Blackwell That Ends Well?

Whilst the survival of the point-and-click adventure through the mid-2000s was largely down to the efforts of European studios, thanks to the genre having historically fared better in the European market than in the US, American developers also had a role to play. Telltale Games are obviously worth a mention, considering that they were founded by refugees from LucasArts and the way the monster success of their first season of The Walking Dead really helped point-and-clicks feel like a modern, current genre that could still be commercially relevant, rather than a retro field best served by indies and bedroom programmers.

That said, let’s not discount those indie studios and bedroom programmers. After all, if we’re serious about wanting an alternative to the excesses of the higher end of the videogame industry – with their triple-A games whose content must be balanced and adjusted for as wide an audience as possible, ultimately making the industry just as conservative as the blockbuster end of movie-making, and with working practices based around hideous grind, exploitation, and turning a blind eye to abominable behaviour on an Ubisoft-esque scale – then we’ve got to stay open to the other end of the scale, with people crafting games on a self-employed basis or with a limited team with (hopefully, but not always) less hierarchical abusive bullshit than the big guns.

When it comes to US-based development houses focusing on point-and-click adventures and emerging from humble origins and the do-it-yourself scene, rather than originating with industry insiders, then the big name in both commercial reach and critical acclaim these days has to be Wadjet Eye. These days, Wadjet Eye is both a developer and a publisher – Gemini Rue, which I reviewed previously and greatly enjoyed, is one of the various games cooked up by third parties that Wadjet Eye have published.

Back in the day, Wadjet Eye had its origins as the outlet for the designs of Dave Gilbert. Gilbert got his start as part of the hobbyist community working with Adventure Game Studio (which does for point-and-click adventures what RPG Maker does for JRPGs), becoming a significant early contributor to the field at a time when Yahtzee and his Chzo Mythos games were probably the most celebrated names there. Gilbert’s pre-commercial work saw him becoming a regular nominee and winner in the AGS awards (and indeed he has been a regular winner there since, finally overtaking Yahtzee’s record of total awards won in 2018).

In fact, Wadjet Eye’s first game, The Shivah, was a polished and improved version of a game which Gilbert produced for the AGS community’s “write a game in one month” contest in June 2006. The Shivah won the contest handily, Gilbert decided to beef it up for a commercial release, and the rest is history, with Wadjet Eye continuing to produce Gibert’s designs to this day. (Indeed, before they started publishing games from third parties in the 2010s, all of Wadjet Eye’s releases were Dave Gilbert designs.)

But as important as The Shivah is to the studio’s history, it isn’t their bread and butter and it isn’t Dave Gilbert’s most famous release. His most commercially prominent and widely-recognised effort is the Blackwell sequence, a five-game point-and-click saga. (His latest game, Unavowed, is not part of the main series but is, to my understanding, connected to it.) In a way, Blackwell preceded The Shivah, since the basic concept was used by Gilbert for a rudimentary demo entitled Bestowers of Eternity in 2003 before the concept got revisited, polished up, and released commercially as The Blackwell Legacy, Wadjet Eye’s second commercial release of 2006 (coming just three months after the commercial version of The Shivah). The final game in the sequence, The Blackwell Epiphany, came out in 2014, making Blackwell a significant accomplishment in the adventure game field in the sense of being a fully-realised series with a beginning, middle, and an end, designed by the same creator and released by the same publisher throughout.

In fact, I can’t think of anyone from the golden age of adventure gaming who actually accomplished anything similar except Lori and Corey Cole and the Quest For Glory series. Every other significant LucasArts or Sierra series was either handed off to other designers at some point (Space Quest, Police Quest, Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion, Laura Bow), or wasn’t trying to tell a complete story arc with a beginning, middle and end over the span of the series (King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Phantasmagoria), or got cancelled before it could put out planned continuations of the story (Gabriel Knight, Torin’s Passage), or some combination of those factors.

