Bedlam Is Out!

A day earlier, too.

You can get it here.

The paperback should become available soon.

Stay awesome.
M. T. Miller

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Sabetha Belacoros Is Horrible.

Let me just repeat something before I start this. The Lies of Locke Lamora is among my favorite books of all time. I think Scott Lynch is an amazing writer. But I also think he can do better. I know he can do better because I’ve seen him do it before.

I’ve finally read Republic of Thieves. I generally disagree with fandoms, but this is one of the few occasions when my impression matches the popular opinion. Namely, that the book starts with the possibility of being the best in the series, but (like most things in life) ends up the worst. Which still isn’t that bad, because the overall quality of Lynch’s writing is so high. The man could write a phone book and I’d read it.

There’s a lot to love here. Locke is fun (except when he shares a scene with Sabetha, but more on that later). Jean is a guy everyone would like for a friend. The late Sanza twins steal every flashback they are in. The book continues from (and resolves) the poison cliffhanger, which is something we’ve all been dying to see. The aforementioned writing quality is through the roof. Lynch has toned down the descriptions prevalent in his older work, and the end result is a much tighter prose. Good stuff.

But it’s not all good. The book strays, which would be fine if what it becomes was as engaging as what it started out as. Namely, we are teased with insight on the workings of the bondsmagi, and then tossed into a long ride with Locke’s love interest. With Sabetha.

I’m not opposed to the element of romance. On its own, it warms the heart. If used in contrast with darkness, it sears the soul like little else does. But in order for someone to enjoy, or even care about a romance, that romance needs to have some kind of positive element. Something good. Warm. This can be a lot of things, but Locke and Sabetha don’t have any of it.

No one would ever want Sabetha. The real Sabetha, not one of her acts and personas. Aside from masochists and those who admire capable women solely for being capable, I cannot imagine anyone voluntarily spending time with her. And she never really warms. up. Even the rare moments of tenderness she gives Locke (and us, by extension) are explicitly self-serving. She does what she does because it feels good. This is fine as a character trait. But in order for us to get invested in the romance, we need something to grasp. A straw, if need be, but the woman the protagonist pursues needs to have some element that would make us, the readers, want him to succeed. Instead, what we get is a petty thing who spends most of her time as a criticism dispenser. And when she isn’t doing that, she is either angry or waiting for a reason to go off.

But what is worst is the stifling effect she has on Locke. In a series focusing on cleverness and wit, she has the power to turn our protagonist into a bumbling idiot. This is one more thing that would be fine on its own. Men become idiots in the presence of women, and women tend to use it. Good. But mix it with someone whose only redeeming trait (at least as far as we get to see) is that she refuses to inflict physical harm on Locke and Jean, and what you get is a character whose effect on this book is entirely negative.

Yet Locke doesn’t stop pursuing her, which creates huge dissonance between the protagonist and the reader. The greater the dissonance, the greater the damage to the reading experience. Which brings me to the way in which Locke’s obsession was explained. Yes, the bondsmagi-reveal thing.

I’m sure there are people who liked the reveal. I found it out of place at best, and retroactively damaging to the previous events at worst. When we learn to love a character who had to crawl his way out of the gutter, then are told he was special all along, a part of the reason we liked that character disappears. Locke is still great and fun, but he didn’t need any of this. Perhaps his origin will be put to good use in the future, but for now it just dilutes what he is.

Given how much fury I’ve unleashed here, one might think I hate the Republic of Thieves. I don’t. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, and the character development and world-building it contributed to the series will no doubt serve it well in Thorn of Emberlain. But (ironically similar to Sabetha) this time, I choose to focus on the negatives. They don’t dull my enthusiasm toward the next book, whenever it may come.

Good luck, Mr. Lynch.

Where It All Started

I keep saying I’m a fan of over-the-top 90s stuff. That is mostly true, but in analyzing the things that make me tick I have realized something I wasn’t aware of before. Namely, that the piece of media that had the biggest effect on me came a bit later.

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Max Payne. Back when it came out, this game had it all. The graphics. The gameplay. The incredible music. But what made it stand out most were its hopeless, gritty atmosphere, and highly verbose and cynical main character.

It was basically Film Noir: The Game. You had your hard-boiled main character with nothing to lose. Your set-up. Your revenge plot. But then a hallucinogenic drug got introduced, and things got seriously messed up. Basically, between the parts where he shot people and dodged bullets (Matrix style), Max had these moments of insanity where he would hallucinate the worst parts of his past (His wife and baby getting killed, mostly). And you got to play through them. Lovely.

