A Thousand Words: Doom

Doom

For the 666th post on Fuldapocalypse, I figure I’d do a “suitable” piece. It was either than or something on the SS-18 missile, whose NATO designation cannot be a coincidence (18=6+6+6=designation name “Satan”.) But I digress.

The id Software masterpiece that popularized the First Person Shooter genre, Doom is the deep, complex story of a sole surviving spacesuit burly man against a giant horde of demons. Ok I kid. But it is still one of the most successful and influential games of all time, ported to a degree that it’s become a meme/security/programming challenge to see if a certain device can be made to run Doom.

What makes Doom interesting and effective even decades after its initial release is that it’s a movement game. The “Doomguy” can run around at massively high speeds, and most of the enemy projectiles can be dodged. Thus it’s about player movement skill. Later cover-shooters are more about player timing skill. And the awkward turn-of-the-millenium games that took place after hitscan and slow characters but before cover mechanics were mastered-

-Well, the only “skill” involved is knowing the layout and how many powerups are there. It’s a kind of deterministic rut that stands as one of those things that doesn’t bring nostalgia. But the rapid movement of Doom is one that definitely does. This is a classic for a reason.

Review: The Inside Ring

The Inside Ring

Mike Lawson’s debut thriller in the Joe DeMarco series, The Inside Ring, is a less-than-coherent thriller. Its stakes zig-zag from high to low to nonsenscially high again at the last second. The cast seems to consist entirely of either slobby white ethnic greasers (including the main character, who is one of the least likable thriller protagonists I’ve seen in recent memory) or slobbier rednecks.

I’ll put it this way. How bad do your rural southerners have to be for a New Yorker like me to go “you’re going way too far here. Ugh”? They’re that bad. The plot is ridiculous, with the villain wanting to do something that would make him far more of a target than if he just did the “conventional” easy thing. Then comes a stereotypical conspiracy to make it even dumber.

While not the worst I’ve read, the literary fundamentals aren’t nearly good enough to salvage this novel. There are better individual thrillers out there, and if nothing else, the series started off on a bad note.

Review: The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow

Allan Folsom’s debut novel, The Day After Tomorrow (no relation to the 2000s movie) is-something. It’s definitely one of the best worst novels I’ve read recently. The prose is as blocky as it is purple (including, yes, the love scenes), and most importantly, much of the book is just people traveling. It’s supposed to be an unwinding conspiracy thriller…

…But it has an anti-Goldilocks effect. It’s too unrealistic and bombastic to be a cloak-and-dagger story, too dull and clumsily written to be an action novel, too narrow in scope to be a pop epic, and too shallow to be a character novel. And then there’s the big twist.

See, this book is basically a novelization of They Saved Hitler’s Brain, down to his actual head playing a role in the plot (although this one is not yet alive). It boils down to using convoluted superscience to clone/revive Hitler, for….. uh….. Anyway, the biggest part of the plot is foiled by someone other than the doctor and detective who serve as the protagonists, leaving a reasonable assumption of “what’s the point”?

Well, the point is that I learned of this book from a bad review. And while I don’t recommend it to anyone “normal”, I had a blast reading it.

Review: A Pius Legacy

A Pius Legacy

If A Pius Man was weird, this is weirder. With the pope kidnapped and put on trial, a “thriller” ensues. This book suffers from a research failure comparable to that of a “Clive Cussler’s” novel where a random Brazilian spoke Spanish. Only that was a one-off not really central to the plot, and this concerns the main element. It has The Hague listed as being in Belgium. Repeatedly.

The same weird thriller elements continue in this installment. The political defenses of Catholicism turn into everything short of digging up the corpse of John XXIII for Cadaver Synod 2, Traditionalist Boogaloo. There are subplots reminding me of Lunnon-Wood’s Dark Rose where seemingly everyone both armed and Catholic turns into defenders of the Vatican.

This is a very quirky book. But I like quirky.

Review: The Thousand Dollar Touchdown

The Thousand Dollar Touchdown

Time to review another thriller with a main character that has a perfect thriller name: Colt Ryder. When I saw that the premise of The Thousand Dollar Touchdown involved sports and gambling, I knew I had to read it. Ryder, the wandering “thousand dollar man”, helps people for that amount. He also kills people in the process. This time his client is the wife of an NFL quarterback. Her brother-in law has died suspiciously, and she thinks he’s been throwing games.

This is very much a 51% book. None of the elements are really that bad, and it’s short and breezy. But it falls short of being genuinely good. A bit of this is the premise: Someone who’s studied the actual way that the sports leagues have been two-faced behind sports betting, the actual composition of their management, and the actual composition of the gambling underworld will notice the oversimplifications and inaccuracies. But since cheap thrillers do not have to be accurate per se, I can wave that off.

A bigger problem is the style. It’s written in this first-person classic hardboiled type that I don’t care the most for, and that style is not the best suited for an action-packed climax where the main character performs ridiculous feats. There’s also a bit of tonal clash. The main character’s approach involves Jack Bauer-ing his way to information by beating people up until they talk, but he’s kept alive in a Dr. Evil Deathtrap after being captured because of plot.