Even Quest For Glory has a bit of an asterisk next to it, since the Coles did not have complete creative freedom in the same way that Gilbert has enjoyed for Blackwell; they had to rapidly knock off Quest For Glory III, which threw off their plans for the series, and Quest For Glory V ended up being a more combat-oriented RPG with some adventure game aspects, rather than the more even blend of adventure and RPG elements that the previous games had been. Conversely, the Blackwell games began as point-and-click adventures, ended as point-and-click adventures, and so far as I can tell haven’t required Gilbert to knock out a “filler” entry in the series to make time.

To that extent, Gilbert’s accomplishment is impressive – but it’s one thing to successfully tell your planned story from beginning to end, another for that story to actually be good. Did he stick the landing? Let’s see…

Continue reading “Blackwell That Ends Well?”

Mini-Review: Hey Quake, What’s Shaking?

Enhanced rereleases of classic games are nothing new, but enhanced rereleases of games which you can get for free if you already own them on some platforms are truly lovely. That’s what’s happened with Quake, which got a surprise enhanced rerelease just recently, with anyone who already owned the game on Steam getting the enhanced version for free. (GOG claim they will be getting the enhanced version in eventually, but there’s neither hide nor hair of it so far.)

The original Quake is a game which is barely worth reviewing. id Software’s followup to the DOOM series saw them stepping away from the elegantly faked 3D of their earlier first-person shooters in favour of true 3D environments rendered in real time. On late-1990s computers, this was a challenge, but the game was up to the task. Whilst its tendency towards rather monochromatic colour schemes was a little unfortunate and it was arguably to blame for a whole army of crate-littered, mostly-brown successors, it nonetheless proved as big a deal for the fledgling FPS genre as DOOM had been, and like DOOM remains entertaining to revisit even to this day even when many of its competitors are clunky and awkward to run on modern hardware.

The enhanced edition of the game does nothing to tamper with the formula; this is very much about providing you with a fresh, new way to experience the classic game, not about trying to fix what was never broken. (Indeed, a few bits which were a little broken in the original still seem slightly broken now; on all the different systems I’ve played Quake on, I don’t think the bit in one level where a bridge rises out of the ooze to reveal a Fiend running about on it has ever not slowed down or glitched out a little.

What the enhanced version does do is update all the textures to make sure the game looks lovely even at very high resolutions, give things a tune-up under the hood so that the game can make best use of the sort of system resources which were the stuff of science fiction on its original release in 1996, and accomplish some other little quality-of-life improvements (in particular, finally fixing the music so you don’t need a CD in the drive to use it, so the glorious Trent Reznor soundtrack can be in full effect). The end result is a version of Quake which simultaneously captures all those juicy 1996-vintage polygons and yet simultaneously looks astonishing, and plays extremely smoothly and nicely on modern systems. A control system with gamepads in mind is a welcome inclusion as well.

I tell a lie: there’s one more very good thing they do here. Not only does this come with Quake itself, various optional downloadable add-ons (so far only a port of Quake 64 for the Nintendo 64, with more promised to come), a nice intuitive multiplayer matchfinding system, and all of the original expansion packs, but it also presents a brand new expansion pack, Dimension of the Machine.

This is something of a revelation. The original expansions – Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity – were knocked out by third parties in a hurry after the release of the original game, and the developers clearly didn’t quite have a handle on what made Quake good and made some ill-advised attempts to shoehorn less-satisfying new weapons into the arsenal. MachineGames – mostly known for developing the recent Wolfenstein games – did Dimension of the Past in 2016 for the game’s 20th Anniversary, which was somewhat better but nothing to get massively excited about.

Dimension of the Machine, however, finds MachineGames really going to town with the extra juice available in the remastered Quake. Rather than taking the approach of earlier expansions by presenting a short number of additional episodes of a comparable number of levels each to the episodes in the original Quake, Dimension of the Machine offers up five episodes of two levels each (plus a finale level), which allows for a nice variety of different environments to be implemented.

This sounds a bit underwhelming until you appreciate that the levels in question are massive, truly sprawling affairs (but never so diffuse as to make it awkward to figure out where you need to go next) crammed with excellently-realised environments. MachineGames seem to have realised that for all people talk up the virtue of non-linearity in FPS level design, ultimately what matters for a good Quake level is a series of really good rooms to have a proper fight in. Crammed with literally hundreds of enemies, any single level of Dimension of the Machine represents a brutal battle that would account for multiple levels of the original Quake, and makes for an enjoyable playground for anyone who wants to fight some nostalgic enemies in fresh new territory.

