What To Expect Here In 2020

Happy New Year everyone 🙂 Like with some previous years, I thought that I’d write an article about what you can expect to see here in 2020.

After all, although my pre-made article buffer is a bit shorter than it was this time last year (it’s about eight months or so worth of articles at the time of writing. My art buffer is still about a year long though), I’ve still got a fairly good idea of what this year will look like on here.

Some of the changes are good ones, some of them perhaps less so. Still, I thought that I’d give you a quick preview:

1) Film reviews (for a couple of months): Yes, film reviews will temporarily return to this site in May-July 2020 – mostly because I needed to take a bit of a break from reading and reviewing books. But, you’ll be pleased to know that regular book reviews should return sometime in late July/early August (I can’t be certain of the exact date). Even so, film reviews will start appearing in addition to book reviews in May and then take over completely after the beginning of June.

There were a lot of reasons for this, but the main one was that I just lost enthusiasm for reading books for a couple of months… But eventually ended up regaining it and returning to books a couple of months later after realising that it was a lot easier for me to find good books than it was to find good films – probably because all of the reading I’ve done over the past year or two has changed my tastes.

Even so, although I will be reviewing at least one or two… less good… films, I’ll also be reviewing “Citizen Kane”, the original versions of the first three “Star Wars” films and all sorts of random films from the 1970s-2010s.

Again, regular book reviews should return sometime in late July/early August, but they might be posted every 3-4 days rather than every two days though. I’ve prepared two book reviews so far and am still working out the schedules and details for future book reviews. So, watch this space.

2) Comic hiatus and Art series: Unfortunately, my monthly webcomic will be going on a partial hiatus (with only one comic posted per month) between February and August, and then on full hiatus after that. Although I’ll possibly end up “rebooting” the comic at some point in the future, like I did in 2015/16, I need to take a break from it.

On the plus side, expect to see a few art series appearing on here in 2020 too – such as a series of retro/cyberpunk mini-drawings in around mid-August, a series of autumnal retro-themed paintings in late August/early September, a series of cyberpunk paintings loosely-inspired by my memories of the Tricorn Centre in late November/early December etc… Seriously, I’m surprised at the number of art series I’ve ended up making for 2020 🙂

3) Game reviews: Although I’d originally planned to take a break from preparing game reviews a few months ago (and, unless I edit it, the seventh anniversary article that will appear in April 2020 will mention this), they still ended up being a bit more of a regular thing than I’d expected for 2020.

In addition to the usual monthly “Doom II” WAD reviews (which I’ve still somehow managed to keep up with), I’ll also probably be reviewing the following games: “Dreamfall Chapters”, “Neverending Nightmare”, “Hard Reset Redux”, “Devil Daggers”, “Ion Fury”, “Saints Row: The Third”, “Saints Row 2” and “Saints Row IV”. But I’m not sure if I’ll review any more games in 2020, since – again – I’ll probably be focusing more on book reviews from late July/early August onwards. Again, watch this space.

…Anyway, that’s about it. Thank you all for reading and I hope that you have a great New Year 🙂

Today’s Art (31st December 2019)

Happy New Year everyone 🙂 And, yes, I had a lot of fun making this comic too. For all of the literary historians among you, “The Maltese Falcon” was technically first published (albeit in a magazine) in the very late 1920s. Likewise, new readers of my comics might not know that Rox really does miss the other ’90s too. And, for long-time fans, here’s the “work in progress” line art for today’s comic.

Anyway, have a wonderful new year 🙂

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Happy New Year 2020” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – December 2019

Well, it’s the end of the month (and the year), so I thought that I’d do my usual thing of collecting a list of links to the best ten articles about writing etc… that I’ve post here over the past month (plus a couple of honourable mentions too).

Although some this month’s articles didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped (and, looking over them again, there’s even a bit of repetition – in the sense that I wrote two articles about adding humour to fiction), some of them turned out reasonably well though. I don’t know, I guess I was going through a bit of an uninspired phase when preparing some of the articles that appeared in the later parts of this month.

In terms of reviews, I was still getting back into writing occasional computer game reviews 🙂 And I ended up reviewing about twice as many games as I’d expected, namely: “Remothered: Tormented Fathers“, “Skylar And Plux: Adventure On Clover Island“, “Dex: Enhanced Version“, the 2013 remake of “Shadow Warrior” and the “Wanton Destruction” expansion for the original 1997 “Shadow Warrior” in addition to the usual “Doom II” WAD reviews.

