Bone #writephoto

Bone

skull

 

This can’t be real… No, of course not, this is a game… That object there, yes, that skull, they think, it may be a gate, you know, some kind of key, to get somewhere else? This is a  game, of course. But it may also be a trap, something really nasty, that blows up in your face, you know…

I observe the fools from my observatory on the low hill, the sniper rifle comfortably cradled against my shoulder. I see all three of them, hideous trolls. I know what they are saying, in their vernacular. “This must be a game…” Idiots.

The first one, one disgusting character, approaches the skull. The bullet takes him right in the eye as he’s about to touch the bone. One down.

The other two look around, there is no escape, nowhere to hide, they don’t even run. I take my time. No unnecessary cruelty. A quick and neat death. Job done.

And it’s not even a real bone!

T-Rain, and a girl named Zula: a reading of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde #amreading

Neil Stephenson 77f9262fbf.jpg

Every other thing that he had done for the company – networking with money launderers, stringing Ethernet cable, recruiting fantasy authors, managing Pluto – could be done better and more cheaply by someone who could be recruited by a state-of-the-art head-hunting firm. His role, in the end, had been reduced to this one thing: sitting in the corner of meeting rooms or lurking on corporate email lists, seeming not to pay attention, growing ever more restless and surly until he blurted something out that offended a lot of people and caused the company to change course. Only later did they see the shoals on which they would have run aground if not for Richard’s startling and grumpy intervention.”

Reamde is a tough, long, and interesting novel. I had to interrupt my reading several times during this year, and this made following the plot as hazardous as the story itself. I acquired Reamde initially as an e-book. The version I had was poorly edited, and after some four hundred pages I could no longer find my way through the various geographies and characters. Finally I purchased the paperback (in the Atlantic Books edition available in the UK.) This helped me to come back on tracks, as the good ones were getting deeper into serious trouble, and the bad ones were… getting more horrible than ever.
Richard Forthrast is a wealthy entrepreneur, and the soul at the core of T-Rain, a world-class multiplayer (MMORPG) game and metaverse, that transcends all predecessors. Richard is the head of the Forthrast clan, an expanded family of gun-totting characters who include his adopted niece, the beautiful Zula, a refugee from Erithrea. The world of T-Rain is, one day, disrupted by the double event of an internal war – the Wor – and the advent of what turns out to be a deadly virus, Reamde. The plot then develops into two parallel, but eventually convergent, lines: what happens in T-Rain, and what happens in “reality”: much of the book’s interest arises, in this reader’s view, from this double narrative, the journey in T-Rain, and the journey in this world, from Idaho to the Philippines, via China and various airfields and oil tankers, and back again, as Bilbo Baggins used to say. Both are rich in deadly traps, of the explosive and other varieties, such as magic spells.
A good first tier of the book is devoted to a description of T-Rain, its design, history and creators, a medley of British and US genial weirdos, recruited by, and under Richard’s influence. I must admit having lost the thread more than once (a fuller understanding would require a second reading, at least.) The real world’s thread centres on Zula and her companions, and their odyssey. For Reamde, the virus, cuts across the machinations of a criminal gang from the East, whose extortion racket is disrupted by the virus. The consequences of the gang’s brutal intervention, and a chance meeting with a bunch of jihadists, make up the second half of the novel, as the separate trails slowly converge back to the US-Canadian border, and Richard’s eagle nest.
There are hints of Snow Crash, Stephenson’s earlier novel that introduced a proto-virtual world, and multiple references to the world of hacking and virus developers. There are peripheral characters, some roughly inspired by the “war on terror”, and of course, the very nasty, and yet noble jihadist, the infamous Jones.
I only caught up with the female characters, all three of them, once I had acquired the paperback, having to backtrack through the 1044 pages! I think, now, that sometime I will re-read Reamde, when I have some uninterrupted three or four weeks of quiet vacation (maybe when we visit Seattle?) Stephenson lives in Seattle and his geographical knowledge of the region is evidently vast. I struggled with the trails through the mountainous area above Richard’s Schloss! A map would be as useful to the reader as it would be to Zula and her friends.
Reamde is, in turn, hilarious and tragic, a great read, and a milestone for Stephenson’s aficionados.

