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Thread: 2012-The Year in Review

  1. #11
    Gradius's Avatar SC:L Addict
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    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Doctor Who seems more like science fantasy than sci-fi to me. I'll probably finish up the series some day, but as of now the first episode with the extradimensional phone-booth, the living mannequins, and the giant plastic goop monster are too campy for me.

    Speaking of which, Lexx turned out to be a no-go. On to other shows now... Hopefully my insatiable appetite for quality entertainment will be soon quenched. :P

    I enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas and the Witcher 2 for not treating me like an imbecile in their writing
    Well damn. You've got me sold.

    It’s as if the show was trying to have it both ways at times, a fun ‘good guys beat/evade bad guys’ series on one hand, yet trying on some level to convey that it was a war, and people die…just none of the heroes.
    The show definitely had to take some hits to the realism, but making the journey the entire way with these characters was worth-it IMO. The heroes dieing in this show would feel more like a waste than something that adds to realism or grittiness. It's not that kind of show. Just like we can imagine that the aliens don't all speak English and that the show doesn't show us the time wasted with "translating", so too can we assume that the successes of SG1 can be attributed to all of the SG teams in general. That does sound like a huge cop-out, but that's the feeling I got nonetheless, at least from SGU. O'Neill's previous exploits were mentioned, such as getting the ancient library downloaded and leading the first team through the stargate, but he's not treated like some sort of god that actually saved the world multiple times and lived through such impossible odds. Young respects him for different reasons.

    What I didn't like about the show was that aliens' technology were analogous to power levels in DBZ. Each faction keeps one-upping the other by finding progressively more powerful technology throughout the show. The Asgard should have just developed beam weapons in the first place and a whole lot of trouble could have been saved. :P

    Not Loras and Renly discussing how and why Renly should be king while…well, you know…
    If I recall correctly, that scene wasn't in the books themselves. For good reason. :P
    Merlin

    Limiting this discussion to live-action tv series in the fantasy and/or sci-fi genre, and further limiting it to stuff that was released this year or was mentioned by one of the other posters, Merlin is all I’ve got left to discuss. Series 5, specifically.

    Series 5 of Merlin feels a lot like what Voyager was to Star Trek. A season/series that could have/should have been great, but was afraid to seize it. Yes, it was the last season and an arbritarily declared one as such. So naturally, plotlines would have to be wrapped up, right? Well, sort of. It’s here that the lack of foresight really shone through. Saxons are an enemy now. Many years have passed since season 4, but Mordred is the only character who reflects this physically. Guinivere is corrupted by Morgana…but is restored two episodes later. There’s a build-up to Mordred betraying Arthur, but while tensions increase between him and Merlin, him turning on Arthur is confined to a single episode that makes it less like a stand for the druids/Morgana, and more like a temper tantrum because his girlfriend was executed when by all rights should have been executed anyway.

    I don’t want to nitpick too much. Obviously it’s a show without the budget to show Camlaan off in all its glory, but it doesn’t help when it’s conveyed the way it is. It doesn’t help that Morgana declaring war on Camelot feels hollow because she technically did so two seasons ago (continuity, what’s that?). And the ending, and the character development or lack of it by said ending…ugh.

    Merlin could have been more. It could have taken risks, should have given the characters the send-offs they deserved. Not what we got.
    I did manage to catch this as well actually (the first 4 seasons on Netflix). I did skip season 3 because the show is basically a "monster of the week" series with glacial (if any) overarching plot development, which is what annoyed me the most about the show. I can't believe after all this time that Arthur & Gwen still don't know that Merlin has magic, especially after Uther died. It's ridiculous. All I can say is that after watching shows like Spartacus Vengeance & Game of Thrones, this came off as way too family-oriented for me. Most of the characters annoyed me with their stupid decisions such as letting their mortal enemies live, etc. Part of the problem is that it's a prequel to Arthurian legend, and the characters/plot have to go a certain way to set things up for that. Which, of course, is why the writers also chose to employ the extremely-weak prophecy device, which prevented the plot & characters from developing naturally. I think the most enjoyable thing about the show was the banter between Arthur & Merlin. It's watchable once you force yourself to get into it, but 6/10 for me.

  2. #12

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    As an Aussie sci-fi fan, Hawki, you not having seen Farscape should be deemed as a crime. Get onto it, pronto!

