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The TV of 2020, A Very Timely Blog

Yolanda and I have relaxed into more of a casual TV-watching environment since the lockdown began. I’m not generally big on TV shows as I prefer to either play games or read, but there have been plenty of games and shows that have paired up well for paying half-attention to each of them. (“Podcast games,” I’m told people call them.) If I’m running around with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla muted while I track down sidequests while Great British Bake-Off is on the TV off to the side, am I really losing much of the experience of either? Maybe, but it’s worth the tradeoff so that we can all just hang out and dick around while obtaining Maximum Entertainment! Anyway, here are Quick Bite Thoughts on TV from 2020.

Star Trek: Discovery

This show seems to keep getting better and better, which is good because I really liked it from the beginning. This season with the timeshift opened up some interesting possibilities, so it’s a little disappointing that they don’t seem to have gotten any wackier than “we can teleport anywhere in the ship now” and “the warp pylons are attached by nanotech.” It seems like a bit of a failure of imagination, honestly, but then, Star Trek at its core has always been a bit conservative in imagining the future. I know that the show at its core has always been about examining humanity from a remove, but I sincerely doubt that anyone will have 100% organic bodies in the 24th century, let alone the 31st.

But anyway, beyond that caveat, I’ve really been digging this season so far. The actor who plays Book is a fine addition to the cast (and very handsome), although, again, I can’t imagine the 31st century will be so puritanical as to have two people who are clearly attracted to each other live alone on the same ship for a year and not get their bone on. Despite some weird go-nowhere plotlines (it’s not PTSD; it’s SPACE PTSD!) everyone seems to be gelling pretty well, and I really hope it keeps getting better.

The caveat here is that I haven’t finished the season yet because it ground to a screeching halt for me when they did the first Mirror Universe episode. The MU stuff in previous series was an excuse to let the actors camp it up a little bit, but Discovery takes it so seriously (probably because they’re spinning Michelle Yeoh off into her own show) that it’s just a real fucking drag. I generally like all of the actors on the show, barring perhaps Yeoh who I've never been a huge fan of, but none of them really seem to be in on the joke when the MU stuff pops up, especially Sonequa Martin-Green, who just starts acting a bit like someone who’s made too many memes about identifying with the Joker. It’s pretty god-awful and if they’re not going to bring back Jason Isaacs they should just stop doing MU stuff in Discovery. Hopefully they’ll stop after Michelle Yeoh goes on to Section 31 or whatever and I don’t have to deal with it anymore!

The Mandalorian

Hey, did you hear about this show? I’ll confess that I liked the first season a bit better as I never watch Clone Wars or Rebels or whatever came before this one, so I have no real attachment to any of the new characters they’re bringing in and am kind of immune to all the fan service-y stuff that they seem to be doing. Cara Dune? More like I Cara...Don’t, am I right!?!?!!

I still think this show is fine to watch from week to week, but honestly my enthusiasm for all things Star Wars are kind of muted after Rise of Skywalker, which probably influences my feelings here. Most of the episodes in season two are kind of fine, except perhaps for the Boba Fett episode directed by Robert Rodriguez. Most of the action during the fight on that Jedi Radio Beacon planet just seemed sloppily shot and all of the CGI looked real rough, as if Rodriguez was handling it himself in between editing passes. I know he takes pride in being a low-budget director but it seemed real out of place against the rest of the episodes. Also having the Mando take his helmet off in episode nine really muted the moment where the same thing happened in episode 10, which seemed like an easily avoidable problem.

Star Trek: Enterprise

I’ve also been rewatching this in the evenings a couple of episodes at a time, and man, it is one weird show. I know a lot of people complain about Discovery, saying “THEY’RE BASICALLY IGNORING WHAT RODDENBERRY WOULD’VE WANTED” and so on, but at least they try to spark a note of hope and optimism about Starfleet as an institution, even in what passes for the post-apocalyptic future. But Enterprise really went whole-hog on the post-9/11 mood in season three! Archer just straight-up tortures prisoners and steals a warp coil from a perfectly innocent passer-by vessel to expedite his mission, with very little in the way of meaningful pushback from his crew. In the episode we just watched, he glosses over the death of a crewman because it was caused by an old friend who really didn’t mean to do anything bad! Then he forces Trip to help that friend even though he just got someone killed! I get that they wanted to go back to the Kirk-esque captain who ran things his own way but it really seems like a far less Star-Trek-y show than any of the others.

None of the effects have aged particularly well, but I still do dig the performances of Connor Trinneer as Trip and most of the rest of the crew. I don’t know if I would necessarily call Jolene Blalock a good actress but I give her credit for at least attempting to handle some of the most ridiculous plotlines and outfits (or lack thereof) any Star Trek show has ever handed to an actress. I mean, seriously, Vulcan mindmeld AIDS? An addiction to Trellium-D space meth? (Apparently she was dating Ed Furlong during most of the filming of the show, so I guess she had some real-life experience with the latter.) I remember being embarrassed by it at the time and it hasn’t held up well, but at least we have some Peter Weller Section 31 action at the end of the series to look forward to.

The Expanse

It’s a little ironic that Jeff Bezos saved a show that’s at least partially about drastic wealth inequalities from cancellation, but hey: more Expanse is a good thing. I’d consider it by far the best-acted series on this list, and while some of the CGI isn’t fantastic (anything involving zero-G liquids is pretty bad), they at least save the fireworks for the bigger moments of the show, and have a pretty talented stable of matte background painters as well, by the looks of things. I’ve read all the books a couple of times now, but I’m happy to see them (more or less) faithfully adapted and while it sucks to learn that Cas Anvar is apparently a true shitheel, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with his absence in season 6. Already he kind of feels like the least important main character on the show in season 5 so I assume they'll write around it without too much trouble.

My Life Is Murder

This Australian show is available on Acorn TV in the U.S. and I recommend it highly! It's a pretty by-the-numbers detective show with Lucy Lawless, but it's a lot of fun and you can watch it with your parents without having to worry too much about it.

I didn’t watch much more TV than this this year that I can remember and if I did it didn’t leave much of an impression on me! Sorry!


The Media Of 2019, A Very Timely Blog

I didn’t read as many new books in 2019 as I did in 2018 (caught up on some older stuff, mostly), but I did like these:

Peter Clines: Dead Moon

Clines never really aspires to much more than delivering some fun page-turnery stories, but that’s fine: he does it well. “Zombies...on the moon!” is a great tagline for a book. Clines’ writing is usually pretty easy-going and fun; if you haven’t checked out his other stuff, I also like The Fold and 14.

Children of Ruin: Adrian Tchaikovsky

I have a soft spot for any sci-fi book that deals with translating languages between alien species, and Children of Ruin manages to one-up even Tchaikovsky’s own Children of Time in that regard. There’s no shortage of grand ideas in SF these days, but space jellyfish that command planet-sized ships while dealing with mind-controlling brain’s a heady mix! Definitely start with the first book in the series before you pick this up, though.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Outside of Daniel Abraham’s The Black Sun’s Daughter series (which I highly recommend like pretty much everything else he’s written), I haven’t really connected with any of the “wizards in a modern-day urban environment” book series that I’ve come across lately, including the Dresden Files books. I really dug Trail of Lightning for its focus on Native American legends, though, rather than the same-old-same-old mythological/folklore references that a lot of these books go for.