On the other hand, this meant that I only had the time and space to review nine novels this month. My favourites of these were probably: “The Haunting Of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, “Idoru” by William Gibson, “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Sins Of Commission” by Susan Wright, “Kill All Angels” by Robert Brockway and “A Wanted Man” by Lee Child.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – December 2019:

– “Old Fiction Vs Historical Fiction
– “Shock Value And Storytelling Mediums – A Ramble
– “Three Reasons Why Authors Write Book Series
– “One Strange Reason Why Your Novel Might Feel Lifeless
– “Why Good Horror Novels Include Comedy
– “Using Contrast To Improve Your Story
– “Why Are Thriller Novels So Long?
– “How Scale Progression Makes Thriller Stories Gripping
– “Why Humour Is Important In Every Genre Of Story
– “Three Game Design Techniques That Writers Can Use

Honourable Mentions:

– “Why Movie Novelisations Exist
– “Artistic Inspiration And Focus – A Ramble

Review: “Dex: Enhanced Version” (Computer Game)

Well, since I’m still reading the next book I plan to review (“Tower Hill” by Sarah Pinborough), I thought that I’d review a computer game that I’ve wanted to play for at least a couple of years. I am, of course, talking about an indie cyberpunk 2D platformer/role-playing game from 2015 called “Dex”.

I first heard about “Dex” in either 2016 or 2017 and I really wanted to play this cool “Ghost In The Shell”, “Deus Ex“, “Blade Runner” etc… inspired game back then. But, then I saw the system requirements. Although I had an old computer that could play modern 2D “point and click” cyberpunk games like “Technobabylon” and “Gemini Rue“, this 2D platformer required a dual-core processor. So, it got added to the long list of “games I wish I could play, but can’t thanks to bloated modern system requirements“.

But, shortly after getting a vaguely modern refurbished computer a few weeks before preparing this review, I decided to download the free demo of “Dex” (yes, unlike many modern games, it actually has a demo 🙂 Albeit one that was released two years after the game) to test it out.

And, when the game went on sale on GOG last winter (I prepare these reviews very far in advance), the decision whether to buy a copy was an absolute no-brainer. Interestingly, the version available on GOG at the time of writing is the “Enhanced Version” which apparently includes some content (eg: various cybernetic suits etc..) that was previously released as DLC, in addition to the usual GOG extras like the game’s soundtrack, wallpapers etc….

So, let’s take a look at “Dex: Enhanced Version”. Needless to say, this review may contain some PLOT SPOILERS.

Set in a neon-drenched cyberpunk mega-city called Harbor Prime, you play as a mysterious blue-haired woman called Dex who wakes up after having a strange dream. Seconds later, you get a call from a mysterious internet person called Raycast telling you that people are coming to get you and you need to run. After dashing across the rooftops and making your way through a gang hideout in the sewers, you emerge in a part of the city called Fixer’s Hope.

Raycast tells Dex to head to a local bar that is popular with hackers. But, after talking to the owner for a while, it is raided by corporate henchmen and Dex barely manages to escape to the hideout of a local hacker called Tony. To Tony’s surprise, it quickly becomes obvious that Dex can access cyberspace without having to jack into a computer. Not only that, Raycast delivers a message saying that Dex is humanity’s only hope of destroying a malicious A.I. called GSV-2 controlled by an ominous group called The Complex who want to take over the world….

Powerful artificial intelligences? A character with “Deck” in his name? A hacker cave? Yes, this is cyberpunk 🙂

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that it is basically a modern low-budget 2D version of the kind of cool immersive sim/action RPG games like “Deus Ex” and “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” that were popular in the early-mid 2000s. In other words, this game has atmosphere and depth 🙂 Plus, although this game wears it’s many influences on it’s sleeve, it still manages to be something refreshingly new and interesting at the same time too 🙂 Although it probably isn’t a perfect game, it is certainly a really cool one 🙂

I should probably start by talking about the gameplay. Although the game does feature some limited 2D platforming and a combat system, these aren’t the most compelling parts of the game. No, this is a game where you’ll probably be more interested in talking to people, building your stats, looking for side-quests, drinking in the atmosphere, choosing augmentations, making decisions, solving puzzles, hacking computers, managing your inventory and exploring the city for loot.