    As to Doctor Who defying categorisation as a show, I think "pure escapism" fits it quite nicely. Aside from sci-fi comedies (of which there aren't many famous ones, I might add), Doctor Who is unique in that is a fairly serious sci-fi show that actually invites, expects and relies on it's audience to suspend their disbelief more than anything else before going on to create a sense of an internally consistent world that is true to itself (which is as difficult as it sounds when it comes to Doctor Who). I think it's this whimsical feel to it that is what both attracts and repulses some people to Doctor Who. In contrast, most other sci-fi's these days are heavily invested in making the "world" realistic first by grounding it through characterisation, explanation of its "rules" and/or representing the perceived mundaneness or grimness of that setting (to reflect the "current" time of the real world) before asking us to suspend our disbelief in any major way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradius View Post
    Doctor Who seems more like science fantasy than sci-fi to me. I'll probably finish up the series some day, but as of now the first episode with the extradimensional phone-booth, the living mannequins, and the giant plastic goop monster are too campy for me.
    I take it this is the first time you've ever had the taste of Doctor Who?

    The campiness is par the norm for this show, I'm afraid. It's actually part of it's charm believe it or not. Look past it if you can, there are some pretty decent episodes in there.

    There are clear reasons for why the phone-booth is the way it is and for the "goop monster/living manneuquins" (they are a callback to a classic Who villain). Long-time fans of the show with a sense of the show's history stand to appreciate this more though, I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradius View Post
    Well damn. You've got me sold.
    I'm actually surprised you haven't had a go at these already.

    I'd advise you to get the ultimate/enhanced version of each to get even more out of them.
    Last edited by Turalyon; 01-07-2013 at 01:48 AM.
    Yes, that's right! That is indeed ME on the right.


    _______________________________________________

  3. #13

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Hmm...

    Games:
    As a Mass Effect and Halo fan, this year was a crushing disappointment for me. Yes, the extended ending patched things up, but there's still a hole in my heart where my love for Bioware used to reside.

    Picked up "FTL: Faster Than Light", which was my game of the year. Probably doesn't belong in this thread because, well, it doesn't really have a plot.
    And that's it.
    Yup. Don't play a lot of games.

    Television:
    The only reason this section exists is because I got together with some friends and started a movie night.
    -The Walking Dead:
    I imagine that it has a few redeeming qualities. I remember being rather entertained by the first season, but the general stupidity reached critical mass in the second season.
    Sure, the first season had some tomfoolery like how the characters never went for the heavy machine guns the Army left behind, or how the survivors camped right in the bush that gave the Walkers a free sneak attack, or how a guy hacked his arm off instead of the thin rusty rod he was handcuffed to.

    We stopped watching TWD shortly after the wife's car accident (I am positive that it is impossible to possess both common sense and a uterus on that show) and I don't think we'll be starting again.

    -Breaking Bad:
    Loved it.
    Finished the second season, and I loved Walt's character. Even if he does have some violent, possibly psychotic tendencies, I loved how tough it was for him to get the courage to kill Krazy-8.
    And, ah, bonus points for getting me to agree with someone as annoying as Marie.

    Movies/Books
    Eh. Didn't go through enough to comment. Loved The Hobbit, though.

  4. #14

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Because of the nature of the posts and thread, I'll post this by subject area rather than poster, for the most part.

    TV Shows

    Doctor Who

    I’d classify Doctor Who as science fantasy if not for all the stuff that still falls outside said science fantasy, such as the genres of supernatural and historical fiction. Obviously it isn’t for everyone, but assuming Gradius has season 1, I’d recommend the first three episodes as a good poison taste as they cover an episode set in the present (ep. 1), future (ep. 2) and past (ep. 3). Problem is that it changes in accordance with actor and creative director (e.g. I personally prefer Tennant and Davies to Smith and Moffat), but there’s only so far one can be asked to endure something that isn’t to their tastes. And then there's the whole "new Who/old Who" divide. Admittedly it was "new Who" that got me into it and I haven't pursued much "old Who," but I do know people, both online and in the real world, who like it just as much, if not more so than the current era.

    Stargate

    I don’t mind SG-1’s lack of grittiness. I’m not sure it’s really a show that could be gritty. Indeed, if the Stargate Program was racking up casualties left, right and centre…well, one would have to wonder why every marine, trooper and airman who stepped into Cheyenne Mountain never came back.

