... though it doesn't last forever.

The book is told through first-person, and the descriptions of the crooked goings-on in the ward are told in a very surreal fashion. Artistic license or not, it talks about the rooms "opening up like machines" revealing a clockwork underbelly to the facility, and the patrons being torn apart and reduced to scrap metal. It's real alien stuff, but the message it carries feels very powerful given all the corruption they suffer through.

A strong read with a memorable, bittersweet ending.