Posted in games

2021 in Review

What’s that you say? It’s New Year’s Eve, I must be 47 goddamn years old today, and ANOTHER year passes under the bridge? Those bastards keep coming, don’t they? And this one has, I think it’s fair to say, been particularly hard work on the whole. I don’t think any of us really imagined a couple of years back when this pandemic started that we’d still be in its grip two years on, but here we are, hoping for better times soon…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – As I was saying last time around (with a considerable feel of groundhog day), publishing is faring an awful lot better than many industries, and I’m hugely lucky to be able to work from home, without too much practical disruption to my routines, such as they are. I was also lucky that my latest book, The Wisdom of Crowds, dropped in September when restrictions were at least a little bit relaxed, and (unlike with the previous book) I could get out on the road and look some readers in the eye (if not the lower half of the face). Still a lot of online events going on, which is a trend I’m sure will continue even when (if) things open all the way up again. The Wisdom of Crowds did very nicely in a very competitive week, making 5 on the UK bestseller list and just clipping the US one at 15. But I’m actually now selling as many e-books in that first week as hardcovers, and actually somewhat more audiobooks than that – which is testament to the ongoing big growth in that area of the market as well as the magisterial reading skills of Mr. Steven Pacey, of course…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Well, the Age of Madness is written, published, and out the door. A 5 year or so project already dwindling into the past. Counting a collection of short stories, I now have 13 books in print, if you believe that. There was some finishing off to do on The Wisdom of Crowds but most of this year’s book efforts have been spent on my next project, a new thing, new world, new characters, new tone, with the working title of The Devils. I’m now about half way through a highly tentative first draft but I want to sit with it, let it marinate and stew in its own juices for a while. It was meant to be shortish (of course) but it’s not turned out that way (of course). Currently a shade over 100,000 words so it would be a profound shock if the finished article was any shorter than 200,000, which is much the same length as my last couple of books. However I try, I always seem to end up there or thereabouts…

TV AND FILM – Again film has very much played second fiddle with the cinemas being largely closed up. The two that stand out in the SF&F realm were Spiderman, No Way Home, which I found thoroughly fresh and enjoyable and even a little bit moving after a few rather uninspiring Marvel efforts, and Dune which – though I thought it could’ve focussed a bit less on Paul and a bit more on the setting and secondary characters – was overall a highly watchable adaptation with some stunning design and visuals.

On the TV side I always forget about 50 things I’ve watched, so this is by no means exhaustive, but some things that stand out: Dark was a magnificent piece of gloomy German sci-fi that slides effortlessly from small town soap opera into apocalyptic tangled time-travel epic across the dimensions. Bosch I’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed all 7 seasons of and could probably have watched another 7. Raised by Wolves was weird but interesting. Ted Lasso was highly entertaining and a rare life-affirming property in a grim landscape, though I wondered if there were signs of it losing its way in the 2nd season. Money Heist was a nice, fresh, twisty robbery caper with lots of strong ideas and good characters. The Terror and The North Water were two gripping complimentary takes on the fundamental inhumanity of man set against ships trapped in ice. The Witcher I think got better in its second season, with some stronger background cast and more focus on overarching plots, but it still has some slightly cardboard-y moments. The second season of Warrior remained fast-moving and highly watchable. Gomorrah has been a stand-out favourite of mine for the past few years but I felt this last season was rather a let down. Seemed that they’d run out of ideas, became increasingly stiff and unconvincing, with old characters feeling ill-served and the new intake of brooding thugs failing to make much of a mark. I still think the first three seasons are brilliant, mind you. The last season of Narcos was still good but felt like it didn’t have much new to offer, with sad stubbly men once again failing to shift the needle on systemic corruption. Succession I felt had gone off the boil slightly at the start of its third season but the last few episodes were savagely, almost unwatchably good. The biggest surprise for me was Arcane – I don’t always connect to animation but this was just great, involving fantasy, bursting with energy and invention. Cracking world building without being laborious, strong writing, and brilliant characters, character designs and attention to detail.

