Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

Hawki

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Dune: The Duke of Caladan (4/5)

The first installment in the Caladan Trilogy, yet the second one I read (you can see my earlier Lady of Caladan review if you want). LoC didn't suffer too much from me skipping ahead, but overall, I did find myself liking DoC more.

By this time, you're probably well aware of my feelings towards Anderson's writing style, and suffice to say, that style remains. Still, it's not as egregious here as some of his other works. In a sense, the 'functional' style serves the book, in that it's generally focused on its overall task - House Atreides dealing with a drug baron on Caladan, while the Noble Commonwealth is shaking the foundations of the Imperium, while the Harkonnens remain dicks on Arrakis, and everyone is caught between. It's not exactly Game of Thrones, let alone original Dune, but it serves its purpose. There's quite a few moments where I laughed - I think that was a first for Anderson's writing.

Something I think this novel deserves some credit for is its worldbuilding for Caladan. Now, I don't know how much of that is attributable to Original or Expanded Dune, and if the latter, how much of it was established beforehand (there's a lot of references to recent Atreides history that seems like it comes from a novel), but of what's here, it's appreciated, in that there's a sense of how Caladan's culture and geography works. Nothing approaching the depth of Arrakis and the Fremen as established in original Dune, granted, but I'll take what I can get. Hardly the first person to point this out, but there's a certain irony in Paul coming from a water world to reside on and eventually rule from a desert one.

Also, in what's a rarity for me in novels, period, Anderson actually depicted a battle sequence that I enjoyed reading. I know, I'm as shocked as you are, but, yeah. Towards the end, House Atreides has to bring out the heavy guns against Caladan's drug ring (which turns out to be part of the Noble Commonwealth in what's actually a pretty good plot twist), only the drugrunners are so fanatical they're willing to use las-weapons against shields, so that means unshielded combat, and a lot of it on the ground. It's combat that rings true to the Dune universe in regards to how melee has become important in this setting due to the pros and cons of shields, but also arguably ties in with the original novel, with Leto reflecting how on Caladan, they could rely on air and sea power, whereas on Arrakis, they need "desert power."

It's possible that I'm giving this novel more credit than it deserves, but overall, it's a good read. It's not on the level of the original novel (of what I've read of it), but in the scope of Expanded Dune, I'd say it's the best of the bunch (again, of what I've read).
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Thrawn (3/5)

Alright, I'll say it, I've never really got the appeal behind Thrawn. Granted, I've never read the Heir to the Empire trilogy, but I have read Outbound Flight (which he appeared in), and saw him in Rebels (where he seemed to lose most of the time), but while I get some of the appeal, that isn't to the extent of the fanbase's obsession with him. Or at least, not to the extent where a Star Wars novel can just be called "Thrawn," as if that alone is meant to sell it (which I guess it did).

Anyway, as the title suggests, the novel focuses on Thrawn, from him being picked up by the Empire after being banished by the chiss, to him becoming grand admiral, along the way succeeding at everything and anything. I'd call Thrawn a Gary Stu, but given the revelations presented at the end (which are fairly well done), that kind of ammeliates it. However, the novel was just "meh" for me. It does focus on other things, granted (e.g. Arinda Pryce, and Thrawn's aide), but none of them really caught my attention.
 

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Star Wars: The High Republic - There Is No Fear (4/5)

Graphic novel set in the High Republic period. Pretty decent. Having read plenty of HR stuff, it's nice to see the pieces fall into place, even if I've read them out of order.
 

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At long last after waiting three months for stores to restock, I can finally start reading the manga version of 'My Dress Up Darling'. Some interesting things I've noticed now too.

One is that I've reconfirmed for myself the make up of this manga. It's written by a woman, drawn by a woman, and intended for a female audience. It's a lot more obvious when you see the artstyle in the manga, its one I've only seen used for female targeted anime. The shape and detail of the eyes, the extra detail of the hair showing individual strands, the way skin has a flush to it, the accurate detail of feet and the ability to show bare female nipples without getting a content warning advisory. It's very glam. It's nice that something very clearly targeting women and a specific demographic of them was also able to see such widespread success among other people.