The Quantum Magician: Derek Künsken

Anyone who says they have a decent grasp on quantum mechanics (or quantum anything, really) is a charlatan and a huckster who is trying to sound smarter than they actually are, but Derek Künsken’s novel makes me think that that dude kind of knows what he’s talking about. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good heist novel (complete with all the “YOU SON OF A BITCH, I’M IN” team-building that you might expect), but this was super well-written and fun all the way through.

And it’s got the quantums in it. Everyone’s talking about the quantums.

The Deadwood Movie

“Elegiac” is the only word I can really come up with to describe this fine little piece of HBO cinema. (Enjoy it; it’s definitely not the kind of stuff they’re going to make while AT&T primes the pump for Westworld spinoff series.) I suppose it’s not THAT rare these days to have big casts of shows reunite a decade past their series cancellations to get back together, but this felt like a much tighter, more emotionally resonant summation of a series than a lot of other stuff that’s come out recently (El Camino, etc.). Its great and I love it, and it’s probably a shame that it’ll be David Milch’s last piece of work. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s directly before starting on this movie, which makes the slow decline of Al Swearengen all that much more moving when you’re watching.

Penpals Podcast with Daniel Van Kirk and Rory Scovel

I am not a podcast person. I listen to music on my commute, since I spend most of that time reading, and if I’m working or doing anything else I usually prefer silence to listening to people talk. That said, the Penpals podcast has been a fantastic thing to flip on when I’m driving with my fiancee; the two hosts have a great repartee and are very, very funny. It’s not that different than any other podcast or column that relies on reader letters to generate content, but Rory and Daniel are sharp enough to riff on pretty much any situation that arises and generate some good-ass laughs and sometimes that what I need when I’m in the car with my fiancee. They seem a little more adrift on the heavier/more serious subject matter, so I usually skip that stuff! YMMV!

Avengers: Endgame

Alright, screw you if you’re rolling your eyes at this being on this list. Incendies and I Am Love are still my movies of the decade so it’s not like I’m someone who’s sending death threats to Martin Scorsese over his opinions about comic book films, but this was about the best sendoff to Marvel’s first phase of their cinematic whatever that anyone could possibly imagine. I don’t know how the Russo brothers got from doing Community paintball episodes to THAT MOMENT with Captain America and Thanos, but I laughed and cried at all the right times and this was the best pop culture moment that I’ve had in a long time. Just a joyous moment in a theater. The action direction had some amazing amounts of imagination behind it, especially with all the Stormbreaker/Mjolnir interactions in the fight with Thanos. I don’t know if any of the second-wave cast members have as much charisma as Evans/Downey/Johansson, etc., but hey, I hope they try.

Mannequin Pussy: Patience

I’ll never begrudge punk bands for having rough early recordings; god knows I’ve listened to Rainer Maria and Sleater-Kinney’s juvenalia enough to know that sometimes emotion can outweigh professionalism when it comes time to put down some tracks. But at this stage in my life I’m appreciative of the leap that comes when a band gets hooked up with a professional-ass producer and decides to make an album that you can actually listen to over and over rather than just scream along to. Screaming Females did it with Ugly and Mannequin Pussy definitely did it with Patience, which, despite having a much higher recording quality than their earlier stuff, still has some of the rawest fucking jams on any album I listened to this year. Their concert was one of the highlights of my music-going of last year and this album is super, super good. It’s angry as shit but ends on one of the sweeter notes in a punk album I can remember recently - just like Ugly.

Origami Angel: Somewhere City

I originally just fell in love with Doctor Whomst, which is far and away my favorite song of last year, but this whole album is pretty amazing: energetically played, cleverly-written, and just sincere as all hell, like the best emo is. I got a lot of echoes of Braid from this album, and, like Patience, it’s much more well-recorded than the earlier stuff Origami Angel has put out.

You know what the worst thing that’s happened to anyone in 2020 is? Origami Angel was playing in Berkeley on a Sunday...and I found out on the Monday after. This is by far the worst thing that has happened to anyone, anywhere in 2020. If they never come back to town I will be so, so sad.


Some thoughts on Magic The Gathering: Arena

Hey, I was bored Saturday so I wrote something on Facebook about MTGA and it got pretty long. Here it is!


I hope you're enjoying your Saturday! I wanted to say hello and say that I am really enjoying Magic: The Gathering: Arena. It is by no means a perfect game but it is a really fun rendition of Magic for the digital age and I've had a lot of good times with it over the past year or so, so I figured I'd take a moment and write up some thoughts on it since it came out of beta on Tuesday.


*Got some sweet animations that really add some zip to the game and make you feel tingly in your pants when a big mythic rare pops out.

*It's free to play without TOO many crappy upsell things. Some of the cooler modes (sealed deck) you have to pay for with gems but you can still do drafts and of course play regular games as much as you want. I spent 20 bucks on gems earlier this year but have barely spent them so far. You can earn some gems through free activities but that goes pretty slow. Still, most of the paid stuff is cosmetic, outside of packs, and you can get a decent number of packs through earning gold.

*I really dig the ability to stack up three daily quests and knock them out in one go. Any given day your quest will be something like "play 20 red or white spells" or "play 25 lands." If you get three of these all at the same time you can customize a deck to hit multiple objectives at once and you can pretty easily knock them out even if you lose your matches (I lose a bunch and still have fun).

*The free decks you get are pretty good and well-built and it's easy to make a copy of them and add your own power cards. You also get wild cards from opening packs that you can convert into any rare/mythic rare that you want, which is pretty handy if you know what you want to unlock. These obviously accrue pretty slowly but it's a nice feature.


*The deck editor could really use some work in ways that I don't have concrete recommendations for. Deck building back in my physical Magic days would involve just throwing all my cards down and figuring out what I wanted to do; it's a little more difficult to get a big picture of how to build a deck with the editor as it is now. It might need some kind of power user editor, but in the end it seems like it really relies on the user having a broad knowledge of which cards they want to use before actually hopping into the editor. This is especially true when dealing with the millions of dual lands that you wind up with. I don't have any concrete recommendations here; it just feels like this feature could be a bit better.

*Performance is still an issue. Lots of weird little hitches when you're scrolling through cards and when casting. Nothing devastating (it's turn-based after all), but it's distracting enough to be annoying.

*The UI feels like it could use some work. I'm not a designer at all and I hesitate to make suggestions here but it seems like the main menu has a lot of weird open space for promotional stuff and it results in them having to hide some of the play modes behind a toggle menu, which is less than ideal.

*People who want to be shitty can slow-play you and drag games out to the point where it's easier to just concede and start a new match than wait for them every turn. There's a timer system for plays but it's pretty long and if people want to drag things out matches can get really frustrating. But by and large people play pretty quick and most matches are done in under 10 minutes if not 5.

*Obviously the set rotations (which have been around in physical Magic for most of its existence) are going to be frustrating for people who aren't used to them. You can only use most of the cards for two years after they come out at which point they'll rotate out of Standard and only be available in Historic mode. Not a big deal if you're used to it but definitely something to be aware of if you wind up spending a bunch of money on cards.


This is a great digital version of Magic! I really dig it a bunch and I've at least checked in on it almost every day this year. They could've easily made this a fully paid product where you had to spend real money on the packs or added an energy system to prevent you from playing for free after a while, but as it stands you really do get a bunch of stuff to play with without spending money, which is what I'm looking for in a F2P kind of game. I had a great run with my Elf deck which just got rotated out, so I guess I'm in the market for a new one.

