The Crow Road (Iain Banks). I just finished reading this. The ending nicely tied up the story, and it was a great read. I think for me one of the signs of a great writer is that Banks was able to throw up thoughts and concepts along the way that most would consider are thought-provoking enough that they could be expanded into more depth, but rather than dwell, he is able to leave them behind, to keep on going with the story onto yet more ideas to tease the mind with. And all wrapped up in an intriguing and fun plot.
I gather the Marita and Justine Reading Advisory Committee already have something else lined up for my next read.
Futurama… I caught an episode or two of this when it originally aired, before Channel 7 played shuffle the programme schedules with it, and it disappeared into late-night purgatory. Now you can pick it up on DVD for $33 a season, so I bought the first one and started watching it with the kids. Like its stablemate The Simpsons, it’s funny stuff, all sorts of little things you might not notice if you don’t watch carefully.
Then of course, you get little moments like when Bender says “I’m going to start my own amusement park. With beer. And hookers”.
And sure enough your nine-year-old pipes up “Dad, what’s a hooker?”
I stammered a cop-out “it’s a long story” response, and we got back to watching the show. Will have to think carefully about that one, and any reasonable response may eventually expand into The Talk. Still, that’s why it’s PG. Parental Guidance is not just about deciding if the kids can watch it, it’s also about watching it with them and providing guidance and answers to their questions about the content. (Umm. Which I didn’t. But I will. Eventually.)
Halo (XBox) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (XBox). I’ve bitched before about modern video games, but these are both great. The craft has obviously been honed in the last few years, with developers concentrating on usability as well as those eye-dazzling 3D graphics and sound.
What these two games have in common is that like a movie, they have a plot worked out, and the first parts of the storyline ease you into the game, get you accustomed to the controls, characters and surroundings. It really works well — you can take your first steps around at your own pace, and linger in one location if you like, before moving onto the next stage. The stage transition is less obvious in Halo, but both share the idea of changing objectives (for instance Halo’s find the survivors on the mountain vs Harry’s find Ginny’s stuff in Diagon Alley) and mini-games. Like getting to the top of a screen in Donkey Kong, complete the objective and you’ll move on through to the next part of the plot.
Another big factor is the behaviour of the computerised characters. In Harry Potter, most of them do bugger all, many just standing about. In Halo the marines run around, helping you help them, saying different things, and though there’s a fixed storyline, the aliens’ behaviour varies a fair bit too. Both games have other characters who direct you to things, or tell you what needs to happen next.
I’ve only gone a little way into these two games (no, I didn’t play them all day when I was sick at home on Tuesday), and there’s a lot more to explore. But both very enjoyable so far.