The other interesting thing is just how little is changed between it and the anime and I'd actually say the anime is better because it keeps everything intact but can also enhance scenes and details to make them just that much better. Like when Gojo and Marin are watching a magical girl anime so Gojo can get a feel for what the cosplay should be like, in the anime they move observations that were just talked about in the manga to this scene and have clips of this made up magical girl show play out. Another is how Marin's room is filled with a lot of merch but some of it is indistinct generic merch in the manga while in the anime they changed a lot of it to be merchandise featuring characters shed cosplay as later, adds consistency and anticipation.

Overall, it's very clear that the people that made the adaptation put a lot of love and effort into it with how meticulous they were, that's very nice to see.
 

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Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren (3/5)

This was...fine, I guess?

This is a graphic novel compilation covering the space of time between Ben turning on Luke at the temple, to him forging his lightsaber and taking the name "Kylo Ren." There's a fair bit I liked here, but a fair bit that I was passe on, hence the average rating. Far as EU material set in this time period of the universe goes, dealing with stuff like the First Order and its members, I've certainly read better.

So on that note:

THE GOOD

-I think the comic handles Snoke well. In every other appearence I can think of, Snoke's been some menacing, abhorent individual, whereas Snoke here, when Ben goes running to him after burning down the Academy, is presented as a kindly man. Still manipulative of course, but in terms of characterization, adds some depth.

-There's some nice stuff on the Light and Dark sides of the Force. Don't get me wrong, this is hardly some in-depth philosophical work on a fictional mitochondria generated energy field (yes, I went there), but there's certain key lines/insight that elevate the work and its characters.

-So, Rey's in this comic, but it actually works. Even casting aside all the "dyad in the Force" stuff, the moment Ben fully crosses the moral event horizon, she feels cold, despite being in the heat of Jakku. Subtle, but adds a lot. Also, Leia gets a similar feeling, but doesn't work as well IMO.

-Also kind of nice how the comic handles Ben forging his lightsaber, why the cross-guard is the way it is.

THE BAD

-Okay, I know this isn't the comic's fault, but it runs fully with the notion that Snoke is simply Palpatine's patsy, and that most, if not all of the things Snoke does is simply through Palpatine pulling near-literal strings. I'm assuming this was published after Rise of Skywalker, but even so, it's just so tedious to have Palpatine appear, even if it's only for a few panels.

-The comic kind of retroactively damages Luke in Last Jedi, but not in the way you think. I've made it clear by now that I really like how Luke's handled in Last Jedi, but the problem here is that for everyone who claims that Luke shouldn't have given up, the comic, intentionally or otherwise, gives these people amunition. After the Academy is burnt down, Ben is pursued by three of Luke's former students, all of whom are dead by the comic's end. It's kind of iffy that Luke is the one who collapses into grief, while these three nobodies are the ones who engage in pursuit. Granted, you can make the argument that a large amount of time passed between Luke being incapacitated and Ben leaving the planet, so that he couldn't have pursued him even if he wanted to, but even so, that isn't made clear.

THE MIXED

-I've never understood people's fascination with the Knights of Ren. A certain portion of the fanbase latched onto them through a single line (ONE LINE!) in Force Awakens, and then had an anurysm when they didn't appear in Last Jedi. I mean, sure, you could make Snoke's Praetorian Guard the KoR, and could have got your answer there, but even so, to me, this was making a mountain out of a molehill. When the Imperial Senate was referenced in A New Hope, I didn't need to go see it in the original trilogy.

I bring this up because like Rise of Skywalker, the Knights of Ren, as portrayed here, simply aren't that interesting. Oh sure, we get a sense of how they operate, but they're basically Dark Side-wielding thugs. They're like Sith, but without any associated lore that makes the Sith interesting.

-Ben Solo's fall to the Dark Side is...mixed. There's some things the comic does well, and some things it doesn't. On the one hand, I like the idea of "the voice," that he hears from the onset of his childhood, of Snoke (technically Palpy, but whatever) whispering to him, especially how it's represented visually (black bubbles with white text, versus the standard white bubbles with black text in comics). On the other, in the scope of the comic itself, him going from burning down the academy, to running to Snoke, to taking command of the KoR, feels rushed. There's arguably irony that for everyone who complained about Anakin's fall in the prequels being too rushed/convoluted, the same thing happens with Anakin's grandson. Honestly, the comic where Snoke takes Ben to Dagobah and puts him through the 'tree trial' as seen in Empire is much better than anything here.
 

