Video Games: Unfinished Swan
Indie game Unfinished Swan is available free this month if you have a PS+ subscription. This is a wonderful, short, artistic game. There was far more detail, originality, and difficulty than I had expected. The story itself is linear but doesn’t make a ton of sense. It is set in the first person; you are a little boy following a random swan around this drawing world.
The game play changes each level and all of it is fun. I thought the entire game would be about paint splatters but they did a good job at really making each level different. Some don’t involve paint at all. But all involve light and contrast. It really is beautiful.
You can’t really die in the game. If you go where you’re not supposed to, you just come back to a near-by checkpoint. Also, saving only happens when you actually reach the end of a level. The first time I played it, I quit after reaching the first Storybook, and was disappointed to find I had to start over because it didn’t save.
This is more of an exploratory game than a puzzle, platformer, or shooter. Definitely unique style and wonderful artwork. I really recommend this one.
Books: Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Erik Larson is most known for Devil in the White City. His narrative non-fiction take on the serial killer H.H. Holmes at the Chicago World’s Fair. That book is fantastic. Larson did his research and it shows. He includes mundane yet interesting facts about the fair, Chicago, and the world at this time. At the same time, he builds tension surrounding Holmes’s behavior. It never felt dull.
Since I love history, I really was looking forward to reading his latest Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. I have read many World War II books but not as many books on the first war. I do know all about the context of the sinking of the Lusitania and what it meant for the US’s involvement. Typically I find these types of stories interesting.
At 100-pages in, I’m considering bailing on this one. Larson goes way off the scope here with extraneous mundane details. Some of it is interesting. Like, that President Wilson was extremely depressed after his wife died. So much that he walked around Manhattan hoping to be assassinated. But… that has nothing to do with the Lusitania.
Larson gives us the life stories of several passengers. None of them are interesting. There isn’t a main character so we never develop emotions for anyone. And for some it just goes on for pages. At least this is slightly more related to the Lusitania.
The weaving of random facts that have a very tiny thread linking them reminds me a lot of a Bill Bryson book. Specifically, One Summer: America, 1927. Bryson took a specific year and wrote about a whole lot of various things that happened in that time period. It is all over the place. It seems that is what Larson was trying to do here. Unfortunately, ships are pretty well-contained. Unlike a huge event like the World’s Fair, a ship is pretty routine. There is a small crew. There weren’t that many passengers. Because of this, Larson has to write a lot of filler to make this full book length. He includes lots of information about events happening around the same time as the Lusitania sinking. But those have nothing to do with the actual event. This isn’t the type of book I want to read.
Without a main character, it is really difficult to care about the fate of the ship. Especially since we all know what happens. There is zero tension. And zero emotional connection. It’s more like Larson is practicing the “spray and pray” mentality of writing a hundred thousand random facts and hoping we find at least one of them interesting.