Sunday, April 30, 2006

As Above, So Bellow

According to the author, “Neverwhere” started as a TV miniseries for BBC, it become a novel where “with every scene that was cut, every line that vanished, everything that was simply changed” would be placed back in the novel as a way for the author to regain his “equilibrium”. The novel by itself was first published in the UK, adapted “for Americans who might not know where Oxford Street was or what you’d find if you walked down it” while at the same time revisited and expanded. The UK and US version were then merged, creating the version I got to read: the so called “Author’s preferred text”.

My only previous contact with Neil Gaiman’s work was “Good Omens”, which he wrote in conjunction with Terry Pratchett and was therefore diluted, other than that I only knew him by fame. Having nothing to read, I wandered around the Fantasy/Sci-fi section of the bookstore and came across a few books by him. After hesitating for a while I decided to give it a try and picked up one that seemed the most interesting. The book’s name, as you have already guessed, was “Neverwhere”.

The basic plot of “Neverwhere” is about a man called Richard Mayhew, who one day helps a wounded girl named Door who stumbles into the ground in front of him. Suddenly he realizes that all his life, as well as himself, seem to no longer exist in the “real world” and with little option left, he goes to seek the girl he helped in the hope of getting his life back. And thus he descends into London Bellow, a place filled with strange people and places.
As I expected, the book was dark and weird, taking some time for me to get used to it. One curious detail of the book is that things are not always explained, they tell you what and where, but not why. Eventually you find yourself, much like Richard, simply accepting what you’re told, and personally I find this to be one of the best points of the book.
Its heritage from the TV series is also, sometimes, quite visible as there are several characters who are introduced, show up for a couple chapters or so and then simply vanish. Most noticeably a guy named Varney and the girl Anasthesia (this last one, however, will not be forgotten, not by the main character and not by you).
Character-wise, it presents you lots of interesting and bizarre characters, from the Marquis de Carabas to Old Bailey, passing by the Rats and the Black Friars, into the bad guys on service: Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, that though not too deep are the kind of villains one will love/hate (love to hate?). They are the kind of bad guys that will, quite literally, eat puppies for breakfast.

There are many references to London, both in real and unreal locations and in character names and type, this causes that some knowledge of the city would probably be a good help in the understanding of book. Not being my case, I was sometimes left to wonder.

The book did not disappoint me, but it also didn’t surprise me. There was a twist at every turn and yet… one will feel that the ending, although adequate, will simply follow the road and more often than not become a bit cliché, on one occasion or two you’ll even see it coming, on many others it will simply not surprise you. I wonder if this is due to Gaiman’s or if it’s something related to it being a TV show.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beware of Bob / Land of little green men

Today is the day of the first significant post on Life of Fiction. As you’ll notice, I divided the post into two parts: One relative to the online writing community World of Necrotania, and the other relative to an independent videogame I’ve recently played called Darwinia.
Life of Fiction will therefore start its life as a discussion and reviewing place for several fictional works. It is intended to present the point of view of independent people on that which is most fascinating: Fiction!

Beware of Bob

I joined the Necrotania community about two years ago. At the time we were just a few souls with hyperactive imaginations and with that extra time that allowed us to write those stories for so long locked inside our head while at the same time reading and reviewing nearly everybody else’s works.
In the following years, the site grew. Authors came and went as did story sections, competitions, book clubs, and many other things.
As of today, three basic rules apply:

  1. Praise Calash
  2. Beware of Bob
  3. Leave your sanity by the door

1. Praise Calash

Calash is the founder of the site, and therefore the all mighty admin! We praise and worship him for it was is vision that helped make the world (of Necrotania) a better place.
According to him, Necrotania started as a place to place his stories about the world of Necrotania. A land of fantasy populated by gods, dragons and… stuff. Eventually he opened it up for public submissions and it became an ever growing community dedicated mostly, but not only, to the writing of sci-fi and fantasy stories. And today it holds nearly 400 stories (some still in progress) and is the first link to show up when looking for “online fantasy stories” on google.

2. Beware of Bob

Who is Bob, you ask? Heck if I know!
Bob was first created as villain of sorts in the multi-author story “Party”. He eventually overgrew the story and become a myth inside the community. Always accompanied by his broom (of doom) he’s the one we call when there is need to clean the mess (mud usually) some member or another made. Not that he actually cleans it! It’s a lot more likely that he hits us with the broom until someone does the job for him.

3. Leave your sanity by the door

This is not an actual rule, but more of an advice. As you might have already understood, the folks at Necrotania are a curious bunch. They are able of kill any thread turning it into a nonsense conversation about… well, just about anything, while at the same time keeping in the next thread a serious discussion about the fate of the World.
It’s near to impossible to warn you of everybody you should be aware of, so I won’t.

So, if you happen to be bored and feel like writing or reading something, come and visit.

Now you know!

Land of Little Green Men

Darwinia is second game released by the independent producer Introversion.

Since the beginning, Introversion stood for making original games that were fun to play, causing their games to be significantly different from any of the more commercial games out there.
The basic plot behind Darwinia is very simple. A virtual world created by a Dr. Sepulveda has been infected by a virus that is killing of the local population: the darwinians. And it’s your job to help them.
So far so good, but here is where things get a little different.
The picture above is an actual in-game shot of one of the levels, representing a few darwinians standing under a tree with a trunk port in the distance. The graphics of the game are intended to be really simple giving it a rather curious atmosphere.
Although it is to all effects a strategy game, it differs from other games in many points; the most significant one is that you cannot control directly the darwinians even though they’re usually essential for the completion of the level. Instead you can create officers to give them basic orders, like moving to a certain location (in a straight line) or following the officer itself. Most of the fighting, though, will be made by the soldier squads which you’ll need to take direct control of and order when to shoot.

I’ll not go much deeper into the gameplay (although it is the most original part of the game) but instead I’ll speak about what makes this game so special: the darwinians themselves.
Introversion did not develop a deep and complex AI for this game, but it did gave the little guys a personality of their own, by giving them hopes and fears. Noticeable by the memorial services they hold for their fallen brethren (they’ll surround the soul, while some will create some sort of lanterns that will follow the soul as it rises up), but also by their screams and panic when you point a gun at them. It is nearly impossible not to feel some sort of attachment for the little guys by the time the game ends.

If you like an original and interesting game, this is a good option (one advice though, if you intend on getting the game, do it through Steam’s services, it’s significantly cheaper and easier).

The second demo released features a new level not present in the original game and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Open for business

Would you look at that! I got a blog!

I do not intend to turn Life of Fiction into just another blog with the sole purpose of whining about my life and talk about important things most people couldn’t care less (mostly because I do not intend to talk about important things at all).

What I intend to do is open a window for times of boredom (mostly mine), while at the same time discussing that one movie I saw the other day, the book I just read and that “Oh, so nice” videogame that is slowly stealing my time away.

But also discuss the creative process on the stories I’m working on (or intend to) and perhaps post one of those comic strips I still do from time to time.

I’m unaware of the regularity in which I’ll update this here blog, but I can assure you that 2 + 2 = 4 (I’m almost certain of it!)