So, yes, this is more of a RPG than a traditonal 2D platformer, but what a RPG it is. It has the same immersive, detailed worldbuilding that you’d expect to find in games like “Shadowrun: Dragonfall“, “Deus Ex”, “VTM: Bloodlines” etc… and it is an absolute joy to experience. There are lots of interesting side-characters, multiple ways to solve problems, optional side-quests, hidden items, amusing item descriptions and of course the kind of neon-drenched, run-down atmosphere that you’d expect from a cyberpunk game 🙂

Yes, not every location looks like this (and there’s lots of post-apocalyptic rubble and/or utilitarian concrete in other areas), but this game certainly looks very cyberpunk 🙂

Seriously, I love the general style and atmosphere of this game 🙂 Imagine everything cool in the cyberpunk genre, and you’ll find some hint of it here 🙂 It has “Deus Ex”-inspired gameplay, a lot of thematic and visual inspiration from both “Ghost In The Shell” and “Blade Runner”, it sometimes has the kind of vaguely anarchist atmosphere of something like “Shadowrun: Dragonfall”, there is at least one reference to the ICE from “Neuromancer” etc… I could go on for a while but, if you are a fan of cyberpunk, then this game is for you 🙂 Yet. as mentioned earlier, it still manages to be it’s own unique thing in addition to all of these cool influences.

The game’s roleplaying elements are really cool too 🙂 This is the kind of game where you’ll probably want to do as many of the optional side-quests (which involve things like taking down gangs, dealing with a stalker, rescuing a man from a brothel, finding antiques, investigating a closed restaurant etc..) as possible, and not just because you’ll get cash or experience from them. They’re interesting. Although the game’s RPG elements (eg: character stats, dialogue trees, damage scores appearing in combat etc..) are nothing new, they really help to give the game the kind of immersive depth that you’d expect to see in something like a “point and click” game 🙂

Seriously, it’s almost like a point-and-click game, but with faster-paced and more varied gameplay 🙂

Seriously, I love the writing and art style in this game. The dialogue and voice-acting feels like a reasonably “natural” part of the game’s world, and all of the in-game text has the kind of personality and subtle humour that you’d expect from a game of this type 🙂 Whilst the game’s main story isn’t anything too surprising, it is still delivered in a very compelling way and there’s enough background details, optional stuff etc.. to make the game’s world feel real.

Likewise, this game looks really cool too 🙂 Not only does it use a timeless 2D art style, but there are some cool-looking locations (albeit with some fairly drab concrete ones too) and the player character animations are really cool too (seriously, it’s difficult not to feel a little bit like a Blade Runner whilst drawing your weapon or running around the city etc..). The animation for the background characters tends to be a little bit more limited but, overall, this game looks really cool 🙂

Not to mention that some of the backgrounds look really cool too.

Even so, expect a lot of understated, utilitarian and/or concrete locations too.

The game’s puzzles are reasonably decent too. I’m terrible at puzzle games and I only had to use a walkthrough twice whilst playing and, on one of those occasions, I’d almost solved the puzzle in question but made one stupid mistake (eg: forgetting that the alphabet only has 26 letters). In other words, the puzzles are reasonably forgiving, logical and relatively infrequent too 🙂 They add an extra layer of variety to the game without really getting in the way of the gameplay too much.

Plus, the game will actually reward exploration too since you can usually find puzzle hints if you look for them. However, you might need to increase the screen resolution in order to read them if you’re playing on a lower resolution.

Likewise, I love how this game encourages you to explore. Although the city isn’t that large (there are maybe 10-15 different parts of the city to explore), there are hidden items/areas to find and everywhere looks really cool too. Not only that, there is also a fast-travel system that helps to remove a lot of the “back and forth” drudgery that comes from some parts of the game. And, yes, this game can sometimes involve a bit of this, so the fast-travel (and the fact that this game has a fairly traditional “save almost anywhere” saving system) really helps a lot 🙂

Seriously, this is so useful 🙂 Without it, the game would get a bit tedious at times.

Still, I should probably talk about the game’s action and platforming elements. They are…functional, I guess.

As you would expect from a RPG, you’ll be fairly weak in both ranged and melee combat until you upgrade your stats and/or find enough in-game money (no micro-transactions here 🙂 ) to buy decent weapons and, more importantly, enough ammo for them. Although the combat is made a bit more forgiving via the inclusion of things like stealth takedowns, the fact that you can run away from most enemies and, if you complete one side quest, get a thermo-optic camouflage stealth suit (in the “Enhanced Version” of the game) too, it still feels like one of the weaker parts of the game.

