Category: Reviews


>Title: Wonder City Stories

Author: Jude McLaughlin

Format: Serial

Address: http://wonder-city.dreamwidth.org

Genre: super-hero, gay online novels, soap opera

Review: I first came across Wonder City Stories last week during a cursory check of Web Fiction Guide, and managed to read the entire back catalogue inside of 2 or 3 days. Given that my new job involves a lot of between-site travel and a lot of planning at home, that’s pretty stupendous and should say a lot.

It’s a serial of vignettes following several characters who have intertwining story strands, who all live in Wonder City, home to many a great super hero and inter-dimensional hiccup.

A great deal has been made of its inspirations by other reveiwers, ‘Astro City’ apparently being one of the chief ones. I have to confess that I’m ignorant of most of the cited inspirations, so I’m not sure how this will dispose you towards the review. I’m more of a ‘Powers’ or ‘X-men’ kind of a gal.

The writing style has been described as light by some. Perhaps because there isn’t always a mass of description, but I find that McLaughlin always sets the scene well, detailing it gently, and does it in a way that you can imagine it sharply. While we do get to see some super-hero action from time to time, the main thrust of the serial is the minutae and more domestic side of super-hero life. Powers are cool, but have you ever thought about having to clean up after  a fight between super-powered folk, or even the burecracy that might be involved? Wonder City Stories does consider this, and provides us with interesting answers.

One thing that is certainly in Wonder City Stories’ favour, is its discourse with characters and the diversity of those characters. Many are super-powered, but they are all human and fascinating, and while each one has their own quirks and flaws, it is not to the point where one flaw dominates and/or destroys their lives in an over-dramatic way.

As for diversity of cast, the serial deals with issues like gender theory and sexuality, disability, peer pressure, mental health and coping with grief. Quite a few web serials claim to deal with ‘difficult’ subjects, but this one actually delivers the goods. The prinicpal characters are all from groups that are often marginilised or under/misrepresented within in mainstream comics, so women, characters of colour, LGBTQ characters, disabled characters, older people, people from different religious backgrounds.

Special QI points must be awarded for having STRONG, FEMALE characters who are realistic and NOT ripped from Hollywood’s hard-bodied heroines – their strength does not magically become a weakness when the going gets tough. This is something of a pet peeve of mine, I admit. Words like ’strong’ and ‘fiesty’ tend to be abused in modern fiction, and I now have a habit of translating them to mean ’studied a bit of self-defense, but will be rescued by a dude with a machine gun or massive sword in critical moments’. Wonder City Stories does not do this, for which I am very grateful.

On the less positive side, initially I found the navigation of the web site itself to be a little awkward. I’d recommend you bookmark the table of contents, as the set up of the page is somewhat similar to LiveJournal, which may confuse some readers.

All in all, if you’re curious to explore a path not-as-travelled within super-hero stories, then Wonder City Stories could well be what you’re looking for.

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Yakuza 3 – Reviewed by Gangsters

Interested in the Yakuza and how they work? Look no further!

A friend linked me to this review of Sega US’s latest game, Yakuza 3. She’d asked me about Cold Ghost, and then said I might enjoy this. Interesting thing is, the review has been done by 3 yakuza bosses, conducted and translated by Jake Adelstein, a former crime reporter living in Tokyo and author of Tokyo Vice.

While admittedly, the bosses do not actually explain the yakuza system, they do comment on the realism and unrealistic parts of yakuza life as portrayed in the video game, and give us some insights on day-to-day life. If you’re curious, or looking to be entertained for the next fifteen minutes, give the review a peek.

Link to the Review

>Title: Dorian’s Quest
Author: Tonya Moore
Format: Web Fiction, Serialised Novel
Address: http://www.tonyamoore.com/serialized-stories/nyacene-record-dorians-quest/dorians-quest-chapter-1.html
Genre: Science Fiction, Gay Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

Review:

Dorian’s Quest funnily enough, follows Dorian, a prince and assassin who has landed himself in a whole heap of trouble. As of writing this review, there are nearly fifty chapters or so available, but I’m only a few chapters in reading, so this review will most likely be updated once I get through all of the backlog now that I have internet again.

On starting Chapter 1, we’re plunged straight into the thick of the action: there’s no opening exposition, but it does aid the urgency of Dorian’s situation. The hero is in at the deep end and so are we as readers.