We did an Unfinished of MTGA a while back; not sure we'll do anything else with it but we'll see!


Mouse Madness

Hey GB, I made a couple of purchases lately that I've been enjoying so I figured I'd tell you about them!

You may have heard some of my grousing about Logitech mice on the last UPFs. I don't hate them or anything; I've just always felt them to be a bit slight in build and I've never liked the placement of the side buttons. I was always an Intellimouse Explorer person, then shifted to Razer Deathadders, and recently flipped over to the Steelseries Senseis for my last few gaming mice. I splurged a bit a couple of years ago on a Sensei 700, which was well over 100 bucks at the time and had some real dumb inclusions like an LCD screen that you basically could never see during gameplay, but was a solid-ass mouse for the time that I've had it. Unfortunately it comes with two cords with different lengths and the proprietary connector on the bottom of the mouse (it might be USB-micro but it had a weird situation with pegs that locked into the mouse to keep it in place) started to screw up requiring me to fiddle with the cable a bunch to get it to resume working after the computer went to sleep.

So I started hunting around for a new mouse and decided that NOW was the time to invest in a cordless mouse. I've always had a bit of an aversion to wireless accessories, just because I'm super sensitive to lag and have had some bad experiences with wireless stuff in the past, but my desk at home is such a mess that it felt like time to experiment a bit. So even though I was a bit mad about the 700 fucking up in less than two years, I still really like the Sensei's handfeel or whatever you call it, so I decided to go back to the well and get one of their 650 wireless mouses.

No Caption Provided

I think it's pretty dope! I haven't used a wireless gaming mouse in a long time, but I dig the form factor as I have with all the other Steelseries stuff that I've bought. (I also really recommend their QcK thin mousepads; they're cheap and a good size for a crowded desktop). I usually use my mouse with my fingers on the right and left buttons, shifting the middle finger over to the scrollwheel only when I use it, so I like a nice broad mouse that I can rest my hand on when I'm scrolling. So far this fits the bill; it's real comfortable to use.

I also kind of dig the third side button, which is placed pretty forward on the side of the mouse. It's not super convenient to hit if you're going to use it for something game-critical (most games I usually use the side mouse buttons for melee/grenade, or autorun in MMOs), but with the macro editor I just threw a quick Alt-F4 macro on there for closing stuff down quick. I used to have this macroed up on my old keyboard, but the DAS keyboard I'm running doesn't have a macro button bar, so it's good to have it back. Also it's got a weight system hidden behind a couple of magnetically-held side panels, which is kind of neat. I've never been a big fooler-around-er with weights in mice, but I did insert a couple of the weights closer to the front of the mouse, leaving the back two slots empty, which made the whole thing feel a bit snappier when aiming in shooters. Neat!

I think my big complaint here is the lack of a dock; I've always liked the look of mice you could just drop in a charging dock at the end of the day and let the thing charge overnight. The 650 has a micro-USB port on the front of it, so you do have to track down the cable and plug it in for it to charge, but it works fine in wired mode too, and they claim that 15 minutes of charging will get you ten hours of use, so that's nice.

So far I really like it, so if you're in the mood for a new mouse, maybe give it a whirl?

Just so this doesn't all read like some Steelseries ad (I ain't getting paid), I should also mention that I bought a new mouse for my laptop at work. I usually have defaulted to wireless mice at work only because I move my laptop around a bunch, but I've been sitting at my desk more lately, and the cheap-ass mice that I usually use seem to be having trouble connecting when my bluetooth headphones are on, so I figured I'd get something wired to use while I'm actually sitting at my desk. Apparently Anker just put out a dirt-cheap gaming mouse just called the Anker Gaming Mouse. It seems pretty decent for the price! One of the weird default things is that the DPI switcher goes through five separate DPI settings instead of the normal two, so if you hit it by accident it can take some clicking to get it back to where you want it. I can probably change that in the drivers but I haven't bothered to install those yet. But for 15 bucks or whatever, it's a perfectly usable mouse that might be a good option if you're tired of whatever you're using now.

Enjoy your mice! Thanks for reading!


Bigger Community GOTY lists!