    On the other hand, it’s conveyed that the SG teams still suffer casualties (e.g. the episode where they train the newbies, one of said newbies dying in a later episode) and the Heroes duology (where Fraser is killed). But it’s not just that, it’s also the Jaffa/goa’uld that seem to fluctuate in accordance with the plot. First time we see the Jaffa in the series, they’ve got the kickass helmets that sadly seemed to disapear during the series and have armour that can withstand automatic weapons to a great extent before giving way. When SG-1 takes to the field, they’re gunned down quite easily. I dunno, maybe the DK5 or P-90 are more powerful than the M-16s the airmen originally used (probably getting gun terms wrong, but I’m no expert). Maybe the SG teams are just that good (the Jaffa being a warrior race notwithstanding). There’s a degree of explanation about the goa’uld, how their armies are basically feudal, their shock staffs are “weapons of terror” rather than “weapons of war” (borrowing O’Niel’s analogy), but at the end of the day, it felt like the goa’uld threat fluctuated in accordance with the dictations of the plot rather than a logical progression.

    And yeah, the English thing didn’t bug me too much, though I’d have liked an explanation of some kind, even just a throwaway line. Again, maybe Daniel’s just that good of a translator, maybe since most Milky Way human cultures have an Earth basis a root language can be used, but the explanation falls flat via Atlantis, where none of the Pegasus humans have a cultural counterpart, and where not only is Daniel absent, but AR-1 doesn’t have an Earth-based translator either. I couldn’t help but smirk when Scott exclaimed to the Novus in SGU “you speak English”-a reasonable exclamation the one time it actually makes sense that humans speak English. Heh, least it inspired a oneshot.

    Admittedly, the 'power levels' thing is one thing that didn'tbug me. The Replicators were a different threat than the Ori, so I didn’t find it too far-fetched that the asgard hadn’t developed more powerful weapons when there was every risk the Replicators could seize them, whereas the Ori didn’t really need to seize anything.

    These are nitpicks at the end of the day of course, but watching SG-1 over the span of a month at the most, I’m afraid that the nitpicks kind of added up.

    Merlin

    Since the topic has entered the subject of the series as a whole, I guess Merlin is sort of in a similar area as SG-1 to me. There were lots of things that irked me from time to time over the series, nitpicks that I feel became manifest in the final season, but not to the extent that it got too bogged down over them. In terms of continuity, I found it kind of similar to Doctor Who, how while there’s not necessarily continuity from episode to episode, there’s usually overarching continuity in the background. In season 1, it was Nimuwe. Season 2, it was Morgana’s developing powers and increasing hatred of Uther. Season 3, it was Morgana’s internal plotting. Season 4, it was the…other guy’s internal plotting. Season 5, it was the issue of Mordred. Unlike Doctor Who though, whose overarching plot themes varied and were often subtle, these ones often felt like repeats. An internal threat in all but the first season, or Morgana being a background external one. And while it would be unfair to say that the series lacks character development whatsoever (e.g. Merlin, Arthur and Morgana), it often feels like its lacking it with other characters (e.g. Sir Leon, who’s pretty much exactly the same person as he was in season 5 from season 1, despite being the only member of Arthur’s inner circle of knights that originally served under Uther).

    But in light of the other comments, again, season 5. Okay, it doesn’t help that I was watching Game of Thrones on DVD over the same period of time I was watching the series as it aired, where the differences in style and tone were there for me to see side by side. Obviously it’s a show designed for a younger audience in mind, but I’m usually okay with that provided that it’s good enough on its own terms. I was also okay with the prophecy in principle. Mordred’s lack of character development and/or valid antagonism towards Arthur was more systemic of just poor/lazy writing rather than prophecy incarnate IMO, just as with Morgana’s death. Not every villain needs to go out in a blaze of glory, but hopefully I can be forgiven for wanting more than just being stabbed and dying through Excalibur when she’s been stabbed/slashed twice in the same season.

    Games

    You know, I felt that I hadn't played that many games this year, said number of games being 16, 17 if you include the Heart of the Swarm beta (by inclusion, I mean a playthrough). Looking at Gradius and Quirel's comments though...huh. Go figure. Anyway:

    Mass Effect 3

    Huh, I guess Gradius and Quirel summed it up. Good universe, good writing, horrible original ending that I think the extended cut alleviates somewhat, but still suffers from thematic dissonence. But meh. While I feel confident talking about the Mass Effect story, gameplay is another matter, as I've only played the first and a bit of 2. And my love for Bioware, established in ME1, was quickly destroyed by Sonic Chronicles (the only two Bioware games I've played fully enough to give a full consideration/rating) so in all honesty, I shouldn't complain too much.