GAMES – Unusually for me I’ve played very little on console over the last year. The only notable thing was a brief, nostalgic, and quite enjoyable flirtation with Elite Dangerous. Lack of availability and lack of anything I’ve felt I really needed to play has meant I haven’t got a next generation console yet. But I discovered, to my cost, that my laptop will run Total War: Warhammer and Three Kingdoms pretty adequately, so I’ve mostly been playing those, if I’m honest. Oldies but very, very goodies, and I really can flush a lot of hours down the Total War toilet still…

THE YEAR AHEAD –  There’ll be no new novel from me in 2022, sadly, though writing will continue on The Devils and I hope we’ll have a pub date in due course. There are, as ever, other pots on the boil so it’s possible one or other of them will finally bubble over in the meantime. We will see. There should, however, be some exciting news for fans of limited illustrated editions in the new year, and I believe Subterranean Press are aiming to package the three stories I wrote for special editions of the Age of Madness (called The Thread, The Stone and The Point) along with a fourth, already written but as yet unpublished, to make a little novella with illustrations by John Anthony Giovanni, titled The Great Change (and Other Lies). More news on the possible publication of that when I have it, but hopefully around September. Then I’d like to take some of the trips I’ve long planned but not been able to follow through on because of pandemic issues – to France, Portugal, and in particular another visit to Aviles in Spain for Celsius festival in the summer. Fingers crossed things will open up enough for those to be possible as the year wears on…

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards, and (once again) let’s just hope this one is better than the last…

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The Last of Us Part II

So, I have played the long awaited sequel to Naughty Dog’s magisterial slice of harrowing character-driven survival horror The Last of Us, which I rhapsodised about back in 2013.  Looking back, a lot of what I said about that game – the great character work and performances, the stunning detail of the setting, the wince-inducing […]

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2019 in Review

This, I believe, and I say it with a heavy heart, is my TENTH annual review. Ten years this blog has been (somewhat fitfully) running. Which means, and I say this with an even heavier heart, that I should probably be doing a review of the decade, but I flatly refuse to do that, since […]

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2018 in Review

And so I find myself writing another new year’s eve review. What is it, my ninth, maybe? Which means another year must have sped by. Furthermore, it must be my birthday, and I must be 44 years old today. I know, I know, before you say anything, I don’t look it, but that’s really just […]

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Red Dead Redemption 2

Well, well, well. A most welcome and long-awaited return for Rockstar’s open-world western extravaganza that one might call Grand Theft Auto’s more contemplative, sombre and somewhat less psychotic cousin. The first game (I mean, yeah, it’s a theoretical sequel to Red Dead Revolver but that was a very different and way less ambitious beast), was […]

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2017 in Review

Hot damn if it isn’t New Year’s Eve once more. This means I must be 43 today. 11 and a half years since I was first published, but I still feel a little strange describing myself as a writer… 2017. Well, it’s been a gruelling year one way or another.  A year of inside-outs and […]

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2016 in Review

New Year’s Eve, people, and you know what that means.  Yes, indeed, I am 42 years old today.  Can it really be a year since I reviewed last year? Apparently it can. 2016, then.  Bloody hell.  It’s been quite the year for deaths and political upheavals.  The blog continues to be in a fairly moribund […]

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Dark Souls 3

After the gruelling Lovecraftian gothic horror stylings of Bloodborne, From Software have returned to the gruelling medieval fantasy where they made their name.  Once more you are a nameless undead in a ruined world where hope fades, once more you must face withering difficulty and monstrous bosses as you negotiate mighty fortresses, rotting villages, toxic swamps […]

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2015 in Review

New Year’s Eve, and you know what that means?  Happy birthday to me. Yes, indeed, I am 41 years old today and this is my 7th yearly review post. Time marches only one way, my friends… I’ve been hugely blog-lazy this year.  There are still many authors blogging very effectively, but it’s not quite the standard tool […]

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Fallout 4

I’ve been playing video games a while (*cough* 35 years or so *cough*), so I actually fondly remember the ol’ isometric turn-based first Fallout, which in the late 90s presented one of the most original and interesting game worlds I’d ever experienced, a strange mix of retro and post-apocalypse with bags of atmosphere, wit, and moral ambiguity. […]

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