Monday, February 28, 2011

Homefront: the Voice of Freedom Book Review

Now, I’m no book worm, but Homefront: The Voice of Freedom is fun little read. Despite its production was solely to further spread the word and hype of the upcoming video game of the same name, its authors allow themselves enough room to elaborate on a fascinatingly grim vision of America.

Author John Milius needs little to no introduction as the infamous screenwriter of epics like Apocalypse Now and Conan the Barbarian and director of pulp favorites like Red Dawn and Dillinger. But co-author Raymond Benson-who likely carried the lions share of work-could use a little background. He’s an experienced video game novel writer with credits including a couple Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell stories as well as six original 007 stories.

Like most who will pick up this book, I was immediately drawn by the games strong political sensibilities. Few games actually express any real opinion particularly on real world matters like the currently escalating aggression of North Korea and our own difficulties with fuel management. The book provides a in depth look into the years preceding the games setting of middle America 2027.

Our story follows Ben Walker a journalist making a living writing for a webzine called, no joke, “Celebrity Trash”. Living in L.A. he staggers through his days in a miserable economic climate that see’s gas at $20 a gallon, food shortages, and most imported goods coming from a wealthy North Korean technological industry. Oh, and then the Koreans attack.

As hyped by the games own marketing, a EMP wipes out virtually all of the U.S electronics including cars and communications. This is not Fallout people, this is actually much more depressing. Instead of exploring a world long dead, Walker is our vessel in a mostly familiar America that’s slowly, slowly crumbling down. It’s stark, unnerving, and gripping from start to finish. To imagine ourselves living as the 3rd world does is a sad way to reflect on our materialism and ignorance of the rest of the world.

I feel I should address the right wing rhetoric. Milius is synonymous with the anti-government and god bless America crowd. As a far left winger myself, the book’s indulgences are tedious, but never a deal breaker. The worst of it are a couple of obvious deus ex machina’s where just when our heroes can’t go on without fuel, water, or shelter good old fashioned American brotherhood rides over the horizon to the rescue. There are also times when the writing really spells everything out for you as if I doubted the impending danger of gunfire.

The best of the book is its episodic nature as Walkers travels across America evading the Pacific coast invasion and unsavory fellow Americans alike. Every encounter is balanced with anxiety, intrigue, and excitement. There are, however, some needlessly descriptive moments of the weapons the resistance carries which again appeals toward the Milius following. But this is made up for with brisk scenes of exposition and the difficulties of survival. Good use is made of the characters willingness to take chances and forge equipment from wreckage and detail and then execute plans against their occupiers.

In all this is a spine breaker of a good quick read. It took me maybe five sittings to blast through its 300 pages which in all honestly shouldn’t have exceeded half that with a smaller font. At $10 this isn’t a bad deal and a great prep for the game. Call me a sucker for hype, but I’m sold and hungry for more. And isn’t that the mark of a good story teller?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Read a Book: A New Years Resolution in Action

So I got a Barnes and Noble gift card as a Christmas gift. A nice present and kind of a hint. I don't read much. Well, not many books. I read the N.Y. Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker (shut up! there's some good anecdotes in there), and a few webzines.

I started Frank Herbert's Dune last year, but gave up recently around page 100. I know that's weak, but it just isn't very involving. I've been promised that it gets better about 200 pages in...that's not a recommendation. Before the exciting, high-fantasy fun starts the set up takes it's precious time rewriting history. So many made up words! And the glossary in the back is less a help and more a reminder that the author thinks he's just so damn wise. Well, yeah when you've made everything up from scratch I'm kinda at a disadvantage. Why am I reading this again?

Moving on...
After entering the hell hole that is Burbank in search of my closest B&N I was met with disappointment when I discovered they didn't have a DVD section. Damn. So I scanned the aisles for familiar names and glossy covers.

My discriminating eyes fell upon The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I've heard a few good things about it and that it's recently been green lit for a movie. And I do like all things gladiator-like (Death Race 2000 and it's remake, Gamer, Spartacus: Blood & Sand, and Gladiator duh). But it's got a female's said apart of Harry Potter's success was that although J.K. Rowling is a woman Harry's a boy and J.K. isn't inherently indicative of either sex.

What the hell. So I got it and had about half the card left to spend on something of equal value. Well, this little gamer just happened to find a promotional tool in the book store in the form of a prequel novel to the yet released game Homefront written by John Milius.

I've been watching the title for a while now on various sites. I do love a game about revolution (Freed Fighters, Red Faction) and have been following the unsettling news updates of North Korea for some time. Sold.

So guess which book I started first?

I started it yesterday and blasted through the first hundred pages until my bladder called for changer before it's own revolution. In short, I like it. Not love, but I'm gonna make short work of this fun piece of right-wing fantasy and likely write up a review. It certainly has my pumped for the game itself. Heh, I guess mission accomplished.

Here's a trailer for the game in case you haven't a clue what I'm so hyped for.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Self Righteous Forum

The Escapist, a nerd culture site famous for the Zero Punctuation series boasts a lively forum community. And under the "Off Topic" section I found a thread titled "Am I a Bad Person?"

Read it and you will discover a rather unsettling unanimous discussion that the author's refusal to donate pocket change to the medical bills of two girls injured in a car accident (a third died), because they deserved it is "right".

Geez. Some hundred or so of these people are never getting laid. My comment on the thread was this:

"You will remain a very angry, miserable person for many years to come. You are sad and must hate yourself more than anything else on earth to have said such a thing. The overwhelming agreement you've received from the Escapist community does not make you right or your comment just. You need to walk a mile in the shoes of people different from you.

This is not a matter of drunk girls killing themselves. It's a matter of party girls meeting a horrible end you believe they earned...for being stupid. For enjoying themselves when you can not. Worse, you harbor a resentment of girls deriving from you're likely inexperience with them.

Get out. Meet new people. Try new things and to understand that your imperfect life style yields nothing for others. Here, if we ever meet I'll buy you a drink."

My username there is KO4U. I admit, I am curious to see what the community thinks of my words.