    Diablo III

    I’m taking a risk here. Taking a risk because I’ll say right off the bat that in regards to a comparison between D3 and WoL, my judgement would be the opposite to Gradius's (wow, that's a surprise), that while D3 has superior writing, WoL has a superior plot. I say this is a risk, because it could send the thread back into another WoL is good/bad debate. Luckily, that was in 2010. But yeah, basically, I felt D3 had better writing in the sense that it used character conversations to its advantage, to develop characters both major and minor, spent more time fleshing out the world via its codex pages and background dialogue, and that it had a very broad spectrum of emotion. Great humour on one hand (e.g. the Lord of Goats gag is one that stands out in my mind for some reason), great sorrow on the other (the aftermath of Deckard Cain’s death, how every New Tristram NPC not only reacts to it, but does so in a unique way). WoL wasn’t without this, but much of its character development/establishment was limited to its main characters, and while it had a broad emotional spectrum as well, it wasn’t to the same extent as D3.

    On the other hand, D3’s plot was predictable. In terms of general plot, there weren’t any surprises. Pre-release, I saw a lot coming, both from promotional material and through a general sense of the lore that had been released between games. And in the game itself, there’s not really anything unexpected. It’s obvious that Hakaan is Belial’s vassel. It’s obvious that Leah was the daughter of Aidan. And while I think the idea of the Black Soulstone was good in itself, the actual mechanics of exactly how every Evil got into the damn thing is head-scratching (or at least the Prime Evils, but meh, semantics). WoL’s plot wasn’t predictable, or at least, there were still surprises for me, and a lot happened in it that I didn’t expect. I’d rather not get too in-depth into its plot because it’s been discussed to death, but overall, I find WoL’s plot superior to D3’s. More surprises, more themes, and while D3’s plot felt like a usual save the world story, it’s harder to boil WoL down to a story archatype. I can draw similarities with other ‘spaceship stories’ in games that I’m familiar with (e.g. Wing Commander and Mass Effect) but it felt more like its own thing than D3 did.

    Movies

    Well, movies have entered the topic now, so I guess it's okay to start posting. This list is a bit different because not only have I seen many movies this year, many were actually released this year. And something I've noticed about them is that most fall in the realm of "okay." Still, listing what I can, the stuff that's actually "good" or "bad" (IMO of course):

    The Worst

    6: Prometheus

    While not the worst movie I've seen this year, Prometheus was easily the most disapointing. I mean, it was directed by Ridley Scott. Alien. Blade Runner. Kingdom of Heaven which was...okay...I guess...but...come on! Alien! Blade Runner! Bring on the prequel! Bring on the...the...retcons. Lack of answers. Underdeveloped characters. Shoddy editing. That feeling of...emptiness...I get...coming out of the cinema...

    I'd call Prometheus a bad film, but to be more specific, it's in that realm of being just short of "okay." It isn't good. It isn't that bad. It's just...it could have been so much more. Even if it was just an action/suspense film, it could have still been a good one. It's just...ugh. Not the worst film I saw this year. But like I said, easily the most disapointing.

    5: The Iron Lady

    There's not too much I can say about this. Just that I don't think it was a very good film. More interested in Thatcher's political career than personal life.

    4: The Amazing Spider-Man

    Was this really necessary? I mean, okay, Spider-Man is a hot property, Spider-Man 3 could have been better, and with Marvel movies raking in the cash, it makes sense from a commercial standpoint. But...already? Heck, we at least had some breathing room between the Burton/Schumaker and Nolan Batman movies. But that aside, this movie...wasn't very good, IMO. Part of it is the whole 'been there, done that' feel. Part of it is the whole 'gritty' feel. A feel that, IMO, feels more like an attempt to emulate The Dark Knight and less of an attempt to tell a story that's tonally in sync with Spider-Man. Part of it...ugh. I know this isn't much of a review, but there isn't that much I can pick out in this movie. Just it felt unnecessary, tedious, and...yeah. Sorry.

    3: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    ...I should have read the book first.

    Yeah, this isn't much of a review, it's just, I had little idea what was going on, who the characters were, I just couldn't bring myself to care. That's...about it.

    2: Ted

    This wasn't very funny.

    That's the biggest problem with this film IMO. It's a comedy. It has an interesting premise. A bear that comes to life, stays alive, becomes a foul-mouthed ex-celebrity. It's a film by Seth McFarlene. I mean, okay, I think his style of comedy is a bit hit-or-miss, but when it's funny, it's...well, funny. Ted, unfortunately, misses the mark most of the time, and while it makes an attempt at some heartwarming moments, the protagonist isn't sympathetic enough for me to really care. Sorry Seth, but I'd rather you stick to Family Guy.

    1: Lore

    Okay, let's get some stuff out of the way. Yes, it's an Australian-German film (key word on the German). Yes, it's spoken in German with subtitles. Yes, I'm probably missing out on some subtext that's lost in translation. Yes, it was well recieved by critics. But this is my list, and not only is it at the bottom of said list, but you know what? This film was awful.