GameNumber of Votes
1.God of War2031
2.Red Dead Redemption II1350
3.Marvel's Spider-Man997
4.Monster Hunter: World772
5.Hitman 2723
6.Dead Cells668
8.Into the Breach569
9.Super Smash Bros. Ultimate510
10.Return of the Obra Dinn387
11.Tetris Effect338
12.Forza Horizon 4291
13.Assassin's Creed Odyssey281
14.Dragon Ball FighterZ224
15.Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age204
16.Donut County159
17.Call of Duty: Black Ops 4155
19.Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!/Eevee!141
20.Yakuza 6: The Song of Life137
21.Astro Bot Rescue Mission129
22.Octopath Traveler129
24.Hollow Knight114
25.Yoku's Island Express81
26.Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom81
27.Yakuza Kiwami 279
28.Destiny 274
29.Far Cry 574
30.Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire69
31.Detroit: Become Human66
32.Slay the Spire63
33.Battlefield V61
34.The Messenger60
36.Valkyria Chronicles 455
37.Kingdom Come: Deliverance55
39.Spyro Reignited Trilogy53
40.Shadow of the Tomb Raider51
41.Warhammer: Vermintide 249
42.The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories48
44.Soulcalibur VI46
45.Beat Saber46
46.Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden43
47.Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon40
49.Sea of Thieves39
50.Super Mario Party39
51.Overcooked! 238
52.State of Decay 235
54.Mega Man 1132
57.Yakuza 031
60.Shadow of the Colossus28
62.Divinity: Original Sin II27
63.Life Is Strange 227
64.A Way Out26
65.Mario Tennis Aces26
67.WarioWare Gold25
70.Burnout Paradise22
73.Magic: The Gathering Arena22
74.Two Point Hospital22
75.The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild22
77.Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales21
78.World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth21
79.Guacamelee! 220
80.PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds20
81.Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country20
82.Dark Souls19
83.The Banner Saga 318
84.Path of Exile18
85.Fallout 7617
88.No Man's Sky15
89.FIFA 1915
91.Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate15
93.BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle14
95.The Quiet Man13
96.Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege12
97.Heaven Will Be Mine12
98.Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise12
100.Pathfinder: Kingmaker12
101.428: Shibuya Scramble12
102.Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise & Fall12
104.The Jackbox Party Pack 511
106.Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition11
107.Darksiders III11
108.Fire Pro Wrestling World11
109.Kirby: Star Allies11
111.Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom10
112.Just Cause 410
113.Katamari Damacy10
115.Persona 59
117.Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight9
118.Super Mario Odyssey9
119.F1 20189
120.Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum 'n' Fun!9
121.Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight9
122.La-Mulana 29
123.The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit8
124.Jurassic World Evolution8
125.Earth Defense Forces 58
126.Cultist Simulator8
127.Madden NFL 198
128.NBA 2K198
129.Football Manager 20198
130.FAR: Lone Sails8
132.Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice8
133.Starlink: Battle for Atlas7
134.Insurgency: Sandstorm7
136.Q.U.B.E. 27
137.The Red Strings Club7
138.Rocket League7
139.Picross S27
140.The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt7
142.XCOM 27
144.Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]7
145.Super Mega Baseball 27
146.Oxygen Not Included7
147.House Flipper6
148.Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker6
149.Shenmue I & II6
151.Surviving Mars6
152.Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus6
153.The Gardens Between6
154.Dragalia Lost6
155.Xenoblade Chronicles 26
156.MLB The Show 186
157.SteamWorld Dig 26
158.Stardew Valley6
159.Sunset Overdrive6
160.Lethal League Blaze5
161.The Bard's Tale IV: Barrow's Deep5
162.Metal Gear Survive5
163.Just Shapes & Beats5
165.E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial5
166.Lumines: Puzzle Fusion5
167.Diablo III5
168.The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game5
169.Full Metal Furies5
170.Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze5
171.Hunt: Showdown5
172.The Forest5
173.Gwent: The Witcher Card Game5
174.DJMAX Respect5
176.Kingdom Hearts – The Story So Far5
177.Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux4
178.Final Fantasy XV4
179.Out of the Park Baseball 194
180.The World Ends with You4
183.Bayonetta 24
184.Night in the Woods4
185.Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood4
186.Splatoon 24
187.Assassin's Creed Origins4
189.Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series4
190.NHL 194
191.Dota 24
193.Counter-Strike: Global Offensive4
194.SNK 40th Anniversary Collection4
195.Horizon Zero Dawn4
196.BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!4
197.Firewall Zero Hour4
198.EA Sports UFC 34
199.Street Fighter V4
203.Wizard of Legend4
204.Tom Clancy's The Division3
205.Pokémon Quest3
206.Graveyard Keeper3
208.Super Robot Wars X3
209.Total War: Warhammer II3
210.Life Is Strange: Before the Storm3
211.Pit People3
212.Ring Of Elysium3
213.Old School RuneScape3
214.Tekken 73
216.Call of Cthulhu - The Video Game3
217.Dynasty Warriors 33
218.PUBG Mobile3
219.Pro Evolution Soccer 20193
220.Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana3
221.Freddi Fish & Luther's Maze Madness3
222.Darkest Dungeon3
223.Strange Brigade3
224.Mega Man X Legacy Collection3
225.Tesla vs Lovecraft3
226.Enter the Gungeon3
228.Kingdom Two Crowns3
229.Deep Rock Galactic3
230.Ghost of a Tale3
231.Extreme Meatpunks Forever3
232.Super Monkey Ball 23
233.Mass Effect 23
234.Mark of the Ninja3
235.The Shapeshifting Detective3
236.Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection3
237.Battle Chef Brigade3
238.Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet3
239.West of Loathing3
240.Yakuza Kiwami3
241.Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus3
242.Opus Magnum3
243.Sid Meier's Civilization VI3
244.Unravel Two3
245.They Are Billions3
246.Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age3
248.The Hex3