Christ, What An Imagination Brunner’s Got

It is the futuristic year of 2010. Though quaint early 20th Century estimates suggested that you could get the whole human population of Earth to stand together on the Isle of Wight, that entailed a population about as third the size of the present one. It is a world still awkwardly adjusting to its booming population. Things are not all hopeless – there’s way more tolerance of LGBT+ folk and polyamory than there used to be, though vicious bullying and prejudiced based on these things is still very much a thing, and there hasn’t been as much progress on racism or sexism as you’d hope for either.

In other respects things are pretty bad. Spree killers have become so frequent that their rampages rarely make the news. Multinational corporations exert more power than many governments can bring to bear, the American military and intelligence field continues to undertake ethically dubious means to keep the US on top, and everyone is constantly bombarded with vapid advertising and a mass media rendered unutterably simplistic, in part because of the sleazy endorphin-punching way it’s devised and in part because of the sheer scope of the events that it must cover. Journalism is reduced to regurgitation of press releases all too often. In the midst of this fantastic, bizarre, perhaps totally unrealistic setting, two men live as roommates in New York city – despite having ample incomes from their positions, they can’t possibly afford a place of their own.

Donald Hogan is, in theory, a dilettante student; in fact, he’s an analyst for US military intelligence, subject to be reactivated and submitted to “military eptification” in order to condition him to become a much more viscerally competent field agent should the need arise. And the need has arisen, with the government of Yatakang (a rising southeast Asian nation whose dictatorial leadership is adept at playing China and the US off against each other) announcing a bold new project which would allow any citizen to bear not merely a genetically healthy child, but an honest to goodness superhuman – a policy which turns the existing eugenic policies adopted by most of the world, which impose strict limits on the number of children one may have and forbid carriers of hereditary ailments and disabilities from having children at all, on their head. Hogan must find out how plausible this claim is.

Norman House, Donald’s roommate, is an up-and-coming young executive at General Technics – the only black person on the megacorporation’s board, in fact. House has talked his way to being put in charge of GT’s most ambitious project yet. President Obomi, the sole post-independence ruler of the out-of-the-way African country of Beninia, is dying, and has come to the conclusion that the only way to save Beninia from being carved up by powerful regional neighbours is for the country to align itself with a third power. To align itself with the US would merely invite accusations of neo-colonialism, and the American public would have little appetite for the sort of show of force needed to incorporate Beninia into the US sphere of influence. But a major development contract with GT – who’d then be able to exploit Beninia’s convenient location to exploit a wealth of undersea minerals they’ve just discovered – might do the trick. If House can arrange the de facto purchase of an entire country, his career will be made – but the green light depends on the assessments of Shalmaneser, the GT supercomputer which might just be self-aware.

As Hogan and House’s stories diverge and then, eventually, reconnect, the population of Earth keeps increasing, as it reaches and then surpasses the point when you could get the whole of humanity to Stand On Zanzibar

Continue reading “Christ, What An Imagination Brunner’s Got”

Willow You Like It Or Not

Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) rules the realm of Nockmaar with an iron fist – but a prophecy has it that a child will soon be born, a young girl identifiable by a special birthmark who will be destined to overthrow Bavmorda. Thus, the Queen has all pregnant women in Nockmaar tracked down and imprisoned, so that the child can be identified when born and then slain. The baby of destiny, who’ll come to be called Elora (variously played by Kate and Ruth Greenfield and Rebecca Bearman), is duly born – but her mother (Sallyanne Law) persuades the midwife Ethna (Zulema Dene) to smuggle the child out of Bavmorda’s palace.

Ethna sets the baby down in a basket and allows it to float down the river, because apparently we’re mashing up the Christ and Moses narratives here, and is retrieved by the children of one Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis). Willow is a hobbit Nelwyn, and the hobbits Nelwyn are an insular people who just want to be left alone by the “Daikini”, their term for humans; Willow’s neighbours are especially put out when one of Bavmorda’s vicious hounds attacks the village festival in the hunt for the baby.