    I don't have a single good thing to say about this. The pacing is off. The character development is all over the map. The characters themselves are unlikeable, casually comitting murder and stealing without any reflection on the ramifications. We're expected to feel sorry for the protagonist, but I couldn't. The only character I ever felt sorry for was one of the siblings who's killed by a Soviet soldier. Because, you know, if German civilians are being killed, it has to be the Soviets. They're evillll like that.

    ...God I hate this movie. The only consolation is that judging by the ammount of squirming in the theater that I saw as I repeatedly looked at my watch, many others disliked it too.

    The Best

    6: The Bourne Legacy

    This film was...okay. A bit unnecessary IMO, because I felt its predecessor closed off the trilogy well. It also had the problem of establishing that the events of that third film were for nothing, that the CIA spooks can casually get away with murder and unsanctioned espionage. Yeah, the world sucks. Deal with it. Kind of like how I regard Terminator 3 in regards to how it stands in regards to the previous material, but not to the same extent.

    Still, I found this film enjoyable overall. Characters were okay. I cared about them. Had good action, and the lab execution scene...horrible. As in, horrible in that it's the type of horror that adds to the story. People are dying, and you bloody well care.

    So yeah. Good film overall IMO.

    5: The Hunger Games

    I'm not sure whether I'd consider the book or film superior (saw the film first BTW). I'd call both...okay, in the end. But hey, I still enjoyed it. Cared about the characters. The premise was enjoyable. It felt nice for a female lead to be...well, the lead. Overall, quite enjoyable.

    4: Total Recall

    I'll admit two things right off the bat. First, I never saw the original. Second, to enjoy this movie, I had to turn my brain off at times. But with those two things out of the way, I'll come out and say I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I liked the protagonists, and thought the actors did a good job. The action? Okay, Quaid is apparently invincible, but it's so well done I could live with that. The premise? Yeah, a bit silly, but not over the top, and I felt it was helped by the excellent cinematography, how we see what life is like in the Colony and UFB, not told. I mean, yeah, it's been done, but in this film, it was definately done well.

    3: Hugo

    Yeah, another film adapted from a novel. One I haven't read. And you know what? I don't have to. This film was excellent.

    I mean, yeah, okay, the plot is quite basic. But the characters are likeable, they develop, and it's one of the few films I've seen that I feel 3D actually adds to. If Hugo is a love letter to the medium of film, then it's a love letter that was well recieved.

    2: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    I feel a bit guilty about this. Not for liking this, but for having it so high up on the list. Thing is, this film could have been better. A lot could have easily been edited out. I felt at times it was trying to tie-in too much with The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy rather than being its own thing. I felt that it lost the spirit of the book at times, and had a bit of a stop-start feel, not to mention how the dwarves can easily cut down any goblin in their path. Things that I chastised The Dark Knight Rises for.

    And yet...I loved this film. I loved the characters. I loved seeing Middle-Earth again. I loved returning to The Hobbit. I loved the characters, whether they be Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, or heck, even one of the background dwarves. While the stage version I saw as a child will always be the definitive version for me personally, this came damn close. I think it's a movie more for the fans than a movie for the masses, but as a fan...well, I loved it.

    1: The Descendents

    This is a movie I honestly cannot criticize. There is nothing...nothing I can really find wrong with it. The editing/writing is excellent. The story is excellent. The acting is excellent. Even leaving aside personal connections, this film is absolutely excellent. It...yes, it was released in 2011 overseas, but came out in Oz in early 2012 as I recall. Came out at a time with, leaving family drama aside, came out at a time when I needed it. So yeah. Best film I saw in 2012...even if it didn't necessarily come out in the year.

    Novels

    Read a lot of books this year. Unfortunately, when I take out all the non-fiction books, and cut it further down by confining it to books actually released this year, that hasn't left me with much to talk about. Actually, they're all tie-ins. Well, for what it's worth:

    The Worst

    3: Diablo III: The Order

    Not a bad novel by any means. Unfortunately, it was a novel I feel wasn't as good as it could have been, how it falls apart in the last quarter or so. Leah's characterization just...stops, it conveys the feeling of checklist storywriting, and the combat...well, long story short, I feel it should have gone one way or the other. Either embrace a full hack and slash scenario (and with Nicodemus, they easily could have) or gone for creepiness and suspense. Unfortunately, Kenyon didn't really do either, so the climax was a letdown. Again, not a bad book, but still a disapointment.