If you want an action game, then play something else. The combat here does it’s job, but it isn’t the best or most interesting part of the game.

Then again, given the inclusion of a basic stealth system and the ways that combat can be avoided (eg: hacking cameras, running etc..), this isn’t too much of an issue. Even so, it’s more like a 2D version of the combat in the original “Deus Ex” (eg: ranged and melee combat feel a little weak and/or inaccurate) and/or the combat in the original “Resident Evil” (eg: you have to draw your gun before firing. However, unlike “Resident Evil” you can move with a drawn weapon) than the thrillingly streamlined combat in something like a traditional FPS game.

Interestingly, the best action-based parts of the game are probably the computer hacking mini-games. They are these surprisingly challenging bullet hell style mini-games that are played from a top-down perspective and they are reasonably fun. Unlike the more abstract-feeling weapon combat segments, the hacking sections actually feel a little bit more like a thrilling, streamlined action game.

Yes, the combat is actually more fun in these mini-games than in the actual main game.

Likewise, the platforming works reasonably well – with Dex having the ability to grab onto ledges and to buy an augmentation that allows her to jump higher. Even so, it isn’t really a major part of the gameplay in the way that it would be in a traditional 2D platformer. In other words, the platforming is a bit more “realistic” and, although there are a couple of places where you have to dodge environmental hazards or leap over bottomless pits, these are very much the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, this moment of traditional old-school toxic-waste dodging is very much the exception rather than the rule with this game’s platforming elements.

As for the game’s length, this depends a lot on you. If you do all of the side-quests etc… then you can get a few decent 2-4 hour gaming sessions out of this game. But, if you ignore as much of the interesting optional stuff as possible, then I’d imagine that the game could theoretically be completed in a few hours at most. Still, given that the optional quests allow you to gain more experience, skills, resources etc… that you’ll need later in the game, maybe not.

Another interesting thing about this game’s length is that it is actually longer than it initially appears to be – in short, there is a point where it seems like the game has finished (eg: a “boss battle”-like segment, followed by a dramatic cutscene) only for there to be at least a couple of hours of gameplay after this. Given how compelling I found this game to be and how dramatic these extra couple of hours of gameplay are, this felt a lot like an encore at a concert and it was really cool to have more of it than I’d expected.

In terms of sound design and music, ths game is fairly decent. Although the music isn’t that memorable, it still fits in well with the game and the sound effects also do their job well enough too.

All in all, whilst this isn’t a perfect game, it is a really cool one 🙂 If you love the immersive depth of games like “Deus Ex” and “VTM: Bloodlines” and/or you’re a fan of the cyberpunk genre, then you’ll have a lot of fun with this game. Yes, the combat and platforming aren’t the game’s strongest points, but this is still a really compelling, atmospheric and just generally interesting game 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Today’s Art (29th December 2019)

This is a vaguely 1990s-style sci-fi/cyberpunk digitally-edited drawing that I made when I was feeling slightly tired. Although it ended up being a bit more minimalist than I’d expected, it still turned out better than I’d thought it would.

As usual, this drawing is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Data Room” By C. A. Brown

Why Humour Is Important In Every Genre Of Story

Although this is an article about writing, I’m going to have to start by talking about computer games (of all things). As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later. However, I should warn you that this article will contain some SPOILERS for the earlier parts of “Dreamfall Chapters” and for Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting Of Hill House” too.

Anyway, the day before writing this article, I finally started playing a sci-fi/fantasy adventure game from 2014-2017 called “Dreamfall Chapters” that I’ve wanted to play for almost half a decade (but didn’t have a computer that was capable of running it until relatively recently). Anyway, the game begins with lots of serious drama (and… a lot… of cutscenes too) and I was initially worried that it was basically just a vaguely interactive version of something like a modern HBO-style TV series. Then, after about an hour of playing it, the game did something really amazing that reminded me of why I loved this series of games so much.

In addition to actually allowing the player to explore a really cool-looking cyberpunk city, the game’s occasional moments of subtle humour also gave way to an extremely funny gameplay segment. The player character, Zoe, is asked by a theatrically stressed-out character called Mira to test out a second-hand robot that she has bought. From the moment you mouse-over the robot, you get a hint that this isn’t going to be a serious mission:

This is a screenshot from “Dreamfall Chapters” (2014-17). And, yes, the robot is quite literally called “Shitbot”.