Thus far most of the chapters are fairly bite-sized, and you can burn through several chapters in one sitting. I’m not yet sure if I’m convinced of the relationship between Dorian and his former paramour and guardian but it is also made clear to us that Torrin is not telling Dorian the whole story nor the whole truth, setting us up nicely for some future conflict. If you enjoy fluffier tales of BL you may settle into this story quite nicely, though at the same time there seem to be some sub/dom relationships implied but not really explored in the early chapters, so it can seem a tad uneven that way.

One issue I do have is that navigation is somewhat awkward. The next or previous chapter buttons aren’t very obvious, so in order to go through the story I kept having to go back to the top of the index page until I eventually found the navigation buttons.

In short, I think that those who enjoy their space operas with a BL twist may well be pleasantly surprised by this story. Expect a re-review once it is completed.

>Title: Addergoole
Author: Lyn Thorne-Alder
Format: Web Fiction, updates twice weekly
Address: http://addergoole.com/
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Coming of Age, Drama, Urban Fantasy

Review: As of writing this review, I think I’ve finished the first book of Addergoole and am almost half way through the second; it’s a fascinating read. There are quite a few reads on the internet that cover fae-in-high-school or the magical coming-of-age style of story, but Addergoole is definitely one of the most sophisticated of these stories.

The basic storyline follows three adolescents who have recently joined the Addergoole School, whose students and staff all have ‘special abilities’. Over the course of the story, we discover that the denizens of Addergoole are all different kinds of fae, and that the students are to be trained in their various powers.

Through out Book 1, more sinister goings on are hinted at in the background and in Book 2, the darker nature of the school’s real purpose and atmosphere is drawn out. The book is well paced, and the characters are believable within their situation. There is an element of sexual tensions and dealing with sexuality and gender identity as a theme, but unlike other serials, you’re never slapped in the face with it nor patrionised to. Readers are made aware of it, but the writing is always very clever.

I would warn the faint of heart and those who like a fluffy OTP, you’re unlikely to find joy here. Addergoole is unashamedly moody, and there are a few dom/sub relationships – it’s something that becomes a dominating theme (no pun intended – you get shot for punning where I come from) after Book 1, though it is hinted at during Book 1. There is no Tinkerbell or General Toot-toot to save the day, no magic dust to make the characters’ trails easier.

Addergoole is an excellent piece of web fiction, and I do highly recommend it. I gave it four out of five stars on Web Fiction Guide! But if you as a reader, are more High School Musical than Battle Royale, then read it with the lights on.

Web Fiction: The Anti-thesis

>Title: The Antithesis
Author: T.L Whiteman
Format: Web Fiction, updates weekly
Address: http://sanguinexdesolace.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-encounter.html
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Religion, Science Fantasy

Review: The initial concept behind ‘The Antithesis’ is intriguing, and comes across as ‘Dollhouse’ meets ‘Dogma’ with some time travel thrown in at first glance. Our main character, Alezair is a ‘marionette’ owned by the Nexus, whose mission is hijacked by a mysterious woman. Currently, the story as at 13 chapters, and will be updated once weekly on Friday.

The dialogue is fun and interesting, and Alezair’s introspection is usually quite snappy and sarcastic. The location switches appear to be well described – as a Japanese major, it was a joy, nay a miracle NOT to be annoyed by descriptions of ancient Japan! No really, this is nigh on a miracle and why I can’t sit through the Last Samurai with a straight face. When writing from a Euro-centric point of view, a lot of writers and directors slip into some very lazy story-telling formats, and Whiteman doesn’t do this, so she gets extra credit.

While I described ‘The Antithesis’ as being ‘Dollhouse’ meets ‘Dogma’ (YAY alliteration), the Dollhouse comparison quickly falls away in terms of tone. Both works are fairly dark, but ‘The Antithesis’ leans more towards ‘Night Watch’ after the first few chapters as it has more of a super-natural bent to it.

On occasion, the descriptions of the Mysterious Woman can come across purplish prose, but I concede that this could be a word choice preference on my part, and it certainly did not impede my reading on. The original site design has changed since the site went online – gone is the fantastically eerie image of the Mysterious Woman with bleeding wings, and it’s been replaced with anime-ish image which makes the story appear more cheery than it actually is.

The story seems to be steadily working on bring certain reveals and bigger mysteries as well – we’re still finding out about what precisely the Nexus entails. As of writing, I’m just over half way into what is available online, and I’m looking forward to see what the future instalments will bring.