    2: Halo: The Forerunner Saga: Primordium

    If there's one problem with this book, it's the simple fact that...well...nothing happens in the first 200 pages! Just wandering around Installation 07...and more wandering...and more wandering...and more wandering...all for a revelation I saw coming back in 2007. Oh, and Spark's still alive. Yay. Hopefully Greg Bear and 343 will forgive me for not being over the moon.

    1: Mass Effect: Deception

    ...what is this? Seriously, what is this...thing...that I have in my hand? It's...it's...well, it's insulting. It's insulting to think that this was published. It's insulting that Dietz didn't even familiarize himself with the most basic facts of the Mass Effect universe. It's insulting that Bioware apparently didn't proofread this at all. It's insulting that Gilian's autism is thrown away to make her "an angry youth." It's...well, let's just say it's bad. Really bad. The lore is horrible, the writing boils down to breakfasts, pointless lovemaking and unmemorable action sequences, and there's the fact that, by the end of the day, all that's really changed are that some characters are dead. You know. So they didn't have to appear in Mass Effect 3.

    The Best

    3: Gears of War: The Slab

    I'm not the biggest fan of Karen Travis. Her writing style bugs me often. Still, the novel was...good, I guess. There's not too much I remember about it, but...well, it was decent. Decent action, decent plot, some characters (especially Dom) felt a bit OOC at times, but nothing too bad. Overall, a decent read.

    2: World of Warcraft: Tides of War

    ...the action scenes could have been better.

    Yeah, that's really the only bad thing I can say about this novel. Otherwise...well, I can't. Characters are excellently written. The plot is well written. The romance is...actually quite decent, something that Golden hasn't exactly impressed me with in the past. While not the absolute best book I've read this year, or even released this year that I've read, Tides of War was by far the most emotional, especially in the final few pages with Jaina's inaguration into the Kirin Tor. Just...wow. No pun intended.

    1: Star Trek: The Rings of Time

    Some people say that, when choosing their favourite pieces of tie-in fiction, is that "I like x because it feels like the y." For instance, one could say "I like the Game of Thrones tv series because it feels like the novels it's based on." In light of this, I'm usually on the disagreeing side. If x feels like y, it's rarely a good sign in my experience. Luckily, the above is an exception. And so is Star Trek: The Rings of Time.

    The novel feels like a TOS episode, and I mean that in a good way. The plot is unpredictable. It manages to use time travel well. The ending was something that made me go "what?!" (in a good way). It...well, it's just, there's nothing I can actually fault in it. Even in Tides of War I felt there were areas that could be improved on. It's just...there's nothing bad I can say about this novel. I mean, if you don't like Star Trek it's not for you, but if it is...well, set phasers to fun. Because this was an excellent read.

    Graphic Novels

    I'm not a big reader of comics/manga. And of the stuff I did read this year, only two installments were actually released this year. Luckily, they're the best and worst graphic novel I've read this year overall, so I guess it makes sense to talk about them.

    The Worst

    1: Falling Skies: Battle of Fitchburg

    Yeah, I can't say too much about this. Got it from Dark Horse Digital for free...I think. Read it in a single sitting. Vaguely familiar with the premise of the TV series, but I'm sure I'd have gotten more out of this if I was more familiar. But...ugh. Plot's a mess, characters are un-interesting, fight scenes are boring. 'Nuff said.

    The Best

    1: Diablo III: Book of Cain

    ...I want more.

    Yeah, that's really the only bad thing I can say about this gem. I wanted more lore. More. More I say! But no, I didn't get more. But what I did get...I mean, okay, I considered myself relatively familiar with the Diablo universe before I read this. But sometimes it's good to have something in your hands. Something to read. Angels, demons, the history of Sanctuary...I mean, it's succinct, it's well written, and the artwork is simply beautiful. As in, beautiful in the sense of demons of Hell, angels of Heaven, and poor sods caught in-between, but...wow. The artwork is incredible, and well suited to the tome. Not only is it the best graphic novel I've read this year, but is perhaps the best graphic novel I've ever read, period.

    So when are Warcraft and StarCraft going to get similar treatment?

  5. #15

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Some others that have occurred to me:

    The Dresden Files


    I burned through five of the books this year, and I'd like to comment on them, as a series. But first, I'd like to note that I'm not a fan of fantasy in general. If it's high fantasy, it's probably borrowing way too much from Tolkein, and going on five or six novels/doorstoppers longer than it really ought to. This is especially true for the Eragon series. Including the "Five or six" figure.
    Then there's "Urban fantasy". After NaNoWriMo '08, I have a particular loathing for werewolves, vampires, and the sexualization thereof. Couldn't take more than a few episodes of Lost Girl, even if the main character was /technically/ an incubus.