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Warhammer 40,000: The Horus Heresy - War Without End (4/5)

You should note that this is a collection of short stories set prior to and during the titular war, progressing roughly in chronological order, from long before the Heresy itself, to the war being waged proper. You should also note that the ranking here is ranking these stories as an aggregate - some are much, MUCH better than others, and they also differ wildly in length. Also, they differ in content - for instance, most of the stories are focused on a Space Marine legion, but there's nothing highlighting the Raven Guard or Word Bearers for instance.

So, yeah. Despite the title, not all of the stories feature action, and if anything, the anthology's at its best when action isn't present, when we can focus on the character drama and whatnot. I don't have the time or inclination to review each short story individually, but as an aggregate, these are just my general thoughts:

-40K isn't sattire. I know it's come in vogue recently to say that, and "technically," it began as such in first edition, but there's really nothing sattirical going on here. You can say that the Horus Heresy takes place 10,000 years before the 'main' timeframe of the setting, but even so, I don't think there's that much incongruence.

-Life kind of sucks in the 31st millennium, just not as much as the 41st. I might have missed this earlier, it might be because things are becoming worse, but it's striking to me just how shit things generally are for people here, even if they get so much worse later on. The Imperium's fanaticism in 40K is mirrored in their fanaticism here for the Imperial Truth (not as fanatical, true, but still there), and a lot of the mundane horrors of the Imperium are still present (e.g. servitors, and "serfs" toiling away in their starships). Even Terra itself, where the Imperial Palace is built in Himalayzia (take a guess), above a polluted stratosphere, there's a kind of quiet tragedy here that even now, as the Imperium reunites humanity, humanity is still past its prime. Terra is irrevocably scarred, and the Emperor is a tyrant. Not a tyrant that warrants demons invading, but still a tyrant.

-It adds more shades of grey to the traitor legions, such as individual loyalists who remain true to the Imperium even while their wider legions become turncoat (e.g. a Luna Wolves Space Marine who retains the "Luna Wolves" moniker, while the Sons of Horus as a whole follow Horus himself).

-There's a few instances where demons are summoned, and I really like how it handles them. A lot of the time, the writing conveys how on the very level of reality, demons are truly alien to the material universe, that the laws of physics as we understand them simply don't apply. Whether this is good or bad is debatable, but it does make the Warp a bit more 'sciency,' which arguably fits, since this is before the Imperium descends into superstition and religious fervor.

So, yeah. Some stories are better than others, but overall, it's a good read.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: Aftermath - Empire's End (4/5)

So, this is a rating I'm uneasy in giving, but I'm going to address the bantha in the room and acknowledge that yes, the Aftermath trilogy is (as far as I can tell) extremely controversial in the Star Wars fanbase, and having read the first one (but not the third), I can see why, purely on a writing standpoint (never mind the original Heir to the Empire series that it arguably replaces). The series is written entirely in present tense, and while that's not uncommon in short stories, it is, in my experience, very rare for novels whose page range is in the hundreds. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and I don't really know why Wendig chose to write like this. Then again, I haven't read anything else by him, so maybe this is common?

Anyway, as the title suggests, this book deals with the full 'end' of the Empire (nah, really?), culminating in the Battle of Jakku. If nothing else, I like the book more than the first Aftermath book in that it's generally more focused on the topic at hand, but anyway, I'm going to divide this review (broadly) into stuff I liked, and stuff I didn't. So on that note:
 

Hawki

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THE STUFF I LIKED

-The writing style...at times. There's certain sections/passages of the book that, per the writing style, are well written. Like, REALLY well written. Present tense is rarer than past tense in writing, but at times, the novel makes full use of it, delivering some really hard-hitting passages/scenes.

