Tag Archives: reviews

Fire and Fury: The National Book Club

Colbert was right on the money when he joked that Fire and Fury has spurred a new generation of book clubs. I’ve inadvertently taken on the task of annotating the living hell out of the book. It started as a joke among friends, but now we have a thrice-weekly discussion group complete with supplementary materials and literary analysis. It’s reading gone mad.

Risk Management?

The effort has squeezed out my efforts to read just about anything else. I’m a few pages short of finishing Come an’ Get It, a non-fiction exploration of the old West’s chuck wagon cook. I also intended to read The Power this month, but that’s not happening. The Power, by Naomi Alderman, is a spec fic novel about an alternate reality in which women become supernaturally strong out of the blue. The way Fire and Fury took over my reading list eerily mirrors how a whole year of my life slipped away in 2017. I barely wrote a single novel, but I pounded out hundreds of thousands of words.

Everyone else has already punched out enough articles on the danger of inviting the 24/7 news cycle into your life. There’s nothing I can add to the conversation about retaking control, about joining movements, or about protecting yourself.

What I can say, though, is that the surge in discourse is the best outcome I could’ve hoped for from the book. It’s been about two weeks and people are still discussing Fire and Fury. The upcoming midterms should, I hope, sustain our renewed interest in politics (and that this was sparked by a book that reads more like a longform TMZ article just cracks me up).

The Audience

One thing I do wonder about is who Wolff’s intended audience is. If I’ve learned anything from novels, it’s that readers need occasional reminders. We often read while distracted; we might read sections and then put the book down for quite a while; maybe we’re not necessarily strong readers; or perhaps we’re not well-versed in the subject. Readers forget hooks, miss lines, or don’t recognize the significance of some breadcrumb the author placed. Writers have to jog their audience’s memory from time to time.

Well, Wolff repeats his central theses multiple times each chapter, often to excess. He links any bit of evidence right back to restatements of those ideas — incompetence, mismanagement, disorganization, narcissism — and then repeats those restatements again, but adorned with theory-crafting the next time around. The level of repetition is something you’d expect from a work aimed at a novice audience, whether low reading skill or barely initiated into political reporting.

But then he busts out the big guns. Bête noire. Persiflage. Hortatory. I won’t lie, I’ve learned some new words — I’m not a proud person. Then there’s the sentence structure. It’s complex to the point of madness. Don’t hold your breath when you start any given line here. Given the story’s timeline and the January release, I can only imagine that he had a limited time to pitch the book, sign contracts, write it, and ram it through fact checking, so no one had time to untangle Wolff’s wicked web of clauses. Some editors need to chase Fire and Fury into an alley and beat half the commas and em dashes out of it. I won’t even address the typographical errors. But that leads me back to my question: who was the central audience? New Yorker readers like me, who have some manner of memory impairment?

A (sort of) walkthrough for Ladykiller in a Bind


Christine Love’s Analogue: A Hate Story will always hold a special place in my heart, because it is possibly the only popular game out there about Koreans in space (besides the venerable Starcraft, of course). Yet, if you’ve ever played Analogue to the end, you’ll also know that it’s not exactly a lighthearted romp or something you play for casual fun: you must construct additional pylons, and they’re all made of sorrow.

I’d heard that Ladykiller in a Bind, the newest entry from Love Conquers All Games, was going to be a sharp departure from Analogue, but since I’d loved the previous entry so much, I knew I’d buy Ladykiller when it came out. I didn’t even need to try the demo when I met the developer at PaxEast a year ago—I’d already decided. And, as expected, the game is worth every penny. Thus, this won’t be a traditional review of the game, since there are already better-written ones on other sites. Rather, this is going to be a summary of my two (so far) playthroughs: one that I “lost” and one that I “won.” And for those of you who want to end up together with The Beauty (and keep her), I guess this would be one of the first walkthroughs out there.

For simplicity, all characters will be referred to by the first item on the default choices list, even though you can rename them to whatever you want.

My first playthrough:

I decided quickly on that I probably wasn’t going to win the in-game “Game” and its five million-dollar prize, and that for this run I’d attempt to to romance as many of the side characters as I could, while pursuing The Stalker as my night-time interest. I wasn’t really interested in seeing what happened if I racked up 5 suspicion points, although I may try for it on another playthrough just for completeness.

I clicked through the tutorial, met The Boss and the other major side characters, and was left with my first set of options for the afternoon of Day One. I clicked on the branch with the least difficulty: The Athlete and The Nerd with one star, and…promptly fell head over heels in love with The Nerd.


Spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s possible to really romance her, since the furthest I got was a kiss that fizzled pretty quickly. But I think she might actually be the best-written character in the game. Not because of compelling drama or a tragic back-story or unexpected betrayal, but because she’s just so breathtakingly, amazingly real.

I pursued The Nerd’s route with a vengeance, didn’t steal her phone from her when she fell asleep on my shoulder, and ended the route with fewer votes than I’d started with. I also earned the extreme pleasure of seeing her smile and blush.

After the Nerd was through, I started The Boy. After he stole my phone and used it ala Anthony Weiner, I found myself pining for the option to chuck him off the side of the ship. Alas, this isn’t Hitman and murder wasn’t an option. For Ladykiller Unleashed I think The Beast should have a garroting wire and cyanide in the ol’ inventory. Please, Christine, if you’re reading this?