    But the Dresden Files? Good, and getting better.

    One of the things that Jim Butcher is doing better is that each novel seems less stand-alone, and less tied to a theme. In the first books, Harry Dresden would somehow encounter all four kinds (out of three known varieties) of werewolf while on a case. And only werewolves. Now, the books are tying into each other and building upon what came before.
    Another thing I like (because I watched Lost Girl and had to sit through a trailer for Beautiful Creatures before I could see The Hobbit) is that there's no black and white, good and evil distinction between different supernatural critters. Generally, the Fae are separated into Winter and Summer, but each side is just as nasty as the other. One faction just pretends to be warm and friendly.

    And the vampires... yeah, well, there's sex-vampires (Incubi and succubi) and the 'normal' vampires pack a narcotic saliva, but for all that sex appeal, they're still monsters. They don't enter into relationships, they hunt down food.

    What's been worrying me, lately, is just how powerful the main character is. In Dead Beat, one of the last chapters had Dresden laying out just how many avenues he has to ultimate power. Even without Hellfire powering his spells, he admits to being one of the top fifty most powerful wizards alive. His old mentor is probably more powerful than he is. He's got a model of Chicago in his basement that he can use for tracking spells.

    At least the whole bit about the demon corrupting him was satisfactorily resolved.

    Order Of The Stick (Assorted)

    So, I finally got my Kickstarter reward, which was all three print-only books. I've got to say, it was worth every cent.
    Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tails is mostly just fun. There's the non-canon strips from Dragon magazine, there's the 3.5 vs 4th edition wars, and quite a bit more. What I loved were the stories at the end. Hamlet, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Goldeneye done in the style of OotS. The stories are hilarious, but they also point out how hard it is to get a narrative to work when there's so many gamebreaking features that come with the DnD framework. Sorry, Hamlet, but you need not worry about committing suicide, because we can travel to the afterlife and see what it's like. And even if you do change your mind, there's a Raise Dead spell for that. And why go on this convoluted plan to expose your uncle as a murderer when a member of the clergy can simply cast "Speak With Dead"?

    On the Origin Of the PCs was the first print book that Rich Burlew released, and it shows. The greyscale coloring is hit and miss. As for the story itself (Stories, since each character gets an origin) they're the OotS standard, but the characters were definitely meant to interact with each other. Haley spends much of her backstory alone, and her monologues are really forced. When she gets scenes with Vaarsuvius and Roy, she really begins to shine.

    Start Of Darkness is, dare I say it, generally better than the online comics. To paraphrase Rich Burlew in the introduction, it's about "Bad guys doing good things, bad guys doing bad things, bad guys doing bad things to each other, and bad guys having bad things done to them by good people doing bad. Got that straight?"
    I think of it as Redcloak's story, as much of the story is about him. How he became the bearer of the Crimson Mantle, how he embarked on a quest to hold the Gods at gunpoint and demand a fair deal for the Goblinoid races, and how he's failed that quest because of his own faults.

    And then there's Xykon.
    Hoo, boy, Xykon.
    He doesn't really have a start to his darkness, because he's always been evil, and he's always been a jerk. What he does do is get more powerful. And destroy lives in all segments of the Alignment grid.
    He'd be a complete monster... scratch that. He is a complete monster. He's listed right there in the sourcebook, and he's an irredeemable villain. But we'd love him a lot less if he wasn't so darn funny, and if he wasn't so good at monologues. And there's plenty of both in this book. Hell, in as many as five pages, he gets two monologues. One where he thrashes an epic-level wizard while calmly ranting about how sick he is of wizards pretending that they're better than sorcerers, and a "More Evil Than Thou" speech he gives to Redcloak.

    If you're going to buy only one of the OotS books, make it this one. Please.

    More later, I guess.

  6. #16

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Quirel
    But first, I'd like to note that I'm not a fan of fantasy in general. If it's high fantasy, it's probably borrowing way too much from Tolkein, and going on five or six novels/doorstoppers longer than it really ought to. This is especially true for the Eragon series. Including the "Five or six" figure.
    But the Inheritance saga is only four books long. Not five. Not six. It's...oh. Right.

    I'll admit, having read The Eye of the World recently (first book of The Wheel of Time series), I've since come to regard Inheritance with less disdain. At least in Eragon it's honest with its influences, and doesn't try to hide them. TEotW makes some half-hearted attempt to (and I'm not just referring to Tolkien influences) but once it's seen through, it doesn't do the story any favours. Nor does stopping off at an inn every few pages...

