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ATL: STORIES FROM THE RETROFUTURE

Satisfying end, but should I continue?

By sunflowerofice, author of Technically Abroad

Aug 26, 2020: So I’m not going to claim to be the best reviewer, but I got to the end of arc one and since it had a proper conclusion I feel I can do a proper review.

Anyway this story takes place in a world that seems to have both better and worse technology depending on what aspects of it you are looking it. That includes robots, but a lot of tech that barely functions so its actually an overall bigger hinderance than what it would be with what we have etc etc.

Now for the characters lets start with the MC named morgan. One thing about this MC is that it’s never been verified up to this point of we have a male or female one. At first I thought he was a guy then later I thought that she was a girl now I am leaning towards him being a guy, but I still could see her as a girl . . . It doesn’t take away from the story so far, but it is a tickle in my mind that wants to be answered.

The bestie of the mc Karina is a very happy out there girl who works hard and tries to do what she can to get what she wants, in her case becoming an actress. It’s a fun contracts to morgan and hey yin and yang characters work for me so to speak. If you have someone that pulls someone who sometimes weights them down you can get both directions so to speak moving of "lets run down plot line" and "wait we gotta check before we run down plot line" and having both options works.

Last of the main cast is a robot named R8PR that you would pronounce like on star wars. He is a robot that shouldn’t exist because it was made against certain rules or something like that, I forget the exact wording to explain it. Because of that the robot hides in abandoned places (a common thing where they live) and surfs the net a lot to look at things.

On to the plot. This next bit might have spoilers so i’ll use the at symbol as a barrier between here and the last part in case you want to avoid spoilers.

You learn about the social media killer. Basically someone who does cancel culture on a big scale by pulling out all sorts of private personal information and ruining their life. From political figures down to school students and the cast tries to find the killer. R8PR helps a lot there and they eventually find the killer and hunt them down and get mistaken for them and a lot of pinball stuff that still works and fits while the robot does research and the people do the foot work, sometimes resulting in one of them being harmed bad enough for a hospital visit.

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I will say that the story arc had, to me, a good conclusion. It felt like a good ending point for Morgans story, but it turns out it isn’t the end of the story. For some reason this is odd to me and makes me unsure if I will continue. I want to, but at the same time the ending was very well done in a way I dont want to risk losing that feeling of closure by reading more if that makes sense.

Sort of reminds me of when an in person friend published a book and I read the whole thing on a car ride with her to a convention to sell her products and at the end I said something like "I like how it had a proper conclusion so you don’t have any thoughts on a sequel" only to be told it was the first of a trilogy.

A great ending can be great, but at the same time if it’s to good and not the full ending it, to me, leaves me unsure if I want to continue while wanting to. I’ve had other stories where I loved the first in a series but the rest sort of fell fast and hard.

So I will say this the first arc was something I really enjoyed. It’s not series enough to be a pure comedy not to comedic to be a proper drama in a way that works. It has good characters a fun and interesting story and a really good ending, but since it works like a multi book series there will be a new conflict in arc two and likely three four etc.

I will say that’s the only reason I haven’t started arc 2 yet. Because I’m not sure if I want to risk the good feeling of arc 1s end and move on to arc 2. I know it might prevent me from a great second arc, but for now at least I’ll leave it be.

although to be honest I’ll probably read it at some point, but for now it’s a more of will i read it now or later.

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SUPER MINION

Hooked from the start

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jul 31, 2020: Imaginative narrative from the perspective of an artificially intelligent being in a paranormal affected near future. Subtly humorous and subtly appalling. Full of adventure and flows well.

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MOURNERS, ABEDNEGO, PERSISTENCE

Beware the Purple

By Pyrocardiac, member

May 3, 2020: The Sebastio Artaxerxes saga, of which Mourners Etc. is part two, isn’t so much a story as an artifact, the enjoyment of which lies mainly in exploring its details and peculiarities. I’m tempted to judge it on its considerable merits as such, except that it clearly wants to be a story. And credit where it’s due, it improves on its predecessor The Simulacrum of Dread in this regard, with a more consistent plot, sustained tension and mystery, and characters whom I’ve at least spent enough time with to care what becomes of them and their noble mission.

This tale lives in the Thomas Generalized Recountings Library, whose unique flavor I tried to communicate in my Simulacrum review and won’t be expanding on here. Quick plot rundown: Sebastio, armed in the most literal sense with a godlike superweapon, has taken over the domain of Pennat Gate and established it as a kind of refugee asylum for the omniverse known as the Gem, a move which earned him some powerful political enemies. Thanks to shenanigans ex machina at the end of part one, a group of hitherto purely destructive Beasts from the chaotic interstitial realm of the Purple have become rational (and kind of adorable) and are making their first foray into the civilized world. Now Sebastio and crew have to deal with the consequences of integrating their monstrous new guests while fending off various conspiracies and power-hungry neighbors.

All the pieces are here for a cerebral and outlandish ethico-political drama, but too many of those pieces are stifled, truncated, or not quite strung together so as to create a greater whole. (I realized belatedly how many “buts” there are in this review. That’s the most frustrating part: there’s a lot to like in the TGRL and it all comes with caveats.)

Mourners sets up promising potential plot threads and conflicts only to either leave them by the wayside or resolve them with baffling abruptness. We’re convinced for all of two scenes that our overpowered hero’s existence might really be in danger and/or that he can’t protect his people from something. We’re reminded that the quirky cosmic beings who facilitated his rise to power have their own agenda for him, then left wondering ever after what it might be. We get a genuinely suspenseful battle that by all rights ought to be some kind of significant setup or turning point but turns out to be basically a self-contained episode. The many mysteries left unanswered serve their purpose of establishing that we’re only seeing a tiny slice of an infinitely bigger world. But the least readers deserve for persevering through labyrinthine wit, diplomatic doublespeak, and combat that only a programmer could write is a satisfying payoff to the mysteries we’ve been following within that tiny slice.

Much of the drama of speculative fiction lies in confronting the mind with possibilities beyond its ken, and yes, Mourners does this. It introduces big, fertile ideas: what if a society with effectively infinite resources still wasn’t willing to make room for everyone? What if some of the most fearsome creatures in existence miraculously gained sapience and just wanted to be friends? These ideas are fun for us readers to think about, but it’s hard to feel their impact on characters who already live in a world of impossibilities. This is a major reason why the Earth-born character Louis feels thoroughly squandered until too late, to say nothing of Sebastio’s relationship with Caladhbolg, his talking WMD of a passenger. It might also be why Seven, the viewpoint character for the uplifted Beasts, is my favorite of this installment.

The prose hasn’t changed since last time: still leagues more polished than most, still entertaining and evocative at its best, still weaving drunkenly down the line between clever and maddeningly prolix. If good writers strive for clarity, conciseness, and courtesy, the author’s style is discourteously self-indulgent. I can admire the nerve it takes to casually use calculus terms to tell me that an aircraft’s ascent is slowing, but I can’t enjoy it as literature.

For those who are just searching for something different, I still say the TGRL is worth a look. Whatever else one can say about it, it’s a labor of love, imagination, and talent on an internet full of mediocrity. I believe that with a little more labor and less elaboration for elaboration’s sake, a cult audience could love it almost as much as its creator does.

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