Photo: [By Ryan Somma – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/6191024454, CC BY 2.0, Link]

My reading of Cryptonomicon

#DailyPost: Binding Judgement

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover?

Alberto SevesoIt was old and dusty, and must have been hidden in the ancient trunk for centuries. For a while she contemplated the cover, cracked leather worn by the passing years, touched by the hands of long dead knights.

Around her was silence and the smell of decay. The sacred chapel’s walls shimmered in the morning light filtering through narrow windows. She placed the book on the altar, as the rite demanded, facing the nave.

She drew the Infinity Blade. A ray of light fell on the book. Far away she heard the light steps of Her she would soon meet, as the prophecy had predicted.

She open the cover, placed the Blade flat on the page with Her name.

The door of the chapel opened silently. The Queen walked slowly toward Isa, who fell on her knees.

“My child, I see you are ready for me.”

The Queen seized the Blade, and lightly touched Isa’s shoulder :

“Now, go and fight for me, and take this book, it will teach you how to overcome the Deathless.”

Image: Alberto Seveso

#FiveSentenceFiction: Doors

In front of the doorOn the threshold, in front of the massive gate, she hesitated: the fort would be booby-trapped, perhaps even ready to crumble on top of any intruder.

But then she remembered what the prisoner had said to them: it was only the third door which was trapped, after that, no-one knew other than the enemy.

She pushed the heavy panel, which moved slowly without sound, and stepped into the entrance.

Her boots felt the paved floor: there was no light, and no sound but her breathing and the beating of her heart; a ray of pale sunshine reflected on the wall in front of her: she’d left the small panel open behind her.

She only had a fraction of a second to flatten herself on the cold floor, as the second door opened and machine gunfire flooded the entrance: the prisoner had lied, and now she would have to die fighting – but she knew how to.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Monopoly

James Christensen 1) Monopoly is a popular board game invented by Parker Brothers and made by the Hasbro toy and game company, dating back from the 30’s, although its origin goes back to 1900’.

2) According to Wikipedia, “a monopoly exists when a single person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity.”

From Williams: “Monopoly can be difficult because it has a common literal meaning but also a rather wider meaning which has been historically important. It came into English in C16 from monopolium (Latin), monopolion (Greek) (from monos: alone, single, and polein: sell). Two senses appear in the early English examples: (i) the exclusive possession of trade in some article, (ii) the exclusive privilege granted by license of selling some commodity…

… The modern phrase monopoly capitalism (describes) a phase of Capitalism in which the market (is) either (a) organised by cartels and the like or (b) dominated by increasingly large corporations. Either use can be criticised form the literal sense of monopoly, which would suggest that large corporations with or without formal cartels do not compete in selling: i.e., that there is only one seller.”

See also:

State Monopoly Capitalism

The Age of Monopoly-Finance Capital

#FiveSentenceFiction – Ruins

Isa She stood, very still, in the shadow of the ruined tower.

The massive door was now wide open, no light came out from the depth of evil inside.

There, through corridors guarded by hideous titans, she knew the God King would be waiting, a corrupting and seductive smile on his lips.

There too, in the deepest, coldest dungeon, in chains, lied her brother, her lover, the knight she would soon free.

She had rehearsed every move, every corner of the sinister building, she could walk in blinded: but she would enter his domain, eyes wide open, the deadly sword firmly in her hands, a merciless warrior with an angel face.

Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words

Emptiness

Photo: by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Story inspired by Cheri’s picture, and an episode of Infinity Blade III.

Emptiness Cautiously they move along the vaulted corridor, to their left the late sunlight breaking through the high inaccessible windows, to their right the ancient wall, in front of them the increasing darkness. An icy air is blowing towards them from the depths, at times punctuated with powdery red-hot ashes.

Patterns on the grey granite of the floor remain unreadable, perhaps the guiding marks of some ceremony. They know so little about the deathless: here is their kingdom, and there is no doubt they will resent the intrusion, the violation of their domain.

A piercing shriek resonates through the arches: Isa and Siris stop, silent, frozen in the crouching position, swords drawn. There is now no other sound than their breathing, nothing moves other than, slowly, the slight mist coming out of their lungs.

The air is now colder, as they resume their march, and get closer to the obscurity…

Just as they reach the last arch, still lit by the declining rays of the sun, they see an opening on the wall, away from the light. The bricks disappear, replaced by older stones: fearless, they chose to walk in that direction.