249.Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood3
250.Forgotton Anne3
251.Bad North3
252.The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth3
253.The Room: Old Sins3
255.The Walking Dead - The Final Season3
256.Nintendo Labo Variety Kit3
257.Dragon Quest Builders3
258.Pokémon Go2
259.Cities: Skylines2
260.Bomber Crew2
261.Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut2
262.Fighting EX Layer2
263.Brawl Stars2
264.Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun2
265.Fallout 42
266.SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy2
267.South Park: The Fractured But Whole2
268.The Crew 22
269.Farming Simulator 192
271.Let It Die2
272.Quake Champions2
274.Sega Genesis Classics2
275.Halo: The Master Chief Collection2
276.Slap City2
277.Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle2
278.Secret of Mana2
279.Resident Evil 7 biohazard2
280.Conan Exiles2
281.The Fall Part 2: Unbound2
282.X4: Foundations2
283.The House in Fata Morgana: A Requiem for Innocence2
285.Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon2
286.Subsurface Circular2
287.Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session!2
288.American Truck Simulator2
289.Monster Prom2
290.Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido2
291.Titanfall 22
292.The Council2
293.MapleStory 22
294.Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia2
295.Fate/Grand Order2
298.Heat Signature2
300.Tekken 7: Fated Retribution2
301.Angry Birds 22
302.Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy2
303.Where the Water Tastes Like Wine2
305.Detective Pikachu2
306.My Time at Portia2
307.Star Traders: Frontiers2
309.Frozen Synapse 22
310.Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker's Memory2
311.Dead by Daylight2
312.Star Control: Origins2
313.7 Billion Humans2
314.Escape From Tarkov2
315.Attack on Titan 22
316.City of Brass2
317.Laser League2
318.Warriors Orochi 42
320.Phantasy Star2
321.Grim Dawn2
322.Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass2
323.Pixel Puzzle Collection2
324.Grand Theft Auto V2
327.Project Warlock2
329.Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle2
330.Not Tonight2
332.Quarantine Circular2
333.Hidden my game by mom 32
334.Rogue Aces2
335.The Elder Scrolls Online2
336.WWE 2K192
337.Marble It Up!2
338.Europa Universalis IV2
340.Time Warpers2
341.League of Legends2
343.Kemono Friends Picross2
344.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Heavy Burger2
346.Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen2
347.Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress2
348.Hyper Light Drifter2
349.Heroes of the Storm2
350.Project Hospital2
353.Radiant Historia2
354.Lucah: Born of a Dream2
355.Crusader Kings II2
356.Rain World2
357.The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II2
358.Hearts of Iron IV2
360.Hyrule Warriors2
361.Tales from the Borderlands2
362.Pool Panic2
363.Dragon's Crown2
364.Gran Turismo Sport2
366.Never Stop Sneakin'1
368.Immortal: Unchained1
370.Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition1
371.Cube Escape: Paradox1
372.Gal*Gun 21
373.Imperishable Memories1
374.Yomawari: The Long Night Collection1
375.Reigns: Her Majesty1
376.Fallen Hero: Rebirth1
377.Football Manager 20181
378.Azur Lane1
379.Deep Sky Derelicts1
380.Lust for Darkness1
381.Psikyo Collection Vol. 21
382.The Painscreek Killings1
383.Scribblenauts Mega Pack1
384.Universal Paperclips1
385.Reigns: Game of Thrones1
386.Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth1
387.The Gallery: Heart of the Emberstone1
388.Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire1
389.The Adventure Pals1
390.Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings1
391.Nun Massacre1
392.A Mortician's Tale1
394.Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy1
395.Das Geisterschiff1
396.The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap1
398.Legend Of Solgard 1
399.Sprint Vector1
400.Bloons Adventure Time TD1
401.Assetto Corsa Competizione1
402.Jettomero: Hero of the Universe1
403. Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx21
404.Arena of Valor1
405.Kirby Battle Royale1
406.Touhou Luna Nights1
407.Hiveswap Friendsim1
408.Axis Football 20181
409.Lamplight City1
410.Touhou 16.5 - Violet Detector1
411.Phantom Doctrine1
412.The Slater1
413.Home Sweet Home1
414.Sunless Skies1
416.Floor Kids1
418.Sega Heroes1
420.Pocket City1
421.Battlerite Royale1
422.My Memory of Us1
423.Ancestors Legacy1
424.Pummel Party1
425.Stick Fight: The Game1
426.Do Not Feed the Monkeys1
428.Marvel Battle Lines1
429.Tempest 40001
431.Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door1
432.Super Mario Bros. 21
433.The Inpatient1
435.Motorsport Manager Mobile 31
436.Pokémon for Nintendo Switch (Working Title)1
439.OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes1
440.Metroid: Samus Returns1
441.Minotaur Arcade Vol. 11
442.Garfield GO1
443.Giraffe Town1
444.Railway Empire1
445.Pocket-Run Pool1
447.Ancient Frontier: Steel Shadows1
448.Monster Party1
449.Blade Strangers1
451.Kakuto Chojin: Back Alley Brutal1
452.Forza Motorsport 71
453.Ticket to Ride1
454.Resident Evil 21
455.Doom VFR1
456.MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries1
457.Chrono Trigger1
458.Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords1
459.Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear1
460.The Evil Within 21
461.Just Dance 20181
462.Beach Head1
463.Dishonored: Death of the Outsider1
464.Spider-Man: The Movie1
465.Super Metroid1
467.Ultimate Spider-Man1
469.Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem1
471.Doki Doki Literature Club1
472.Lost In Vivo1
474.Senran Kagura Reflexions1
475.Diablo: Immortal1
476.Bubsy: Paws on Fire!1
477.Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth1
478.Ride 31
479.Candy Crush Friends Saga1
480.Dragon Quest Builders 21
481.Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption1
483.Golf Story1
484.Tokyo Dark1
485.Blade & Sorcery1
486.The Commission: Organized Crime Grand Strategy1
488.Way of the Passive Fist1
489.A Case of Distrust1
490.Epic Seven1
491.Rusty Lake Paradise1
492.MLB The Show 191
494.Don't Forget Our Esports Dream1
495.JNKPlat 20181
496.The Long Reach1
497.Echo Combat1
498.The Swords of Ditto1
499.The Crown of Leaves1
500.Picross e91


