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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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PHANTONICS

No title

By Nova Girl93, author of RU in? Saga

Sep 22, 2019: This has got to be one of the most interesting premises I’ve read about. For me, it starts a little slow, but it quickly picks up and I really like the friendship between him and his friends. They have a fun dynamic.

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QUORIA

Quorias & Quoriaser

By tkjarrah, author of blacklight

Apr 15, 2019: Short Version – if you enjoy the experience of going ‘oh my god no you idiot don’t’ every few paragraphs, Quoria is for you. No, this is not sarcasm.

Long Version – Quoria is a fantasy detective/noir story about Colton McKinley, an ex-con and current PI, and his struggles to get by in the fantasy, 1900s-esque city of Quoria, vexed at every turn by suspicious police, shady clients, and most often, his own tendency to be kind of an idiot.

Quoria (the city) is a great setting, a weird mix of middle/modern fantasy, 1920s New York City and 1950s Heartland America. Think a typical noir city, but throw in magical dolls, soda bars and screamo music in the bars instead of jazz, and you’ll be close. (That last one is a joke . . . or is it?)

The city, and the world in general, give the impression of being very fleshed out (to the point that there’s an entire set of fictional months and respective horoscopes made up), but as the story is fairly small scale, so far we haven’t seen much of it.

That’s okay, though, because the characters are definitely where Quoria (the serial, not the city) really shine. Colton himself is a great protagonist, by virtue of having no common sense whatsoever but being endearing enough that you root for him anyway. If you come from a circle of the internet where ‘disaster gay/bi’ is common, you’ll recognise it instantly in him.

The rest of the cast is just as good – Detective Mabre “Javert But Like Not As Utterly Stupid” Darling and university student/part-time back alley fight club participant/full-time Hawaiian shirt wearer Jude Baer are my personal favourites, but there’s also a dubiously-genuine fortune-teller, Everybody’s Little Brother, definitely just a normal tailor, and others! Something For Everyone!

One piece of information it’s good to have is that updates can be somewhat inconsistent, but we’re all just trying to survive under late-stage capitalism so if you have a problem with that you probably aren’t gonna enjoy this anyway.

Oh, and also everyone’s gay. Go read!

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