“There is still some light,” says Isa, “it must be coming from somewhere…”

The floor is now uneven, and to the geometry of the bricked arches has succeeded the irregular surfaces of an ancient tunnel. They realise that the floor is gradually edging down, a slow gradient which means they are leaving the upper structure of the castle to enter the subterranean world of the deathless.

Isa’s foot hits a light object on the floor: it’s a bone. Soon they walk through layers of bones of all sizes and evidently human. “Here we come”, says Siris, as they reach a circular space, with multiple corridors branching out of it. In its centre is a small platform, anchored on a metallic pole which rises through the ceiling. “We’ll have to wait,” says Isa, “that’s a lift, I expect one of them to come down just there, and others to appear from those corners.”

Siris smiles. Swords in hand, they wait, back to back, the way of the Samurais.

As the first Titan appears, they kiss – and holding their blades low, they wait for the first blow. Soon they are surrounded. Soon the old stones are covered with the dark blood of the slain Titans. Again and again the monsters try to separate them, and fail. More Titans are disgorged from the corridors, but as the space is too narrow, only a handful of them at a time can face the couple.

So it comes that Isa and Siris are surrounded by the bodies of the Titans. Their only way out is the lift. They edge their way toward it: they are now standing on it, keeping the nearest monsters at bay. Obediently the small platform rises up: through a narrow opening of the high ceiling they reach a vertical column. It leads to the Worker’s room.  And there he is, flanked by Raidriar.

“Welcome to my humble dwelling”, he says with a snarl. Silently Isa and Siris take their positions: Isa will deal with Raidriar, and Siris with the Worker. If one of them fails, they will have to do the journey again through those empty corridors…

#FiveSentenceFiction: Letters

Letters ~ Vault of Tears

Moon Loves the Darkness He lived only for them, in the deep dungeon they kept him in, for there was nothing else that could keep his will to fight on.

Long ago he had stopped counting days, then weeks, then months.

Then years, yes, he remembered the end of the first year, when he had decided, against all odds, that he would stay to read them.

At his core, his strength remained, unaltered, for he was deathless, as she knew, but still a prisoner.

Then, one night, he heard the sound of rock grinding on rock: and there she was , standing in front of him, the author of so many letters, his lover, his saviour.

Inspired by the character of Isa, who freed Siris from the Vault of Tears, in “Redemption” by Brendon Sanderson.

#AtoZChallenge: April 10, 2013 ~ Isa

 You are Siris’ little helper, and, I suspect, secret sweetheart.  You are smart, fast on your feet, and a deadly shot with your crossbow.  Often you have saved his life, often you have tricked the God King, that evil creature.

But what I’d really like is to have you in the fight against the Titans.  I have even written about it!

“Isa suddenly froze, turning forward, coming alert.

Siris cut himself off, loosening the Infinity Blade in its sheath. What was that? Voices, he thought.

Isa pointed. “Ahead, I think.”…”

~ From “Infinity Blade, Awakening” by Brandon Sanderson.

Related article:

Hugo nomination for The Emperor’s Soul

#FiveSentenceFiction: Midnight

 This post, in the Five Sentence Fiction series, was inspired by the iOS game Infinity Blade II

Her thin silhouette was dwarfed by the monumental gate guarded by two huge robed figures with horned bull heads, holding burning torches, as she stood at the entrance of the castle, her face set in steely determination.

Slowly she walked in darkness, looking up to the distant dome of the ceiling, as the heavy doors shut behind her with the irrevocable sound of doom.

In the icy midnight air she checked her armour, adjusted her helmet, and felt the steel of the pair of arabic swords she’d chosen to fight the Titan: only speed could save her against the monster’s brute force…

Then she heard the heavy steps and metal heels resonating on the ancient floor, and he was there, fifteen feet of towering hatred, steel, leather and muscle, holding the huge battle axe high.

His attack was as sudden as expected, she parred the mortal blow, dodged low escaping oblivion by a whisker, then aimed the double blades up and deep below his jaws, and she heard the massive bones cracking open, she felt her blades slicing the softer matter in his skull, and there on the medieval stones, the Titan collapsed, a dead fiend.

Victory