GameNumber of Votes
1.God of War3363
2.Red Dead Redemption II2809
3.Marvel's Spider-Man2724
4.Hitman 21986
5.Dead Cells1956
6.Monster Hunter: World1807
7.Super Smash Bros. Ultimate1673
8.Into the Breach1641
10.Tetris Effect1071
11.Return of the Obra Dinn1001
12.Forza Horizon 4984
13.Dragon Ball FighterZ890
14.Assassin's Creed Odyssey889
15.Donut County755
16.Call of Duty: Black Ops 4618
17.Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!/Eevee!588
18.Octopath Traveler563
19.Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age551
20.Astro Bot Rescue Mission444
21.Yakuza 6: The Song of Life425
23.Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom376
24.Far Cry 5372
25.Yoku's Island Express349
27.Detroit: Become Human304
28.Hollow Knight301
29.Yakuza Kiwami 2280
30.Battlefield V271
31.The Messenger268
32.Shadow of the Tomb Raider254
33.Soulcalibur VI254
35.Destiny 2243
36.Spyro Reignited Trilogy234
37.Valkyria Chronicles 4228
38.Warhammer: Vermintide 2227
39.Super Mario Party216
40.Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire207
41.Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden195
43.Overcooked! 2186
44.Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon180
45.Kingdom Come: Deliverance176
46.State of Decay 2174
49.Beat Saber163
50.Mega Man 11159
51.Mario Tennis Aces156
52.Sea of Thieves155
53.Slay the Spire152
54.The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories140
56.Shadow of the Colossus139
57.A Way Out139
64.Life Is Strange 2117
65.WarioWare Gold115
66.Two Point Hospital108
69.Yakuza 0100
71.Guacamelee! 293
72.World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth90
74.Burnout Paradise86
75.Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales81
76.Divinity: Original Sin II79
77.Fallout 7670
78.Magic: The Gathering Arena68
79.The Banner Saga 367
80.BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle67
81.Dark Souls65
83.FIFA 1963
85.No Man's Sky62
87.Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country61
88.The Jackbox Party Pack 560
91.Kirby: Star Allies55
92.PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds55
93.Just Cause 455
96.Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise49
97.The Quiet Man48
98.Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight47
99.Fire Pro Wrestling World46
100.Path of Exile45
101.Darksiders III43
102.Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum 'n' Fun!43
103.Katamari Damacy42
104.Pathfinder: Kingmaker42
105.The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild42
106.Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition42
107.Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate42
108.Jurassic World Evolution41
109.NBA 2K1941
110.F1 201840
111.The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit39
114.Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise & Fall38
115.Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege38
116.Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom37
117.Madden NFL 1936
118.Picross S236
119.MLB The Show 1835
120.428: Shibuya Scramble34
123.Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight34
124.Super Mega Baseball 233
127.The Red Strings Club31
129.Starlink: Battle for Atlas31
130.Football Manager 201930
131.Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice30
132.Dragalia Lost30
133.Persona 529
134.Earth Defense Forces 529
135.Cultist Simulator28
136.Heaven Will Be Mine28
137.Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker28
138.The Gardens Between27
139.House Flipper27
140.FAR: Lone Sails27
141.Rocket League27
142.Surviving Mars26
143.Super Mario Odyssey26
144.Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze25
145.Diablo III24
146.Lethal League Blaze23
147.Shenmue I & II23
148.XCOM 223
149.Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus23
150.Stardew Valley22
151.Insurgency: Sandstorm22
152.SteamWorld Dig 222
153.Metal Gear Survive22
156.Lumines: Puzzle Fusion20
157.Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]20
158.Q.U.B.E. 220
159.Assassin's Creed Origins20
160.Just Shapes & Beats19
161.NHL 1919
162.La-Mulana 219
164.E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial18
165.The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt18
168.Night in the Woods17
171.Darkest Dungeon17
172.The Shapeshifting Detective17
173.Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series16
174.Sunset Overdrive16
175.Bayonetta 216
176.Wizard of Legend16
177.Sid Meier's Civilization VI16
179.Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood16
181.Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux15
182.The Forest15
183.Graveyard Keeper15
184.Nintendo Labo Variety Kit15
185.Strange Brigade15
186.Unravel Two15
187.Mega Man X Legacy Collection15
188.The Walking Dead - The Final Season14
189.Frozen Synapse 214
190.The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game14
191.Firewall Zero Hour14
192.Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection14
193.Oxygen Not Included14
194.Pro Evolution Soccer 201914
195.Gwent: The Witcher Card Game13
196.Splatoon 213
197.Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido13
198.Hunt: Showdown13
199.Kingdom Hearts – The Story So Far13
200.Horizon Zero Dawn13
201.Dota 213
202.SNK 40th Anniversary Collection13
203.Conan Exiles13
205.West of Loathing12
206.Forgotton Anne12
207.Total War: Warhammer II12
208.Life Is Strange: Before the Storm12
209.Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus12
210.Call of Cthulhu - The Video Game12
211.DJMAX Respect12
213.Tesla vs Lovecraft12
214.Final Fantasy XV12
215.Mark of the Ninja12
216.Yakuza Kiwami11
217.Tekken 711
218.They Are Billions11
219.Deep Rock Galactic11
220.Detective Pikachu10
221.The Fall Part 2: Unbound10
222.The Bard's Tale IV: Barrow's Deep10
223.Xenoblade Chronicles 210
224.Laser League10
225.Full Metal Furies10
226.Bad North10
227.Super Monkey Ball 210
228.Opus Magnum10
229.Dragon Quest Builders10
231.Marble It Up!10
232.Ghost of a Tale10
233.Mass Effect 210
234.Dynasty Warriors 310
235.Counter-Strike: Global Offensive10
236.The World Ends with You10
237.Kingdom Two Crowns9
238.Street Fighter V9
240.EA Sports UFC 39
241.Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy9
242.The Elder Scrolls Online9
243.Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut9
244.X4: Foundations9
245.Battle Chef Brigade9
246.Quarantine Circular9
247.Pokémon Quest9
248.Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia9
249.The Room: Old Sins9
250.The Council9
252.Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age9
253.Freddi Fish & Luther's Maze Madness9
254.Pokémon Go9
256.Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood8
258.Where the Water Tastes Like Wine8
259.Monster Prom8
260.Fighting EX Layer8
261.Out of the Park Baseball 198
263.Enter the Gungeon8
264.Pit People8
266.Warriors Orochi 47
267.Super Robot Wars X7
268.Farming Simulator 197
270.Slap City7
271.Angry Birds 27
272.Hidden my game by mom 37
273.Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana7
274.The Hex7
275.Attack on Titan 27
276.Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet7
277.Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker's Memory7
278.Fallout 47
279.7 Billion Humans7
280.South Park: The Fractured But Whole7
281.Pixel Puzzle Collection7
282.Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle7
283.WWE 2K197
285.Pool Panic7
286.American Truck Simulator6
287.Resident Evil 7 biohazard6
288.Cities: Skylines6
289.Hyper Light Drifter6
290.SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy6
291.Money Puzzle Exchanger6
293.League of Legends6
294.Sprint Vector6
295.Ring Of Elysium6
296.Star Control: Origins6
297.Subsurface Circular6
300.Rogue Aces6
301.Grand Theft Auto V6
302.Tom Clancy's The Division6
303.The Crew 26
304.Sega Genesis Classics6
305.Crusader Kings II6
306.The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth6
307.Tekken 7: Fated Retribution6
308.Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session!6
310.Time Warpers5
312.Star Traders: Frontiers5
313.Golf Story5
315.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Heavy Burger5
316.Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr5
317.Extreme Meatpunks Forever5
318.Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit5
320.Europa Universalis IV5
321.PixelJunk Monsters 25
322.Dissidia Final Fantasy NT5
323.Red Dead Redemption5
324.Titanfall 25
325.Sonic Mania5
326.Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!5
327.Radiant Historia5
328.Hyrule Warriors5
330.Gran Turismo Sport5
331.Dark Souls III5
332.Death's Gambit5
333.Project Hospital5
334.PUBG Mobile5
335.Marvel Strike Force5
337.The Spectrum Retreat5
339.Dragon's Crown5
340.Not Tonight5
341.My Hero One's Justice5
342.Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun5
343.Luigi's Mansion5
345.Phantom Doctrine5
346.Book of Demons5
347.City of Brass5
348.Mutant Football League4
349.This Is the Police 24
351.Quake Champions4
352.Railway Empire4
353.Nuclear Throne4
354.Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass4
355.The Adventure Pals4
356.We Happy Few4
359.For the King4
361.Old School RuneScape4
362.Bomber Crew4
364.My Time at Portia4
365.A Case of Distrust4
366.Lucah: Born of a Dream4
367.Heroes of the Storm4
368.Gal*Gun 24
369.Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands4
370.Pocket-Run Pool4
371.LEGO DC Super-Villains4
372.Brawl Stars4
373.Totally Accurate Battlegrounds4
375.Resident Evil 44
377.Pocket City4
379.Uncharted: The Lost Legacy4
380.Secret of Mana4
381.NASCAR Heat 34
383.BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!4
385.The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II4
386.Superhot VR4
387.Hearts of Iron IV4
388.Crossing Souls4
389.Desert Child4
390.MapleStory 24
391.Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth4
393.Project Warlock4
394.Ultimate Chicken Horse4
395.Let It Die4
396.Horizon Chase4
398.Mass Effect3
399.Mario Kart 83
401.Slime Rancher3
402.Command & Conquer: Rivals3
403.Shovel Knight3
404.Blade Strangers3
406.Project CARS 23
407.Kerbal Space Program3
408.Rec Room3
409.Fire Emblem: Awakening3
410.The Swords of Ditto3
411.State of Mind3
412.The Sims 43
413.Garfield GO3
414.Reigns: Game of Thrones3
415.The Battle for Polytopia3
416.Salt and Sanctuary3
417.The Alliance Alive3
418.Six Ages3
419.Pillars of Eternity3
420.Garry's Mod3
421.Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress3
422.Grim Dawn3
424.Halo: The Master Chief Collection3
425.The Station3
426.Ori and the Blind Forest3
427.Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire3
428.Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance3
429.Dynasty Warriors 93
430.Star Wars Battlefront II3
431.Door Kickers: Action Squad3
432.Creed: Rise to Glory3
433. Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx23
434.GemCraft Chapter Two: Chasing Shadows3
435.The Banner Saga Trilogy3
436.Human: Fall Flat3
437.Budget Cuts3 night, hot springs 3
441.Phantasy Star3
442.Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King3
443.Battlefield 13
444.Cosmic Star Heroine3
445.Kemono Friends Picross3
446.Rusty Lake Paradise3
448.Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings3
449.Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle3
451.Bloons TD 63
453.The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour3
454.The House in Fata Morgana: A Requiem for Innocence3
455.Star Wars: The Old Republic3
457.Puyo Puyo Tetris3
458.The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past3
459.Space Hulk: Deathwing3
461.What Remains of Edith Finch3
462.Knockout League3
463.11-11: Memories Retold3
464.Pixel Ripped 19893
468.Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius2
470.Pavlov VR2
472.OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes2
474.Age of Empires: Definitive Edition2
475.World of Warcraft2
477.Finding Paradise2
478.WipEout Omega Collection2
479.Alto's Odyssey2
480.Echo Combat2
481.Black Bird2
484.FIFA 182
486.Super Bomberman R2
487.MLB The Show 192
488.Immortal Redneck2
489.Dragon Cliff2
490.Star Trek Online2
491.Yume Nikki: Dream Diary2
492.Motorsport Manager Mobile 32
494.Flipping Death2
496.The Evil Within 22
498.Egypt Old Kingdom2
500.Lumines: Puzzle & Music2

