Insomniacs and Psychosaurs: An RPG Girl Double-Fisted Review

Don’t Read This Book, Edited by Chuck Wendig

Evil Hat Productions, May 2012. 200 pages.

Formats: Softcover, Kindle, ePub, iBook. Softcover ISBN: 978-1-61317-012-0.

*Copy provided by publisher.

 

     Don’t Read This Book has Stephen Blackmoore, Richard Dansky, C.E. Murphy, Josh Roby, Matt Forbeck, Laura Anne Gilman, Ryan Macklin, Monica Valentinelli, Will Hindmarch, Greg Stolze, Robin D. Laws, Mur Lafferty, and Harry Connolly. With a line-up like that, it is in theory impossible to go wrong.  Don’t Read This Book largely lives up to both the expectations of a stellar line-up and the high quality of work I’ve come to expect from Evil Hat Productions.

EHP has recently begun a foray into expanding into fiction. Don’t Read This Book is set in the Mad City, the center of the action in the EHP game Don’t Rest Your Head. The brass tacks necessary for those unfamiliar for the game to stay up to speed are presented in every story. The mad powers of the insomniacs who fall into the Mad City’s grip, the landscape of a place left best not dwelt upon, are seamless instead of meddlesome to reader experience. I think readers could transition from the anthology to the game and find the process enjoyable. Players, on the other hand, will have an enjoyable jolt of recognition of the nightmarish landscape.

This is my first time reading something edited by Wendig, and the job he’s done here is phenomenal. I’m hopeful we’ll see more anthology editing from him in the future. The thematic hand he kept, especially in story order, is deft and appreciated. Each story is smoothly presented, and I’m willing to lay as much credit at the doorstep of each author as I am Wendig. Anthologies are never perfect from the start. They are many-headed Hydras that will devour the unwary editor. Wendig was obviously wary and well-armed.

Because it’s horror, the anthology embraces a lot of particularly unpleasant content. Each story covers a lot of ground, but murder, abuse, and substance abuse are all seen in the anthology. Despite an often very grim setting and subject matter, I loved the recurrent theme of trying to do right, even if the consequences led to violent, bloody, and often unresolved endings. Blackmoore’s doctor [Don't Lose Your Patients], Dansky’s father [Don't Be Your Father], and Macklin’s mother [Don't Lose Your Son] in particular were favorites of mine along that theme.

While there were stories I personally didn’t care for, I can say that a lack of technical proficiency had nothing to do with that dislike and everything to do with my own reading preferences. Preferences aside, the anthology still gave me nightmares. As a lifelong fan of horror, I can’t think of a single nicer thing to say than that. If you’re up for a terrifying night, pick up Don’t Read This Book.

Dinocalypse Now, by Chuck Wendig

Evil Hat Productions, May 2012. 235 pages.

Formats: Hardcover, Softcover, Kindle, ePub, iBook. Softcover ISBN: 978-1-61317-003-8.

*Copy provided by publisher.

 

Dinocalypse Now is one of the new forays on the part of Evil Hat productions into fiction. Tied to the world of their game Spirit of the Century,this book is kicking off a trilogy from EHP. Considering the Kickstarter for Dinocalypse Now finished this month with $42, 769 after asking for $5,000, I’d say that readers are ready for some pulp fiction action.

If you know Chuck Wendig as the profanomancer penmonkey advice King, or as the author of gritty, visceral novels, you are about to get whip-lash of the best kind. Opening in 1930s New York, our brave heroes, members of the Century Club, are in town to prevent an assassination attempt against FDR. They quickly discover a bigger plot is afoot in the form of psychic dinosaurs and the end of the world as we know it.

Wendig stays as scrupulously true to the genre as possible, eschewing profanity for pulp-appropriate exclamations of displeasure and shock, providing a panoply of human and inhuman villains, mystic secrets, mad science, and a number of problems that can be solved with the proper application of a very heavy wrench.

This is as far from Wendig’s usual fair as is possible, and I’m pleased to see that flex of range in an author. I wouldn’t be reticent to hand this to my teenage niece, my teenage nephew, or adult fans of the pulp genre. I think I would have gotten more from it if I’d played or read Spirit of the Century, but that lack of knowledge base wasn’t overly detrimental to the reading experience.

Deviating from a number of pulp formulas, Wendig has a cast of characters that includes competent women, non-Anglo characters—for that matter, a number of non-human sentient characters—which I felt was a very refreshing update on the genre. I’m personally not an avowed fan of the pulp fiction world, but Wendig may have given me some reasons to take another look.

About l

L is a freelancer currently working as a writer, editor, journalist and game designer. She hauls a suitcase decorated in stickers as she blogs, travels, and tours. She makes her home in Washington, California, and wherever the tour stopped last night. You can follow L on twitter (@lilyorit )

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