Mencken and the Monsters

Portrait Of Sad Unhappy African Man Having Bad Headache, Looking

 

During the past week, the air conditioner in my house hasn’t been working properly. The first time the repairman took a look at it, the problem seemed fairly straightforward, and he was in and out within an hour.

The next day, however, the AC shut off again. He came back and checked every single part inside and out. The further he dug, the more problems he until finally a solution was reached.

Jeff Elkins’ latest book unfolds in a similar fashion, although the stakes are much higher. Mencken and the Monsters follows Mencken Cassie, an ambitious journalist fighting crime and corruption in Baltimore one story at a time. As the puzzle pieces fall into place, however, unfamiliar faces make their presence known, key players in Mencken’s story die brutal deaths, and monsters emerge from the shadows. With every turn, Mencken finds himself even deeper over his head. It’s up to him to find the courage within himself to do the right thing for his city.

Mencken doesn’t let up, not even for a second. When the titular character isn’t working out the details of the crime syndicate, he’s chasing down a lead on a serial killer or meeting with his editors. When the action comes, it’s fast, brutal, and bloody. There’s even a bit of romance for Mencken, although it’s not a central part of the story. If anything, the romantic subplot is strictly used to reflect on Mencken’s growth.

Elkins subtly ponders the importance of duty and responsibility compared to prestige and glory throughout the story with every challenge Mencken faces. The climax only serves to reflect that duality, leading to a satisfying finale.

The strongest aspect of Mencken is how satisfyingly Elkins blends two genres together. It starts off as a political thriller with hints of urban fantasy scattered throughout. As the story progresses, however, the fantasy side takes center stage, thrusting readers into a world rife with fantastic creatures and mythology.

How are the monsters and the gangsters connected, you ask? I can’t say, and not just because that would be spoiling the fun. This is the first book in the Defense of Reality Series. Elkins has barely scratched the surface of the bizarre, terrifying world he’s created, one that’s sure to enthrall readers. For more info on Elkins and his work, visit his website.

Pre-order Mencken and the Monsters on Amazon. It’s available for Kindle September 10th.

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse

official_logo_for_rwby

 

One of the beauties of independent companies such as Rooster Teeth is the sheer creative freedom they’re allowed. They can create things how they want, when they want.

Rooster Teeth took the internet by storm back in 2003 with the launch of their web series Red vs Blue. Since then, the show has entered its fourteenth season, and they’ve created tons of live-action shorts, a gritty miniseries (Day 5, which I’ll be reviewing in the next few weeks), and RWBY (pronounced ‘ruby’), a 3-D anime-esque web series that spawned its own video game.

Developed by their lead animator Monty Oum, RWBY takes place in the sci-fi/fantasy world of Remnant and follows the lives of four girl as they train at Beacon Academy to fight monsters born of darkness and uncover plots to destroy civilization as they know it. With over-the-top fights, well thought-out characters set to grow dramatically over ten seasons, and (especially in the later seasons) fantastic writing, I may actually be looking forward to season four of RWBY more than the next season of Game of Thrones.

***Minor Spoilers Ahead***

That being said, when I played RWBY: Grimm Eclipse, I couldn’t help but feel a bit letdown, at least by the story. You play cooperatively alongside up to three other players, investigating malfunctions in the security network, hacking and slashing at monsters along the way. Upon discovering someone’s tampered with them, you and your team are guided by your professors at Beacon to unearth the source of the mystery. Eventually you learn what’s going on is a classic mad scientist plot to mutate the monsters, and then you have to fight your way through even more of the monsters to destroy the mad scientist’s lab and put a halt to his experiments. The game ends with you and your team getting extracted from the final level, and that’s it. No final confrontation with the mad scientist or anything. It ends rather abruptly.

***Spoilers Over***

My biggest issue with the game is how hollow it feels compared to the show it’s based on. RWBY relies on strong characters who are also excellent fighters to carry the story forward, but with Grimm Eclipse the story just sort of…exists. Most of the exposition and dialogue comes from radio communication with the professors. Even though you’re playing as one of the main characters, they hardly speak outside of quips or one-liners, which isn’t what I expected from characters I know and love. The game relies on intense fighting and rapid-fire gameplay to engage people, and after ten levels (it’s a fairly short game) it can get a bit boring.

The other interesting thing is that there isn’t much of an explanation about each character at the beginning. You choose whether to play a single player game or a team game, pick your character, and dive right in. There’s no tutorial telling you what to do. I’ve never played a modern game that does that. It can be a bit jarring to people that have never seen RWBY before.

However, I love RWBY, and that’s what makes the game fantastic for me. Rooster Teeth made a game that would appeal to fans who want to play as their favorite characters, walk through setting from the show, and kill monsters. If you aren’t a fan of RWBY, this game will definitely not have as much appeal to you.

Despite a lackluster story and somewhat repetitive gameplay, I really enjoy this game and will probably continue playing it for some time. This is Rooster Teeth’s first game, after all. They created RWBY, which has only gotten better with time. I can only expect the game will continue to improve as well.

If you’ve played RWBY: Grimm Eclipse, let me know what your thoughts are.

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!