Double Wonderful (John Swartzwelder)

If you've watched as much commentary for episodes of the Simpsons as I have, you'll know that they frequently bring up that Swartzwelder stays out of the media as much as possible, refuses to partake in the commentaries, and is basically so much of a recluse that some people think he's the show's version of "Alan Smithee". But he is a real person, and this book is an illustration of why he stays out of the limelight.

That said, I'm not sure exactly what he's trying to say about fame. In the book, a tiny western town seeking fame employs an author to write terrible novels about the citizens of the town. Granted, the author finds the people so dull that he ends up taking some liberties with their characters. The town becomes all the rage, but the neverending slobbering of fans and people extorting them for money quickly wears them out. So, I dunno, is this another "Be careful what you wish for" story? Is Swartzwelder telling people to enjoy their obscurity and not seek fame? Or just not empty fame, and to do some bloody work for your fame so that it's actually you who becomes famous?

And I don't know how to explain it, but right about the time the citizens of Slackjaw start tiring of their fame I started getting nausiated reading the book. It could have been the "just end already" kind of sickness, it could have been some of the events like the neverending earthquake nausiating me, or it could just be because I was reading it on a plane.


The Mighty Thor, Vol 1 (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kindle eBook)

Yeesh, no wonder comics are so often associated with bad storytelling, if this is how they got their start. Now, I didn't have a problem with the "monster of the day" format. I wasn't even that bothered by some of the goofy mythos, like Thor losing his powers if he lets go of Mjolnir for one minute or having to pound the handle on the ground a certain number of times to cast certain spells. I could even suspend disbelief for the unlikely event that led to a crippled doctor gaining the powers of the Norse god of thunder by happening upon a random stick in a random cave and happening to hit it just right.

No, my problem with this collection is that the writing is as subtle and refined as the Kool-Aid Man with a fistful of Pixie Sticks. There's so much telling instead of showing, what with everyone narrating their actions and shouting aloud every thought that crosses their mind, and every issue they have to remind you that Thor will turn back into Blake if he lets go of his hammer for more than sixty seconds. Multiple times even, as it's not uncommon for Thor to be separated from his hammer and say "I must get my hammer back before sixty seconds are up or I'll lose the power of Thor!" followed by an editor's note saying "Blake loses the power of Thor if he lets go of his hammer for sixty seconds!" I know these things were originally coming out a month apart, but give your audience some credit.

And while I said I could tolerate the silly rules, there's a difference between having silly rules and making them up as you go along. One of my "favorite" scenes was when Blake works up the courage to tell the nurse he's in love with what he feels about her and that he's really Thor, but then Odin (who looks more like Captain Falcon) suddenly appears and tells Blake he's not allowed to do that because of reasons.


New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS, E10+)

So for a while I'd been looking for some kind of case or handle to put my 3DS in because the fucker is so thin I can barely hold it to play a game more complicated than anything in the Mii Plaza. I finally found a silicon grip at Hasting's, for only $4 on Clearance no less. While it feels a lot like a Wiimote sleeve it's not official Nintendo, but since it gives the system enough bulk that I can actually use the blasted thing without the pinkie and ring fingers on both my hands going numb, I'm cool with it.

So then I plugged this in and breezed through it in a few hours. I don't what it is with me and modern Mario games lately, I just find them so dull and easy. There was one interesting level where you ride through lava on the back of a Dry Bones train, but everything else is just one big blur. This time around it might not just be me being a jaded fuck; the selling point of NSMB2 is collecting one million coins, leading me to believe the game expects you to wring challenge from making the most out of golden items and enemies instead of, you know, playing the levels. I don't think I even broke 10,000 on my play.


Mogworld (Audiobook, Written and Narrated by Yahtzee Croshaw)

It's Discworld meets World of Warcraft. The main character is an incompetent wizard who's more interested in survival than being a hero, but knuckles down to kick some ass when pushed hard enough at the end of the book, and the gist of the story is taking something we think we understand and turning the perception of it on its head. Here, we have the workings of an MMO from an NPC's perspective. And I very much doubt it's coincidence; Yahtzee's said before that Terry Pratchett is a major influence on his writing, along with the likes of Douglas Adams. In fact, after listening to this and thinking about how well the anthropomorphization of abstract concepts could fit into either a Terry Pratchett novel or a Zero Punctuation, it makes the influence of Pratchett on Zero Punctuation itself that much more obvious.

As for the story itself, well, it's an interesting concept, but it occurs to the listener what's going on pretty early in the book. After a strong opening with Jim's death, zombification, and time at Lord Dreadgrave's doom fortress, things just kind of potter around after the Deleters arive. There is a funny part where they go into a bugged town and there's a man on his face trying to walk through the ground, but it's like it has to spend time covering all the MMORPG tropes, pacing be damned. It ends on a bang, though, and I was amused by that review of the titular Mogworld where the reviewer spends all his time bitching about the unintuitive changes the developers made to appease the NPCs, then giving it a 79%. Maybe more than I should have been.

This is also my first audiobook, so bear with me as I figure out how to critique one. Obviously this has the benefit of both being read by the writer so you know what kind of voices he intended for each character, and being read by somebody relatively well known for his speaking voice. Yahtzee doesn't read it as fast as his Zero Punctuation videos, something I always felt was overblown but then again, I can follow Weird Al's "Hardware Store". But if you do think his videos are too fast, this should be easier to understand.