Contrary to the idea of keeping the protagonist vague so the player would fill out holes themselves, Max Payne did the exact opposite: it reveled in how much character it had. Basically, each scene was an exercise in style. Max and the gangsters fought for their lives as well as verbal dominance. The one-liners flew with machine gun speed, and they mostly hit the mark. It was magnificent.

This seems like an exaggeration, and it probably is. In fact, a lot of characters appear, spout their lines, then get gunned down by Max. One can’t really call them three dimensional. Thing is, this is okay. They did what they came there to do, and they did it in style. Their screen time was used to the greatest effect it could possibly be used for, without derailing the plot or more important themes. We are then free to proceed further into the night, as Max would say.

In today’s world, the word “edgy” is mostly used as an insult or joke. I used it myself in such context in a recent post. People generally don’t like their media to be grim or grotesque, even when it is lined with humor. So it took me by surprise that this parade of unpleasantness was a huge hit. People seemed to love it just as much as I did. I hoped it would open the door for similar products, but they never came. Or at least arrived too late.

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Max Payne got two sequels. The first one (pictured above for its awesome cover art) was pretty much more of the same, with an added focus on Mona, the resident femme fatale. The third one was made by Rockstar, the guys behind GTA, and (to most everyone’s annoyance) turned Max into Walter White. Overall both games were very good, but none reached the brilliance of the original.

So why do I like this stuff so much? I can’t say for certain, but I think it might be association. Basically, I had so much fun playing and getting immersed into the first game that I want to re-live it. Not just replay it, but experience the same intensity again. And to me, this intensity goes hand in hand with grimness and witty banter. I wasn’t aware of it for a long time, but this is the effect I was going for with my writing.

I think I actually know myself a tiny bit better now. Funny.

5 Days To Go

The cover is ready, the edited manuscript has been re-checked for errors, and proof versions of the paperback are on their way.

We are getting ready for liftoff.

Usual closing line,
Usual signature

Fun. For a Change

I’ve been immersing myself in amusing content (and content that was just meant to be amusing) for several days now. I have missed this. I almost forgot what it was like.

First off, I’ve finally seen Valerian. I think we have a clear winner for the title of “worst film of the year.” Other than the visuals, I cannot say a single good thing about this drivel. The two main actors sure are pretty, but can’t act to save their lives. It might not matter, though, because the characters they portray are obnoxious anyway. I can’t remember a single good joke, and there are a lot of jokes. The main guy is so deadly that the film has zero tension. No one poses a remote threat. Overall a complete waste of time.

Next, I’m slowly approaching the final parts of Republic of Thieves. Still an explosion of fun and wit. I don’t hate Sabetha anymore. Now I despise her. If I feel like it, I might dissect her character after I’m done with the book. Or I might not.

To my great shame, I have temporarily ditched Overwatch and am playing League of Legends again. I blame Kayn and his hilarious edginess (Rhaast: “There is fear in your grip, and doubt in your heart!” Kayn: “I have no heart.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!). Revamping the runes and putting in all this crazy stuff seems to have been a great decision. No one knows what they’re doing anymore. Chaos everywhere! Surprise, surprise, the game is fresh and fun again.

Bedlam is still set for release on December the 1st. Yes, I appropriately release my book on AIDS day.

Stay awesome.
M. T. Miller

Bedlam Info And Release Date

Bedlam has survived the editing process. I only need to re-read it fully, and that will be it. It should be available for sale by December the 1st.

In other news, I have successfully ridden the waves of rage and frustration, and transcended my former humanity. For now, my only proof of this is the outline for my next book/series. When I finally get down to writing it, it will be inhumanly good.

I am still reading Republic of Thieves. It’s still great. Sabetha should still be dipped in acid. Why no one does it in the book is a mystery to me.

I’m off. Stay awesome.
M. T. Miller

Halp

So instead of having a productive and fun week, I’m having a nightmare made real.

Some kind of cat virus has hit the neighborhood, and I’m forced to care for my pets basically around the clock. One has died, others are on the ropes, and I’m hardly getting any sleep. I’m both exhausted and on edge, which doesn’t do wonders for my ability to do stuff when I’m actually free.

I’ve barely read half of Republic of Thieves, but I nevertheless love it for now. I want to bludgeon Sabetha with a crowbar, but that was more or less expected. Aside from her, the rest of the book is great stuff.

I’ve bought Transistor during Steam’s Halloween sale. I hope to finally play it soon. That music, man.

Nothing more to say. I hope to see as little death in the following days as possible.

Peace.
M. T. Miller.