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A Beautiful Mess

By remi_reunholis, author of Ship Poster

Dec 14, 2018: Unsong is unconventional!

That’s really, really, really good, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you aren’t, run for the hills.

One common criticism is that Unsong reads more like someone attempting to be clever and funny instead of trying to weave a cohesive story together, and that’s not off the mark, in a lot of ways. The plot is a mess. A beautiful mess, a hilarious mess, and a mess swaddled with puns and discussions on the nature of good and evil, but a mess nonetheless.

The story shifts point of view like nobody’s business, and it can be somewhat disorienting for a reader unprepared for it. The author has said on multiple occasions that Unsong was basically a giant mashup of a million different ideas he had in his head at the time of writing, and that’s not hard to believe. (As evidence, take one look at the table of contents. It’s looks like something you’d find scrawled on the walls of an insane asylum.)

I once read Unsong summed up as "theological Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy", and I think that’s a pretty good (but very imperfect) description. For the particular type of pseudo-intellectual weirdo who can get into something like Unsong, the dialogue is some of the funniest around. I have no problem imagining Douglas Adams enjoying it very much, if he’d been around to see it.

Again, it’s definitely not for everyone. Despite the popularity Unsong had/has, it only has three reviews at the time of writing, which is criminal considering its length and quality. I’d say that I struggle to understand why that is, but the answer is obvious; Unsong isn’t something that neatly fits into any genre one can easily promote. There are also some sections and interludes that feel very weak/purposeless in terms of how it shapes the narrative without really offering enough in humor or insight to justify their existence, but I feel like this is overshadowed by the ones that aren’t. (Occasionally there’s also like some weird political/philosophical/social points made that not everyone (including myself) might not totally agree with but I don’t think these are ruinous to the plot as a whole. I don’t think you need to agree with every single idea an author might have in order to enjoy their work.)

Regardless, if you can get into it, it’s phenomenal. Give it a chance, and then maybe a few more, because it deserves them. It took me three tries at the start before I got sucked into it, but once I did, woo boy. It had to happen that way, I’m sure. Nothing is ever a coincidence.

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The internet’s out and we ate all the Ramen

By Admiralmonkeyman, author of Fuji

Oct 17, 2018: Best read at 4 a.m with a 90¢ cup o’ noodles in hand. Overall score, 4.7/5.

Reading chosen shackles has been a trip for me, starting off with the benign task of finding a running noodle vendor, to slowly building up the suspense and rot lurking beneath the city.

chosen shackles biggest quality is in its aesthetics and characters, the way that the protagonist interacts with the world improves upon its immersion tenfold.

The antagonist’s of this world take their merry time to show, leaving Frode to wander the city in more realistic pursuits, rather than saving the world.

But this story isn’t all about Frode, the supporting characters all feel three dimensional, with their own desires, motives, and emotions without being pulled along by the protagonist, unlike some other serials.

The biggest hurdle to go around is in Chosen shackles pacing. Although the story is top notch in building suspense and tension, Chosen shackles doesn’t force feed you what happened in between chapters like other serials. instead, it leaves you to tie some of the links yourself. I would say that this is neither good nor bad, but could be confusing for some readers.

I think Chosen shackle’s smaller chapters actually work in its favor. It leaves every entry into small, bite-sized bits of story and aesthetic. Making it perfect for reading between shifts at work or whatever break you may have.

In conclusion, Chosen shackles is one of the best Cyberpunk serials out there, and does its setting perfectly. It well deserves its high ratings, and it’s characters that make the setting feel so like so much more, having these people written in such a realistic and meaningful way, then putting them in this living nightmare of a city brings you so much deeper in.

Shaeor has hooked me once again, good work, man.

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<Part of the System>

By Kraken Attacken, member

Aug 10, 2018: Atmosphere . . . Adrenaline . . . Amphetamines . . . Augments . . . 

Cerebral-immersion . . . Cyberization . . . Chemical Enhancement . . . 

Downloads . . . Digital Environments . . . Decryption . . . Demons . . . 

Signals . . . Static . . .  . . .  . . . .Spicy Noodles . . . 

As I sat before my darkly-lit screen, drinking in the imaginings of electronic vapour and dystopia, these words played across my mind and consciousness. Cyberpunk, dystopian stories, and Grungy digital futures have always been thrilling to me, especially when they deliver on the core aesthetics. I have to say that Shaeor’s work has delivered on this front, and in a way that feels both foreboding and satisfying.

It has become my tradition to give a bit of metaphor, but I fail to see how I can get any more metaphorical than what this story presents. I’ll try my darnedest nonetheless.

In the end, like a famous bald guy in sun-glasses once said, there’s always that rabbit hole for us to lose ourselves in. In a digital age where friends are pixels away, where we look with as much fascination at effects laden videos as we do at the stars above, where rampant criminality can be pursued from a single device, there is yet still further for us to go.

We usually live our ordinary (and sometimes a bit extra-ordinary) lives from day to day, indulging in various activities while we make ends meet and seek fulfilment. Sometimes however, the corner of the page is peeled back, the tiny door to the murky unknown is left ajar, and for those of us who are unafraid of the dark . . . what do we do?

 . . . we take a step closer, and peek.

I think my favourite thing about many a favourite cyber-punk story that I have read or watched, is that average joe we find ourselves following. Not necessarily a regular joe who turns super joe by happenstance, but a someone who stumbles upon something, something which instigates undeniable change in their life, but for the rest of the world . . . it’s just Monday.

The world is made of uncountable layers, and average joe’s struggle is likely to make some waves, but most of those layers will remain unaffected, or at least the effects on the world won’t be sudden and jarring.

Chosen Shackles is a cyber-punk story you can drool over, with all the right tropes in all the right places. Tech is ubiquitous, it’s hard to make ends meet for most, if you aren’t careful you’ll end up as someone’s test-subject, and big brother is always watching. Yet for all of this, it isn’t just the depths that this story manages to reach with short chapters and evocative, sometimes allegorical words, it’s also how ordinary it all seems from the perspective of those within it.

This is life, this is what we know and who we are. Chosen Shackles uses inference and hints to make the extraordinary ordinary in a fascinating and whimsical manner. Frode isn’t some especially woke individual who’s diving down into the core of "the system", especially since we can infer that everything is known at some level. No, Frode just happens to have been chosen by happenstance, in the right (or wrong) places at the right (you get the idea . . . ) times.

It makes the story feel alive, and well lived to boot. I am not Frode, and I don’t share allot of his characteristics, but in spite of the fact that he belongs in some distant future, where dreamers play games and dance in wondrous digitised worlds, I can see myself in Frode, I can see myself in his world. I can breath it, taste it, touch it, and feel its digital haptic buzz.

Sometimes the prose can become heavy and the nomenclature and metaphor jarring, but the narrative, and the texture and mood of the writing, makes up for such signal interference.

If you, like me, are a lover of the rich street-level lore in a digital dystopian age, then Plug-in, Boot-up, breath deep . . . 

 . . . and listen to the static . . . 

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