Box Office Winner's League: The Predator

It's that time again!

No Caption Provided

If any of you were around for the old days at Screened, you'll recall that we used to run a contest called Box Office Winners League when we got the feeling to do so. It's a simple premise: guess how much money a movie is going to make in a given weekend, and if you're the closest guess, you win! There's a bit of skill in it, since box office is roughly predictable, and there are tracking companies that are paid quite a bit to do so, but there's also a lot of luck, since almost no one is able to consistently guess a box office weekend with any degree of accuracy or precision.

The rules are pretty simple.

1. Guess how much money the movie The Predator will make in its opening weekend in the U.S. We'll count all the money it makes through next Monday, which includes the Thursday night previews. Just throw it in as a reply to this post, e.g.: $56.79 million (be as specific as you like).

This movie is not looking so good! None of the trailers have really landed for me, but maybe there'll be some campy fun. I'll check it out when it hits Google Play in a few months!

2. Make your guesses as a reply to this thread, and make sure that they're in by Thursday 9/13 at 9 PM PST/Midnight EST/whatever crazy clock time you have in your crazy timezone. I won't count anything after that. DON'T EDIT YOUR POSTS IF YOU CHANGE YOUR GUESS! Just delete it and make a new post. I won't consider anything that has been edited.

3. The winners will be determined the next time I do a BOWL. Weekend estimates are often released on Sunday afternoon, but we'll wait for the real numbers to determine a winner. I'll compare that number to see who's closest; over or under doesn't matter.

4. There'll be two winners. The closest Premium user will win one of these fresh happening snap-back hats:

No Caption Provided

The non-Premium winner will get three months of Premium time.

That's pretty much it! Go forth and prosper, or something. I'll reserve the right to change any of these rules as I see fit before the deadline, but I doubt that'll be necessary. (Don't be a dick and make it necessary, in other words.)


From the last BOWL for The Avengers: Infinity War

Premium: @briten wins a Nightcrawlers poster! I'll reach out for your address!

Non-Premium: @sunspark gets three months of Premium!


Nerd Book Roll Call


I been reading a bunch of stuff lately and I figured I’d write some stuff down about it in case anyone was interested. Most of what I’ve been throwing on the Kindle lately has been in the vein of escapist sci-fi, which, you know, maybe it’s easy to forgive a little escapism right about now. I was a little surprised, actually, to find out that I had already read five of the six Hugo novel nominees before the list even came out; I’m generally a few years behind the curve with recent fiction. I generally liked all of the books on that list (the N.K. Jemisin one I haven’t tackled) and I’d firmly recommend any of them as a Kindle sample. Note that the Yoon Ha Lee book is the second entry in a trilogy, though, and would be really confusing to tackle if you go to it before The Ninefox Gambit, which in itself was a bit confusing to me until I realized that it wasn’t so much science fiction as it was “sci-fi with some magic thrown in.” Still a good book!

Anyway, I was thinking recently of sci-fi books with Big Ideas and have been trying to sample the recent literary landscape to see what popped up. I love a book that extrapolates current scientific thinking into something truly epic in scope (e.g. the purpose of the Inhibitors in Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space books) or has a great twist at the end (e.g. Ender’s Game). Maybe my favorite of all of these is Robert Sawyer’s Starplex, which I read serialized in Fantasy & Science Fiction maybe 25 years or so ago. In it, humanity has spread to the stars thanks to discovering a network of instant-travel wormholes. Imagine their surprise when stars start popping out of them! Like, whole stars, still burning. In the end they discover that the wormhole network was built by humanity billions of years in the future with the idea that if they sent enough mass back in time that they would be able to halt the expansion of the universe and send it to equilibrium. Now that’s an Idea.

In addition to all the below, I’ve recently re-read all of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series (since I had the paperbacks) and enjoyed them again, and I finished off the Culture series by going back to a book I had skipped the first time around (Matter, which starts off with a couple of extended sequences that make the book seem more fantasy-based until you get about a third of the way through). I can’t recommend the Culture stuff highly enough to anyone looking for some smart, well-written sci-fi, and as with The Expanse I’d read the books before the Amazon series gets started. Also pretty much everything that Alastair Reynolds has put out is great, with especial emphasis on that Revelation Space series.

At any rate, these aren’t really going to be book reports or anything; I like going into books without knowing much about them, but I figure almost everyone has the ability to get Kindle samples now whether via an actual Kindle or the phone app, so do your thing if these sound intriguing.

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red

You ever read something and go: “aw yeah, I’m going to find everything else this person has written and read it all?” That’s happened with me a few times before: Kim Stanley Robinson Red Mars, Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, the first book of The Expanse (mostly relating to Daniel Abraham’s stuff, which is all pretty fantastic), and over the last couple of years I’ve absorbed pretty much everything Iain Banks and Alastair Reynolds have published. I got that itch when I read through this novella about a cyborg security bot trying to protect a group of surveyors on an uninhabited planet.

Martha Wells has probably written more than I’ll be able to get through in any reasonable amount of time, and most of it seems to be fantasy which I’m not the hugest fan of, but I really dug this short book (despite the silly name), and I’ve tracked down some of her other stuff to give that a whirl as well. I already checked out the first novella follow-up that came out, with two more (!) on the way this year. I’m also about halfway through The Death of the Necromancer since it was like three bucks on Kindle and I’m enjoying learning all kinds of old-timey words for carriages and furniture since it’s set in an essentially Victorian-era world except there are sorcerers. Like I said, not the biggest fan of fantasy stuff, but if The Expanse led me to the Dagger and the Coin series, which I loved, I figured I could give this a whirl. I realized after I started it that it was the middle book in a series, which I usually hate doing, but I’m too far in now to stop.

The Golden Compass trilogy

I never read these when they came around; I was reminded of them when this review in the LRB decided to go out of its way to trash Harry Potter en route to saying that the Pullman books were the ne plus ultra of modern YA fantasy. Bold words! I enjoyed the trilogy well enough on the surface level; things move along fairly quickly, there are armored bears and hot air balloons, unexpected deaths and sweeping battles, etc., etc. The notion of a YA fantasy series where the stated goal of one of the major characters is to kill God himself is a pretty bold one, to boot. (I assume some parents got to the more explicit parts of this in the third book and wondered what they were reading to their kids. I remember when I worked in a bookstore a parent asked me if we had anything “like Harry Potter...but without all that witchcraft.” These would not be the books for her.)

It’s an interesting tale and it’s well-told, with a bit of Tolstoy-ish flair to the inner thoughts of the characters, especially Lyra, who comes across as a bit of a Natasha as she wanders through various planes in search of her father. But I have to admit that the amount of symbolism is a bit wearying to interpret after a while. As a play on Paradise Lost (which I admit I’ve never read all the way through), it’s nice to know that Lyra and Will are based on Adam and Eve, but after a while I wasn’t sure what elements of the books were supposed to be religious references or symbols and what was just in there as part of the narrative, to be taken at face value. Like, what’s up with those mulefa? Is the intention craft supposed to be a play on something biblical? I feel like a failure even as a lapsed Catholic to not grok everything that I should be, but whatever; it’s decent reading in the end, but I’m not sure if I’m curious enough to go on to the recent new book he published in the series.

The Gone World

I tweeted about this recently, but you do really probably deserve it to check out a kindle sample of this if you’re at all interested in dark sci-fi. The prologue alone features the end of the world creeping backwards through time to end the world, as malevolent alien forces come to Earth and crucify the entire population on their own bodies, if they aren’t lucky enough to be forced into running into the ocean and drowning themselves. It’s some creepy shit from the get-go and it only twists further down the spiral before wrapping around to a truly weird climax. I would never even consider mixing a police procedural set in rural America with spaceships that time travel on quantum foam, but I guess it's a good thing I'm not Tom Sweterlitsch.

The publisher is really pushing a quote that describes it as “Inception meets True Detective,” which I get as a pithy way of summing up a complicated book, but more than anything it gave me the same kind of creeping dread as House of Leaves did (the “let’s explore a house that’s bigger on the inside than the outside” parts, not the “I banged so many girls I got the clap” parts). Highly recommended and I look forward to trying some more of Sweterlitsch’s stuff, even if he only has one other book available at the moment.

The Three-Body Problem

I realize everyone went to Bonerville when this came out, and the eventual reveal of what’s truly going on is pretty interesting, but it’s so stiffly written (or perhaps translated) that I had a difficult time getting through it. I realize a lot of contemporary Chinese writing is couched in code words and such to get by censors, but stylistically this just didn’t do much for me and I doubt I will continue on to the next two books.