-There's a lot of stuff the book does well in regards to worldbuilding/forshadowing, and having read plenty of Star Wars EU stuff in the revised continuity, it hits home well. For instance, even now, the New Republic is impacted by grubby senators, assassination attempts, conflicting interests, etc. It doesn't state this out loud, but there's the implicit suggestion (least from my reading) that the New Republic was doomed to fail from the outset. Considering its state in Bloodlines (28ABY), and how we see the rot even here (5ABY), and how Mon Mothma is still alive at this point, it's a nice piece of wider continuity.

-Similarly, the book really does a good show of showing the 'death' of the Empire, and the start of its transformation into the First Order. While the term "First Order" is never explicitly used, you can see the telltale signs, how the Empire remnant gathered at Jakku is described/depicted as being harder, more fanatical, etc. There's the gap between Rae Sloane (who believes in the ideals of the old Empire) and the likes of Gallius Rax, who's following Palpatine's orders laid out in the Contingency. Yes, admittedly some of what I know of this comes from Wookiepedia rather than stuff I've read directly, but the book really highlights how this is the seed that blossoms into the order of fanatics that is the First Order. It's really effective at this in the end, showing Imperial remnants heading into the Unknown Regions, gathering in the dark (so to speak); that the reader is seeing the birth of the First Order, even if Sloane still thinks it can be made into something it was never meant to be.

-The Battle of Jakku is well done. I've said numerous times that I generally don't like reading (or writing) action scenes in books, but this is an exception, made possible by the writing style. Has a good outline of the tactics, has a good sense of scene and finality, etc. I mean, this book IS called "Empire's End," so as far as depicting the last stand of the Galactic Empire...yeah, pretty good on that front. Also, because poetry rhymes, Ben is born not long after the battle's conclusion. Feel free to draw whatever thematic weight from this that you want.

THE STUFF I DIDN'T LIKE

-The novel takes lots of detours into stuff that's only tangentily related to the main plot. For instance, Lando reclaims Cloud City. Is it nice to see Lando again? Yes. Does Wendig do a great job of capturing his mannerisms? Yes, Lando here is low-key hilarious. Is it relevant to what's actually going on in the wider story? Hell no. Now apply this tangent to tangents that occur in the main story proper, and there's a lot of stuff I just don't care about. It's possible that some of these are building off stuff that's happened earlier in the trilogy, but in this, specific novel, they don't really fit.

-The writing style. Yes, I've mentioned the writing style can be a boon at times, but it can also be a hinderance. At times, Wendig uses author's voice, and while that's not technically an objective issue, author's voice is something that most writers are meant to avoid (certainly I was taught to do so), so seeing it used here, is...iffy.

-Even when we're focused on the main plot, a lot of stuff is material I just didn't find interesting. That's subjective, granted, but still...

OVERALL

If I did decimals, this would be more a 3.5. Still, when the novel is good, it's really good. It's just that there's so much fluff to deal with in the meantime. But, whatever the case, I think the novel is overall a solid addition to the new canon.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4/5)

As the title suggests, this is a novelization of the film of the same name.

Ultimately, I don't have much to say here - chances are you've seen The Last Jedi by now, chances are you've formed an opinion on it, and whatever that opinion is, I doubt this book will sway it. I will say that the book benefits from having extra scenes and the time to flesh characters out (especially Rose and Snoke), whereas the best scenes from the film (the ones on Ahch To) are the weakest ones here, or at least, did the least for me.

Still, it was a good read. Got "the feels" by its end.
 

Specter Von Baren

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The Blind of the New World


It's very good. It takes place in the future where the invention of something called the 'Electron Cornea' has led to a world of AR. Actually, let me have the VN describe it for me.

Electron.jpg

That last sentence at the end is where the conflict comes. In this world "blind" no longer means someone who can't see, the advancements in technology has led to most physical ailments no longer existing, instead someone who is blind is someone who cannot see the holograms of the normal world with their Electron Corneas. Our MC is one of the blind and the story talks a lot about technological advancements, language changes, perception, interpersonal relationships and so on. The music is also very good. I highly recommend it for any sci-fi fans
 

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Been reading Light of The Jedi and I am really enjoying it! I have quite a backlog for High Republic stuff I need to get through and I'm looking forward to reading the other books and the comics!
 