The Boy’s route done, I then clicked on The President. Spoiler alert: I declined to give him my votes, even in exchange for the motorcycle, which is probably why I got Epilogue B in the end. I’m going to have to go through and replay this route a few times, because I either terminated it prematurely somehow or ran out of game time, and it felt unfinished. I didn’t get the achievement, either, so there’s definitely more.

Throughout this playthrough, I’d spent my nights (save for one, when I racked up four suspicion bars on The Nerd’s route) with The Stalker. Unfortunately, the three guaranteed votes she gave me every night weren’t enough to make up for my poor performance in getting votes during the week. I lost the Game and lost The Stalker, but at least I got my bike back. The ploy at the end about 5 million bucks split 137 ways as hush money was pretty nifty.

My second playthrough:

This time, I was either going to win the Game, land more characters in the sack, or at least try to end the story together with my love interest. To change things up and experience the romance that other game reviewers were crowing about, I chose to spend my nights with The Beauty instead.

I went for The Photographer this time (since her route offered up to 14 votes at the outset). As a word of warning, I think that because I actively chose to help The Photographer in exchange for 4 votes, that might have locked me out of The Slut’s route. I’ll have to go back and experiment on playthrough number three. I took the gamble, gave my votes to her, and then endured the last scene with her to get 23 votes out of it. Not bad, save for getting violated.

At this point—because I’d locked The Slut out—my options were The Athlete, The Boy, and The President. I’d already gone through The Boy’s route (which hadn’t resulted in any sort of profit), and part of The President’s (which on the last playthrough might’ve actually incurred a loss), so I decided on The Athlete.

The Athlete’s route was surprisingly fun and relaxing to play. As is the case with The Nerd, you won’t do anything more than angrily kiss him (The Beast is about a 5.5 on the Kinsey Scale), but playing his scenes gave me a treasure trove of backstory on not only the side characters on the ship, but also The Beast’s fractured relationship with the rest of her family. Unfortunately, The Athlete resulted in no profit in terms of votes.

With only enough game time for two more scenes, I revisited The President’s route. Only this time, I went ahead and gave him all measly twenty-three votes I had in exchange for the motorcycle (this may rack up a suspicion point, by the way), figuring that again, I’d failed to win The Game, and once again, I’d leave his route incomplete.

Yet in the end, giving The President my votes in exchange for The Beast’s bike proved to be exactly the right thing to do. The move impressed The Prince so much that he offered to have The Beast become him (forever) in the eyes of the outside world, and thus gave me the leverage to convince the Beauty to dump her engagement with The President and stay with The Beast. I’ll consider this to be the “good” ending, and definitely better than epilogue B. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d have gotten a variant of epilogue B, save with The Beauty stuck in some unhappy arranged marriage.

So there you have it (Spoiler alert): Looks like the way to at least stick with The Beast’s love interest may be to make a deal with The President during his route. I had more than twenty votes at the time, though, and I’m curious as to whether the same outcome might be had with fewer.

My goals for the next playthrough are: 1) Unlock The Slut, 2) Complete The President, 3) Win The Game. Actually, that sounds like politics as usual in the good ol’ US of A. If you’re interested in playing it, LKIAB is for sale at the Humble Store:

And as a final treat, more Nerd:


Bryan Reads the Price of Admiralty and Remembers the Alamo


…It’s like Star Trek: The Next Generation, minus the cringe.

Erica and I first came across Richard Tongue’s work while trying to find an artist for our own book’s cover. Impressed by what we saw, we ended up using the same artist. Erica isn’t a huge fan of space opera military fiction, but I remembered having a ton of fun reading Timothy Zahn and Dean Wesley Smith back in middle school, and so I decided to go ahead and give the Battlecruiser Alamo series a whirl, starting with The Price of Admiralty.

The plot and characters of this first series entry are already well-described by other reviewers, so I won’t spend a lot of time covering that. Suffice it to say, a lot of the well-loved tropes and plot twists that we expect from any good scifi milfic are present in droves, right down to the mandatory zero-gee spacewalk to recapture the bridge from the enemy. The characters are the ensemble of archetypes we all expect, from the sexy-veteran-ex-wingman-turned-tactics officer to the don’t-take-no-guff-sawbones-ship’s-surgeon. And of course, the ship itself starts out as a nonfunctional mess thanks to the ressentiment (not resentment, but rather the French word for “anger and jealousy”) of its previous crew and commander. Actually, that whole scenario made me think of the allegations that Bill Clinton’s staffers removed all the “W” keys from the White House computers (also causing $15,000 in other damages) before handing over the reins to Dubya back in 2004.

But none of this is bad: these are the things that we milfic fans love, desire, and outright expect their authors to produce. We want a scrappy crew of misfits making the best of a leaky rustbucket of a ship to overcome an impossible situation through pluck, irreverence, and lots and lots of bullets. Which harkens to the point I first brought up: this is like Star Trek TNG but without the cringe factor. Although I was a fan of the show (and even videotaped its final episode when we still had VCR’s), I never got over how bothered I was by the utopian perfection of the Enterprise D and its crew. Really, it was a show about well-adjusted professionals performing their duties admirably in the most advanced ship in the galaxy, funded by post-scarcity economics where replicators can make you earl gray, hot, on command. And honestly, that annoyed me. Conflict and deprivation create drama. A lack of those things, while desirable in real life, is boring as hell to sit through.

So The Price of Admiralty hits all the high notes for me. Space is a terrible and dangerous place where you will always be clawing at the bleeding edge of survival, and yet you still have to make money. I’d hate to live that way myself, but it’s damned fun to read about other people doing it. I will definitely be checking out the next installment.