Needless to say, what follows is genuinely laugh out loud funny. Whether it is the combination of advanced robotics and advanced stupidity, the subtle homage to “Beneath A Steel Sky“, some brilliant interactive moments of slapstick comedy (including a clever parody of a typical adventure game puzzle) or just lots of hilarious dialogue, this segment literally made me crease up with laughter and it restored my enthusiasm for the game.

But, what does any of this computer game stuff have to do with writing?

Well, it is a good example of why humour is such an essential ingredient of pretty much every type of story. Yes, even serious stories need moments of humour. Even if it is fairly brief or subtle, then it still needs to be there.

But, why? Well, there are several reasons for this. The first has to do with emotional contrast – in short, your story’s “serious” moments will seem more dramatic when they are contrasted with moments of comedy.

A great literary example of this is Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror novel “The Haunting Of Hill House“. Although this novel starts out in an ominous way, this quickly gives way to a plethora of different types of humour (eg: amusing dialogue, quirky characters, dark comedy, irreverent literary references etc..) which lull the reader into a false sense of security. This means that the creepier later parts of the story are even more unsettling than they would be if the whole story had stuck with the serious, ominous tone of the opening chapters.

Another reason why humour is a vital part of every genre of story is that it adds personality and creativity to a story. After all, humour requires both of these things. It is also an essentially human quality that can’t be replicated by technology. So, including humour in your story shows your reader that – yes, it was written by a real person who put actual creative thought into it.

Not only that, since humour is a social thing, it also means that – if the reader finds your humour funny – they’ll probably want to spend more time with your writing. Or, to put it in bland corporate-speak, it increases reader engagement with your narrative.

Humour also adds realism to your story too. Not only do people make jokes in real life, but the world itself is filled with absurd, silly and amusing stuff. So, adding humour to your story gives it an extra level of realism. Whether it is a sarcastic description of a stupid part of modern life (and there’s a lot of source material for this) or, like in “Dreamfall Chapters”, a fictional world that contains amusingly realistic problems (eg: badly-made technology), humour adds realism to stories of every genre.

In addition to all of this, humour also makes your story more memorable too. If you give your reader a sudden, unexpected moment of strong emotion, then they are going to remember this. This is especially true if comedy is only a small or infrequent part of a more “serious” story. This is why, for example, although I probably can’t remember every single plot detail of the episodes of the sci-fi TV show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” that I watched on DVD nearly a decade ago, it took me seconds to both remember and find a clip of this amusing moment. So, humour is a way to keep your story memorable.

Finally, humour is entertaining. One of the reasons why people read stories is to be entertained, to escape from the world for a while and then return to it feeling enriched. So, including moments of humour – even in more serious stories – reassures the reader that they are reading something entertaining (and that they should keep reading). The humour can be very subtle and it should also fit in with the general tone and atmosphere of your story too, but even a small amount of humour can help to keep the reader interested.
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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “Idoru” By William Gibson (Novel)

Well, after the previous book I reviewed, I was still in the mood for some 1990s sci-fi. So, I thought that I’d take a look at William Gibson’s 1996 cyberpunk novel “Idoru”. This novel is the second novel in Gibson’s “Bridge Trilogy” (you can see my review of the first one here) and, like the rest of the trilogy, it is a book that I’ve been meaning to read ever since I found it in a second-hand bookshop at least a decade ago.

Interestingly, although this novel is the second novel in a trilogy, it can pretty much be read as a stand-alone story. Yes, a few familiar faces from “Virtual Light” appear as background characters and there are a few brief references to stuff from that novel but, for the most part, this is a self-contained cyberpunk novel that can probably be enjoyed without reading “Virtual Light”.

So, let’s take a look at “Idoru”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 1997 Penguin (UK) paperback edition of “Idoru” that I read.

Set in the near-future, the novel begins with ex-security guard Rydell passing on a job offer from a company called Paragon-Asia Dataflow to a talented data analyst called Colin Laney who is staying at the same hotel as him. When Laney flies out to Tokyo for the interview, he ends up meeting a sociologist called Yamazaki and a burly, scarred Australian man called Blackwell. Moving between various bars and restaurants, Laney tells the two men the story of how he came to be fired from his previous job at an unscrupulous gossip site called Slitscan.

