Media Round-up for 29/04/2018

Heavy Rain

heavy rainI have an odd relationship with David Cage/Quantic Dream games.  In many ways, they’re terrible.  The stories are odd mash-ups of bad American action film tropes, the actors are all Europeans who generally fail at speaking with American accents, and everyone hates quicktime events.  Despite all those flaws, I generally credit Indigo Prophecy with rekindling my interest in video games back in 2005 — it had a huge impact on me at the time.

When Heavy Rain was announced, I was so excited about it that I purchased a Playstation 3; however, I chickened out and never played it.  Given the story’s subject matter of trying to catch a serial killer I thought it might be a little too scary (I am a baby about scary things, despite loving true crime).  Since my boyfriend and I got together four years ago, he’s been trying to convince me to play Heavy Rain, which he loves despite and because of all its ridiculous flaws.  Over our last two visits, we were finally able to finish it.  I played the first half of the game while he watched and, due to my hands being awful, he played the second half of the game while I watched and made the narrative choices.

Overall, I enjoyed Heavy Rain, but I don’t think I would have had nearly as much fun with it if Sean and I hadn’t played it together.  Many elements of the game are unintentionally funny, such as the awful voice acting and the bad controls.  Being able to laugh about those elements together made the experience enjoyable in a way that I don’t think would have been the same if I’d been playing alone.  I also think that, while the story has its share of trite moments and some of the side characters are more than a little offensive, the way the it unfolds and the sheer number of endings and branching paths is quite impressive.  Character death is meaningful and can completely change the outlook of the story.  Many games attempt to provide players with narrative choices and they mostly don’t mean very much in the long run.  While the story mechanics aren’t perfect in Heavy Rain, I think think that Quantic Dream has pulled these elements off quite well.

The Girl on the Train

girl on the trainThe April theme for my ONTD reading challenge was to read a book with an unreliable narrator.  After poking around some lists on Goodreads, I noticed that I already owned The Girl on the Train and figured I should read it and avoid purchasing something new.  I’m trying my best to use the ONTD challenge to read books that I own and haven’t yet read — it’s been working out quite nicely and I’ve enjoyed both the books themselves and the feeling of using up things I already own.

The Girl on the Train isn’t the best thriller I’ve ever read, but I did enjoy it.  I love authors who risk writing female characters that are not likeable (I loved The Bell Jar for this as well) and I think that Paula Hawkins has created three remarkable female characters who are strong, smart, messed up, and interesting: not likeable, but somehow also sympathetic.  I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the likeability of female characters in fiction, but Roxane Gay has said all of them a lot better than I ever could in this essay, so I won’t go into them here.

The story is mainly about a woman named Rachel, who lives just outside London.  She is struggling with alcoholism after her divorce and she commutes to work by train.  Over time, she becomes a bit obsessed with watching this one married couple whose house she rides past every day.  When the wife of the couple she’s obsessed with, Megan, disappears, Rachel has information about the disappearance, but she struggles to remember due to an alcohol-induced blackout: mystery and deception ensue.

The book’s narration is first person and, while Rachel is the main character, some chapters are written from the perspective of Megan and another woman named Anna (who is currently married to Rachel’s ex-husband).  The best aspect of the book, for me, was this three narrator format.  It’s obvious that Rachel’s memory is not particularly reliable, but having the two other narrators always made me wonder which of them might also be lying or deceiving the reader.  This kept me guessing about what was going on throughout most of the story, though I did have some accurate guesses about the true nature of some of the characters early on.

Overall, The Girl on the Train was an enjoyable read.  Nicely written, an interesting main character, a decent mystery and good suspense.  While I sometimes veer away from books that are wildly popular, I sometimes like to check them out to see if they live up to the hype.  I would say this book falls a little short, but it’s still a fun read.

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