Game & Read Reviews: Stranded

Book: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Release date: October 4, 2016 by Tor Books

When I read the description for Stranded, I had a flashback to the hours I spent watching “The Deadliest Catch” and I hope this would be all the drama of that show in a novel. While there was zero crabbing involved, it did scratch a Deadliest Catch itch. MacLeod wrote the setting of the ship, the sea, and the ice with a voice that transported me there, even though I’ve never experienced any of those things in reality. There was enough description for me to feel immersed in the setting yet I didn’t feel like anything was over-described, which is a difficult balance to find, especially with unusual settings.

When it comes to the plot, I am a little more conflicted. I have to admit, I was a bit bored for the first section and very end of the book. For someone is who removed from the world of seamen and icy oceans, it felt very technical and difficult to engage with. The twist, however, was so unexpected and really caught my attention. I think MacLeod did a nice job dropping clues and setting it up without giving it away, and I audibly gasped when I realized what was going on. MacLeod handled the plot twist well and upped the stakes tremendously in a way that drew me in completely. Stranded lost me a little bit again in the last 20 pages, this time because of the immense violence, gore, and mismatched emotional reactions. Without giving too much away, I felt like the last pages of the book tried too hard to reach to combine climax with resolution and the result was a bit of a mess. It all ramped up too quickly and too much for me at the end and fizzled out, which was disappointing considering how much I liked the middle of the story.

Finally, the characters fall in the same gray area as the plot for me. Noah, the main protagonist, is a man of man painful memories and interactions and it was hard to associate Noah with anything positive. He wasn’t a complainer, which was a relief, and his emotional and physical reactions to the events happening were, for the most part, appropriate and well written. Yet everything was just so depressing that it was hard to find anything other than gloom and despair. There were a few other characters that brought a bit of levity to the story but overall the situation the men are dealing with is so dire – being stuck on ice and the subsequent deaths will put a damper on things – that even the few bits of humor felt out of place. So while the characters and their personalities certainly fit the plot line, I wish there had been a bit more lightness woven throughout the story.

Overall, I think MacLeod hit the stranded at sea nail on the head. It’s not happy but it is well written and pulls you into the world of trapped ships and otherworldly challenges. If you are looking for a story that ends with a nicely wrapped bow, stay away from Stranded. But if you want a gritty novel that will transport you to the icy, bloody, treacherous oceans, pick this one up.

Overall rating: 3/5 stars

[I received an advance copy of Stranded from Tor Books via Net Galley. The opinions in this review are my own]

–Erin

#FridayReads: September 23

Happy Friday! Erin’s back with another #FridayReads video featuring a sociopath, Tina Fey, and a whole lot of Stephen King.

Books Mentioned:
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams // Stephen King
American Psycho // Bret Easton Ellis
Bossypants // Tiny Fey

If you have any thoughts about these books or want to share YOUR Friday reads, comment or Tweet me. I’d love to hear what you are reading!

If you want to keep up with everything Game & Read, follow us on WordPress, YoutubeTwitterInstagram, and Litsy and listen to the podcast.

Until next time, happy reading!
–Erin

Game & Read Reviews: Warp

Lev Grossman’s ‘Warp’ opens with a brief preface describing his life as a young man in the 1990’s. He writes about the loneliness he felt and the personal issues many need to deal with in the wake of being thrust from the bubble of college. I relate to Grossman’s preface, but I cannot say the same for ‘Warp’.

‘Warp’ is a story of a 23 year old slacker, Hollis, who has graduated from Harvard found himself sitting around Boston doing nothing in particular. He drifts from scene to scene with no particular agenda, commentary, or thought. Instead, Hollis recalls dialogue and bits of stories from science fiction. He interacts with privileged friends who have done more to advance their careers while reverting to the maturity level of college freshmen. They drink, speak exclusively in references and insults, and make snide comments about the women they encounter. Hollis meanders with these friends while offering little to no input to the situation. The only thing Hollis seems to be torn about is his previous relationship. Yet so little context is given to the situation that I assume they broke up out of exasperated boredom. He visits her at a fancy corporate office where all they seem to talk about is how Hollis could get a job but won’t.

During his strolls and bus rides in Boston Hollis manages to find his own manic pixie dream girl named Xanthe. A trope of the depressed man story, a MPDG spices up a story by creating an interesting paramour for the aloof protagonist. Xanthe could be removed from the book and nothing would change, but at least Hollis got some action. The closest thing to a conflict in ‘Warp’ is when Hollis and his friend Peters plot to break into a suburban mansion for the weekend while the residents are away. There doesn’t seem to be much of a motivation for the act; it is merely something to do and any risk of punishment isn’t enough to prevent the caper. I would say more, but there’s not much more to say. They break into a house and hangout for a while. It was the most interesting part, but the lack of conflict or resolution in the matter left the whole experience shallow.

The most redeeming factor of this book is Hollis’s lack of dialogue means that he doesn’t whine very much. He isn’t concerned with phonies or societal expectations or really anything. However, if Grossman was trying to show Hollis as numb to the world around him, he probably should have included an event that would be worth reacting to. Hollis is an Ivy League educated young adult who has been clearly been giving numerous opportunities to do many things. His social circle is wealthy and well connected, and it seems like the only thing holding him back is a malaise so dull it does’t even register as depression. I do not feel for Hollis.

Numeric Review: 2/5

-Peter

Pokemon Generations Is Out

The new Pokémon mini series has launched on their YouTube channel. Pokémon Generations is comprised of shorts that take place across the six Generations of Pokémon games. Like Pokémon Origins before them, these shorts follow and expand on the world of the Pokémon games, not the long running cartoon.

The first two shorts are currently live on YouTube. The first one follows the path of a Pikachu captured in Viridian Forest as it travels to all the regions with its trainer. The second revolves around the Kanto law enforcement and their hunt for Team Rocket’s leader, Giovanni.  Shorts will be posted weekly through December 23. You can watch both shorts embedded here.

I am always happy when Pokémon takes a step away from the regular cartoon. I have no desire to watch anything other than the episodes I enjoyed as a child (nostalgia everybody!). Pokémon has such a large universe that they could develop numerous movies, shows, shorts, or comics in any number of genres. I hope they continue to make things like Generations and Origins, and hopefully future projects are longer than four minutes.

Final note, if you haven’t seen Pokémon Origins, it is available on Pokemon TV.

-Peter

#FridayReads: September 9

Get your weekend on with this week’s #FridayReads video!

Books Mentioned:
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams // Stephen King
American Psycho // Bret Easton Ellis
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife // Mary Roach
Wife of the Gods // Kwei Quartey

If you have any thoughts about these books or want to share YOUR Friday reads, comment or Tweet me. I’d love to hear what you are reading!

If you want to keep up with everything Game & Read, follow us on WordPress, YoutubeTwitterInstagram, and Litsy and listen to the podcast.

Until next time, happy reading!
–Erin

The Game & Read Podcast: Episode 3

We are joined this week by our friend Johnny as we dive into Pokemon, bookstores, and Super Mario Run.

Related Links:
Super Mario Run Announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgA_qNvm8Mc

New Pokemon News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFbMGKvN6ts

Amazon Bookstore Coming To Chicago: http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2016/09/01/local-booksellers-brace-themselves-for-the-opening-of-the-amazon-store

Worms W.M.D.: https://www.team17.com/games/worms-wmd/