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Saludos, Amigos, a bitter greeting to you!

JJ Mohareb May 4, 2000

And I wish on you all a happy Cinqo de Mayo!

Ah, it is good to be in spring, (or rather, early Construction) when a bitter guy's thoughts turn to love, and cliches of post-marital chastity become horrid, horrid reality.

Now, I would like to ask you a question: what, exactly, would cause a person who, admittedly and proudly, does not like role-playing game based fiction to read not one, not two, but THREE RPG based books in a single month? Dogged determination? A fiery sensuality that leaves women trembling as he passes? An incessant desire to laugh in the face of his publisher by reading each and every book in the Vampire series even if blood DOES pour from his eye sockets in the process?

Possibly. I do know he'll be real bitter when he's done.

The first of the Game Knovels is Tzimisce, the second book in the mind numbing, senses shattering, heart pounding Vampire the Masquerade series (13 books in all! Collect and trade them with your friends!). The first book was totally boring, until the events chronicled in the first book crashed into it. Actually, the second book is pretty dull, until it crashes into the events of the first book. In Tzimisce, (pronounced "chamois") the Sabbat, evil vampires who drink blood, return their library books late, and don't tip the pizza guy, are on the warpath. Mostly against the Camarilla (drink blood, library books on time, 15% tip regardless of quality of service), but there's not a little dissension within the ranks. These guys aren't exactly the undead AFL-CIO, if you get my drift; no solidarity within the damned here.

The doublecrossing gets pretty deep and pretty pointless. After a while, the mockeries of Humanity and undead monsters start to blend, and you're waiting for someone to do something besides yell at each other. When the war begins to happen, things are much more exciting, as vampires duel in mortal Ko ^h^h combat and buildings burn. Buried in the interminable jostling for supremacy is an occasional interesting insight to the life of the damned, but you'll need a backhoe.

Gangrel, the second Game Knovel, is the third in the series (yadda yadda, collect them all). The prospect of digging my way through a baker's dozen of the series lightened with this book. Instead of harried wars of the night with Uzi and giant broadswords flashing, you got an interesting character piece about a vampire. Wow. In this book, we see the life of Ramona, a dashing young vampiress who's coming to grips with her recent life change/end. It's actually interesting to watch her move around the city, following her ward/happy meal. It gets dull with the introduction of Leopold, the criminally boring Toreador from the novel of the same name. He's been possessed by an evil eye and is wandering around, mutilating people and shooting acid. The rather annoying intrusion of the Metaplot does add a bit of excitement to the story, giving us a couple dozen gory death scenes and giving an interesting bit of info with regards to one of Vampire's ongoing stories.

The third RPG book, as yet unfinished/unfinishable, is Treacherous Awakenings, for Rifts[tm]. While not completely unreadable, it does drag in spots. It's supposed to be the third book in a trilogy, but it's so thick I think it could be split up into a trilogy all its own with minimal padding.

The book has some serious editorial problems. I couldn't read it for the first few weeks I had it in my possession because there was a misspelling of `its' on the first page! Whoa! The story concerns an adventuring group and a bunch of the Rifts analogue of Stormtroopers working their way through the land. It does suffer from the RPG novel weakness more than the Gangrel did (i.e. I did hear dice rolling a few times). On the good side, I didn't feel like I was missing much by coming in on the third book in a trilogy. That, you can make of what you will.

With Two Bear Mambo, Joe Lansdale CONTINUES his trend of angering me with misleading titles. Much as Mucho Mojo had no magical content, Two Bear Mambo has NO dancing in it. None! Hell, one of the characters is gay! You'd think there would be SOME dancing! But no. Not even a gavotte. The Two-Bear Mambo turns out to just be a term for sex (a not terribly creative one, at that). What it is is the sequel to Mucho Mojo, where Hap and Leonard go in search of a mutual friend. They visit a festering heap of a town where the whole civil rights thing is pretty much regarded as something that happened to other people (man, reminds me of home!).

The book once again has the great dialogue that MM did (although the `N word' content is pretty darn thick this time), although the plot feels a bit too similar to the last book. And why, exactly, does it always rain in Texas during climactic fight scenes? Really.

It was enjoyable to see the heroes humbled when they get their butts (and other sensitive parts) kicked in one fight scene. It was also nice to see the redneck sheriff be the good guy for once. Well, he's odious, but he's not EVIL. Believes in the rule of law, and that's a good thing. Doesn't believe in the mixing of the races, which is not quite so good.

But if Bad Chili doesn't have any references to delightful Texan cuisine, I'll be quite upset.

Okay, I admit it. I'm a sucker for Pratchett books. My first one was Pyramids, and I've been reading them ever since (oh, Lord, ten years?). And I'll admit, they're not quite as enjoyable as they used to be. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's him. Who knows? All I do know is that The Fifth Elephant was a lot more enjoyable than either Carpe Jugulum or The Last Continent were.