The High Aldwin (Billy Barty), the hobbit Nelwyn shaman-wizard-mayor who sees in Willow the potential to be a great sorcerer if he’d just believe in himself, considers the matter and sends off Willow and a party of Nelwyn to take the baby off to a nearby crossroads on the periphery of the Shire Nelwyn territory, there to hand the child off to a suitable human. Arriving there, Willow and his party meet Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a condemned man that Willow’s party encounters imprisoned in a cage hung over the crossroads at the border of the Shire Nelwyn realm.

Most of the Nelwyn immediately turn around and go home at this point; only Willow and his buddy Meegosh (David J. Steinberg) stick around, hoping someone more appropriate than Madmartigan will come along. Eventually they decide to take a chance on the rogue, free him, and hand over the baby – only to discover on their return journey that the child has been taken back by a clan of brownies under the orders of Cherlindrea (Maria Holvöe), the fairy queen, who strongly informs Willow that he has been chosen by none other than the baby herself to be her guardian. Off Willow goes on a new quest, with baby in hand and brownies Rool and Franjean (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton), to help Elora with that nagging destiny issue – and who knows, maybe that layabout Madmartigan will turn out to be more relevant than expected?

Continue reading “Willow You Like It Or Not”

Lunchtime For the Nova Gang

Had William Burroughs died after writing Junky and Queer – and the lifestyle of a perennial heroin addict is not without its dangers – he’d be remembered as that peripheral Beat figure who did a confessional pulp novel and a collaboration with Kerouac about a murder in their social circle and who killed Joan Vollmer. Instead, Burroughs went to the Tangier International Zone, where his various habits could be indulged with near-impunity and his trust fund income would go a good long way. He emerged from this legendary journey with treasure plundered from his imagination the form of the Word Hoard, ,a trunk full of manuscripts of material he had written near-compulsively.

The editing and publication process that followed would turn the Word Hoard into the basis of a variable number of novels; Burroughs’ big breakthrough into total worldwide infamy, Naked Lunch, largely consisted of Word Hoard material, and the scraps were used to as seed material for his following work, the strange stew that has come to be known as The Nova Trilogy.

Obscenity charges, legal battles, and literary screaming ensued. Burroughs was not averse to writing about extreme content – Junky and Queer delved into areas which polite 1950s American society officially disapproved of, but which countless individuals happily read about in lurid cheap pulp paperbacks anyway, the figleaf of moral disapproval or confessional autobiography allowing them to kid themselves. Still others circulated more overtly pornographic material covertly.

Naked Lunch and its sequels did not play by the rules of that game. Burroughs was engaged in a frenzied assault on conventional narrative structure, grammatical structure, and language itself, and presented startling and troubling scenarios in viciously visceral terms, making no effort to veil anything. Content warnings for violence, extreme sexual content (some of it fatal, much of it abusive), drug use, and the vilest racist and homophobic language used in the era apply; Burroughs was engaged in a deliberate product of targeting social taboos and presenting society (especially Western society and the societies affected by its cultural hegemony) in its worst light, and that included capturing the way people talked about each other in withering terms.

With much of the material making use of surrealist-influenced textual cut-up techniques, it would represent the most strikingly experimental and inaccessible material in Burroughs’ bibliography, and also the most influential. It’s the sort of experiment which really can only be done once; to my knowledge, almost nobody (or at least nobody who successfully got published) has actually attempted to directly imitate it, with its admirers instead being encouraged to undertake their own experimental approaches. Naturally, the narcotic inspirations and the bizarre imagery involved made it something of a precursor to the psychedelic movement, but the overall tone is less Summer of Love and more proto-cyberpunk.

Rooted as it is in the language and slang used at the time in the subcultures Burroughs frequented, his material from this era has inevitably dated somewhat. But do these books, which in their impenetrability in some respects resemble art objects more than conventional novels, still hold up? If we take the fact that the author had a problematic history and used his writing to express some of his basest urges as read, what do we get out of this? Let’s pick up our forks and take a look.

Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch is a text that defies categorisation. Certainly, a plot-summary is near-impossible, but here goes nothing: we’re back with Bill Lee, Burroughs’ alter ego from Junky and Queer, and some of his fellow heroin enthusiasts from Junky come back into view here and there. However, here we experience a retelling and expansion of Lee’s story in which Lee himself soon disappears out of sight.

Things begin feverish and mildly incoherent as he’s dodging narcotics agents on the train lines and travelling down first to Texas then Mexico City, and then things go altogether sideways. For much of the novel, we are treated to various vignettes, some of which feature Lee but many of which don’t, and whose connection to each other is not directly explained but becomes more apparent as you read the novel. Burroughs isn’t so much telling us a novelistic story but giving us a sort of slice-of-life snapshots of subcultures, political movements, countries and places and peoples who are sometimes recognisably rooted in our reality (but described in a very irreal way) and sometimes bizarre fictional inventions of Burroughs’ which somehow feel just as real as the more conventional concepts.

Time and space come unstuck; Burroughs at points near-directly tells us that he is speaking of atrocities of World War III and the secret police operatives of regimes yet to come to pass. Various characters meander their way through the vignettes, and various locations recur. Two factors emerge with particular vividness: the city-state of Interzone, a hyper-real version of the Tangier International Zone in which the wide-band absorption of diverse cultural tropes is maximised and social taboos disappear entirely, and the sadistic Dr. Benway, a medic who works on a mercenary basis to work on programs where the distinction between public health and police state oppression melt away.

We get to the end. Lee is back in New York, now Lee the Agent, no longer an aimless heroin addict but a heroin addict possessed of an unspoken purpose. When he shoots narcotics agents dead, reality reshapes itself to cover his tracks. His interactions with his habit, his people, his society, and the authorities have changed in some hard to pin down fashion. After seeing the nightmares of Interzone and a fraction of the methods of Dr. Benway, Lee can never be the same. We have seen the same things: how will it change us?

Continue reading “Lunchtime For the Nova Gang”

Mini-Review: The Dregs of Middle-Earth

Christopher Tolkien is dead, but the cottage industry based around sifting through his dad’s old records continues. The latest product of this process is The Nature of Middle-Earth, which by and large veers away from narrative material in favour of presenting a range of little essays Tolkien wrote working out various different aspects of how his secondary creation worked.

These texts predominantly date from fairly late in Tolkien’s development of the setting – in fact, a good chunk comes from after he finished The Lord of the Rings, when he decided that in light of decisions made in writing that he needed to back and give the Silmarillion another revision. As such, it’s contemporary with a lot of the material which Christopher Tolkien would later compile as the last few volumes of The History of Middle-Earth.

Indeed, despite not being a numbered volume in that series, The Nature of Middle-Earth can be argued to be an extension of that project; it’s sufficiently reliant on it in his introduction editor Carl E. Hostetter states that, although he only considers knowledge of the Silmarillion to be truly essential to following what’s presented in here, he also thinks that being familiar with the latter volumes of History of Middle-Earth would be a big help, and certainly there’s enough references to texts found in there that this caveat seems plausible.

I personally find The History of Middle-Earth to be a slice of Tolkien scholarship too far, largely because whilst it isn’t exclusively rewrites or first drafts of material already produced in more polished form or in alternate tellings in The Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion, there’s certainly a large proportion of that sort of stuff, and I’m much more interested in entirely new material, like that which made up Unfinished Tales, than I am in repackagings of the old: as far as I am concerned, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion already represent Tolkien’s intentions perfectly adequately.

(Yes, yes, Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay did the final edit on the Silmarillion – but Tolkien’s intentions were always “if I die before finishing the Silmarillion, Christopher should finish the job”, so regardless of how the Silmarillion might have turned out if Tolkien had ever decided it was finished, you can’t say the published version did not at least in some respect reflect his intentions.)