Six Wakes

This is another one of those books that hits you with a great concept at the outset and just runs with it: a sleeper ship populated entirely by clones is hit with tragedy when they all wake up in fresh bodies, surrounded by the horribly mutilated corpses of the former iterations of their selves. No one has any idea what happened and, in fact, they’re all missing decades of memories. It’s a great setup that I wasn’t aware was influenced by FTL, of all things, until I read the afternotes. Some of the dialogue doesn’t always strike me as true-to-life, but then I guess life would be pretty weird if you were a clone that couldn’t figure out how your body got murdered.

Embers of War

Another good hard-ish sci-fi book that revolves around an intelligent warship that’s ordered to commit a genocide to end a war and then attempts to live out its life as a rescue ship. Will it be able to stick to the straight and narrow life, or will it be drawn back into war against its wishes? Spoilers: there are some great space battle scenes at the end of the book that are well worth making your way through the sometimes meandering storyline that leads up to them. Some of the interpersonal conflicts between the human characters also seem a bit forced, but I liked Trouble Dog and the overall plot well enough to compensate for that.

I’m just now learning that Gareth Powell wrote a book called Ack-Ack Macaque which is described thusly:

Life is good for Ack-Ack Macaque. Every day the cynical, cigar-chomping, hard-drinking monkey climbs into his Spitfire to do battle with the waves of German ninjas parachuting over the gentle fields of Kent. But life is not all the joyous rattle of machine guns and the roar of the engine, as Ack-Ack is about to find out…

Because it is not 1944. It is the 21st century, in a world where France and Germany merged in the late 1950s, where nuclear-powered Zeppelins circle the globe, where technology is rapidly changing humanity, and Ack-Ack has lived his whole life in a videogame.

I guess I know what I’m reading next.

Children of Time

This one rotates around another sleeper ship on a journey through the stars, carrying possibly the last remnants of the human race as they head toward a planet they thought had been terraformed to make way for their arrival. The characters enter and exit hypersleep multiple times as they attempt to survive, all while the planet that should be their inheritance is taken over by creatures that are somewhat inhospitable to their arrival. This is probably a little bit longer than it needed to be, and Tchaikovsky might have done a little too good of a job at making the planet’s denizens foreign to a human sensibility, as it’s a little difficult to care about their individual fates. But it’s still another good example of a book with a big scope to it.

And that's what I've been reading! I just started on the last book in the Yoon Ha Lee trilogy, so I have that going for me, and I very seriously just did buy the Ack-Ack Macaque book, so I guess I'm set on reading for a while.


Box Office Winner's League: Avengers: Infinity War

It's that time again!

you know what they say about a guy with a big head
you know what they say about a guy with a big head

If any of you were around for the old days at Screened, you'll recall that we used to run a contest called Box Office Winners League when we got the feeling to do so. It's a simple premise: guess how much money a movie is going to make in a given weekend, and if you're the closest guess, you win! There's a bit of skill in it, since box office is roughly predictable, and there are tracking companies that are paid quite a bit to do so, but there's also a lot of luck, since almost no one is able to consistently guess a box office weekend with any degree of accuracy or precision.

The rules are pretty simple.

1. Guess how much money the movie Avengers: Infinity War will make in its opening weekend in the U.S. We'll count all the money it makes through next Monday, which includes the Thursday night previews. Just throw it in as a reply to this post, e.g.: $56.79 million (be as specific as you like).

I don't think I really need to introduce this movie all that much! Even if Black Panther was a hugely successful opening it seems like this is going to only be hampered by the number of seats available across the theaters that are showing it. I'd be shocked if it wasn't near the top of the all-time openings list.

2. Make your guesses as a reply to this thread, and make sure that they're in by Thursday 4/26 at 9 PM PST/Midnight EST/whatever crazy clock time you have in your crazy timezone. I won't count anything after that. DON'T EDIT YOUR POSTS IF YOU CHANGE YOUR GUESS! Just delete it and make a new post. I won't consider anything that has been edited.

3. The winners will be determined the next time I do a BOWL. Weekend estimates are often released on Sunday afternoon, but we'll wait for the real numbers to determine a winner. I'll compare that number to see who's closest; over or under doesn't matter.

4. There'll be two winners. The closest Premium user will win one of the Nighthawks posters we have in the office:

No Caption Provided

Note that this might be a little banged up around the edges and might not have all of the staff signatures! Just a warning!

The non-Premium winner will get three months of Premium time.

That's pretty much it! Go forth and prosper, or something. I'll reserve the right to change any of these rules as I see fit before the deadline, but I doubt that'll be necessary. (Don't be a dick and make it necessary, in other words.)


From the last BOWL for Pacific Rim: Uprising

Premium: @cooltube96 and @claudia both got within .2 million. I previously said that I'd flip a coin in case of a tie, but that seems lame, so I'll just split the prise and give both of these readers 3 extra months of Premium! (The prize for the last BOWL was six months of Premium.)

Non-Premium: @civilizedworm


Box Office Winner's League: Pacific Rim Uprising!

It's that time again!

the cgi in this looks like it cost a lot of money
the cgi in this looks like it cost a lot of money

If any of you were around for the old days at Screened, you'll recall that we used to run a contest called Box Office Winners League when we got the feeling to do so. It's a simple premise: guess how much money a movie is going to make in a given weekend, and if you're the closest guess, you win! There's a bit of skill in it, since box office is roughly predictable, and there are tracking companies that are paid quite a bit to do so, but there's also a lot of luck, since almost no one is able to consistently guess a box office weekend with any degree of accuracy or precision.

The rules are pretty simple.

1. Guess how much money the movie Pacific Rim: Uprising will make in its opening weekend in the U.S. We'll count all the money it makes through next Monday, which includes the Thursday night previews. Just throw it in as a reply to this post, e.g.: $56.79 million (be as specific as you like).

There haven’t been a huge amount of reviews for this so far, but as of this writing it looks like it’s just cracking in at a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t have any real intention of seeing it in the theaters, not having been the biggest fan of Pacific Rim, but I hope it’s good! I may get out and see Unsane, just because I like Steven Soderbergh a bunch, but that was shot on iPhones so maybe I’ll just wait on that as well. Obviously Sherlock Gnomes requires no introduction.

2. Make your guesses as a reply to this thread, and make sure that they're in by Thursday 3/22 at 9 PM PST/Midnight EST/whatever crazy clock time you have in your crazy timezone. I won't count anything after that. DON'T EDIT YOUR POSTS IF YOU CHANGE YOUR GUESS! Just delete it and make a new post. I won't consider anything that has been edited.

3. The winners will be determined next Monday or Tuesday, when actual box office figures are released at Weekend estimates are often released on Sunday afternoon, but we'll wait for the real numbers to determine a winner. I'll compare that number to see who's closest; over or under doesn't matter. In case of any ties, I'll decide between the entries with either a coin flip or some other randomized method.

4. There'll be two winners. The closest Premium member will win six extra months of Premium access! The closest non-Premium member will get two months of Premium access.

That's pretty much it! Go forth and prosper, or something. I'll reserve the right to change any of these rules as I see fit before the deadline, but I doubt that'll be necessary. (Don't be a dick and make it necessary, in other words.)


I neglected to realize that Black Panther was opening on a three-day weekend, so I only counted up the stuff from Friday - Sunday!

Premium: @code3xbl

Non-Premium: @cyrus_saren