It's a Watch book, which is good, because the adventures of the Watch (Carrot et al) have always been my favorite (actually, the ones like Pyramids & Small Gods are my faves. I just like the watch series ones better). In this book, we travel hubward (or not. It's far and it's cold) to Uberwald with Lord Vimes. Something happens, yadda yadda yadda, Carrot comes to the rescue, there's a borrowed pair of pants, and Dwarf bread is very hard.

Don't' worry, it'll all make sense when you read it. I liked, as I said, this book more than TLC or CJ, because it's a lot more focused than CJ was. There are no little Pictish pixies popping out of the peat, and the werewolves of Uberwald are less annoying in this book than the Vampires were in CJ. It felt less churned out than TLC, which felt like it was written because, hey, we need a new extension on the house & Rincewind books tend to sell well.

The Starcrossed by Ben Bova tells the tale of a porn star and his scientist sidekick as they work to bring Shakespeare to the masses. And I'm sure Big Willy wouldn't be offended by the idea of his teen sex drama being adapted as a weekly SF show (hint: If you want to bring people Shakespeare, move to Stratford & become a director. Otherwise, leave us be. Unless you're Kenneth Branagh. He rocks, even if he is an Irishman).

The book then tells the same story that's been bandied about recently by Beggars & Choosers and Action, with one major difference. The characters on those television shows, while still being exaggerations, are at least interesting. In this puppy, I was hoping the "stick to your guns" SF writer/biggest dick on earth and his lovable sidekick/scientist would suffer one of those runway fires Air Canada used to go through. Man. The characters in this book are pretty much totally unsympathetic, with the exception of...

Nope, no exceptions. Annoying, all of them. Even the Canadians, which goes to show Bova was obviously suffering from one too many tequila shots when he cranked out this puppy, because Canadians are the friendliest, hardest working, bestest people on the planet. And we love Americans like our little brothers who have to wear hockey helmets, even when they're not on a team. .

William Gibson (A Canadian) is cool (heh, heh. Yeah. Cool. Heh). Except for his watch fetish. I read some computer mag piece on him where he talked about how he was buying $5000 watches on Ebay. Ouch. I thought $24 for a copy of Assault on Hoth was excessive (which it was, since I found out the pieces are mis-cut! Damn! DAMN!). However, his newest book, All Tomorrow's Parties is quite cool, even if he does engage in his timepiece fetish. It is also one of those books where the plot is so deeply buried beneath the story that you miss it until you get to the end.

Of course, it's shameless about this. The book follows a security guard, his ex-girlfriend, a guy who kills people when the moment is right, and an info prodigy who are all moving towards a `nodal point', which is one of those moments in history where everything changes, but you don't know about it until later. Much like Snow Crash, the book gives you such great detail of setting and richness of character that the less than apparent plot is not annoying. The money shot of the book, however, is good enough that you get a sense of what was actually happening.

The setting of the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the high `wow neat' aspects. After the okay California Quake (it wasn't Great), it's been closed down, and squatters have moved onto it. The description of the Bridge city was such that I thought there was a lot of dramatic potential in just that society.

Recently Unfinished Book! Well, it happened. Picked a book up that just wouldn't be finished. Several renewals (and about ten bucks in late fees) later, I gave it up. Just couldn't do it. The book? Donnerjack, by Roger Zelazny and another person who is likely not dead. In it, a Scottish man becomes god and has sex with a mermaid who talks to ghosts when he gets her pregnant, even though she dies, because he brings her back to life by having a fistfight with death.

I think. It really got quite too confusing for me, and I ceased caring when the ghosts became incredibly stupid. I mean, really, you're haunting a Scottish castle for several hundred years (and, lemme tell you, if there's one thing worse than being dead, it's being dead in Scotland. Ich), some chick comes wandering around, and you turn into Mr. Rogers because she's knocked up. Well. I should move to Scotland and become a psychic investigator, because apparently there the ghosts are all prissy women who whose panties get damp if you get fat so they can come by and share cookies and tea. Joy.

I have been told this was Zelazny's last book, which would explain a lot; deathbed narration tends to be somewhat disjointed. "You know, this tape kind of sounds like he's saying "eats the mother with tea and cookies, not eats tea and cookies with the mother."

I honestly did try to finish the book. I tried. IT was just too long and too annoying for me to try to read it. I swear, I renewed it twice. I just couldn't bring myself to care.

So, yes. Once again, the Bitter Guide has come to completion. And it is a beautiful day. So scrape your pasty buttocks from your roller chair, rip asunder your doors, and go get some sun. I worry about you.

JJ Mohareb

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What do you think?

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