If, like me, you’re only interested in genuinely new stuff, then extracting that from The History of Middle-Earth is something of a chore. That said, I quite liked the three book-length treatments Christopher Tolkien put together of subjects from the First Age – The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin – because those drew together as much as possible of what Tolkien wrote on that subject matter in order to provide as close to definitive overviews as could be arrived at (sometimes in more fragmentary forms than others).

That being the case, the idea of a selection of Tolkien’s non-narrative essays on Middle-Earth taking a similar approach rather appealed to me, which is why I gave The Nature of Middle-Earth a try in the first place. Unfortunately, it does not take the same approach. Rather than extracting useful snippets from the vast morass of The History of Middle-Earth in order to aid understanding, it focuses near-exclusively on hitherto unreleased texts, many of which are quite fragmentary or rough.

If you wanted Tolkien’s back-of-a-piece-of-scrap-paper notes on how the years of the glory days of the Two Trees were longer than the years of the Sun and Moon and what implication that had on Elven history when he decided to greatly expand the length of 1 tree year from 10 solar years to 144 solar years, or Tolkien’s thoughts on which characters should have beards, knock yourself out – this will please the Tolkien scholars nicely. Perhaps a few topics in here are of passing interest, but most people will find these are rare diamonds in the rough. I am sure that the eager beavers at Tolkien Gateway will incorporate the genuinely significant details from here into various wiki articles soon enough; that’ll do for the rest of us.

The King In Yellow, The Queens In Red

Cassilda’s Song is one of the last fruits of Chaosium’s fiction line to have been primarily developed under Charlie Krank’s management of the company. (If you don’t know who that is, or hadn’t heard about the change of regime at Chaosium, I go into it here.) Editor Joseph S. Pulver’s introduction is signed off in May 2015, a mere month before Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen mashed the reset button and signalled the end of Krank’s tenure, but the actual book was released in August of that year; presumably, the new management realised that with a basically-finished book on their hands, they may as well put it out so as to get a welcome injection of income as they tried to put the company in order.

Part of that “putting the company in order” process involved getting in James Lowder to clean house as far as the fiction line went. As Lowder and Chaosium implicitly acknowledged when announcing Lowder’s long-term appointment as Executive Editor of the fiction line, the previous regime had left something of a messy situation behind, with numerous contractual obligations (and monies owed) let unmet. (Much the same situation prevailed on the RPG side of Chaosium’s activities.) Now that the bulk of that is behind him, Lowder’s been able to gear up to get the fiction line moving again – but the necessity of making good on old commitments and publicly showing that Chaosium has turned the ship around on that has meant that for a good chunk of time Cassilda’s Song has served as the freshest selection in Chaosium’s horror anthology repertoire.

It’s good that there is a solid concept underlying it, then. Long-time readers will know how on multi-author anthologies I like to give them a rating on the ol’ Boy’s-Club-o-meter, to see just how disproportionate the representation of male authors is. There’s no need this time; the idea of Cassilda’s Song is that it’s a selection of stories inspired by Robert Chambers’ The King In Yellow cosmology written by women – like a more fin de siècle take on She Walks In Shadows, Innsmouth Free Press’s collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories by women which came out at around the same time (and has a significant overlap of authors).

Continue reading “The King In Yellow, The Queens In Red”

Peake’s Progress

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy can’t be said to be a forgotten part of the fantasy landscape – it’s enjoyed multiple adaptations in radio play form, a television series, Sting considered making a series of concept albums about it, and apparently Neil Gaiman’s explored the idea of doing another TV adaptation. At the same time, it’s a sequence which I think is particularly poorly-served by adaptation. Though Peake, as a visual artist, describes some scenes and characters in the novels extremely vividly, to an extent which would lend itself to being filmed beautifully, there’s an ornate care taken on the prose which inevitably wouldn’t translate to the cinematic format.

At the same time, having been penned in the 1940s and 1950s, a legitimate question can be raised of how well they have aged. Certainly I have fond memories of them, but when the subject was raised on the blog’s Discord server, I realised I hadn’t given them a proper reread since the late 1990s (and I don’t think I ever actually got to reading Titus Alone, the third book in the series). Consider this my attempt to correct that – and to see if the series has something to offer modern eyes.