Meanwhile, in cyberspace, several teenage members of the American fan club for ageing rock band Lo/Rez are meeting up to discuss rumours that one member, Rez, has decided to marry a famous A.I. construct called Rei Toei. After some discussion, one of the members steals some of her father’s frequent flier miles and hands them to another member called Chia, who is dispatched to Tokyo to find out more….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is a compelling, suspenseful and atmospheric story that is also ridiculously ahead of it’s time too. Plus, it is also more of a cyberpunk novel than “Virtual Light” was, albeit with a slightly more understated and realistic atmosphere than in any of Gibson’s classic 1980s cyberpunk novels (like “Neuromancer”). Seriously, this novel is really cool 🙂

I should probably start by talking about the novel’s sci-fi elements. Although there’s all the classic cyberpunk stuff like virtual reality, nanotechnology, A.I. etc.. the most interesting “futuristic” part of this novel is how accurately Gibson predicted a lot of stuff about the modern internet.

Whether it is the novel’s cynical depiction of internet journalism, how the internet has affected fame, the way old music still seems “current” thanks to the internet, scenes involving something similar to the dark web, lots of stuff about privacy and big data or even a scene where a character is blackmailed with something very similar to a modern “deepfake” video, this novel often reads like a brilliantly cynical satire of the modern internet… that was first published in 1996. Just let that sink in for a minute. 1996.

Like with “Virtual Light”, this novel is also something of a thriller too. But, unlike the slightly more action-packed storyline of “Virtual Light”, this is much more of a tense suspenseful thriller that gradually builds up an atmosphere of paranoia, mistrust and unease. There are lots of mini-cliffhangers, scenes where characters find themselves “out of their depth” and scenes where characters are followed by ruthless villains. In a lot of ways, this focus on suspense reminded me a little bit of 1990s horror novels by Ryu Murakami like “Piercing” and “In The Miso Soup”.

I cannot praise the atmosphere and locations in this novel highly enough 🙂 If you enjoyed the atmospheric settings of either of the 1990s Ryu Murakami novels I mentioned earlier, then you’ll be on familiar ground here. Although Gibson’s fictional version of Tokyo contains some futuristic elements and is presented from more of a tourist’s perspective, it is a really fascinating and vividly-described location that really helps the novel to come alive.

Literally my only criticism of the settings is that the novel’s most intriguing location, a hidden virtual reconstruction of Kowloon Walled City, only appears during a few brief scenes and isn’t really described in the level of detail that I’d expected (and it’s probably more there as a metaphor for the benefits and drawbacks of online anarchy). Given how fascinating photos, videos etc… of this demolished city are, it is a bit of a shame that such an intriguing location doesn’t get more time in this story. Still, the very fact that it is there is incredibly cool.

In terms of the writing, this novel’s third-person narration is – like in “Virtual Light” – written in a slightly more understated version of Gibson’s classic writing style. In other words, the narration in this novel is a brilliant mixture of more hardboiled, flowing, fast-paced “matter of fact” narration and lots of vivid, detailed, slow-paced and atmospheric descriptions 🙂 Seriously, I love how Gibson is able to write in a style that is both fast and slow-paced at the same time and which is also both pulpy and intellectual at the same time.

In terms of the characters, they’re fairly good. They all seem like fairly realistic people and the novel also handles characterisation in different ways for several characters too. With Laney, the bulk of his characterisation focuses on his backstory. With Chia, the bulk of her characterisation focuses on her music fandom, her friendships, her impressions of Tokyo and how she handles various dangerous situations. With Blackwell, we get a few tantalising pieces of backstory but most of his characterisation is done via actions, descriptions and dialogue. I could go on for a while, but this variety of characterisation types really helps to add a lot more intrigue to the characters.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is fairly decent. At a fairly efficient 292 pages in length, it never feels like a page is wasted here. As I hinted at earlier, this novel is both fast and slow-paced at the same time, with the suspense, multiple plot threads, writing style and premise keeping this novel gripping, but with lots of slower descriptive moments that really help the story to come alive. On the whole, this novel’s pacing is really good – with the story gradually building in suspense and scale as it progresses.

As for how this twenty-three year old novel has aged, it has aged astonishingly well. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the novel’s internet-related satire is ridiculously ahead of it’s time and the story also still remains very compelling when read today. Yes, there are a couple of mildly “politically incorrect” moments and some elements of the story do seem a bit ’90s – such as a possible ’90s computer game reference (eg: a rock band called “The Dukes Of Nuke ‘Em”) but, on the whole, this novel is very much ahead of it’s time.

All in all, this is a really cool novel 🙂 It’s an atmospheric, compelling and intelligent cyberpunk thriller that is also very far ahead of it’s time too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.