Specter Von Baren

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Decided to re-read and finish 'My Monster Secret' and have been going through the series for the last couple weeks. It was more apparent to me this time how the series was trending towards being more serious with what's going on but I feel off at volume 20 (My enthusiasm was just curtailed by the constant starts and stop between volume releases) and...



Shit got real here. Eiji Masuda is an amazing artist because that shit is scary looking. It's fun how this nonsense romcom was able to be so heartfelt and serious with its themes. I'm now looking forward to seeing how it ends in the last two volumes.
 

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So having finished Rhythm of War (stormlight archive book 4) a while back I found myself craving some more stuff in that world so I finally decided to jump into the side-story novellas of Edgedancer and Dawnshard, but because those two didn't qualify for free shipping on Amazon I decided to do what I was pondering a while back and go through the Mistborn saga as well to get a fuller grasp on the outer universe and stuff referenced in stormlight archive, and as it just so happened the entire first trilogy was on sale so I got it all. So yeah I just got 5 books to read, will prolly go through the side-stories first before starting mistborn.


As for Rhythm of War itself, it kinda threw me off with the huge amount of focus on mental health which was not necessarily "slow" as the series was known to be but just tackling a whole host of other subjects that feel a bit alien to what the story has been up to now, but the action and lore bits were top level. Maybe because there were only so many of those gloryfilled bits they were all that much more special. Here's hoping book 5 doesn't take 5 years to come out.
 

Specter Von Baren

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Finished 'My Monster Secret' *sniff*. Ahhh, all the warm fuzzies and sentimentality I could ask for. Started actually crying when I saw Genjirou's old friends in the audience of the graduation ceremony.
 

Piscian

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I'm currently reading Neil Gaimans Norse Mythology graphic novels. I've enjoying them so much I bought my dad the hardcores as hes into this sort of thing


Aside from that I'm listening to Jurassic Park on audible. I read the books a long time ago, but after watching the movies and I'm going back the well for all the missing stuff. Its interesting that Hammonds partner who first appears in Fallen Kingdom is mentioned early in the book. Its also note worthy what a utter jackson hammond is in the book, while the lawyer is much empathic and logic, viewing the park as utter insanely and relying on the experts to make a case for shutting the whole thing down.


So having finished Rhythm of War (stormlight archive book 4) a while back I found myself craving some more stuff in that world so I finally decided to jump into the side-story novellas of Edgedancer and Dawnshard, but because those two didn't qualify for free shipping on Amazon I decided to do what I was pondering a while back and go through the Mistborn saga as well to get a fuller grasp on the outer universe and stuff referenced in stormlight archive, and as it just so happened the entire first trilogy was on sale so I got it all. So yeah I just got 5 books to read, will prolly go through the side-stories first before starting mistborn.


As for Rhythm of War itself, it kinda threw me off with the huge amount of focus on mental health which was not necessarily "slow" as the series was known to be but just tackling a whole host of other subjects that feel a bit alien to what the story has been up to now, but the action and lore bits were top level. Maybe because there were only so many of those gloryfilled bits they were all that much more special. Here's hoping book 5 doesn't take 5 years to come out.

I'm told I got significantly through Book 4 when I got sidetracked and stopped reading. I'm huge sanderson fan, but god book 4 bored me to tears. I feel like this is the first book that feels like the storylines are too disjointed to keep pacing functional. In the other books, on a whole, it felt like the stories "informed" each other and would tie together. This book just felt like I was reading 4 different books and skipping back and forth. I was around the point where they enter the citadel of honor? somewhere around there, but its so dense I'm probably just going to have to start over. I'm 4 books in though and my loathing for Shallan only seems to be increasing.
 

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I'm told I got significantly through Book 4 when I got sidetracked and stopped reading. I'm huge sanderson fan, but god book 4 bored me to tears. I feel like this is the first book that feels like the storylines are too disjointed to keep pacing functional. In the other books, on a whole, it felt like the stories "informed" each other and would tie together. This book just felt like I was reading 4 different books and skipping back and forth. I was around the point where they enter the citadel of honor? somewhere around there, but its so dense I'm probably just going to have to start over. I'm 4 books in though and my loathing for Shallan only seems to be increasing.
Oh I'm totally with you on that, though I don't think it's different in book 4, it's more that this time around Kaladin also lacks action for most of the book too, so we only have Adolin to carry us for a good 70%. This is kinda what I meant with "focus on mental health" lol, a lot of the story is about the internal worlds of the characters, as opposed to the outer, shared world and their actions in it. You can't help feeling there's 4 plots going on cause they barely interact with the outer world in general, never mind the chars who are off half way across the world/dimensions.