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Just Say No To Biotransference, Kids!

Cavan Scott’s long-running Warped Galaxies series comes to a close with Tomb of the Necron, bringing the story full circle after some Necron-themed mayhem kicked off the saga. The previous episode saw Zelia, Talen, Mekki, and Fleapit reunite with their Rogue Trader friend, Amity, and discovering important hits as to what the Necron-associated doohickey that seemed to kick off the action of the story actually does.

Now, after a brief encounter with an unsanctioned psyker, they’ve finally got a lead on the location of the Emperor’s Seat, and have finally tracked down Zelia’s mother and the other refugees from the Necron attack which kicked off the first book of the series – but as it turns out, the Necrons are hot on their heels, and have agents much closer than they dare think…

So, six books in and the series is done – along with the long-running story overarching all of them. Does Scott stick the landing? Though young readers will probably be largely pleased with what they get here, and that’s really the criteria Scott would have been aiming for, I do think there’s some gaps which even kids will notice, and some other aspects of the execution I have reservations about.

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Pickin’ Up Truth Vibrations, Part 7: COVID and the Cosmos

The last time we checked in on Gnostic heresiarch David Icke, he was enjoying a new prominence. A rising tide floats all boats; in this case, a rising tide of bullshit surrounding COVID and QAnon was allowing conspiracy theorists of all stripes to do brisk business. Murders or suicides on the part of not one, not two, but at least three people bearing allegiance to either Icke’s theories directly or grand overarching conspiracy theories that clearly show his fingerprints. If he feels any guilt, I have not noticed him expressing any.

In the meantime, he’s been a regular at anti-lockdown protests and has found time to continue to spew his theories in interminable videos, and has even churned out a new book. It’s taken me a little time to find a source for his new book which I didn’t have to pay money to Icke (or people supporting similarly extreme views as Icke’s) to read, but I managed it and took a look, and to be honest… there ain’t that much to it. Were this the only major release he’d put out, I wouldn’t have enough material for another episode in this series.

But I’ve also had a chance to, for free, watch a documentary he has been energetically pushing, and I think it’s worth taking a look at both next to each other. Whilst Icke’s books have been his bread and butter for decades by this point, and he has got his formula down to the point where he can crank them out pretty easily (it certainly helps that he doesn’t hold himself to mainstream standards of journalistic integrity or investigative rigour), at the same time he also seems to be putting a lot of effort into developing new avenues to both raise money and put his message out there. The book and film I’m going to review here are recent examples of that.

Perceptions of a Renegade Mind

Icke’s latest book has at least had more effort expended on the front cover than The Answer, but the actual contents are pretty low-effort. It has been apparent for some time that Icke’s worldview has largely stopped developing; his grand cosmology and his overarching conspiracy theory has been more or less ossified for years, and all Icke really does is occasionally change up the terminology. For instance, this time around he refers to the Conspiracy as a whole as the “Global Cult”, having gone with “Death Cult” for The Answer and been more direct about attacking Sabbatean-Frankists in The Trigger.

All Perceptions of a Renegade Mind is, then, is a fairly simple introduction to his grand theory of everything, joined at the hip with him applying that theory to current events (mostly, but not exclusively, COVID-themed). This explains how he can knock books like this out so quickly – he’s been churning out videos and interviews and articles for his website all through the pandemic, all he needed to do here was condense them down into a “best of” (for a certain value of “best”) and punt it out the door.

This concludes with a rundown of his cosmology, which is the same basic Ickean Gnostic cosmology which he’s been pushing for some time. There’s a slight new wrinkle here – the Archons seek to be disconnected from the true God but, in doing so, would ail due to no longer having a connection to the source of all life, and so want to use human beings as a power supply (adding in yet more features of The Matrix to Icke’s worldview without, alas, admitting that the Wachowski sisters were crafting a trans allegory) for spiritual energy. Even this, though, is basically just rearranging some of the tiles without materially changing Icke’s increasingly stagnant mosaic.

Continue reading “Pickin’ Up Truth Vibrations, Part 7: COVID and the Cosmos”