Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Half-Life 2: Episode One advances the Half-Life story and launches the first in a new, three-part series that leads far beyond City 17.

Episode One offers a new single player experience, and is designed to be four to six hours in length. Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, will accompany you in your efforts to aid in the human resistance's desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Underworld by Don DeLillo

DeLillo's Underworld is a long, dense novel that is not for everyone but rewards those who enjoy the author's dry humor and signature vignettes.

The text begins on October 4, 1951, the date when Bobby Thompson hit the home run in the ninth inning, thereby winning the pennant for the Giants against the Dodgers. This was on the same date, by coincidence, when the Russians exploded their first nuclear bomb.

These two themes, baseball and the Cold War, run throughout the book as dozens of characters and hundreds of incidents intersect and nearly connect but never quite fit together.

Ultimately, for me, the book didn't work. There were quite simply too many characters and too many shifts in narrative time to process for one novel. I ended up lost in the pages - in the cacophony of historical events, human emotions, and snippets of dialogs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop is a sparsely beautiful novel that tells the story of two Catholic priests in New Mexico.

The novel's impact is in how it is as much a story about the priests spreading their faith as it is a living marker of the historical American Southwest, that vast territory of red hills, arroyos, and unforgiving desert.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Condemned: Criminal Origins is a survival horror first-person action game that casts you in the role of a detective tracking a serial killer who is killing other serial killers.

The game boasts astounding, creepy presentation, and it plays like a gritty police procedural that is more like "Seven" than "CSI". The game departs from the traditional action shooter in that more often than not you do not use firearms but instead whatever instruments you can find to engage in close quarters melee combat. Weapons include pipes, axes, crowbars, two-by-fours, and the occasional pistol or shotgun. This results in a visceral, even unsettling, game experience where the combat feels as desperate as the condemned buildings through which the story leads you.

The story is well-plotted but doesn't quite deliver the revelatory moment or satisfying climax to which it builds. There's also a fair bit of repetition in the game's uniform dark and dreary levels.

Overall, though, Condemned: Criminal Origins delivers as expected in providing an unsettling first-person horror action experience.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Big U by Neil Stephenson

The Big U is an early Stephenon novel and is definitely not his best, but the text does provide an energetic and inventive satire of 80s university life.

What's most interesting about the book is coming across the many rough ideas in their incipient states that Stephenson would go on to flush out in some of his later, more polished works.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The End of Oil by Paul Roberts

The End of Oil provides a compelling analysis of the current oil and coal dominated energy industry and a stark preview of the looming energy revolution.

Roberts examines all aspects of energy, from the peaking of oil reserves, to the relationship of energy resources and geopolitics, to the effect of current energy consumption on global climate, and to the political and economic challenges in transitioning from oil and coal to alternate energy sources.