I feel Navani took Shallan's place in book 4 as the char who came up right as I wanted to find out what would happen with Kaladin, but like with the other books that feeling of annoyance would subside once I got drawn in her affairs.

Also it bears noting that I did take a whole lot longer to go through this book, something like 4 months or so, when the others I burned through in mere weeks. But when we got to the final part I did read that entire thing in one sitting here too (some 200 pages) so it does definitely have that charm.


I don't know how far you've read, it sounds you stopped after finishing part 3, so I don't wanna spoil anything but I'll just say the last 3rd or so of the book has so many twists and lore bits that it makes up for their lack prior to that bit. Though the battle where Adolin fights mostly by himself to save the honorspern before they reach the honor fort was one of the high points in the book and one of my top 3 moments.
 
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Piscian

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Oh I'm totally with you on that, though I don't think it's different in book 4, it's more that this time around Kaladin also lacks action for most of the book too, so we only have Adolin to carry us for a good 70%. This is kinda what I meant with "focus on mental health" lol, a lot of the story is about the internal worlds of the characters, as opposed to the outer, shared world and their actions in it. You can't help feeling there's 4 plots going on cause they barely interact with the outer world in general, never mind the chars who are off half way across the world/dimensions.


I feel Navani took Shallan's place in book 4 as the char who came up right as I wanted to find out what would happen with Kaladin, but like with the other books that feeling of annoyance would subside once I got drawn in her affairs.

Also it bears noting that I did take a whole lot longer to go through this book, something like 4 months or so, when the others I burned through in mere weeks. But when we got to the final part I did read that entire thing in one sitting here too (some 200 pages) so it does definitely have that charm.


I don't know how far you've read, it sounds you stopped after finishing part 3, so I don't wanna spoil anything but I'll just say the last 3rd or so of the book has so many twists and lore bits that it makes up for their lack prior to that bit. Though the battle where Adolin fights mostly by himself to save the honorspern before they reach the honor fort was one of the high points in the book and one of my top 3 moments.
yeah off the top of my I literally only recall clearly whats going on with Adolin and his swordmate because thats only real action I saw in the book. It just felt like the majority of the book kalidan is trying figure out who he is, but by the time adolin gets to the fort I just wanted Kalidan to figure his shit out.
 

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Quantum Break: Zero State (2/5)

As far as I can tell, this is a novelization of the game Quantum Break. I say "as far as I can tell," because as, um, far as I can tell, the game has branching pathways, while this has a set one. Apparently the conciet that the novelization is a telling of one such possible branch (timeline?). Whatever the case, it's irrelevant, for as you can tell, I really didn't like this novel.

Disclaimer: Haven't played the game, but moving on from that, the issue with this novel (for me) is that it's mainly a string of action scenes that I assume are taken from the game. That's a two-fold problem, in that not only do I find action scenes uninteresting to read (for the most part), but the pacing of a game really doesn't work for the pacing of a novel. I'd argue it's even worse here, because this is a setting where all kinds of bonkers time manipulation occurs, but describing it will never be as cool as showing it. For instance, writing that Jake uses "the Shining Palm" (technique) comes off as silly here. An exception is the Shifters, which are fascinating from a conceptual point of view alone, but like I said, that's the exception.

The thing is, when the novel is doing stuff that isn't based on action, it can be quite decent. I like its take on time travel, and its best scenes are when the characters are able to just sit/stand and talk. For instance, one of the best sequences is when Beth gets to "the end of time," the description of a world frozen in time being downright eerie. Horrifying, even. But then, this is also the same book where stuff like "Juggernauts" are used at will, and on the page, just come off as silly.

Oh, and the novel ends on a big "to be continued" moment, but I'm not counting on a sequel anytime soon. Since time was supposed to end in 2021/2022 in the novel's canon, I guess we got lucky. 0_0