  7. #17
    TheEconomist's Avatar Lord of Economics
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    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    I've been really meaning to get into the Dresden files. I even have the first one bought. It seems to have my name all over it but, somehow, whenever I'm in the mood for magic I go to fantasy, and whenever I'm in the mood for mystery I go to other mystery books (Dublin Murder Squad, at the moment, which are some of my favorite mystery books). I'm rarely in the mood for both.

    But, if you're interested in, *ehem*, "low" fantasy, I could recommend you some of those, or even some good high fantasy. I, too, tend to prefer the "lower" fantasy settings which are basically "fake" historical fiction with some allowance for magic. I guess 20 years or WarCraft and other RPGs burned me out on there being magic gods on every street corner.

    I keep wanting to get into the Wheel of TIme series, but it seems like its more of the typical fantasy style books. I try to get into something thats a bit different so I flock to books like The First Law trilogy and the Farseer trilogy, and, of course, A Song of Ice and Fire. Whenever I'm in the mood for hypocrisy though, I do enjoy the Dragonlance books, but only because I read those when I was too young to know the difference. The first two Dragonlance trilogies (Chronicles, Legends, you can smell the originality from here, can't you?) are still some of my favorite books, despite the fact that, even from memory, I can tell they're mostly clouded by massive amounts of nostalgia.



    Rest In Peace, Old Friend.

  8. #18

    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Quote Originally Posted by TheEconomist
    I keep wanting to get into the Wheel of TIme series, but it seems like its more of the typical fantasy style books.
    That's pretty much the gist of it. I wouldn't call book 1 bad per se, but it definately left me underwhelmed. From a lore standpoint, so much of it has a Tolkein counterpart that can easily be found with little use of one's brain. Enough to make you THINK it's original at first, but leaves a sour taste in your mouth once the curtain is inevitably pulled. And it's not just Tolkein either. For example, the story of King Arthur is basically copy-pasted into the setting through the story "Arthur Pendrag." True, the setting is bereft of elves, dwarves, or hobbits, but when trollocs are basically orcs, the Dark One is basically Sauron, and when virtually every location has a LotR counterpart, when so often there's no effort being made to hide the influence at all (e.g. LotR has the Misty Mountains, WoT has the...Mountains of Mist), it makes me feel less like I'm reading an 'original' fantasy series and more like I'm reading an AU LoTR fanfic.

    Writing is distinctly "okay" too IMO. Just, analysis aside, it's more 'by the numbers.' Stop off at town...move on...get gossip...fight trollocs...next town...next inn...oooh! Camlyn! Yeah, it's basically Minas Tirith but I like the visual descriptions and...more inns...more gossip...god, can't we just get to the boss fight? Can't Ba'alzamon's regular routine of "neiner neiner neiner" ammount to something more than basically the same threat? Can't we...no...more travels...more inns...can't we...ooh! Boss fight! It's...well, that was over quickly. Now...oh. Post credits teaser. Yay.

    Yeah, maybe a bit harsh, but if I'm going to criticize something, it isn't bad having fun with it.

  9. #19
    TheEconomist's Avatar Lord of Economics
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    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    LotR has the Misty Mountains, WoT has the...Mountains of Mist
    Haha, I actually laughed here, and about what I had expected. I actually started Eye of the World when I was very, very young and put it down about 100 pages in for reasons like this. Someday, I plan on continuing since I've heard it gets better. Afterall, the series does revolve around time, right?

    Of course, that's probably after I've had my fill of more original series. It does have a very, very loyal fanbase. His estate even got threats if he died before he had finished the series... Oooh, fanboys. So, I assume its a worthy and interesting series and for that reason I plan to enjoy it someday.

    Anyone here read the series want to voice their opinion on it?



    Rest In Peace, Old Friend.

  10. #20
    Gradius's Avatar SC:L Addict
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    Default Re: 2012-The Year in Review

    Quote Originally Posted by TheEconomist View Post
    Anyone here read the series want to voice their opinion on it?
    I'm actually reading the final book now. Picked up book #4 at first in the library when I was younger, so it's just been something I had to finish over the years. :P

    WoT is more like typical fantasy style books, but still pretty enjoyable. Never read LoTR though so I can't speak to its similarities. Whoever has read the last book I just want to say that:
    Hidden Content:
    Rand destroying the Choedan Kal = stupid stupid stupid! ><

    With that kind of power he could have just bitchslapped the dark one back to the 18th layer of hell, but that would be too easy.

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