This is a 51% book, but it’s a more interesting to review “mean 51%” than a flat “median 51%”.

Review: Danger Close

Danger Close

Cameron Curtis’ Danger Close is kind of like seeing a local band play an original love song in a club with iffy acoustics. It’s not exactly ambitious, and you know the quality isn’t the best, but you don’t care. You enjoy the music anyway. Likewise, this ridiculously cliche “shoot the terrorist” story is still enjoyable.

It has a very predictable arc (I basically knew the fate of a certain supporting character because she reminded me of a similar one in Rambo II). It has the big burly macho ex-operator man-bro main character. It has research that somehow gets some basic details wrong. It has the Clancy/Baen-ist politics of a cliche cheap thriller and then some.

I didn’t care. Not everything can be an epic masterpiece, and not everything should be. This is disposable entertainment and should be treated as such.

Review: National Security

National Security

As something that’s very much a “51%” book, Marc Cameron’s National Security is hard to really review in depth. The first full-length Jericho Quinn (what a name!) book, it fits in the category of “light but fun.” In fact, it’s arguably a better example of the “The ultimate 51% book” than Marine Force One, my past go-to novel, was.

If one was to play a drinking game for cheap thriller cliches in this book, they would die of alcohol poisoning less than halfway through. Everything from the antagonists to the hero, to the way the hero’s operation is set up is there and very familiar to genre enthusiasts like myself. There’s even the weird weapons like silenced .22LR Glocks and air-launched Tomahawks. It’s dumb, it’s sometimes tasteless, and it’s the kind of book I love.

A Thousand Words: BUSTAFELLOWS

BUSTAFELLOWS

So, it should be obvious that I’m not the target romance fiction aimed at women. But romance fiction that doubles as a crime thriller? Call me intrigued. So when I saw the Blerdy Otome Review of BUSTAFELLOWS (the official title is in ALL CAPS), I felt like I should check what’s still a crime thriller out. Hey, if an otome game took place in a conventional World War III, I’d look at it (I’d be seriously interested in how someone who came from the opposite background as most technothriller authors would handle it.)

Anyway, BUSTAFELLOWS takes place in the fictional NYC stand-in of New Sieg, where a reporter who can send her mind back in time and bodyjack someone in the past to change the present (the implications are addressed, and it’s portrayed as more limited and less powerful than it could theoretically be) gets involved with five possible love interests/vigilantes. While a visual novel doesn’t have much in the way of gameplay per se save for selecting choices, I have to say that this is one of those “PC version as a total afterthought” ports with a bizarre control scheme. Oh well. I got used to it, and the actual game ran fine.

The good news is that this is the rare “Romantic Suspense” that actually succeeds in balancing “Romance” and “Suspense”. The bad news is A: I think there’s a bit of culture clash that’s iffy but still bears little ill will (I’d expect the same from an American production that tried to tackle East Asian socio-political issues), and worse, B: The tone zigzags too much from “too serious” to “too goofy”. But these aren’t deal-breakers and I found it worth my money.

Review: A Pius Man

A Pius Man

Declan Finn’s A Pius Man is a very weird thriller. It was intended as a conservative Catholic response to The Da Vinci Code and its array of knockoffs, yet delays in the publication of the book had the unfortunate effect of making it appear after the trend had already gone away. So it’s like a scathing critique of disco music-that came out in 1989.

As for the book itself, it’s an awkward mixture of conventional thriller (see the central casting Thriller Protagonist!), out-there thriller (See the pope in his super-armor confront raised-from-childhood KGB assassins!), and a self-serious defense of Pius XII’s historical record that reads like a mediocre undergraduate essay. All this is clumsily shoved together.

I still wouldn’t call this book really “good”. But it’s at least different and a little distinct. Your liking of it will depend on your liking of difference for its own sake. It’s the “mean 51%” compared to stuff like Marine Force One or other rote “shoot the terrorist”‘s “median 51%”.

Review: Point of Impact

Point of Impact

Stephen Hunter kicks off his Bob Lee Swagger (aka Deadshot-13) series of sniper thrillers with Point of Impact. I was eager to finally get the chance to read this book, as I’ve heard good things about the series. I was not disappointed. This was a great novel.

Now, granted, there are some bumps. The amount of machismo in the writing’s tone is a little much even for me. More importantly, it has an awkward mix of “Herman Melville for snipers” where it talks about grounded, important setting up for a shot, and “Sniper John Rourke” where the main character can fight at the level of a video game hero and make very accurate shots in a very short amount of time.

But these are not deal-breakers by any means. The action is excellent. The book is long yet well-paced and never feels like it drags on. It has the “slow buildup” of Jon Land at his best applied to a much more serious plot and executed quite effectively. Finally, the big twist feels like an unintentional/accidental critique of the worst “shoot the terrorist” thrillers where the main character doesn’t actually have that much agency. This is definitely not one of those.

I loved this book. I recommend this book. It’s not the absolute best thriller I’ve read, but it’s definitely up there.